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Cruise Ship Safety

While even one death is one too many, between 2002-2012 cruise lines carried more than 243 million passengers and crew. During that time there were 28 deaths related to marine incidents. Cruising is one of...

Cruise FAQs

If you are new to cruise, you are likely to have lots of questions. Here, we’ve listed the most popular cruise answers but if you have a specific query, you can ask an ACE agent...

Cruise Lines

Cruise Ship Safety

While even one death is one too many, between 2002-2012 cruise lines carried more than 243 million passengers and crew. During that time there were 28 deaths related to marine incidents.

Cruising is one of the safest forms of holiday available

The cruise industry is heavily regulated by a number of independent agencies which have safety as their prime objective – these include the United Nations’ body the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in the UK.

All ships are equally safe whatever their size. They are subject to stringent design safety parameters. For example, international regulations demand that any ship can be evacuated within 30 minutes. So on larger ships all evacuation routes, the number of lifeboats and other safety provisions are simply scaled up to match the size of the vessel.

Global cruise industry ‘Operational Safety Review’

The industry learns from any and every incident and advances in technology, ship design, training and stricter regulations mean that cruising is an extremely safe form of transport.

After the Costa Concordia incident in 2012, the global cruise industry led by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) together with the European Cruise Council (ECC) and the PSA launched a comprehensive operational safety review and this will ensure we learn and implement anything we can to make our industry safer still.

Cruise lines are reviewing their own operational safety practices and procedures and are consulting with independent external experts and identifying industry best practices and policies. The global cruise industry is collaborating with the International Maritime Organisation, the United States and European Union to put in place any necessary legislative changes.

Since the operational review began we have already put in place an international policy of pre-departure safety drills for all passengers.

In April 2012, three new policies were announced which go beyond even the strictest of regulatory requirements. These include adopting a policy of carrying additional lifejackets on board cruise ships so that there are far more lifejackets on board than the number of people actually on each ship. The industry has also announced new rules which restrict access to the bridge and puts stricter conditions in place regarding route planning and bridge communication.

Two further measures were introduced in July 2012 requiring that all passengers’ nationalities be recorded and made readily available to all security personnel on board and that every cruise line communicate 12 common information elements (including a description of emergency signals and appropriate responses in the event of an emergency) to passengers.

Four further policies were adopted in the autumn, taking the number of safety measures added in 2012 to a total of 10. In September a policy relating to loading and lowering of lifeboats for training purposes was introduced, exceeding existing international regulatory requirements. In November an additional three policies were added, including the requirement to secure heavy objects; a harmonisation of bridge operating procedures among individual companies and brands within a commonly-owned and operated fleet and the stipulation that the number of lifejackets equal to or greater than the number required by international regulations and the ship’s flag state be stowed in close proximity to either muster stations or lifeboat embarkations points on newly-constructed ships.

Staff undergo constant training

Each ship has a detailed emergency plan and every member of staff is allocated and trained to undertake a safety role if there is a problem.

Staff continue to be trained and practice regularly even while they are at sea. Regular completion of practice safety drills is a requirement of maritime law.

During any cruise you will regularly observe a number of drills for the crew where they practice responding to a variety of emergency situations. Such training may be taking place when passengers are ashore at a port of call.

Lifeboats must be capable of being loaded, launched and manoeuvred away from the ship within 30 minutes of the Master’s signal to abandon ship.

There are always more lifeboat/liferaft places than people on board. On a typical 2,000 passenger ship there will be lifeboats and liferafts capable of transporting a total of 2,500 people.

The industry is undergoing constant technical and legislative improvements

This is a very highly regulated industry which is constantly reviewing and improving safety standards, introducing new laws to improve navigation equipment, shipboard safety management systems, life saving equipment, safe return to port standards; revised training and certifications standards.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) which falls under the United Nations sets strict global standards for the operation of cruise ships. The most important of the IMO treaties is the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).

This is overlaid by additional regulations enforced by flag states (where the ship is registered) and port state control (countries and ports to which the ship sails).

Every ship is regularly inspected under the port state control agreements, and if it doesn’t comply with regulations, can be kept in port.

The technology used on cruise ships is extremely advanced and the ships undergo a wide ranging and detailed inspection on an annual basis. This is required in order to obtain a renewal of the Passenger Ship Safety Certificate, which a vessel can’t legally operate without. International rules dictate that cruise ships are required to regularly to go into dry dock for a thorough inspection and overhaul.

The Passenger Shipping Association (PSA) in the UK works closely with the European Cruise Council (ECC) in Brussels and Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) in the USA to share best industry practice.

Safety drills for passengers

When a cruise passenger reaches their cabin they will see (on the daily news-sheet as well as possibly on the TV) details of a mandatory safety drill, which will take place prior to departure.

The safety drill involves gathering at a muster station – sometimes by a designated lifeboat or possibly in a lounge or theatre – when the emergency signal sounds.

