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Cruise Tips
Safety Tips

by Alan Walker

This month, Alan Walker has some EXCELLENT ADVICE concerning safety and security when cruising.

This article is not intended to scare anybody who is about to take a cruise. Statistically, you are most likely to be a victim of a "crime" either at home or within five miles of your home. Many of the "tips" in this article apply to all tourists, not just those who will be cruising. Cruising is a very safe way to travel, and some forethought will reduce, even further, the small risk of anything going wrong.

Why Criminals Pick On Tourists/Cruisers

If you were a criminal, you would naturally think that tourists/cruisers were prime targets. Tourists are likely to have more cash on them; tourists are often dis-oriented, looking at maps and street signs, and not looking at what's happening around them; tourists are less-likely to be able to chase a perpetrator in a strange city, or to find police assistance easily. And probably most importantly from a criminal's point of view, the tourist/victim is unlikely to be able to (or to want to), return to the crime scene at a later date to give evidence against a criminal who has been caught. Later on in this article, there are some comments about "not looking like a tourist".

Before You Leave Home

- Valuables

First of all, consider what valuables you really need to take. When thinking of taking a lot of cash, consider the many other safer alternatives: getting cash on board, travelers' checks, credit cards and ATM terminals on shore (occasionally, even on the ship itself). Do you really need to take your most expensive jewellery?

- Identification

Make photocopies of your ID (passport, birth certificate, driver's license, etc.), and keep the photocopies at all times separate from the originals.

- Credit Cards

Have on hand (but separate from your credit cards), details of your credit card numbers AND, most importantly, the phone numbers you will need to contact if your credit card is lost or stolen. (The best chance of a thief getting caught with a stolen credit card is by advising the credit card company immediately you discover the loss. Typically, a thief only uses a credit card for the first few hours).

- Phone Direct

Also have on hand (but again, separate from your credit cards) the phone numbers for "USA Direct" (or "Canada Direct"). These numbers ( which are different in each country), allow you to connect directly with an American or Canadian operator. These are very useful numbers in places where English is not spoken. The numbers are less important if you are in part of the North American phone system (Canada, Mexico, and a lot - but not all - of the Caribbean).


Mark your bags with some unusual identification on the outside (stickers, duct tape, ribbons etc.). Not only will your bags be easier to find when you disembark into a giant warehouse of suitcases, you'll also have a better chance of noticing if somebody picks up your bag from the airport luggage carousel. It's always best to stand as close as you can to where the baggage first empties onto the carousel or conveyor.

They say there are only six different luggage keys in the world, but at least locking your suitcases can inhibit a criminal employee at an airport from doing a quick rifling of your bags. Soft-sided suitcases can, of course, be cut open. I wouldn't, myself, go so far as wrapping duct tape around my whole suitcase just to make it more secure.

When waiting in line at the airport terminal, and especially when you are busy at the counter itself, keep your small (but no doubt important) carry-on luggage so that it's between your legs, or at least touching your legs.

Airport to the Ship

If traveling as a couple, designate one of you to make sure that: (a) all your baggage gets on the taxi; (b) the taxi driver ties down the trunk properly if that is necessary (taxis usually have small trunks in Europe); and (c) all your baggage gets off the taxi (taxi drivers have been known to overlook a small bag on purpose, and then drive off with it).

On Board

Most cruise lines provide safes in passenger cabins. Some safes require a card with a magnetic stripe to lock and open them. Bring such a card with you - but an unimportant card like a bookstore or videostore card), so that you won't have to carry around a more important card such as a credit card. It is also best not to use you cruise charge card as the card that locks your safe.

Your cruise card is like a credit card on board, and you will need to keep track of its whereabouts, the same as you would a credit card. Always make sure you get it back from your server.

On Shore

- Ship's Warnings

The ship's daily newspaper, or a port "lecture", will probably warn you if there are any particular "dangerous" areas ashore. If the ship is docked outside of downtown, the port area itself could be dangerous. Don't try to save a few dollars walking into town when you can get a taxi.


- What to Take Ashore

Take as little ashore as you can. A little cash and one credit card should do the trick. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted around the world, but other cards less so.

- Dress For Being Ashore

The best "dress" for on-shore is a pair of long pants made by one of the "adventure-clothes" companies ("Tilleys" is one brand name that comes to mind). These special pants have a multitude of pockets, but all in the front, with velcro tiedowns. It's almost impossible for a pickpocket to do anything to you if you are wearing these.

The second best dress is a pair of shorts of the same style (but see my later comments re wearing shorts).

The third best dress is to wear a fanny pack, but these can be taken by thieves working in tandem (one distracts you, the other cuts the belt of your fanny pack from behind).

The easiest things to steal are: 1. a lady's handbag (ladies: do you really need to take everything in that handbag ashore?). Even if you wear you bag with the strap around your neck, a thief can easily cut the strap. 2. a wallet in a man's back pocket - even if the pocket is buttoned or velcroed. The pickpocket can easily cut the bottom of the pocket. 3. the chain around a lady's neck: the mugger type can yank it off in a New York second.

How Not To Look Like a Tourist/Cruiser

At the beginning of this article, I noted why "tourists" are picked upon by criminals. Here's how not to look like a tourist/cruiser:

  • Get one of the new 35mm cameras that fits into your pocket, instead of having to be carried visibly.
  • Don't wear a fanny pack - the most obvious tourist sign of all.
  • Don't wear new sneakers, especially white ones. If you are in any cruise ship port, you can pick out all the cruisers just by looking at their footwear! There are other comfortable shoes that you can buy that make you look more like a local.
  • Don't wear shorts. When on vacation, we all seem to wear shorts more than we do at home. Your lack of suntan will give you away. Of course, comfort considerations will often override safety considerations .
  • Don't wear T-shirts with logos of ships or ports, or any brand-new T-shirts (the locals are not likely to ).
  • Don't wear jogging suits. Older people seem to like to wear these (or T-shirts) when cruising, when they never would think of going downtown in such a garb in their own home town.
  • Don't look too fancy (do you really need to wear any jewellery when touring during the day? - save it for the Captain's Cocktail Party).

The End

Of course, if you follow all these guidelines, you will never know whether any of them worked or not. I hope at least some of the comments will be useful to you.

Have a good and safe cruise holiday!


Alan Walker resides in Vancouver and is the Sysop for the Cruise Ports/Destinations section of the CompuServe UK Travel Forum. Alan is becoming a regular reporter for the SeaLetter and can be reached at: 74671.3046@compuserve.com.

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