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Look at the Tickets before you Buy Them (Read the contract)
Cruise tickets are contracts, and once you purchase them, you’re basically stuck with the terms of that contract. The only way to avoid the terms you don’t like is to lose the money you spent and not take the cruise, unless you have a travel insurance policy that will cover an early cancellation. If you can, try to get a copy of the ticket contract before you buy your tickets, and familiarize yourself with the terms of the contract so that you are at least aware of what rights you have and don’t have.
Familiarize Yourself with Your Embassy Before you Leave
The Ananias family had no idea that some embassies have hours of operation, but when we called the U.S. embassy in Rome for assistance, we were told to get there by a certain time. If you’re traveling abroad, look up the information on the embassy nearest to where you’ll be and become familiar with their protocol and their hours. It’s possible that some embassies will send someone to help you, but the one in Rome required that we come to them. Know as much as you can before you visit a foreign country.
Register Online with the State Department Before you Leave
The U.S. Department of State allows you to register online before you travel abroad. Entering your information before you leave allows them to better assist you in the case of an emergency while you’re out of the country.
Know the Emergency Signal
The emergency signal on a ship is seven short blasts followed by one long blast. Find a recording of the signal before you even step foot on a cruise ship and listen to it several times so that you are very familiar with it. You should also listen carefully to this signal when they sound it during a muster drill. In the even that the PA system isn’t working or that you don’t speak the primary language on the ship, knowing the emergency signal when you hear it can make a difference by giving you valuable extra minutes that other people may not have if they’re standing around wondering what that noise is.
Use Common Sense
It may seem obvious, but always use common sense when making decisions while you’re traveling. It’s ease to fall into the trap of just following directions when you’re on a tour or a cruise or anything else that has a leader giving instructions. But just because you’re being told to do something, doesn’t mean it’s the smartest thing to do. We aren’t advocating mutiny by any means, but just make sure you think through the directions you’re given. If they don’t make good, common sense, you might want to dig a little deeper before following along blindly.
Watch your Alcohol Intake
It is difficult to maneuver on a sideways ship when people are sober, but we can’t imagine doing so if you had been even a little bit under the influence. Many people think of vacation as a time to cut loose and, for some people, that involves heavy drinking. But it can be very dangerous to have too many drinks when you’re traveling. Not only are you not at your best (either mentally or physically), but you don’t always know the laws of the country you’re in (or the laws governing the ship you’re on). It’s very easy to find yourself on the wrong side of the drinking laws.
Never Go Into “Crew Only” Areas
Even if a crew member invites you into a restricted area, politely decline. Having passengers in these “crew only” areas can be dangerous. Stay in the areas designated for passengers.
There have been multiple cases of people contracting contagious diseases while on cruise ships. For that reason, ships routinely have sanitizer machines and hand wipes in restaurants and scattered in various locations around the ship. Take full advantage of them. Cruise ships may be large, but they are still a confined space filled with people that you don’t know. Be vigilant with hand-washing. It may not be a bad idea to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you as well.
Activate Your Life Jackets’ Lights
The lights on a life jacket are designed to come on once they hit water, but if you find yourself in the dark and still on the ship, or even in a lifeboat, you can activate the lights by using your own saliva. It’s definitely better than being stuck in the dark! We utilized that technique when we tried to get the helicopters flying above to rescue us. Even though they didn’t attempt a rescue, we felt that we were doing our part to make them aware that we needed help.
Jump in the water as an ABSOLUTE Last Resort
More people died from exposure in the cold North Atlantic waters than drowned when the Titanic sank. Even in the Mediterranean Sea, where we were, the waters were still very cold. Hypothermia sets in quickly in the water. You can’t guarantee that you’ll be picked up by a lifeboat or be able to make it to shore, no matter how close it seems to be, so only jump in if you have no other choices available. Even in the warmer waters, there are other considerations, such as choppy seas and dangerous fish.
Remember that a cruise ship is like a small floating city, filled with many different types of people. Most are great individuals, but as in any town, there are always people who won’t think twice about hurting you or stealing from you. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you can let your guard down around strangers. No matter how much you think you’ve gotten to know someone in a few days on a ship, remember, they’re still strangers and you need to use caution in what you tell them and how much you trust them.