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Use good sense when sailing the seven seas

Syndicated columnist Diane Dimond once wrote an entire column about crime on the seven seas.

Dimond, whose typical Friday columns deal with crime and punishment, that week, as I recall, was talking about crime on cruise ships.

That’s not a topic most of us particularly want to read, especially since cruises are getting popular again now that we are emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The topic is of great interest to me because, if all went as planned, my family and I will be returning to port as you read this week’s column after what I hope was a lovely time in the Caribbean sunshine.

Of course, in my business, I know the importance of reading and being educated on even upsetting information.

And given the vast number of travelers enjoying ocean cruises these days (I suspect that will include many of you) I figured further exploration of this topic might be of interest to you.

A full cruise ship carries an average of 3,000 passengers. Mix in the likelihood of adult beverages and hot weather, and you might have a recipe for disaster.

While most cruise ships aren’t full these days, due in large part to the challenges the industry faced during the pandemic, the industry is trying hard to bounce back.

While my family was required to provide proof of vaccinations and negative COVID-19 tests taken within just a couple of days of departure, some experts now are speculating that rule soon could fall by the wayside.

For now, however, the rule exists, and that creates an extra layer of complexity that guests must navigate before boarding.

Some federal legislators also have been hoping they could play a part in improving the odds of a peaceful trip. The Cruise Passenger Protection Act introduced in the U.S. Senate a few years ago has not passed.

It aimed at strengthening passenger safety measures already spelled out in the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. Generally, the bill would strengthen crime reporting and video surveillance requirements, improve medical standards and hold cruise lines responsible for deaths at sea.

It would ensure a ship’s owner notifies the FBI within four hours of an alleged incident, or sooner if still in port and require ships to report alleged offenses involving a U.S. national to the U.S. Consulate in the next port.

It also would require video surveillance in common areas and allow access to the videos for civil action.

It requires use of technology to capture images and detect when a passenger has fallen overboard.

It would create medical standards requiring a physician and medical staff be present and available for passengers; and it would ensure that, God forbid, if a U.S. passenger dies aboard a vessel, next of kin could request the vessel to return the deceased to the U.S. and ensure families of victims may pursue fair compensation after a death on the high sea. That’s the same rights as airline passengers.

None of these items seem unreasonable.

Beyond that, here are a few travel tips offered for cruise passengers by AAA Travel Club:

l All cruise passengers, even seasoned cruisers, should pay full attention during the ship’s safety drill, required to occur during the first 24 hours of departure.

l Register all international travel with the U.S. Department of State’s free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at https://travelregistration.state.gov. This will enable the State Department to provide better assistance in an emergency.

l Travel with a small waterproof pack that can be easily secured around the body in the event of an evacuation. The pack should include, passports, cash including local currency, credit card, medications, small flashlight, cell- phone, nutrition bars and a bottle of water if possible. Prepare the pack upon boarding the ship so it’s immediately accessible in the event of an emergency.

And, of course, don’t let common sense take a vacation.

Avoid risky behaviors like excessive alcohol consumption or admitting strangers to your cabin. And always report concerns to ship security.

Bon voyage!

Linert is editor of the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator.

blinert@tribtoday.com

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