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
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1104 GMT (1904 HKT)
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1737 GMT (0137 HKT)
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1256 GMT (2056 HKT)
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1708 GMT (0108 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT