The No. 1 Most Dangerous Thing People Do on a Cruise

Most people think of cruises as one of the safest ways to take a vacation. After all, cruise ship disasters are rare, and the most strenuous activity when you take a cruise is walking from one end of the ship to the other — or taking a leisurely stroll around the port. But don’t forget: There are still cruise dangers to look out for. And if you don’t think about safety, you can end up making some dangerous cruise mistakes.

Read on to discover the most dangerous things that people do — intentionally or unintentionally — on a cruise.

16. Zoning out during the muster drill

Passengers wear life jackets during a security exercise aboard the British cruise ship

During the drills, it’s important to know what’s going on. | Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: You need to know the safety procedures just in case.

Cruise Critic reports that zoning out during the muster drill is one of the biggest cruise mistakes you could make. Before your vacation gets underway, you have to attend the drill to learn where your muster station is, how to put on a life jacket, and what the alarms mean.

“While most passengers listen attentively, every muster has a few people talking all the way through it, people on their cellphones, people trying to get a drink from the bar (all outlets are closed during muster) and couples who hide in their cabins thinking they’ve pulled one over on the authorities,” the publication explains. You should always pay attention. Even if you’ve heard these drills many, many times before.

Next: This can become one of the biggest cruise dangers on your trip. 

15. Getting too much sun

A man with sunburns

The sun can cause serious damage. | Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: Sun exposure can cause sunstroke — and skin problems later.

Most vacationers know that they should use sunscreen. Even on cloudy days. But few people take that obligation seriously. That’s why you’ll see so many sunburnt people at the beach, at Disney World, and yes, even on a cruise. But skipping the sunscreen can have dangerous consequences.

As the Winston Law Firm notes, getting too much sun counts as one of the biggest cruise mistakes. Excessive sun exposure can cause sunstroke and dehydration. (That’s particularly true if you’ve been drinking.) Plus, too much sun can lead to sunburn. And that can cause problems such as skin cancer later. You should always wear sunscreen. And don’t forget your sunglasses or your hat.

Next: If you have valuables, this can become one of the biggest cruise mistakes. 

14. Not using your safe

20 dollar bill in wallet

We highly suggest you watch your belongings when on a cruise. | webking/iStock/Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: You don’t want your valuables stolen.

Some of the biggest cruise mistakes are more dangerous for your wallet than your health. But you should still avoid them if you can. Cruise Critic reports that you should always use the safe provided in your stateroom. Even though they’re typically small, you can typically fit your laptop, a tablet, your cellphone, or your jewelry and watches inside.

As the publication explains, “The vast majority of cabin stewards are honest, but it’s not worth putting temptation in their way. Or better still: Leave your valuables at home.”

Next: This feature of your room can become one of the biggest cruise dangers. 

13. Forgetting about safety on your balcony

Passengers look out from balconies on world's largest ocean liner

Yes, this really does happen. | Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: It’s likely a long fall from the balcony.

If you have a balcony at home, you probably remain pretty vigilant about safety there. So you should do the same if your stateroom has a balcony. Cruise Critic characterizes forgetting about balcony safety as one of the most dangerous cruise mistakes you can make.

You should always keep the door to the balcony locked at night. Additionally, don’t leave the door open when you leave your room. (Especially not in port.) It’s also important to check the balcony before you go to sleep.

Next: Forgetting to do this is one of the biggest cruise mistakes you can make. 

12. Not washing your hands

woman washing her hands

You’d be surprised by how many people don’t do this. | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: Bacteria can spread even faster if you don’t wash your hands.

One of the biggest cruise mistakes is also one of the most mundane: neglecting to wash your hands frequently. Disease outbreaks are one of the biggest cruise dangers. They happen because so many people stay in close quarters with one another. (And buffet-style dining definitely doesn’t help.)

If you want to avoid gastrointestinal illness the next time you cruise, you should wash your hands frequently. Wash up before you eat. Take the time to clean up before you have a drink. Even if you’re going to apply sunscreen — especially to your face — you should wash your hands.

Next: Always remain vigilant if you decide to do this.

11. Traveling solo

Man on cruise ship alone

Traveling by yourself requires a ton of extra attention. | iStock/Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: You need to stay vigilant about your surroundings and your safety.

