How Not to Fall Off a Cruise Ship
It happens more often than you might think
The average cruise ship rises something like 200 feet — the equivalent of around 20 stories — above the waterline. That’s a long way down. Now consider this: According to the International Business Times, about 200 people have fallen off cruise ships since 2000.
While some of those “falls” are intentional, others are accidents.
In 2012, Sarah Kirby was celebrating her 30th birthday on board a cruise ship with friends. After having a few drinks, she told ABC News she leaned over the balcony to look at the side of the ship and fell seven floors into the water. Kirby was one of the lucky ones: She was rescued after 90 minutes, thanks to her friends, who saw her fall and alerted the crew.
The cruise ship industry is doing its part to help prevent these “man-overboard” incidents. You can do yours, too, the next time you go on a cruise.
Cruise ship surveillance systems
The Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010 aimed to increase safety for cruise passengers and included some measures to keep passengers from falling off. For example, railings must be at least 42 inches tall. Ships must have on-deck video surveillance and an emergency sound system that goes off when someone goes overboard.
However, as recently as 2015, cruise ship associations said “fall-overboard detection systems are not yet reliable under marine conditions,” according to the Federal Register, the Daily Journal of the United States Government.
In Sarah Kirby’s case, the ship’s surveillance video captured her fall, but an attorney told ABC News that the surveillance camera wasn’t monitored, and it wasn’t connected to an alarm.
Related: Cruise Vacation? Have a Safe Trip!
Passenger safety smarts
If you’re planning to board a cruise ship any time soon, keep these tips in mind to make sure your feet stay firmly planted on the deck.
1. Limit your alcohol intake. Sure, you’re on vacation, so a few umbrella-adorned fruity cocktails may seem in order. But getting too tipsy may put you at greater risk for tipping over the balcony railing. As NBC News puts it, “Booze on a boat is the same as booze on land — only you are moving forward at 20 knots and perhaps pitching back and forth in 20-foot seas.”
2. If severe weather kicks up, stay in your room. In February 2016, a cruise ship carrying 6,000 passengers and sailing from New Jersey to the Bahamas navigated right into a hurricane, complete with 125-mile-per-hour winds and 30-foot waves. The captain ordered all passengers to stay in their rooms as the ship tilted to a 45-degree angle, CNN reported. If your ship sails into severe weather, hunker down in your room instead of watching the waves from a balcony.
3. Don’t put your kids on the railing so they can get a better look, advises TravelersUnited.org, a nonprofit organization that represents travelers. Kids have fallen into animal enclosures at the zoo this way, and the results of falling into the ocean from a cruise ship could be as bad or worse.
4. Stay away from dark corners. It’s creepy to think about, but cases have been reported of people being pushed off cruise ships by other passengers. Be aware of your surroundings just as you would be on land, and report suspicious activity to a crew member. Any allegations of serious crime the crew receives must be reported to law enforcement.
5. Don’t pretend you’re in that scene from “Titanic. ” It may be tempting to make like Leonardo DiCaprio, climb up the bow and yell, “ I’m the king of the world!” But don’t. And don’t pretend to be Kate Winslet in the famous “ I’m flying!” scene, either.
6. Participate in the practice drills. Before your cruise departs, the cruise line will hold a mandatory guest safety drill, according to Carnival and Disney cruise lines. This will show you what to do in the event of an emergency. From knowing where the lifeboats and lifejackets are to whom to alert if you see something suspicious, keeping safety in mind will keep you safer in general.