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How likely is it that you will fall overboard on your cruise?

If you are like many people, an Alaskan cruise is your idea of the perfect vacation. Sail the seas, enjoy nonstop food and beverages, maybe even see a whale or two. In all likelihood, the possibility of falling overboard has never entered your mind. Nevertheless, MarketWatch reports that in the past 18 years, approximately 300 people went missing from cruise ships and/or ferries, presumably from going overboard

Sixty passengers or crew went overboard on Carnival Cruise Line ships since 2000. Royal Caribbean International recorded 42 such incidents, followed by Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line with 20 apiece.

Proposed legislation

Congress introduced a bill named the Cruise Passenger Protection Act last year that requires independent law enforcement agents on passenger vessels, similar to the air marshals required on airplanes. It also requires the following:

  • Cruise ship owners must notify the FBI within four hours of any reported safety or crime-related incident.
  • Cruise ships docked at a U.S. port cannot leave after a reported incident until it is fully investigated.
  • Cruise ships must install video surveillance equipment in all common areas and must keep the video records for a minimum of 30 days after the completion of a voyage.

The bill, however, is stuck in a subcommittee, and it is unknown when it will emerge.

Existing legislation

The Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act became law in 2010. Under this law, cruise lines must implement such security and crime prevention measures as cabin door peepholes so passengers can see who is in passageways. The problem is that while the law mandates some things, it merely recommends others, leaving it to the discretion of the cruise lines themselves to follow the recommendations.

For instance, the Act recommends advanced radar technology on all cruise ships to detect when someone goes overboard. The cost of installing such technology, however, could be as high as $100,000 per vessel. Such high cost is a distinct disincentive for cruise lines to implement the recommendation.

The best way for you to stay safe on your cruise is to act as responsibly onboard ship as you do behind the wheel of your car. Just because the ship offers you the opportunity to become inebriated at all hours of the day and night does not mean that you must avail yourself of that opportunity. Many man-overboard incidents occur when drunk people take chances and act irresponsibly. Others lose their footing while throwing up over the rail. Bottom line, despite whatever safety measures a cruise ship puts in place, you are responsible for your own personal safety while on your dream cruise. This is general information only and not intended to provide legal advice.

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