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Hitting The High Seas? Do So Safely

After a long, cold winter, many people seek relief in warmer climates on cruise ships. However, even if you're taking a holiday, don't send safety on a vacation too.

As Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (FAITC) states, "For many Canadians, a cruise is the perfect way to explore foreign shores. But like any kind of international travel, cruising calls for careful planning and attention to personal safety."

Be sure to take a few precautions before setting sail on one of these "floating hotels" - accidents, health emergencies and crime are not unheard of on cruise ships. However, small actions can help insulate you and your family from danger.

Here are a few tips from HUB International to protect your personal safety so you can truly get away from the stresses of everyday life:

Get your bearings

  • Cruise ships are massive vessels and can be difficult to evacuate quickly in the event of an emergency. This makes it essential that you, as well as your family and friends, make note of all exits.
  • Determine the locations of rescue boats and life jackets, and where they are in relation to your cabin.
  • Pay attention during safety tutorials. Even if you have taken cruises before, listen for details that may be unique to the vessel you are on.

Protect your belongings

  • Just as you would keep tabs on your valuables when traveling and staying in hotels, make sure you protect jewelry, cash, electronics and other valuables while on a cruise.
  • If your cabin has a safe, use it! The cruise ship staff are probably trustworthy, but it's better not to take the risk.
  • Whenever possible, carry credit and debit cards instead of large amounts of cash. It's also wise to bring a backup card in case one gets lost or stolen. Alert your card company about your travel plans and carry the customer service phone number so you can quickly cancel a lost or misplaced card and avoid the possibility of fraudulent purchases.

Keep tabs on your family

  • A ship can present just as many safety threats as your own neighborhood. Make sure that you set a curfew for teenagers in your party and keep younger children nearby.
  • If you disembark from the ship at a port of call, establish a meeting point where everyone can rendezvous before reboarding the vessel. You don't want to leave anyone behind.

Don't attract unnecessary attention

  • Travelling with or carrying a large number of valuables, like watches or jewelry, may make you a greater target for theft on the cruise. Take only what you need, and try to leave your expensive belongings at home.

Maintain your privacy

  • Stick to areas of the ship designated for passengers, and decline any offers to visit the vessel's crew-only areas.
  • Avoid discussing personal details with any strangers on the ship, including the crew.

Protect your health

  • The FAITC advises cruise travelers to check for any travel warnings for your point of embarkation and designated ports of call.
  • Cruise ships must adhere to certain safety and cleanliness standards. But it is still wise to visit a doctor to ensure your vaccinations are up-to-date and that you're in good health to travel.

While no one plans to fall ill while traveling, it can happen. Remember to pack your prescription medications as well your doctors' phone numbers.

Check your current health plan to confirm what your existing insurance will cover and contact your HUB broker to discuss travel insurance options. Many health insurance policies will not cover you in the event that you or a family member requires air medical evacuation and transportation, or transport from the cruise ship to the nearest medical facility. The FAITC suggests purchasing travel insurance that offers at least $500,000 in coverage for hospitalization abroad, medical evacuation at sea (which can cost up to $150,000) and accidental injury.

Ensuring your health coverage is organized before your trip will allow you to relax and enjoy your vacation.

Bon Voyage!