On average, over 13 million Americans enjoy cruise vacations each year. It is a fact that vacationers report cruising as the most satisfying of all vacation experiences. You can relax and be totally pampered or you can go non-stop. You can dine 24 hours a day if you want, enjoy great entertainment each night, choose from a variety of activities each day, and visit great ports of call. Most people who get a taste of cruising return again and again. Each cruise line and cruise ship is unique, ranging from boutique ships with 100 passengers to the mega-ships which carry more than 5,000 passengers. Cruises sail almost everywhere you can find water; there are over 500 ports worldwide!
After the tragic accident with the Costa Concordia, many may be re-thinking a cruise vacation. Incidents such as these are rare at sea; the Concordia capsizing seems to have caught everyone off guard. It is a much needed reminder to everyone- both vacationers and cruise staff alike- that the safety drills and adequate understanding of safety procedures is critical. Most of us view them as a major inconvenience rather than important information.
Everyone probably knows that major cruise lines must adhere to strict safety and security measures. Before boarding, all passengers, crew, and luggage is thoroughly screened. That practice is continued through the trip as passengers and crew embark and disembark. Once aboard, you are in a safe environment with 24 hour security and an assigned cabin that is equipped with sprinklers and smoke detectors. According to CLIA, Cruise Lines International Association, the average cruise ship has a firefighting team with advanced training, 4,000 smoke detectors, 500 fire extinguishers, 16 miles of sprinkler piping, 5,000 sprinkler heads, and 6 miles of fire hose. All ships must have a sufficient number of lifeboats and life preservers for all people on board. In addition, ships undergo frequent inspections. The U.S. Coast Guard and the country where the ship is flagged conduct annual inspections and re-inspections of all ships. They also visit ships during construction to ensure that international and U.S. codes are being met. In 1996, a comprehensive U.S. Coast Guard Study concluded that cruising is the safest form of transportation.
Most cruise line representatives and travel professionals agree that this accident will not have any long term impact on cruise vacations. Although tragic, as time passes people will realize that this is just one bad catastrophic event that was caused by human error. As a result, we will probably see the industry working to improve basic safety issues. Cruising has long been one of the safest forms of vacationing and one of the best vacation values. Even though the Concordia accident may have produced some nervousness, you have to put the event into perspective. The world will never be completely safe no matter where you are or how you travel. So go cruising, make memories, and enjoy.
Ann Jones, Master Cruise Counselor