Traveling solo can offer you the perfect opportunity to see the world without having to compromise. But Cruise Critic reports that going it alone can be one of the biggest cruise mistakes if you aren’t careful. “If you’re a solo cruiser, find a friend early on,” the publication advises. That way, you can look out for one another.

Having a buddy comes in handy onboard the ship. But it can also help you out when you go ashore. (There, you’ll be less of a target for criminals if you have someone with you.) Cruise Critic reports that even if you do keep to yourself, you shouldn’t advertise the fact that you’re alone. And don’t walk around by yourself late at night.

Next: Never do this on a cruise. (Or on any other vacation.)

10. Carrying large amounts of cash

Hundred dollar bills wrapped together

This is never a good idea — ever. | Paolofur/iStock/Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: It’s never a good idea to carry a large amount of cash on vacation.

You probably wouldn’t carry large amounts of cash on any other kind of vacation. So don’t do it on a cruise either. As Cruise Critic explains, “Unless you’re a gambler, there is no reason to bring a lot of money onboard. All onboard transactions can be carried out with your room key as a credit card.”

When you go ashore, carry the amount of cash that you think you’ll need it. But don’t advertise it. Cruise Critic recommends keeping your cash in a money belt that you attach to your body.

Next: The bar can become one of the biggest cruise dangers. 

9. Drinking too much

A crew member serves drinks on cruise ship

Unlimited drinks doesn’t mean you should drink them all. | Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: You could end up in an accident.

We probably don’t have to tell you should only drink in moderation. After all, we all want to avoid hangovers and related side effects on vacation. But as the Winston Law Firm notes, excessive alcohol consumption makes the list of cruise ship dangers for another, unexpected reason.

“Intoxication can cause accidents and injury on land, but the combination of alcohol and the swaying motion of a ship at sea increases the likelihood of disaster.” If you drink too much, you’re more likely to trip and fall. But you may also prove more likely to engage in impulsive behaviors — or even end up falling overboard. “Research has found that the vast majority of the victims of overboard incidents in the last 12 years were intoxicated,” the firm notes.

Next: Similarly, this is often one of the biggest cruise mistakes. 

8. Partying too much

Group of young people eating and drinking

Partying more than usual can put tons of stress on your body. | ViewApart/iStock/Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: Your limits don’t disappear on a cruise ship.

Similarly, the Winston Law Firm notes that many passengers are “prone to excess” on cruises. They drink more than usual. They also eat more than normal. Plus, they may get a lot more exercise than usual by going dancing or enjoying numerous shore excursions. But unfortunately, your usual limitations don’t disappear on vacation.

As the firm warns, “For passengers with existing heart conditions, this sudden level of excess can result in heart attack and illness.” Take it slow. Know your limits. And always consult your doctor if you want to know how much your body can handle.

Next: Experts consider this one of the most dangerous cruise mistakes, too. 

7. Neglecting to keep your cabin secure

A senior couple looking out at the ocean on a cruise

While you’re enjoying the sights, make sure your cabin is locked. | Yobro10/iStock/Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: You don’t want to give criminals an easy opportunity.

Cruise Critic characterizes neglecting cabin safety as one of the biggest cruise mistakes you can make. Most people don’t think of criminals as one of the cruise dangers they need to look out for. But better safe than sorry. Always make sure that your cabin door securely shuts. Use the deadbolt if your door has one.

If it doesn’t have a deadbolt, consider a doorstopper. You can bring your own, or ask the cabin steward for one. Additionally, always call room service directly instead of leaving your order outside your door. (The order will give away the number of people in your cabin.) Always look through the peephole before opening your door. And don’t give your cabin number to strangers, or say it loudly near others.

Next: This move can get you into huge trouble with the authorities. 

6. Taking marijuana on your cruise

A woman rolls a marijuana cigarette as photographed

You’ll probably want to leave that elsewhere. | Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: Depending on where you travel, marijuana can get you in serious trouble with the law.

More Americans than ever think that marijuana should be legalized. But even if you can partake at home, you shouldn’t assume that it’s safe to take your stash with you when you go on a cruise. As the Winston Law Firm explains, even a legal prescription for medical marijuana is only valid for the state in which it was prescribed.

