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

If the Costa Concordia disaster may have 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.

  1. Know the Drill: 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.
  2. Muster a Sound Mind: If something happens, stay calm, get your life jacket and go to your muster station. Don't stop for anything else.
  3. Be a STEP Traveler: 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.
  4. Scan Your Passport: 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.)
  5. Check for Travel Warnings: Find travel warnings on where you will be advised of unsafe conditions.
  6. Get Insurance: 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.
  7. Check Your Current Insurance: 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.
  8. Do Doctor Diligence: 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?
  9. Keep Medications Close: 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
  10. Call Your Own Doctor: 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
  11. Approach Tours With Care: 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.
  12. Know Your Physical Limits: Be honest with yourself about your limitations. Don't try to do anything too physical that you are not capable of.
  13. Listen From the Start: At the start of any tour or activity, pay attention during the safety talk.
  14. Check the Weather: If you are going scuba diving or snorkeling, monitor weather and sea conditions yourself. Don't rely on anyone else.
  15. Exercise Port Precaution: When visiting a new port, research the port in advance and check for "no-go" areas that must be avoided.
  16. Ask While Still Onboard: 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.
  17. Travel in Groups: 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.
  18. Stay Low Key: Try to avoid overtly drawing attention to yourself. Do not wear expensive jewelry or carry flashy cameras and other items.
  19. Be Discreet With Valuables: Keep valuables out of sight and don't carry large amounts of cash.
  20. Trust Your Instincts: 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 now on "Cruise Ship Confidential," a "20/20" special.

© 2012 Commercial Medical Escorts.