While there are many wonderful places to explore on this earth, there are many people who have other than ethical intentions related to tourists. This is especially true when you arrive on a big, gleaming cruise ship. Some criminal types view this like a trained lion does the ringing of a dinner bell. Of course, this really does not differ from potential dangers at home. For that reason, you should take some basic safety precautions when exiting your home away from home to venture into an unfamiliar country. There are many safety tips and articles on the internet that you should search for prior to going into a port of call.
The following are some basic safety and security points to remember:
1. Control Your Valuables
Make sure that all flaps and zippers are closed on bags and purses. Carry these with a strap around the neck and close to your body with one arm over top to prevent someone running or riding by from grabbing them and dashing away. Also, ensure that flap openings face toward your body to make it difficult for someone to raise it or slip a hand inside. Further, never leave your bags sitting on the top shelf a store shopping cart. Place it inside the cart with open flaps toward the rear metal frame. This requires someone to bend to reach in for the bag and can slow them down. Place something on top of the bag (e.g. a jacket or sweater) to reduce access to grips.
Do not leave anything laying on a table or chair, especially near an exit door where someone might grab it and dash out. Instead, put them under your chair, in your lap, or between your legs, or between you and a wall. This includes bags, luggage, cameras, coats, or other things of value. You may even want to insert the leg of your chair through any available strap of your bag to prevent someone from grabbing and running with it.
3. Carry a List of Emergency Contacts
When traveling in a foreign country, enter the phone numbers for the local police, cruise ship, port agent, and nearest embassy or consulate in your cellphone contact list. You may also want to carry a printed list of these contacts in case you leave your phone on the ship, lose, or have it stolen. Make sure everyone in your party also has the list in case you are separated.
4. Be Alert to Your Surroundings
Continually scan the area and people in it and look for signs of potential trouble. Be on the lookout for anyone who seems to be watching, following, or staying close by you. Also, if you notice someone who seems to be dressed out of the ordinary and who stands out from other people, keep an eye on him or her. If you have real concerns, seek out law enforcement, security, or military officials.
5. Be Cautious of Overly Friendly People
While you should be cordial and get to know people from other countries, you should be cautious around people who seem to be going out of their way. In some instances, they offer to assist, want to guide you away from your location in order to show you something, or try to take you to a shop with good prices. Pickpockets and other thieves often work in pairs or groups. One person starts a conversation to distract you while another goes after your money and personal items. In many European countries, it is not uncommon for smaller children to be trained to play musical instruments or otherwise provide some form of entertainment. While tourists jam together to watch the show, cohorts of the entertainer work the crowd picking pockets or stealing personal items.
Plan ahead in order to reduce the impact of a potential robbery. Split any money or other items (e.g. credit or debit cards, passport, ID card, checkbooks, or traveler checks) into smaller quantities. Put them in different pockets. Ideally, wear clothing that has zippers or Velcro fasteners to secure pockets. Also, do not carry anything you do not really need. For example, instead of carrying a purse or wallet, just take a small amount of cash along with one or maybe two credit or debit cards. You should also consider investing in the money pouches that go around the stomach or neck and can be worn under a shirt or blouse. The challenge with pouches around the neck is that the strap is easily seen if someone attempts to rob you. They are likely to demand that you give it to them since they realize what it is.
7. Do Not Be a Target
Thieves look for people who wear flashy jewelry (even costume types that look real) or pull out large rolls of cash. Do not do things that make it appear that you are a wealthy tourist. Keep in mind what happened to Kim Kardashian in Paris when she displayed large amounts of jewelry in social media photos while on a trip. She was robbed in an upscale hotel and could easily have been killed. When in port leave your valuable jewelry locked in your cabin. It is better to be safe than sorry.
8. Plan Your Escape
In a world in which crime and violence are realities, always anticipate an incident and know where escape routes are located. When you enter a restaurant, theatre, or other venue scan the surroundings to identify ways to get out in case of emergencies occur. While unlikely, there is always the potential of a fire, terrorist, or criminal episode in any country, whether you are at home or abroad.
Many criminals would love to get their hands on your passport. Always keep it in a zipper or Velcro pocket and do not display it in public unless required for a legitimate purpose, such as, checking into an international hotel or airline check-in, required by law enforcement personnel, or exchanging currency. When you do so, make sure you do not lay it on a counter while doing other activities and take note of others who might be nearby. Note that on some cruises and in some countries, you are required to give your passport to the hotel or cruise staff for legal reasons. In some instances, they must make a copy of it. To eliminate losing sight of this crucial document, make copies before leaving on your cruise and present one to the registration staff of the hotel when they ask for your passport.
10. Travel with Other People
People trying to scam, harm, or rip you off are less likely to attempt to do so if you are with others. A single person is often an easier target for them. Always travel with at least one other person when wandering around a cruise port, especially if you do not speak the local language or are unfamiliar with the area.
11. Remain on Populated Streets and Pathways
Be careful not to wander down a side street, alley, or otherwise unpopulated area. Stick to areas where there are other tourists or people. If you do go to less populated areas, make sure you have other people with you.
Stay next to the street and away from doorways where possible. This is especially important if you are a woman walking alone or if you are in a dark or isolated area. Someone can easily snatch you into a building or attack when you walk close to them. Walking next to buildings also limits your escape route if you are attacked.
The information in this article was excerpted from The Complete Guide to Ocean Cruising: Everything You Need to Know for a Great Vacation by Robert W. Lucas and Stephen A. Tanzer through Success Skills Press. It is the most comprehensive book on ocean cruising available. Get a copy for additional ideas on ways to help maximize your next cruise experience.
Cruiser At Heart was created and is managed by Robert (Bob) W. Lucas, who is passionate about cruising, world travel, meeting people, and sharing information with others. He has visited, lived, and worked in over 50 countries on four continents. He and his wife, MJ, took their first cruise in 1994 and have not stopped since. He shares his travel experiences about the wonderful people and cultures he has experienced, along with tips for maximizing a cruise vacation.