Cruising to Europe: How to Stay Safe While Off the Ship

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Sightseeing in Istanbul, Turkey

Global safety threats continue to be a concern in the world of travel, and cruising is no exception. Cruise lines have remained vigilant of itineraries that call in ports with suspected safety threats. For instance, earlier this year, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises canceled sailings in 2016 with stops in Istanbul, Turkey amid terrorist-related incidents.

However, this doesn’t mean you should avoid a cruise to Europe altogether. The good news is that you can still enjoy your vacation while remaining aware of your surroundings when you’re in port. Keep these safety tips in mind when planning a cruise to Europe.

How to Cruise Europe Safely

1. Register your trip with S.T.E.P (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program).

This free program allows U.S citizens to receive important safety updates and information regarding their destination. It also helps the nearest U.S. Embassy contact you in case of an emergency (such as civil unrest, family emergency or natural disaster). Enrolling in this program will provide a greater peace of mind when exploring your port of call.

2. Know how to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or local authorities in case of an emergency while off the ship.

When cruising to Europe, you’ll often find that cruise terminals are a bit of a drive away from the city (Rome is an 80-minute drive away from the nearest cruise terminal). In the event that an emergency occurs and you’re far from your ship, you’ll want to know the number to the nearest American Embassy. It’s also useful to know the local emergency phone number.

3. Be aware of your surroundings while in port (such as public places and mass transit).

The U.S. Department of State advises to remain vigilant in crowded places when exploring Europe. If you’re planning on using mass transit (which you most likely will be), stay aware of your surroundings and know where to exit in case of an emergency. The same goes for visiting major tourist attractions, restaurants or other tourist-friendly spots while docked at port. Mass transit is also an opportunity for pickpockets. Purchase an inconspicuous bag, such as this RBIF fanny pack, to keep your passport and credit cards close to you and safe.

4. Consider purchasing an international phone plan or local SIM card to stay in touch.

Unless you’ve purchased an international phone plan prior to embarking on your cruise, chances are your phone won’t work aboard. International plans can be costly, but well worth the peace of mind in the event that you need to contact family or friends at home or anyone traveling with you. A less costly alternative would be to purchase a SIM card locally; your phone may have to be unlocked in order to use one, but your phone carrier can do that for you.

5. Cruising solo? Stay in a group while exploring on shore.

Solo cruising is an adventurous way to make new friends while on vacation. However, if you're wary of solo sightseeing on shore, find out if your cruise line has a solo cruiser program where you can explore with other cruisers. If you still choose to sightsee on your own, always trust your instinct. Stay away from areas that look too secluded (but also remain extra aware if you're planning on visiting a tourist-heavy venue).

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