There passengers listen – as they would on an aircraft – to safety-trained crew and staff explaining what will happen and what needs to be done in the event of a real emergency. Passengers will also be shown how to wear a life jacket (supplied both in cabins and around the ship); in most cases passengers will then be asked to put on their lifejackets by way of a practice.

Taking a cruise as a holiday

Cruising remains statistically one of the safest forms of holiday available.

Cruise FAQs

If you are new to cruise, you are likely to have lots of questions. Here, we’ve listed the most popular cruise answers but if you have a specific query, you can ask an ACE agent who will be happy to provide more cruise tips and advice.

How old are people who cruise?

Cruises are popular with every generation – singles, families, couples and groups of friends. There really is a cruise to suit every age and a ship to meet all expectations whether you want to be active or just sit and watch the world go by. There are no ‘typical’ passengers as the different types of cruises appeal to a wide range of people. There are family friendly and adult only ships, together with river cruising and expedition sailing – all of which bring a mix of ages and varying interests.

Will I get bored?

There are lots of things to do on a cruise. Whilst each ship is unique in its style, size and the facilities it offers, there’s plenty to do both on board and ashore.  There’s bowling or ice skating, the opportunity to learn circus skills, keep fit in the gym, relax in the spa, take a dip in the pool, listen to guest lecturers, watch a movie or a stage show, begin a new hobby, visit the casino – the list of on board activities is almost endless and then there are plenty of things to do ashore.

Are cruise holidays expensive?

Cruising offers exceptional value when compared to a land-based holiday. An all inclusive cruise takes in accommodation, food, activities and entertainment plus visiting great destinations. With a wide range of itineraries and many different cruise lines, there is a cruise holiday to suit all budgets.

Are there enough destinations to visit?

There are thousands of worldwide cruise destinations from which to choose and a cruise can take you to places virtually inaccessible by other means – Antarctica perhaps, or the Northern Lights or an African river. Cruise ships sail to the four corners of the globe and along the world’s waterways with new destination being constantly introduced.

Are cruises very formal and regimented?

The choice is yours! Some people love the formality of a cruise with its set dining times and evening dress, and there are plenty of ships that provide this traditional style of cruising. Alternatively you may want an informal atmosphere – dine at a time of your choosing and dress casually and there are cruises just for you. Visit an ACE accredited cruise agent who will have the expert knowledge to ensure you choose the right itinerary and cruise to match your requirements and meet your expectations.

What is there on a cruise for children and teenagers?

Nearly every cruise line offers family friendly options although these vary between cruise companies and ships. For those with very young children, babysitting services are available on a number of ships with children’s activities generally divided into distinct age groups. More large resort style ships offer extensive facilities including such activities as rock climbing, bowling, cookery lessons and of course the ever popular computer games such as Play Stations and Wiis.

Will I feel seasick?

Cruise ships are well stabilized and it’s often hard to tell that you’re actually moving, so sea sickness if pretty rare. Technology assists the ship’s captain in avoiding bad weather where possible and there are certain regions that are renowned for their calm waters such as the Caribbean, the Adriatic and of course the many rivers around the world including European, Russian and Asian waterways. Generally, the larger the ship the less likely you are to feel the motion and also consider the time of year you may travel.  Should you feel the need, medication for sea sickness is available on board.

What tips do I pay?

Tips, or gratuities, are often the source of confusion, with many people unaware of when service charges apply and how much to leave. Depending on the cruise line, there are various ways gratuities may be applied. Some will automatically apply a charge to your room bill on a per person per day basis. Others allow guests to pay gratuities when booking their cruise whilst the ultra luxury operators include all tips. It’s best to check how tips are applied and how much they are when booking your cruise.

Are there any adult-only cruises?

Several cruise lines have adult-only ships while some of the smaller luxury lines do not have facilities specifically for children so you could look at these as an alternative.

Do cruises cater for disabled people?

There are many companies which offer cruises for disabled people. A number of ships have listening device kits, some can cater for dialysis patients, most are able to accommodate special dietary requirements and the larger, newer vessels offer the space required for wheelchair users. Some cruise lines have special lifts designed to assist passengers in and out of the on board pools. Visit an ACE accredited cruise agent to discuss your requirements in detail and who will have the knowledge to ensure you choose the right ship and itinerary. You may also wish to contact the cruise line directly to talk about your needs.

Do cruise companies charge single supplements?

Some cruise lines have dedicated cabins for single occupancy with no additional charge while others you will be required to pay a single person supplement like most hotels. A cruise is a great option when travelling alone – easy to meet other people but you also have the ability to do your own thing.

Are baby-sitting services and children’s clubs offered on board?

Most family-friendly cruise lines have extensive kids’ clubs that are divided into various age groups with some taking children from 6 months upwards (some even take infants as young as 3 months). More often than not, these cruise lines offer crèches or baby-sitting services although these may be offered at an additional cost. A number of cruise lines organise junior shore excursions, have early dining times for children and designated pools, restaurants and discos just for kids.