The U.S. Coast Guard, in addition to Customs and Border Protection agents, probably won’t recognize your prescription. So taking marijuana on board, even with a valid prescription, “can land you in some serious hot water,” the firm notes.

Next: Consult your doctor before doing this. 

5. Taking a cruise while pregnant

Pregnant woman sitting with her mother

This comes with its own set of risks. | LightFieldStudios/iStock/Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: You could go into labor or have a medical emergency.

One of the most dangerous cruise mistakes? Boarding the ship even if you’re far along in a pregnancy. Cruise critic reports that if you have a healthy pregnancy, you can likely enjoy a cruise with no problems. But most cruise lines won’t accept passengers who have entered their 24th week of pregnancy. And if you have a high-risk pregnancy, you should likely stay closer to home even before that point.

Most cruise ships don’t have the medical facilities to safely deliver or care for a full-term newborn, much less a baby delivered prematurely. Pregnancy complications can be dangerous for both mother and baby, so do your homework — and talk to your doctor — before you decide to travel.

Next: Experts consider this one of the riskiest cruise mistakes of all. 

4. Skipping travel insurance

Princess Cruises in Mexico

Before you hop onto this ship, make sure you’re covered — even if you don’t think you’ll need it. | Princess Cruises via Facebook

  • Why it’s dangerous: Without it, you may not be able to access emergency services abroad.

While a lack of travel insurance doesn’t number among the most unique cruise dangers, it can definitely pose some major problems if something happens to you on your vacation. The Winston Law Firm reports that some insurance plans cover injuries and illnesses that happen when you’re traveling. But the majority of health insurance plans don’t offer that coverage.

The firm recommends that before you leave for your cruise, you should check with your insurance plan to see if it covers healthcare and emergency services abroad. If it doesn’t, you should consider buying a travel insurance policy to ensure that you’re covered in case of an emergency.

Next: This can become one of the biggest cruise dangers. 

3. Not getting care for an injury

a man holding his knee from a jogging injury

Get yourself taken care of before vacation time. | m-gucci/iStock.com//Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: Skipping care can have unknown consequences.

Even if you take it slow and move at a leisurely pace on your vacation, there are still plenty of cruise dangers to avoid, both on the ship and at port. So injuries can and do happen. The Winston Law Firm reports that particularly during shore excursions, passengers can suffer injuries that should really receive medical attention.

“It’s not uncommon for passengers to get into an accident after renting a car or motorbike onshore,” the firm notes. The firm also characterizes ignoring those injuries as one of the biggest cruise mistakes. If you wait to seek medical attention until you’re back on the ship, you’ll be stuck with the limited medical facilities available there. A safer alternative? Put your safety first and visit a hospital at the port. Then, contact the ship’s port agent if you have to separate from the ship.

Next: This is one of the worst cruise mistakes you can make. 

2. Buying medication overseas

woman taking medicine with a glass of water

You might be putting yourself in danger with those mystery pills. | iStock/Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: You don’t know what you’re getting.

At many international ports of call, you can buy prescription medications over the counter, and at a much lower cost than you’d pay in the United States. But the Winston Law Firm points to those purchases as one of the biggest cruise mistakes you could make.

Buying medications without a prescription is very illegal and can get you into big trouble. But that’s not even what makes it really dangerous. As the firm notes, “Many medications sold at international ports are not subject to FDA regulations, and can have life-threatening adverse effects on the user.” Don’t risk it! Always pack your medications from home. And if you accidentally leave something behind, contact your doctor for advice.

Next: You should never, ever do this before a cruise or any other vacation.

1. Ignoring your doctor’s advice

Male doctor talking to patient

If your doctor says you shouldn’t go, it’s best to listen. | Seb_ra/iStock/Getty Images

  • Why it’s dangerous: Cruise ships have limited medical facilities.

Perhaps the most dangerous of the cruise mistakes you could make is booking a trip even if your doctor tells you to stay closer to home. As the Winston Law Firm notes, you should always listen if your doctor considers it unwise to take a cruise given your current medical condition, injury, or illness.

“If a medical emergency occurs out at sea, you may not be able to get the care you need in the limited cruise ship facilities,” the firm notes.

Read more: Should You Choose a Cruise to Europe or the Caribbean?

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