Trapped: How Safe Are Cruises?

A thorough check-up on the health and safety risks, from rough seas to rougher germs.
6:18 | 01/20/12

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Transcript for Trapped: How Safe Are Cruises?
It's hard to imagine some of the stories of what it took to get off the cost of -- Cordelia. It's like a skyscraper on its side people repelling down clinging to the railing for dear life. Makes us wonder if we could survive in that situation. So what is it that just one in ten of us has literally in our brain that can be the difference between life and death. Here's Elizabeth Vargas. And not so long ago the cruise industry was on life support. Waiting convoy -- to his business to elderly too stodgy. But that was then. -- -- -- -- walls. Massive theaters massive farm. They built -- and boy did they how. Bishops -- bigger and then positively site to ensure went. Become a 34 billion dollar business. Yeah our parent company Disney has -- How safe is cruising. We know Elizabeth the industry has a very remarkable safety record Michael cry represents the cruise ship industry he says out of 100 million passengers in the past seven years. There can only sixteen maritime related deaths prior to the -- Cordelia. Sixteen out of 100 million is a pretty good. Pretty good ratio I would think but if anything it all goes wrong. And -- the worst happened I didn't. 80% of us. -- -- Majority of people do this it's called denial in essence right there's a lot going on your -- in this moment and most of all your brain is gonna rely on its hard wired response to fear. Writer Amanda Ripley has studied our reactions to the plane crashes sinking very -- and burning buildings I think the thing that's most surprising news then -- Biggest. Friend who is you moved too slowly shut down. That is -- others standings and leads the way or about 10% of us we'll take that role. Here on the -- oriental those teen charged types who led others to safety over the -- -- vote no match for the final 10%. Reach -- and are far less likely. Surviving disaster. Obviously most cruises don't face such harrowing choices but being trapped on -- ship particularly in bad weather can turn a peaceful vacation into a nightmare. When you -- -- -- -- down on South Africa in 1991 due to a hole -- -- -- each captain was also criticized for. -- before his passengers had evacuated. Fortunately I have. Was rescued. He went rogue waves hit this group. Get -- -- in 2010. Smashing through windows a direct hit on unsuspecting diners. Terrifying me. -- this ship during a bad drama music. Fortunately there are doctors onboard ships but the truth is they are limited in what they can do by all accounts they're quite good at stabilizing. Identifying. But. -- somebody really has a serious condition they need to be taken to a real hospital on plan it's. Probably at the level of medical care that you would get in a small town. Given to the hospital in the past is only possible if -- close enough for a Coast Guard helicopter to reach you. Like a man with a life threatening condition was just a few weeks ago going to. Back on board you might find yourself trapped on a ship full of people sick with a stomach flu. Because basically -- floating Petri dish. Recognizing how fast -- -- spread the cruise -- has come up with. For instance encouraging passengers to stay in their rooms when they're sick. The cruise lines put. Some incentives in place where you to do that -- Free room service free movies to protect the health of everybody else on board. It's still there were fourteen outbreaks. Last year bad enough that cruises had to be canceled and ships disaffected and and that's just helping the US trips. And then you can be trapped by the completely unexpected. Thanks and -- Noriega's honeymoon cruise turned into a three day ordeal when the Carnival Splendor was disabled -- -- engine room fire in 2010. -- along with 3000 fellow passengers were stuck on board with no electricity and adrift in the -- and -- I can I tamraz strange odor just because there was now wait a day any of the trash -- -- anything off from the moment. The formerly bountiful -- -- were reduced to sandwiches and -- -- -- spam. Everyone was told. To safety. The cruise lines maintained their three well trained to handle the unexpected and passengers seemed to remain confident enough. Despite this week's headlines cruising remains very popular from the biggest irony is that what are we celebrating this year -- -- hundredth anniversary of the ship the second kill a lot of people complete how. And and and it does that's not -- -- Carolyn Spencer brown who was taken more than 200 cruises -- runs a leading cruise website cruise critic from from GS her readers for feedback and held a 140 affected their attitude from 96%. Said they -- again from anticipating nothing -- creating happy memories from. People have. -- -- -- -- -- They want to have. A feeling of security and we need to provide. In order to survive as a business. We will stay on the -- his story for the latest you can always go to abcnews.com.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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