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Seven ways to avoid a cruise ship accident during a vacation

I am David Charlip. I am a cruise ship accident lawyer and maritime attorney based in Miami, Board Certified in Civil Trial Litigation, practicing law for 40 years, and an avid cruiser. In fact, I just returned from a 10-day cruise through the Greek Isles.

Probably like you, I’m so excited that cruising has restarted now that we’re on the way back from this terrible COVID pandemic. Unfortunately, cruise vacations sometimes generate cruise ship injuries.

That’s why it is important to discuss and think about how you will avoid suffering a cruise ship injury on your long-awaited vacation?

Both from the standpoint of my experience from years of cruising as well as my experience litigating cruise ship injuries, I think I know a good deal about what causes many common cruise ship injuries.

Taking a cruise vacation can be relaxing, adventurous, educational and/or a wild party depending upon the itinerary, the ship and what you want to get out of the many and varied experiences cruising offers.

The lure of new experiences, exhilarating rides, adventurous tours, and historical sites challenges you to pack in as much as possible in a short time, with attendant physical stresses as well as difficult choices about stamina, risk and health concerns.

When a rich and plentiful diet, new cuisines, street food, and flowing alcohol are added to the mix, many guests experience a transformation affecting their inhibitions, their normal sense of caution as well as their normal constitutions.

To be sure, despite your exercise of care and moderation, cruise ship vacations, just like everyday life, can be marred by injury caused by someone else’s negligence. Cruise ships, particularly todays’ huge mass-market ships, are floating crowded cities that have many of the same opportunities for accidents, criminal harm, illness, death, or misadventure as might be present in a congested city location. You can only control yourself though, so let’s talk a little bit about the seven ways you can avoid being injured on a cruise ship.

1. Be aware of your physical limitations.

Onboard you will be doing a lot of walking, going up and down steps, and potentially other activities such as swimming, rock climbing, or water slides. Onshore you could be hiking, walking various places, sometimes uphill, sometimes over cobblestones, sometimes up uneven steps, often in the brutal heat of summer. On adventure tours, you could be bicycling, zip-lining, ATVing, or kayaking. Injuries often happen when you are pushing yourself beyond your physical limitations. When you are tired you lose focus, motor control, and balance.

2. Respect the fact that you are on a moving ship.

Depending upon the seas and weather, ships move. When you move about the ship, you need to take care to maintain your balance, use railings and otherwise take suitable precautions.

3. Don’t overindulge.

I know you’re on vacation and everyone says, “well you know that extra piece of cake – I really shouldn’t have that, but I’m on vacation – what the heck.” Don’t do it. Yes, you should enjoy yourself. Yes, you should try to take advantage of all the delicious new things. The drinks that are available to you, the food that’s available to you. But be aware that when you overindulge you find that your usual way of doing things changes. Keep in mind that when you do things that you’re normally not accustomed to doing, your body is going to react differently, and certainly, when you add alcohol to the mix, that’s going to make a major difference.

Many cruise ship injuries arise from overindulgence. Whether with alcohol, food, strenuous or new and unfamiliar activities or just trying to pack too much into too short a time, overindulgence is your enemy. So understand your limitations. Don’t overindulge.

Likewise, pace yourself. You know if you have a 10-day cruise, don’t try to do everything on the first day. Try to space out the things that you want to do. Give yourself time to rest. Give yourself time to recuperate if you go on a very long tour that’s very active. One day, program a day at the beach. The next day try to limit your activities in a way that your body gets to rest and restore itself.

Many times, particularly with people my age (65), we try to do too much and find that we’re exhausted. If your cruise is to the Caribbean and you’re going to be relaxing and be pretty much on the beach, that might not present any issues for you. Whereas in Europe you may be touring every day, so on those vacations where you do find yourself out and about a lot, try to program downtime. Moderating your activity on a cruise vacation really does make a difference as far as being able to handle yourself in a way as to minimize the risk of any injury.

4. Focus/Avoid Sensory Overload.

Particularly with the new huge cruise ships nowadays, there’s so much sensory stimulation – the different colors, the lights, the moving exciting rides, waterslides and activities, the various locales, whether they be park settings, city settings or just dazzling entertainment venues.

The latest large cruise ships are designed to present a feast for your eyes and a feast for your imagination. Unfortunately, a by-product of that design strategy is that those things take your focus off of the normal things you should be paying attention to in terms of tripping and falling. Normally, in our daily lives, we try to be cautious. We try to look down and make sure there are no obstacles. We try to be sure that if weather conditions are bad, we’re going to be focusing on gaining solid footing.

