Seabourn Takes Firm Stand on Lifeboat Safety Drill
By Theresa Norton Masek
May 18, 2012 1:33 PM
If you thought cruise lines were just paying lip service to strict new safety procedures, think again. Luxury line Seabourn is stressing that it will not make any exceptions to the rule that all passengers must attend lifeboat drills at the beginning of every cruise.
Seabourn held firm even though it caught some flak for disembarking a couple from Seabourn Sojourn when an 84-year-old woman refused to participate, saying she was ill. The woman and her 90-year-old husband were removed from the ship in Lisbon, Portugal, on May 12. The guests were met at the cruise terminal. Seabourn provided transfers to a hotel as part of the onward reservations the line made for them, including local accommodations and flights home.
Seabourn said the couple was disembarked “after one of them refused to attend the mandatory passenger emergency drill despite multiple explicit warnings and personal communication by ship’s officers. The safety and security of all guests and personnel on board must remain our first priority. Mandatory attendance at the emergency drill conducted prior to every voyage is a strict company policy to ensure the safety of everyone onboard. No exceptions are permitted.”
Seabourn’s statement continued: “A guest who is too ill to attend may attend a make-up drill when their health permits. We sincerely regret this unfortunate situation on the Sojourn but strict compliance with this policy is necessary to ensure the safety of all guests and crew.”
CruiseCritic.com posted a story on the Seabourn incident after a fellow passenger wrote the consumer website about the incident. Most of the reader comments that follow the story on CruiseCritic agreed with Seabourn’s stance although a few expressed sympathy for the couple. More typical was this comment from Valerie Fox Ringman of Beaufort, S.C.: “The captain’s word is law! I am glad that the lines are taking this stance -- all should do it.” In another comment, Ruth Best Leeper wrote: “I definitely side with the ship. Even if the wife did not feel well, she should have participated. Incidents like this will make people realize how important the drill is.”
This is not the first such incident involving attendance at a safety drill. Holland America Line, Seabourn’s sister company, disembarked a passenger from the Westerdam’s Jan. 29 cruise “for non-compliance with the mandatory passenger emergency drill.” The drill included alarm blasts and announcements throughout the ship, including instructions that failure to participate would result in disembarkation.
On Feb. 9, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announced a new emergency drill policy requiring mandatory muster for embarking passengers prior to departure from port. The new policy follows the industry’s safety review after the Costa Concordia tragedy. The European Cruise Council and the Passenger Shipping Association have both endorsed CLIA’s new policy.
Previously, the policy mandated that a muster occur within 24 hours of passenger embarkation. In some cases, that means a ship can start sailing before all passengers were instructed in the emergency procedures, which is what happened in the Jan. 13 Concordia shipwreck, which killed 32 people.