Cruise Lines

Safe on the ocean wave

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am

Despite concerns after the Costa Concordia tragedy in Italy, major travel agents in Hong Kong haven't seen massive cancellations.

They believe cruising is still one of the safest modes of travel compared to other means of transport.

'On the whole, travel is safe - aircraft, cars, trains and cruises,' says Sef Lam, managing director of Via Vai Travel.

'Accidents do happen in any form of transport but it doesn't mean that we will start avoiding this transport.'

Safety and well-being of passengers and crew are top priorities on cruise liners which have resulted in low numbers of accidents in recent years.

Cruise operators also need to comply with and adhere to the safety requirements of the International Maritime Organisation and Safety of Life at Sea.

'The capacity of our lifeboats and life rafts on each of our ships exceeds the number of passengers and crew,' says a Star Cruises spokesman.

'The life rafts and lifeboats on Star Pisces can hold 3,770 persons, while the maximum number of passengers and crew is about 3,000 persons. On Star Pisces, there are two lifejackets for each passenger: one at the muster station (assembly point) and one inside the cabin.

'We also conduct general drill involving all ship crew members every two weeks. Various safety drills are carried out on a daily basis. We conduct 5,000 drills every year across the fleet.

'Prior to departure of every sailing, our crew conduct a passenger muster drill to enable passengers to get familiarised with emergency procedures.

'Passengers are strongly encouraged to participate. In times of emergency, they should stay calm and follow the procedures.'

Cruising has become a popular pastime, breaking from traditional belief that it is solely for newlyweds and the senior traveller markets.

Thanks to the plethora of new amenities and large marketing drives, people are boarding ships in record numbers.

Hong Kong's total cruise passenger arrivals has grown from 605,711 in 2009 to 702,017 last year.

'I personally like river cruises more than big ocean liners,' Lam says.

'In the old days, when rivers were a main means of transport, towns grew along the route of rivers like the Yangtze, Mekong, Danube.

'There is a lot of history along the way including how the town was planned and built and in the architecture.'