Life vest drill onboard a cruise shipIf you’ve been on a cruise ship, then you know the drill – the one where you meet on a designated deck wearing a life jacket while crew members explain the evacuation process in case of an emergency.

These onboard mandatory safety drills typically take place about an hour before departure to comply with Coast Guard and international safety regulations. It’s how you find out what to do and where to go in case of emergency. An announcement over the ship’s loudspeakers tells you on which designated deck to meet. Once there, crew members take note of your room number or scan your room key card, and will call out any room numbers that haven’t checked in with them.

While passengers comply and go through the motions, there’s usually a lighthearted mood (after all, we’re about to sail off for adventures on the high seas). Many people quietly joke, take photos and are simply eager for the meeting to end so the party can begin – my family included, I admit. We’ve even felt a bit silly in our puffy lifejackets as we file along with fellow passengers. But we always pay attention to the safety lessons and I’m glad we do.

Dealing with the Costa Accident


After the recent Costa Concordia accident near Tuscany , we had a family meeting about the importance of safety drills and what we would have done had we been on that ship – or any ship that was sinking, for that matter.

Lifeboat“What would you do: Wait to get on a life boat or jump into the water, like some of those passengers did?” I asked my husband and three kids, ages 16, 21 and 23.

My husband said he might consider swimming to shore if the ship was in shallow water and life boats weren’t readily available. But he wasn’t sure. My 23 year-old daughter stated she would head to the deck with the lifeboats. “I’d go to higher decks and stay on the side not tilting toward the water,” said Christina, who’s been sailing since age 2.

But what if it was dark and hard to see – like it was for the passengers onboard the Costa? They were dining when the ship hit rocks and began taking on water.

As my family pondered various options, we agreed that the next time we cruise – because we do plan to continue cruising – we will definitely pay even closer attention to those safety drills. We want to be sure that, if necessary, we can quickly strap on life jackets and head to our assigned life boat. In addition, we’ll have a back-up plan in case we can’t reach our cabin to grab the life jackets. Depending on the layout of the ship, we’ll decide on a meeting place.

Why You Should Keep Cruising

In any case, cruising remains one of our favorite ways to travel. Why? There’s something for everyone. Our days are filled with fabulous food and plenty of onboard activities as well as exciting shore excursions where we can explore exotic ports. When my kids were younger, they enjoyed children’s programs and meeting new friends onboard Disney and Carnival cruises. Older now, they play basketball, swim, watch movies and soak up sun poolside with their peers. We catch up at mealtimes, where attentive servers know our names and ask about our day. Evening shows in grand theaters and late night strolls under the stars cap off our days at sea. 

Like any form of travel, planning is key. And that means making sure each family member knows safety procedures no matter where we are. Now, back to that family meeting to plan our next family cruise.
Follow Los Angeles Traveling Mom on Twitter @mimitravelz.