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Suriving a cruise disaster

Avid boomer cruisers that we are, Alan and I are terribly saddened by the disaster on the Costa Concordia. We send our sympathies to the families of the deceased and also to the injured passengers and crew. It’s especially upsetting to learn that the this cruise disaster was caused by human error, according to news reports.

But I’m distressed for another reason, as well. As I watched live TV interviews with cruise guests, so many of them commented about not knowing what to do since they had not had a muster drill (or munster), which Maritime law requires be held within 24 hours of departure. But what about the placard that’s on back of the stateroom door—the one that shows how to put on your life vest, provides a map to the stateroom’s muster station and gives other tips on what to do in case of an emergency—didn’t they read it?

Being an informed boomer helps you survive a disaster.

Now before you go ballistic on me, I realize that the cruise guests had no power over how the situation was handled at the lifeboat stations, the preparedness or unpreparedness of the crew, or the incorrect information they might have been told immediately after the emergency started. But if passengers had informed themselves upon embarking the ship, they could have calmly followed a plan. Would that ensure that they arrived safely back on land? Not necessarily, this was a disaster, after all. But it certainly would have improved their chances.

Since, the content at My Itchy Travel Feet is copyrighted, we don’t look kindly on those who copy our posts. But this one time, I encourage you to cut and paste the tips I’m about to give you and print them out to take on your next cruise. Be a prepared traveler. You may even include them on your website if you wish (with attribution please).

Baby Boomer cruise evacuation plan

  1. Immediately upon entering your cruise cabin upon embarkation, take a few minutes to read the emergency information on the back of your stateroom door.
  2. Memorize the location of your muster station that’s printed on the emergency information. Make sure that you know how to reach it on the ship.
  3. When it’s time for the muster drill, pay attention, even if you’ve attended drills on other cruises. This might be the voyage where you need the details to be fresh in your mind.
  4. At the first sign of emergency, return to your cabin to retrieve life jackets. Just because you’re told everything is okay, doesn’t mean it’s true. If things don’t feel right to you, go get your life vest. Better to look foolish than to be unprepared.
  5. Change into warm clothes, if there is time, including socks and sturdy shoes. If you’re in a hurry, at least grab a jacket or take the blanket off the bed and try to change those shoes.
  6. Bring any medicines that you use on a daily basis. In order to grab them quickly, keep medicines together in a bag, always placing them in the same accessible location in the cabin.
  7. If, and I stress IF, there is time, retrieve your identification from the safe. This does not necessarily mean your passport. All of the ships that we sail on collect our passports upon embarkation and return them to us when the cruise is over.
  8. Proceed calmly to your muster station. Use the handrails that are bolted to the walls in the hallways. Beware of sliding objects. When crossing open areas, stay behind a fixed object until you can asses the situation. If a ship is listing, furniture and other objects will be sliding around. Granted this is easier said than done. I can’t imagine what it was like for the Costa survivors who climbed near vertical halls to escape.
  9. Take deep breaths to remain as calm as you can. Panicking uses up energy that you might need for surviving.
  10. At the muster station, do everything possible to help the crew members, even if that means standing up against a wall and remaining quiet. They’re scared too. Acting irrational or irate will not save you or others.

Having an emergency disaster plan isn’t just for cruises. The next time you fly, pay attention the the safety information that the flight attendants give as the plane departs the gate. Find the nearest emergency exit. Think ahead as to what you would do if there was an emergency. When you check into a hotel room, find the closest exit in case there’s a fire. Again, have an emergency evacuation plan.

Be in charge of you.

Do you have any tips to add to our cruise disaster tips? Come join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook. Or send us an email with your thoughts.

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