What is cashless cruising?

This is now the norm and it means that passengers settle their bill in one payment before disembarkation on the last day.

What is generally not included in the price of a cruise?

Individual lines may vary so please check at time of booking. Generally speaking extras include drinks, treatments in the beauty salon and spa, shore excursions, on board purchases, gratuities and dry-cleaning services.

Should I Book Early?

The earlier you book the greater the choice of cruise and more often than not you will benefit from an early booking discount. You will also have a choice of cabin and its location on the ship.

Can you smoke on board?

Smoking policies vary between cruise line so it’s best to check at the time of booking. Some ships allow smoking in designated areas such as a bar, on the outer deck, in your cabin or on your private balcony. Restaurants on almost all ships are totally non-smoking and there are a couple of cruise ships afloat that are non-smoking throughout.

Can I get married on board?

Yes – and what can be more romantic than getting married at sea! A number of cruise lines offer wedding packages with a dedicated wedding planner to take care of everything from the ceremony to the cake and flowers. Some cruise lines arrange for the ceremony to take place on board with the Captain while others organise for the marriage to take place ashore. You can also renew vows on board and of course, cruising is an ideal romantic experience for honeymooners.

Do cabins have TVs and other modern comforts?

Most ships provide televisions and many have DVDs, ipod docking stations, mini-bars and a safe. Ships within the ultra luxury collection may also offer a Jacuzzi within a suite along with full entertainment centres and laptop computers.

Can I access the internet when on board?

Most ships have internet facilities either within internet cafés, at hotspots throughout the ship or in the bedroom.

Do mobile phones work on a ship?

Yes – some cruise companies have contracts with land-based phone companies while others have connect services in place and as a result rates vary. The connect services are switched off when the ship is in port so you will pay the local rate.

Are there laundry and dry cleaning services on board?

Most ships offer a laundry service for which there will normally be a charge.

What is the legal drinking age on board ships?

This can vary depending on the cruise line and where the ship is sailing but as a general rule it’s either 18 or 21 so check the details with your travel agent.

Can I cruise when I’m pregnant?

You can cruise up to your 28th week (on the day you return). You may also require a doctor’s certificate to say you are fit to travel and let the cruise line know at the time of booking.

What to Wear on a Cruise Guide

With the huge choice in the style of cruise holiday and the variety of destinations, you may wonder what to wear, particularly if you are new to cruise.

It’s worth remembering each cruise line has its own dress code which can range from ‘freestyle’ to formal, so this may be one of the factors that helps you decide which cruise is right for you.

During the day casual wear is ideal on board and although cruising isn’t as formal as it once was, there are times on many ships when passengers are able to dress for dinner and on these occasions there are three types of evening wear – smart casual, semi-formal and formal. Equally, on some of the resort style ships, ‘freestyle cruising’ means you can pretty much wear what you want.

Day wear

During the day it’s casual – swimwear for the pool and sunbathing plus a choice of t-shirts, shorts, trousers or jeans, skirts and tops and sundresses. A number of ships have running tracks and gyms, so if you plan to visit the fitness centre or take part in any sporting activity during your cruise, remember to pack sports clothes and running shoes.

Smart Casual

Stylish clothes are ideal for evening casual nights, for example casual trousers or dresses for ladies and open-neck polo shirts and casual trousers for men. Men may also been seen a jacket and trousers but these are by no means compulsory. Smart denim can also be fine but trainers, football shirts or tracksuits are a definite no.


Smart evenings give you the opportunity to wear a variety of stylish outfits. Ladies typically wear tailored trousers and separates or even a stylish dress, while men are in a shirt and trousers with a jacket or a suit and tie if they wish to.

Formal – Black tie

The number of black tie evenings varies on the length of the cruise and sometimes on the destination. Gentlemen are generally expected to wear a dinner jacket or tuxedo although many now wear a dark lounge suit as an alternative. Ladies wear a cocktail or evening dress. On some ships it’s possible to rent evening wear.

‘Freestyle Cruising’

Ships offering this style of cruising generally have a wide range of dining venues, bars and lounges. During the day you’re likely to wear swimsuits, casual shorts, jeans or sundresses to lunch. In the evening, some people may wish to wear a jacket or dress for a special occasion while others prefer jeans. As there are many different restaurants, you are able to choose the venue to suit your style.

Your destination, of course, will determine what you wear when going ashore with comfortable walking shoes a must. Even in hot climates, a jumper and lightweight coat are often useful for the cooler evenings and occasional showers and you need to consider appropriate clothing if you plan to visit religious sites or places of worship in certain countries. While a trip to Alaska or Antarctica will require cold weather clothing as although the temperatures can be reasonable during the summer, getting close to glaciers means it feels cold.