Choosing a Cruise? Get the Dream Trip, Not the Nightmare at Sea

Here’s a way to check out the health and safety records for individual cruise ships before you book your trip.

Drownings, nasty viruses that leave you doubled over in the bathroom, sexual assaults and robberies. Sounds like a nightmare, right? Unfortunately, it can be the harsh reality of some people’s “dream vacation” on the high seas.

Of course, the overwhelming majority – more than 22 million people each year – enjoy a smooth-sailing cruise adventure. But there are hundreds of travelers who probably wish they would have stayed on dry land.

If you’re considering a cruise vacation, but aren’t sure which cruise liner to book, this might help: ProPublica recently laid out the health and safety data for more than 300 cruise ships, as well as the ships’ current position and deck plans.

“The vast majority of cruise passengers travel safely and return refreshed,” ProPublica said. But it doesn’t hurt to do your homework first.

I picked three cruise liners from the lengthy list. Here is what ProPublica found:

  • Carnival Spirit: Health score: 97/100; Safety: 8 incidents since 2010.
  • Disney Fantasy: Health score: 100/100, no illness outbreaks. Safety: 5 incidents since 2013. Notable event: In 2013, a 4-year-old boy nearly drowned in a swimming pool aboard the ship.
  • Enchantment of the Seas: Health score: 99/100, no illness outbreaks. Safety: 36 incidents since 2010.

All in all, the three ships I checked performed fairly well.

Here are some of the highlights — or should we say, lowlights — of ProPublica’s Cruise Control analysis:

  • Stomach issues: In 2014, more than 1,700 cruise passengers and crew members got sick from gastrointestinal illnesses like norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea. (Spending your vacation in the bathroom doesn’t sound like fun).
  • Water safety: Many cruise ships don’t have full-time lifeguards, which could partially explain why since 2012 at least seven children have drowned or nearly drowned in cruise ship pools.
  • Crime: Laws around reporting crimes on cruise ships are being revised, at least in the United States for ships that call at U.S. ports. But it is hard to know exactly how many crimes are actually committed at sea because of a history of poor reporting. ProPublica notes that victims’ rights are different if the crime is committed at sea. Furthermore, “victims sometimes find themselves without much recourse as private security staff juggle the competing priorities of responding to and reporting wrongdoing and protecting the interests of their employers.”

Check out “10 Things To Know Before You Book A Cruise.”

I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise. Even when cruise ships were in the headlines for mass outbreaks of norovirus, I was still willing to take my chances at sea if the right opportunity presented itself.

Have you been on a cruise? Share your experiences and tips below.

Stacy Johnson

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