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Cruise Ship Safety: 20 Tips for Safety On and Off the Seas

Learn what you can do to help make your next cruise a safe vacation.

ByABC News
January 18, 2012, 9:01 PM

Jan. 19, 2012 — -- intro: If the Costa Concordia has you rethinking your next cruise vacation, feeling prepared may help ease your jitters. Check out these cruise ship and travel safety tips from online cruise guide Cruise Critic and from health industry experts Dr. Bradley Feuer, regional director of medical education at the Palm Beach Centre for Graduate Medical Education, and Blake Yturralde, the president of Commercial Medical Escorts.

quicklist: 1title: Know the Drilltext: Pay attention to safety instructions at the muster drill where passengers are instructed on evacuation plans in case of emergencies. Cruise Critic can't stress this tip enough.

quicklist: 2title: Muster a Sound Mindtext: If something happens, stay calm, get your life jacket and go to your muster station. Don't stop for anything else.

quicklist: 3title: Be a STEP Travelertext: Register online with the U.S. Department of State's free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at so they can better help you in an emergency.

quicklist: 4title: Scan Your Passporttext: Before you travel, scan your passport and save it in your email so you can access a copy from anywhere, and give a copy to a friend or relative. This makes it much easier to get a replacement if you need it. (Often on cruises in Europe, ships will hold passengers' passports for the duration of their cruises to clear customs in different countries, explains CEO Stewart Chiron.)

quicklist: 5title: Check for Travel Warningstext: Find travel warnings on where you will be advised of unsafe conditions.

quicklist: 6title: Get Insurancetext: Consider travel insurance. Travel insurance policies can bail travelers out of a multitude of quagmires including trip interruption, baggage delay/loss, and medical expenses. If you purchase travel insurance, pay attention to the type of policy you're purchasing and what it covers. Look at how the company will help you if something goes wrong.

quicklist: 7title: Check Your Current Insurancetext: You should always carry health insurance that covers injuries outside of the U.S.. That way, you won't be financially ruined if you have to be medevaced off the boat to receive medical attention abroad.

quicklist: 8title: Do Doctor Diligencetext: Check with the cruise line before you buy tickets to ensure they have high standards for their on-board medical personnel. Are their doctors properly licensed?

quicklist: 9title: Keep Medications Closetext: Always carry any prescription medication with you, on your person, while you are onboard. In case you get sick, you'll have it with you and can provide to the medical staff when they treat you

quicklist: 10title: Call Your Own Doctortext: If you get sick and need treatment onboard the ship, don't hesitate to call your doctor back in the U.S. and have him or her communicate with the ship's medical officer. Your doctor could convey vital information from your medical history that could prevent further injury

quicklist: 11title: Approach Tours With Caretext: When booking high-risk activities, consider booking through your cruise line, rather than on your own. Cruise lines vet the vendors they use. Or, if you plan to book an independent tour, research it thoroughly in advance and read reviews by past participants. Be very careful about booking excursions from touts (scalpers) standing outside the port.

quicklist: 12title: Know Your Physical Limitstext: Be honest with yourself about your limitations. Don't try to do anything too physical that you are not capable of.

quicklist: 13title: Listen From the Starttext: At the start of any tour or activity, pay attention during the safety talk.

quicklist: 14title: Check the Weathertext: If you are going scuba diving or snorkeling, monitor weather and sea conditions yourself. Don't rely on anyone else.

quicklist: 15title: Exercise Port Precautiontext: When visiting a new port, research the port in advance and check for "no-go" areas that must be avoided.

quicklist: 16title: Ask While Still Onboard..text: Ask your cruise director or shore excursion manager if there are any parts of town you should not visit. They are legally obliged to tell you.

quicklist: 17title: Travel in Groupstext: Whenever possible, travel in groups of two or more. Never get into a taxi with a passenger already inside, even when offered a chance to split the fare.

quicklist: 18title: Stay Low Keytext: Try to avoid overtly drawing attention to yourself. Do not wear expensive jewelry or carry flashy cameras and other items.

quicklist: 19title: Be Discreet With Valuablestext: Keep valuables out of sight and don't carry large amounts of cash.

quicklist: 20title: Trust Your Instinctstext: Lastly, go with your gut, if something doesn't feel right, don't risk it.

For more tips and advice about planning a cruise, visit

With reports from ABC News' Chris Kilmer.

Watch the full story on "20/20: Troubled Waters" Friday at 10 ET