What Not To Do If Your Cruise Ship Is Sinking


Ray attending a lifeboat drill.

Cruise season is here, and I decided to update a blog I wrote about, what not to do if your cruise ship is sinking. Because safety is always important. I worked for Princess Cruises for five years happily traveling the world when I met my future husband Ray on the Star Princess.

Cruise ships have excellent safety records in fact the last time one sank was in 2012. That year the Costa Concordia sank off the coast of the island of Giglio, enroute to Civitavecchia, a port I had visited many times working for Princess Cruises. I would like to say that in all my years at sea I never encountered a captain like Francesco Schettino who abandoned his ship. I considered all the captains I worked for kings of their ship, they were all very professional, attentive and if I have to admit it, a little bit scary.

While normally I am not one to comment on ship safety the lack of knowledge of some of the press made me feel I had to write this post. A newscaster was interviewing some passengers after they had made it back to safety in the US. They told him that when they realized that the ship was in trouble they were dressed in formal wear, an evening gown and high heels. Reasoning that this was not the proper attire for lifeboat travel, they returned to their cabins and changed their clothes.

The commentator congratulated them, "What clear thinking,"

NO, NO, NO, it was not clear thinking returning to their cabin. It was a horrible idea. It is never a good idea to return to your cabin when a ship is possibly sinking. There are just too many things that can go wrong, What if the ship is on fire? What if the electricity goes off? What if the ship tilts, and you can't open the door to your cabin? When you hear any kind of alarm you should proceed to your muster station and if you don't know where it is then proceed to the highest open deck.

Even though international law states that a lifeboat drill has to be held at most 24 hours after a boat leaves port, every ship I ever worked on held an emergency drill as soon as the ship sailed. As a crew member I also attended many drills over the course of my career at sea. If you read my book Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships, I talk about the 'how to board a lifeboat drills', 'how to locate a bomb drills', 'how to crawl out of your cabin in case of a fire drills', and even a drill about the proper way to jump off the side of a ship without breaking your neck!

The following story perfectly illustrates my point.
Ray had been working on a Greek ship for three months and was very familiar with his surroundings. One day while the ship was docked in Patras he went out to lunch with a friend. Returning to the ship, they learned the engine room was on fire and the ship had been evacuated. After a few hours the fire had been extinguished but the ship was declared out of service for repairs. They allowed the crew to board so that they could collect their belongings.

There was no power or lights working on the ship. When Ray left the ships entrance and headed to his cabin, he became disoriented walking down the pitch-black corridor. He found his cabin by counting the doors. Once inside he relied on the light from the porthole as he gathered his belongings but leaving his cabin, he found it very difficult to find his way back to the gangway. His walk was further complicated by the debris that had been dropped in the hallway, by the other crew in their scramble to get off the ship.

My main point is that even in this situation when the ship was stable and upright and there was no immediate danger or rush and no crowd of panicking passengers, finding his way around the corridors of the ship was no easy task - and he was a crew member. So imagine the problems a passenger would have in the middle of an emergency situation.

Although ships are very safe and safety is taken very seriously on a cruise ship, accidents can still happen. We hope this helps you if you ever find yourself on a sinking ship. Please share this information to anyone you know going on a cruise.

As an update to this article in 2015 a court found Captain Schettino guilty of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, abandoning the ship before passengers and crew were evacuated and lying to authorities about the disaster. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise ShipsHer novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!" She would be happy to do an online chat with any book club reading her novels. Contact her at carabertoia@yahoo.com

Below is the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships

Her second novel, Casino Queen is based on the many true stories she lived through in her many years in the casino industry, although the names have been changed to protect the guilty. 

"Glitter, grifters and greed collide with high stakes mystery and suspense in Casino Queen. With her in-depth knowledge of the casino world, Cara Bertoia takes readers on a wild ride through the High Desert that leaves you hungry for more." - Rob Samborn, author The Prisoner of Paradise

Caroline Popov, alone, heartbroken, and deeply in debt ends up in glamorous Palm Springs, California where Native casinos have just opened, offering employment to thousands. She lands a job at the Palm Oasis Casino and is mentored by the charismatic tribal chairman, John Tovar.

Embraced by casino culture, Caroline works her way up to casino manager of the Night Hawk, in the High Desert town of Joshua Tree. There, she is responsible for managing multicultural team members, satisfying the demands of challenging guests, growing revenue while rooting out corruption.

In the process of rediscovering her inner strength. With her life on the line can she pull out a win?

Click the link below to order at Amazon

Casino Queen (Night Hawk Casino Series Book 1) - Kindle edition by Bertoia, Cara. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Click the link below to order at Barnes and Noble 

Casino Queen by Cara Bertoia | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble® 


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