Costa Concordia/Image courtesy Vincenzo Pinto, AFP/Getty Images
Every vacationer boarding a cruise ship will receive a safety
briefing before the vessel sets sail under a new industry-wide policy
In a joint statement, the U.S.-based Cruise Lines
International Association, Europe-based European Cruise Council and
UK-based Passenger Shipping Association said the new policy would apply
across the board to their members, which include every major cruise line
in the world.
The announcement comes in the wake of an
industry-wide safety review following last month's Costa Concordia
disaster off the coast of Italy, which resulted in at least 17 deaths.
Fifteen passengers remain missing.
Cruise line policies on
passenger safety briefings have come under intense scrutiny since the
Jan. 13 accident, in which the ship struck rocks and partly sank. At the
time of the accident, there were nearly 700 passengers on the ship who
had not received a safety briefing. The passengers had joined the vessel
in Civitavecchia, Italy just hours before the event and had been
scheduled to receive a safety briefing the next day.
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have described confusion on board the ship in the minutes after the
accident, with some passengers who had just boarded the vessel that day
not knowing what to do or where to go.
While most major cruise
lines already hold safety briefings for embarking passengers before
ships set sail, it hasn't been a universal policy across the industry
until now. Under rules established by the International Maritime
Organization, a United Nations agency, passenger ships can wait up to 24
hours after passengers embark to hold a safety briefing.
Costa Concordia accident already had prompted several lines that hadn't
always held safety briefings immediately after embarkation, including
Oceania Cruises and sister line Regent Seven Seas Cruises, to change
Also known as muster or emergency drills, safety
briefings on ships normally last about 30 to 45 minutes and start with
passengers assembling in designated "muster" stations. Crew members then
explain the safety procedures of the ship, including what to do and
where to go in an emergency, and how to find and put on a life jacket.
new policy "is designed to help ensure that any mandatory musters or
briefings are conducted for the benefit of all newly embarked passengers
at the earliest practical opportunity," the cruise organizations said
in a statement.
Industry watchers praised the move. "Every
action taken to heighten cruiser awareness of safety at sea is a
positive step," says cruise-selling travel agent Amber Blecker, of CruiseOne in Aurora, Colo.
noted that the new policy could result in safety briefings being held
at some odd times. While most cruise ships set sail in the late
afternoon or early evening, some itineraries are known for late-evening
departures. In such cases, until now, some lines would wait to hold
briefings until the following day to accommodate late-arriving
"There may be times that a muster drill prior to
departure is inconvenient, such as when the ship leaves the embarkation
port late at night," Blecker says. "But in reality, (even with
late-sailing ships) most passengers board early in the day, so this
won't necessarily mean 11:00 pm muster drills even in those
circumstances, as some passengers seem to fear."