Skip to main content

A cruise is a safe and healthy vacation

By Bud Darr, Special to CNN
February 22, 2013 -- Updated 1403 GMT (2203 HKT)
The cruise industry is under strict international regulation and oversight, industry official Bud Darr says in response to criticism.
The cruise industry is under strict international regulation and oversight, industry official Bud Darr says in response to criticism.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bud Darr objects to op-ed that criticized cruise industry
  • He says the industry is heavily regulated and monitored under maritime laws
  • Cruise ships entering U.S. ports must be examined by Coast Guard, he says
  • Despite headlines and criticism, fires and illnesses are rare on ships, Darr says

Editor's note: Bud Darr is senior vice president of technical and regulatory affairs at Cruise Lines International Association Inc.

(CNN) -- A recent commentary by James Walker in CNN.com's opinion section grossly mischaracterized the cruise industry's practices and record, claiming that the industry is "largely unregulated" and "largely accountable to countries like Panama or the Bahamas." Nothing could be further from the truth.

Essentially every aspect of the cruise industry is heavily regulated and monitored under national and international maritime laws for many purposes, the most important of which is to protect the safety of passengers and crew.

A U.N. agency -- the International Maritime Organization -- mandates global standards for the safe operation of cruise ships through its 170-member governments, including the United States. These regulations are extensive and wide-ranging. They start with the design and construction of the ship and extend to the operation of the vessel, the emergency equipment on board, and scenarios for emergency situations, including the evacuation of a ship.

Bud Darr
Bud Darr

Regulation of the cruise industry involves many levels of enforcement -- the international; the flag state or the flag of the country that the ship is registered in; and the port state (the country a ship is visiting.)

For example, cruise ships that operate from U.S. ports are subject to strict U.S oversight and enforcement of international laws and regulations as well as all applicable federal laws of the United States. This oversight enforcement is carried out primarily by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Opinion: What cruise lines don't want you to know

Most significantly, this means that any ship entering a U.S. port, no matter what country's flag it sails under, is subject to U.S. Coast Guard examination for compliance with international and applicable U.S. regulatory standards, especially those related to safety.

The coast safety regulation enforcement of the U.S. Coast Guard begins at the concept or design stage for new cruise ships and continues throughout the ship's entire time of service. At any time, the responsible Coast Guard captain of a port can prevent any cruise ship from departing if a serious violation of any regulation is found or any dangerous condition exists.

Contrary to what the op-ed's author says, significant fires on board ships are rare. The global cruise industry has robust regulatory measures to protect passengers and crew. Fire safety regulations are continuously enhanced and have reduced the frequency and severity of fires. The last major overhaul of fire safety regulations entered into force in 2010, and those regulations remain the subject of continuous review and updating.

Passengers file suit against Carnival
Conan: Insult comic dog suing Carnival

Every oceangoing ship in the Cruise Line International Association fleet must carry firefighting teams made up of crew members. They receive formal firefighting training and regular drills to ensure a rapid response in the unlikely event of a fire. The average oceangoing cruise ship has about 4,000 smoke detectors, 500 fire extinguishers, 16 miles of sprinkler piping, 5,000 sprinkler heads and six miles of fire hose.

Opinion: My celebration trip on the Carnival Triumph

Jobs in the cruise industry are highly sought after, and crew members have opportunities for career advancement. The industry offers opportunities not available for many crew members in their home countries, allowing them to support families, pay for college and even start their own businesses.

Beyond wages, crew members are provided free room and board in a clean, well-maintained environment. They receive cruise-line sponsored medical care at no cost. And the cruise industry maintains strict workplace standards set by the International Maritime Organization and the International Labor Organization -- both U.N. agencies.

The cruise industry also takes steps to prevent its people from bringing norovirus, which causes gastrointestinal illness, on board. About 10.3 million passengers embarked on Cruise Lines International Association ships from a U.S. port in 2012. There were 16 cases of cruise ship norovirus outbreaks reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year, involving about 2,600 passengers out of those 10.3 million. To put this in perspective, the CDC reports norovirus causes about 20 million cases of gastroenteritis a year.

Opinion: How Carnival can clean up the PR mess

The cruise industry is subject to strict international regulation and oversight and fully promotes policies and practices that foster a safe, secure and healthy cruise ship environment. There's no doubt that cruising is one of the safest, affordable and enjoyable vacation experiences available today, which explains why a record 20.6 million passengers worldwide enjoyed a cruise vacation in 2011.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bud Darr.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1938 GMT (0338 HKT)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1128 GMT (1928 HKT)
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1241 GMT (2041 HKT)
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2211 GMT (0611 HKT)
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2218 GMT (0618 HKT)
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1721 GMT (0121 HKT)
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT