HON. NANCY HARVEY STEORTS: Former Chairman, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
First Consumer Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture 
International Safety Consultant 
Author of 3 Highly Acclaimed Books on Safety
Television Commentator and Speaker
Tel: 703-790-5116
The Nation’s Foremost Authority on SAFETY

How Safe is Your Cruise Ship?

The recent cruise ship disaster in Italy has prompted consumers to be extremely concerned about the safety of cruising travel when they are considering a Cruise for their next vacation. When the Costa Concordia ran aground off the shore of Tuscany on Jan. 13, about 160 yards from the shore of Giglio Island, many of the more than 4200 passengers and crew on board the ship were reportedly unprepared for the crisis and the evacuation that followed. Many consumers of travel have not been known how safe the ship is that they have chosen, or how to find out what the latest inspection reports show on the vessel sanitation issues.

Consumers CAN, however, check the ship's report card by going to the Vessel Sanitation Program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This report shows the inspection report for cleanliness, repair, food preparation and storage, water quality, hygiene, pest management and many other things. Check out this report on www.CDC.gov before you book your passage. It will let you know the results of the last inspection and exactly what grade the ship received.

Consumers also need to know what the liability issues are, if they should be injured while on a cruise. They should also know if their insurance coverage will cover them if they are out of the country. If it is an international cruise, what laws are going to cover a traveler? Do different ports and countries have different laws? How liable is the Cruise Company, if there should be an accident? How liable is the travel agency which recommended a specific cruise ship, and what checks have they made before they recommend a cruise ship to you, the traveler.

In a recent news release, Costa Crociere SPA is offering uninjured passengers from the Costa Concordia Ship, just $14,460 for lost baggage, and psychological trauma caused when its' ship ran aground and capsized. They also stated that they would reimburse the cost of the cruise, travel expenses and any medical expenses sustained after grounding. Codacons, one of Italy's well known consumer groups, is launching a class action suit against Costa and Cardinal. for much more. This settlement is shocking to anyone who has endured such a horrible accident. At this point there is no estimate of the life-long trauma and post-traumatic stress that these passengers will endure nor the mental and physical injuries that could endanger their lives forever....to say nothing of the concerns of their families and loved ones.


If you are considering a cruise in the near-future, let me give you some steps that you should heed, which will help you have a safer-more incident free vacation.

1. Evaluate the Safety Record of the Ship.
2. Be sure the Ship has a SAFETY DRILL for all passengers, before it leaves the dock.
3. Know where all emergency equipment is i.e., life-jackets, life boats, all exits from ship. Carry the diagram of where this equipment is located with you at all times, in case an incident should happen when you are away from your cabin.
4. As a special precaution, pack a life-jacket with you, so you have your own jacket, like you do when you are boating at home.
5. Carry a list of all of your emergency contacts with you in a waterproof envelope. Also leave a list of your contacts at home with a neighbor or a friend in case of an emergency.
6. Pack in your luggage an emergency supply kit, with your essentials: i.e. copy of your passport, medicines, flashlight with extra batteries, water, non-perishable food, first-aid kit, utility knife, extra eyeglasses or contact lenses, sweater, cash, paper, pencils, rain gear and other essentials that you would need to survive if you became stranded for 3 days. Put your key documents in a water-proof zippered tote; i.e. passport, credit card, driver's license, phone card, cash, traelers checks, address book, cell phone.
7. Do not take precious jewelry on a cruise ship, as you could become a target for a robbery. Wear your fun, non-expensive items. If you do take, jewelry, be sure to put it in a safe, along with excess cash. You do not want to be a TARGET.
8. Be careful what you eat. Know how your food is prepared. Watch your food allergies, as they can become a real problem, when you are travelling.
9. Be careful of liquor consumption. You may have a different reaction, to liquor, when you are sailing.
10. Walking on a ship, is very different from walking on land....hold on, and do not fall.
11. It is best to use credit cards, or charge to your room, as you do not want to be seen with lots of cash.
12. Do not visit the crew-only part of the ship; it can be a clue to them that you are out of your cabin.
13. Caution children about all of the safety tips, and be sure they have a specific time they must return to the cabin. Have other assigned meeting places and times for regrouping.
14. Get travel insurance; Study it carefully, before you buy it, so you will know if the company will help you if something goes wrong.
15. Check your health insurance; to be sure it covers you if you travel outside the United States.
16. Travel in groups, if you are going ashore. Know where you are going, before you depart the ship.
17. Trust your instincts. If it does not feel right, do not risk it.
18. Report anything suspicious to the senior staff of the Ship.

Above are some recommendations, that I trust you will follow to have a SAFE vacation? Going on a Cruise can be a delightful, relaxing way to have a great Vacation. All good wishes for a fun, relaxing and very safe Cruise!

Article written by Nancy Harvey Steorts, former Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission., author, of Your Home Safe Home, Safe Living in a Dangerous World, Safety and You, founder and President of Nancy Harvey Steorts International, an international product safety expert, and Associate Broker at Long and Foster, McLean. For more information contact Nancy Steorts at nancysteorts@cox.net.