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The following information
comes from:
The Cruise Ship
Consumer Fact Sheet
The U.S. Coast Guard
Maritime Safety Office

(305) 535-8705 (Miami)
(907) 463-2450 (Juneau)
(787) 729-6800 (San Juan)

Emergency Drills

Coast Guard regulations and SOLAS, the Safety Of Life At Sea organization, require that the master of an ocean cruise ship periodically hold fire and lifeboat drills. They are intended not only to give the crew practice, but also to show the passengers how to act in the event of an emergency at sea. Passengers should participate fully in these drills.
  • The timing and frequency of the drills depends in large part on the length of the voyage.
  • On voyages that last more than one week, the first drill is held before the ship gets underway (passengers who embark at the last minute sometimes miss this drill), with additional drills at least once a week thereafter.
  • On voyages of one week or less, drills must be held within 24 hours after leaving port.

Coast Guard and international regulations also require a notice to be posted conspicuously in each passenger cabin or stateroom. The notice explains the following:
  • How to recognize the ship's emergency signals (alarm bells and whistle signals are normally supplemented by announcements made over the ship's public address system)
  • The location of life preservers provided for passengers in that stateroom (special life preservers for children will be provided, if necessary, by the room steward)
  • Instructions and pictures explaining how to put on the life preserver; and the lifeboat to which passengers in that stateroom are assigned.

Survival Crafts
Modern cruise ships carry a variety of survival craft. Passengers are invariably assigned to lifeboats or similar survival craft. The total capacity of all the survival craft on board will exceed the total number of persons on the vessel.

If An Accident Happens
When fire and lifeboat drills are held, crew members from the stewards department are generally responsible for assisting and directing passengers in the drill.
  • Direction signs showing the path to reach lifeboats are posted in passageways and stairways throughout the ship.
  • The crewmember in charge of each lifeboat will muster the passengers assigned to that lifeboat, and give passengers any final instructions necessary in the proper method of donning and adjusting their life preservers.
  • If there is any portion of the emergency procedures the passenger doesn't understand, they should question the crew until the instructions are clear and completely understood.

Medical Care and Services Are Not Covered
The Coast Guard does not require that passenger vessels carry a ship's doctor. Most if not all ocean-going passenger vessels today do provide a doctor and medical facilities in order to offer attractive and competitive service. If you are concerned about this aspect of life aboard a cruise ship, contact the cruise line or travel agent for the particulars of medical services provided, both at sea and while visiting foreign ports.

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