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Mega-sized cruise ships have always been a rather large target for those who would choose to do travelers harm. It’s the unspoken fear that travel agents avoid talking about or even thinking of if possible. Let one cruise ship get hit by a terrorist attack and that’s it: game over.
Fans of cruise vacations have a fairly good idea of the security precautions in place to prevent something like that ever happening. Still, in a world where one person can walk into a crowded theater and open fire, killing people as fast as guns can pump out bullets, this is a topic we should talk about now.
Just after the tragic events of 9/11, cruise lines jumped on the security bandwagon like everyone else. A 300-foot security perimeter was set up around vessels in port, SCUBA divers were sent down below the waterline to check the ship’s hull for bombs, visitors were banned from boarding, and more.
In an ongoing effort, cruise ship crewmembers receive regular security and safety instruction and believe me — no one on the ship takes those topics lightly.
A system is in place to handle emergencies onboard, which was recently renewed, examined and refreshed in the wake of the Costa Concordia disaster. That particular event gave us a modern day example of what cruise travelers of the Titanic generation already knew firsthand: no ship is unsinkable.
Taking lessons learned from Titanic and Concordia, combining them with today’s technology and moving forward, the cruise industry is today one of the safest modes of travel available. A lot of that has to do with the closed environment provided by cruise ships.
Totally self-supporting in many areas, these vessels are self-contained floating hotels with all the challenges of a land-based operation but often totally surrounded by water as far as the eye can see. That single fact is probably one of — if not the main — reason we have not seen terrorist activity on cruise ships.
Because cruise ships are often away from civilization and the associated hospitals, emergency responders and land-based services, those who operate the mobile assets of their particular cruise line have always been on guard when it comes to safety.
Still, it does not take much of a leap in thinking to wonder how terrorist activity would rear its ugly head today. We could look to Somalia and pirates that have effectively cleared waters in that part of the world of all cruise ships. We could wonder if the guy next to us in line getting on the ship, wearing a jacket, actually has some kind of explosives packed in there somewhere. There is no limit to where we could go, imagining what might happen.
Right about here is where one might expect to read on a cruise line website that security precautions are in place “in an abundance of caution” or “because safety is our number one priority,” but this is more than that. Both of those thoughts may be true, but today we have a real, viable concern about safety … or so we think.
Cruise lines and those who operate them already know this, live it each and every day and want us to feel secure when sailing. That’s a bit different than the TV news accounts that might have us believe that it is unsafe to travel anywhere.
Not long ago, on a trip through Egypt and Jordan, we were not far from hot spots already talked about as being unsafe for travel. Still, on the ground in the Middle East, the situation did not seem nearly as dangerous as we had been led to believe.
Tourism is a major industry to these places and they have taken extraordinary measures to ensure traveler safety. Tourism Police are seen on street corners and at iconic monuments and attractions. Entering and leaving countries in that part of the world does indeed require going through an extra security check or two.
Getting on and off cruise ships today we might find lines have returned a bit. Expect to see security forces on guard with machine guns at the ready. Look for the passenger safety drill to have a more serious air about it. But other than those noticeable changes, it’s business as usual on cruise ships around the world.
Then there’s always the option to move the vessel away from any imminent danger. Try doing that with your land-based hotel.