Tag Archives: Safety

How clean is your cruise ship?

Cruise ships are inspected, just like restaurants. (There’s probably more to check on a ship.) So, if you’re one of those people that likes to check the restaurant scores from the local sanitation department before your visit, you would be interested in the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP.) The VSP is administered by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC.)

All scores are public information. You can review the inspection results and any follow-up reports here:


A passing score is an 86 which is a lot stricter than when I was in school. There are a lot of items that are checked, so there are a lot of places to go wrong, but some things are more serious than others.

There is also general information for cruise passengers available here:


If you just want the poop (ha!) on current disease outbreaks, go here:


Next time you go on a cruise, see how clean you ship is first!

Viking Sky

The Viking Sky is safely in port after a harrowing day at sea.
The ship lost power Saturday in high winds and heavy seas, and drifted dangerously close to shore before regaining enough power to pull away and anchor. After the engines were restarted, she limped (under escort) into port this morning.
A cargo ship in the area diverted to assist, and also lost power. Her crew abandoned ship and were rescued.
While the Sky was trying to regain power, almost half her passengers were airlifted to relative safety on land by helicopter.
Some thoughts:

  • This was a spectacular group effort. The crew managed to stay in position while waiting for help. A ship in the area went to assist. Government services responded quickly. Locals assisted with those plucked off the ship. Norwegians are prepared for bad weather rescues.
  • The Joint Rescue Center and Norwegian emergency services did an amazing job. I’m still doing the math on how five helicopters got over 400 people off a cruise ship in 12 hours or so – plus nine crew from the cargo ship that tried to help.
  • Muster drill is critical. When you see a room full of passengers in life jackets, if you’ve never cruised, you would probably think, “They’re all going to die.” If you’ve cruised enough, you think, “Bet they’re glad they went to muster drill.”
  • There may be a better way to see the Northern Lights than by sea. This was a Northern Lights cruise, which explains why they were sailing as far north as they were this time of year.
  • There’s a reason most cruise lines relocate their ships to Florida for the winter. The weather sucks in the winter, especially in Northern Europe and Scandinavia.
  • Even Hurtigruten (a delivery service as well as a passenger service that sails the Norwegian coast) had held their ships in port. Why did the Viking Sky sail?
  • River cruises and ocean cruises are not the same. For all the older folks onboard who chose the Viking Sky because they had been on a Viking River Cruise, the service may be the same, but the water is different.
  • After years of watching Deadliest Catch, when I heard the crew of the cargo ship was jumping into the water to be rescued, my first thought was, “I hope they have survival suits.” Then I thought, “If your cruise ship goes down in the North Atlantic or the Norwegian Sea, what’s a life jacket going to do for you?”
  • The best news sources for a crisis on a cruise ship are Cruise Critic, Cruise Industry News or social media.
  • It constantly amazes me that in times of crisis, there are still people who think, “I should post a video of this.”
  • The US media didn’t seem very interested in the crisis or ongoing rescue. Part of this was probably the lack of visuals available since TV is a visual medium. However, CNN can talk about Robert Kraft (“rich man caught with hooker”) with only a stock photo, so why not something about a ship with over 900 passengers onboard?
  • The media don’t understand cruises and they don’t care about details. There were not over 1300 passengers onboard, there were 1300 people (passengers and crew.)
  • There is no 24 hour news service in the US anymore, if you need to get news, just go online – and you may want to go offshore, like to the BBC, for example. CNN, Headline News, Fox News all have scheduled programs – not live news. Then, they wonder why their viewers are plummeting.

Muster Drill

Muster Drill is held on every cruise ship at the start of every voyage. It accomplishes a number of goals – it teaches all passengers where their lifeboat gathering place is, it shows passengers how to wear their life jackets, and it follows international standards.
Cruise lines are serious about passengers attending the Muster Drill. The muster location for your cabin is usually on a placard on the back of your cabin door – the specific sub-location is generally on your keycard. (The door map will show you that muster station B is the main dining room, for example, but your keycard will show your specific group – B6. In that example , you would go to the main dining room (muster station B) and look for a crew member holding a B6 sign (group B6).
Look around you at the drill. This is not just people-watching (although it is interesting to see how hammered some passengers are this early in the cruise), the people around you are the people who will be in your lifeboat. That’s what muster is – it’s the preparation to abandon ship.
Not all lines require you to bring your life jacket, so check before the drill or listen to the announcements. Life jackets are usually in the closet in your cabin, but on the larger ships, they are sometimes only kept at the muster stations.
You must attend the drill. Yes, it’s as exciting as the airline safety drill, but it’s still mandatory attendance. Being at the drill proves that you have found your evacuation point once. If you don’t attend, the staff will track you down and make you attend a makeup session. Muster drill could be really short if everyone gets there on time.
The elevators stop during the drill, so if you’re allergic to stairs, go a few minutes early. (There is one available for handicapped passengers.)
Make sure you have your keycard scanned or check in at the muster station! It’s how the staff know you attended.
Listen for the description of the general alarm. On Norwegian, it’s seven short blasts of the horn, followed by a long blast. (Just remember seven dwarves and Snow White.) other lines should be the same or similar.
An interesting historical note – muster drills are part of SOLAS – the International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea. The first version was drafted after the RMS Titanic sank. So, thanks for nothing, iceberg.
Another interesting historical note – muster is done before ships leave port because the Costa Concordia ran aground before the muster drill had been held. Oops.