Survival At Sea: Cruise Ship Disaster Preparedness

Cruise ShipUnless you live under a rock, most of you probably heard about the cruise ship engine fire last week that left over 4,000 people stranded for 5 days in the Gulf of Mexico. Food was limited and began spoiling. Sewage started leaking. People ended up using bags and buckets as their latrines. Cell phones were dying. These may not be life threatening events individually for that short amount of time, but combined and for a longer period of time this very easily could have become a “survival-at-sea” situation.

You must ask yourself, “What would I do to ensure my family’s survival?” Would you be willing to fight off other survivors for your next meal?


Well, if you’re not, the guy in the food line behind you might. For 4,000+ people, a cruise ship is a relatively confined space, and if fear and panic start sweeping across the crowd, you might end up in the fight of your life. I have been on two cruises in my life without any incidents whatsoever, and my wife and I are planning a cruise for our second honeymoon for next year.

As a former cruiser, here are some tips to keep in mind as you pack and prepare for your next cruise.

1. Read! Read through your cruise line’s rules, regulations, contracts, policies, etc. Our cruise line allows two checked bags and two carry-on bags per person. For a 3 – 10 day cruise, that is more than enough luggage space. The checked bags should be in your room by the time you actually get there or shortly after. One of my carry-ons will be my bug out bag, and one of my checked bags will have extra survival items. Also, make sure to read what types of items are not supposed to be on board (ie your 10″ survival knife might get confiscated).


2. Remember the 7 P’s: Proper – Prior –  Planning – Prevents –  Piss –  Poor – Performance – this is a saying we have in the Army. Usually, if something goes wrong, it’s because we didn’t plan properly. Think what could happen in a worst case scenario and prepare for it. I will be packing 3 – 8 MREs, several water bottles, and a back-pack style hydration source in one of my checked bags.

3. Cruise-specific bug out bag items. Every cruise has at least one port where you can get off and spend the day being a tourist in another country. You could get lost. Your tour bus could break down. Your scheduled excursion doesn’t make it back in time. How will you get home? Aside from your regular survival items, be sure to include your passport, an international prepaid calling card, and a battery/solar-powered cell phone charger. Passports are not required to go on most closed loop cruises but are highly recommended. For example, if the ship that was disabled last week ended up going to a port in the Bahamas for repairs, the passengers without a passport would have had a much more difficult and extended time making it back to their homes. Also, international cell phone call prices are ridiculous, and that’s if you don’t lose your phone, it’s still charged, and it’s not water damaged. A $5 – $10 prepaid international calling card could end up getting you home faster than if you didn’t have one. A battery/solar-powered charger is equally important – an expensive phone bill is worth it if it gets you safely home.

4. Do your research. What ports will you be stopping in? What areas of the sea will you be going through at what times? What types of indigenous plants, animals, insects, and fish can you expect to encounter? These are all things that are imperative to know prior to cruising. If you’re stranded at sea in a life boat, which way do you need to try go? If you’re lost/stranded on a tour of your destination, what will nature provide you, and what things in nature should you avoid? Most people (including me), can’t remember every single bit of information about their vacation destinations. That’s why I will also be packing my copy of the SAS Revised Edition Survival Handbook For Any Climate in Any Situation. Any similar “all-inclusive” type of survival guide will be worth its weight in gold during a survival situation in an unfamiliar setting.


Remember, cruises are a relatively cheap and amazing family bonding experience. I highly recommend to anyone that has not gone a cruise to look into it. These tips and pieces of advice are not intended to scare you – just prepare you. They can be applied to any trip or vacation and can get you and your family home safely if your dream vacation turns into a survival nightmare.

photo credit: JanvanSchijndel via photopin cc

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One thought on “Survival At Sea: Cruise Ship Disaster Preparedness

  1. Pingback: Going on a cruise? Prep for a survival at sea situation | Survival Preparedness Headquarters

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