But on a cruise ship, particularly one that you haven’t been on before, where there are so many interesting and attention-grabbing things going on, your sense of focus tends to get distracted. So what you want to do, and what you want to make sure of, is that those things don’t put you in a position to injure yourself by tripping and falling over something you didn’t see.

Similarly, there are signs on cruise ships that tell you to be aware of certain things. You will see signs about wet decks, low overhangs, off-limits areas, etc. Obviously, you need to mind those signs and understand where obstacles are, and try not to lose your sense of focus.

5. Dress appropriately.

To say dress appropriately on vacation sounds kind of silly. You’re on vacation. You want to wear your bathing suit and your flip-flops. That’s great – if you’re lounging by the pool. But if you are in Rhodes, climbing the 500 uneven steps up to the top of the Acropolis of Lindos – not such a good idea! I’ve seen women in high heels hiking, walking on cobblestone streets, climbing up numerous uneven steps, or on the beach.

Keep in mind the activity that you’re engaging in and dress appropriately for that activity. You have no idea how many times folks get into trouble when they’re wearing footwear totally different from what they should be wearing for the activity they’ve chosen.

Sometimes you might be out of your cabin and have two very different types of activity planned. Some tours combine different activities as well. In those cases you should plan ahead and pack a change of clothes and footwear suitable for the second activity.

Of course, if you are like my wife, you may not have packed suitable clothes or footwear for some activities you have planned or tours you have scheduled. In that case, you’ve given yourself a great excuse to go shopping, always a vacation highlight!

6. Be responsible for your personal safety.

Only you can really be in charge of your personal safety. So if you’re in a position where you feel uncomfortable, you need to say “no, I’m not doing this.” You need to assert yourself and say: “I have an issue with that bicycle that you want me to ride because it doesn’t look safe;” or “that surfboard that you want me to get on to bodysurf on the surfing simulator doesn’t seem suitable for my height and weight;” or “the seas seem too rough for me to snorkel safely”.

If you are touring in a particular area and it doesn’t look or feel safe to you or it looks a bit shady – don’t go there. If you’re involved in tours where the weather conditions look somewhat dicey, you can say “you know what, even though you didn’t cancel the tour – I’m not going.”

Same thing with tenders. You know, many cruise locations don’t have the capability for the ship to dock at a pier or dock, and so oftentimes certain itineraries require the cruise ship to tender passengers to shore. Normally transferring from the ship to those tenders is not dangerous. The transfer from the ship to the tender is usually very well attended by the crew who offers assistance to help you get from the ship to the tender.

But if you find that the waves are too significant and the tender is bucking up and down too much and the transfer seems too dangerous for you, be in charge of your personal safety, and don’t disembark the ship.

No one says you have to go ashore, and if it’s a situation that seems precarious, that puts you in a position of fear – just say no, you have that choice and so you need to make that choice. You can always try again later.

7. Be proactive.

Ask questions, take positions on things that you’re going to do so that you understand the requirements of a particular tour or activity. Before choosing your activities for the day, make the decision based on information, research, and thoughtful consideration of all the factors that will be affecting you. How do you feel? How is the weather? How long is the tour? How much walking/climbing is involved?

Many people just decide to spend their day however their spouse or their friends or their traveling companions decide to schedule their time in port. It’s ok to be a follower and not a leader when it comes to vacations. It is not at all unusual to eschew making decisions of any sort while on vacation. Nevertheless, you still want to be proactive to understand what’s going to be involved with your day and what you may encounter so that you’re comfortable with and can handle all planned activities.

So I think if you do all of those 7 things, you’re going to have a wonderful time on your cruise vacation.

Of course, we didn’t talk about COVID and the COVID protocols, but I’m going to post another blog that talks about that because I’ve had extensive experience in my most recent cruise understanding and dealing with how the cruise lines, at least the one I traveled on, are dealing with COVID safety. Suffice to say that I believe that you can now cruise safely, enjoy your cruise and still be as safe or actually safer from COVID as you would be anywhere else.

If you are or planning to be cruising – I wish you a bon voyage! Although we always wish you to be safe and avoid cruise ship injury, if calamity does strike – our Miami cruise ship injury lawyers are always here for you at Charlip Law Group, LC. Call me or my staff right from your vacation for counsel, advice, and assistance. Keep in mind 95% of all cruise ship injury lawsuits are contractually required to be filed here in Miami, Florida within One (1) year of your injury.

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