Venturing from your ship can be a bit daunting for some on a cruise holiday, especially considering that it is impossible to be discreet about your tourist status when 2,000 people disembark at once. Cruisers can risk becoming a target of criminals when they arrive in port, so it’s important to take a few precautions to stay safe and secure in port. We’ve put together a few practical tips on how to look after your safety at all times and minimise the chance of anything ruining your holiday.
Research Before You Visit
One of the best ways to stay safe in port is to research the types of crime you might encounter before you visit. It is much easier to minimise the risks if you know what those risks will be and can take preventative measures to avoid them. Theft is probably the most common crime, with incidents of violent crimes being much rarer. Even so, it makes sense to research more dangerous areas in an around the port so you can avoid them. If thieves often use children or work in groups in that area, knowing about it beforehand will make it easier for you to be cautious.
Travel in a Group
Whilst huge groups of tourists leaving a cruise ship will draw attention, it is also important not to travel anywhere alone. Staying in groups of two or more will reduce the risk of you being targeted by criminals, and make it easier for other people to check you are safe. If you want to do something different to the rest of your group, it might be best to first work out if you can do both things or find another group to join.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Having expensive or flashy things on show makes it more likely that you will be the victim of a crime, so be as discreet as possible with your possessions whilst you’re in port. Consider taking a disposable camera with you instead of a large or expensive camera. Try not to be too obvious about any money you have with you, whether it is in your wallet or in a money belt under your clothes. Leave expensive jewellery in the safe on your ship, so it is not at risk of being lifted from your person.
Keep Valuables Close
Don’t put your valuables where you can’t see them or where it would be easy for a thief to grab them and run away. Backpacks are particularly bad as they can be opened without you even noticing. If you are carrying a purse or bag, place it across your chest rather than on one shoulder where it can easily be grabbed in passing. Be aware that money belts that are clearly visible aren’t a good idea. If you look like you have hundreds of notes bulging under your clothing, you are much more likely to be targeted by thieves.
Prepare for the Worst
More than likely you will not be targeted by criminals during your time in port, but preparing for the worst will help to minimise the damage if you do. Try not to take more cash ashore with you than is absolutely necessary, to avoid losing a large amount of money if anything does happen. Similarly, only take one credit card, to avoid being stuck without any money for the rest of your trip. Passports and other important information should be photocopied and left in your cabin’s safe before you leave the ship. If anything does happen to your passport during your trip, you’ll need photocopies of your passport and other ID to get an emergency replacement passport.
Carry a False Wallet
If there are a high number of muggings in the port you are visiting, or it’s something you are worried about, you can carry a ‘mugger’s wallet’. This is an extra wallet you carry with a small amount of money, a credit card, some business cards etc. that you can give to a thief in the event of a robbery. Your actual valuables and important documents can then stay well-hidden, whilst you hand over the fake wallet and quickly leave.
Many cruise ports boast pubs, restaurants and bars and it might seem like a good idea to have a few beers with your lunch. However, being inebriated impairs your judgement and reactions, making you more likely to be taken advantage of by a scam artist. If you’re planning on hitting the bars whilst you’re in port, either limit your alcohol intake or assign one person to remain sober and keep an eye on everyone.
Stick to Reputable Companies
When you are booking shore excursions, it is really important to ensure they are run by a licensed company. Either stick to those recommended by the cruise line you are travelling with, or ask to see the appropriate documentation before you book a tour. What seems like a friendly local offering a cut-price deal may turn out to be a scam artist looking to take advantage of you.
Don’t Be a Traditional Tourist
When you think about tourists, it is likely you get a certain image in your mind of how they look. Loud, larger than life, dressed in Hawaiian shirts, with bum bags and enormous cameras. They’re the opposite of subtle. It is a good idea to learn a little about the local culture before you arrive, so you can blend in with the crowds a little and avoid standing out as a target for criminals.
Stick to the Beaten Path
It can be tempting to leave touristy areas in search of a more authentic experience whilst you’re in port, but it is important to stay in areas you know are safe. Not only could you wander into a dangerous neighbourhood or get lost, it also makes it easier for criminals to single you out. Be sensible and ask your cruise line about excursions that let you experience the local culture instead.