Royal Caribbean Group is dedicated to ensuring that our guests enjoy a safe and secure cruise vacation. Occasionally, despite the best intentions of everyone involved, a safety or security incident may occur. In such cases, we are prepared to respond in a timely, effective and caring manner, and to learn from the incident so that we can implement procedures to help prevent future incidents. Many aspects of our safety and security programs are sensitive; however, the following sections provide information about some of the Group’s initiatives, policies and procedures in these important areas.
Safety (Regulatory, Prevention, Navigation, Security)
The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act requires cruiselines that operate in United States waters to make a Security Guide available to guests. This Security Guide is provided pursuant to that United States law.
The safety and security of our guests and crew is our highest priority. Allegations of crime, missing person reports and medical emergencies are taken seriously and we are committed to responding in an effective and caring manner for those involved. Each of our ships is staffed with dedicated security and medical teams to respond to alleged crimes and medical situations, respectively. They are onboard, on duty and available at all times.
Should you become aware of someone being injured or of unsafe or possibly illegal behavior during your cruise vacation, it is very important that you immediately report this to the ship management. This may be done by calling the emergency telephone number listed in the ship’s directory of services in your stateroom; or by calling or going to the Guest Services / Guest Relations Desk. If you do not immediately report an injury or unsafe or illegal behavior, the delay may cause the ship’s personnel to be unable to effectively respond to the situation and unable to properly preserve information or evidence that could assist law enforcement’s investigation and prosecution of those responsible.
As a company, we report crime allegations to law enforcement so they can investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, regardless of where in the world the ship is located at the time of the incident. Crime allegations are reported to law enforcement officials in the next port of call, as well as to the nation where our ships are flagged. We also report allegations of crime to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and United States Coast Guard (USCG), in compliance with United States laws.
According to United States federal law, on international voyages that embark or disembark in the United States, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and other cruiselines, are required to report onboard felonies and missing United States nationals to federal agencies. For a missing United States national and all serious felonies (homicide, suspicious death, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury, sexual assaults as defined by federal laws, firing or tampering with the vessel, or theft of money or property in excess of $10,000) the incident must be reported to the FBI by telephone as soon as possible, to the United States Department of Homeland Security electronically and to the USCG in writing. These requirements apply to onboard incidents that occur while the ship is in United States territorial waters, or on the high seas or in foreign waters if the victim or perpetrator is a United States national. The FBI can assert criminal jurisdiction in all of these circumstances. Each of the nations visited, as well as the vessel’s nation of registry, may also assert jurisdiction and impose additional reporting requirements.
United States law also requires us to provide you the following information. For cruises embarking or disembarking in the United States, you may independently contact the FBI or USCG for incidents arising any time during the voyage. For incidents within state or foreign waters or ports you may, in addition, contact local law enforcement authorities. Contact information for these entities along with contact information for a third party victim advocacy group and the locations of United States Embassies and Consulates for the ports we plan to visit during United States-oriented voyages will be made available to you. If you need assistance in locating this information, or if you find this information is incorrect or has changed since publication, please contact Guest Services / Guest Relations immediately.
To find a listing of our security contacts around the world, visit our Security Guide Contact List.
Every year, Royal Caribbean Group provides more than 4.8 million guests with an enjoyable cruise vacation. Although we work hard to prevent incidents, regrettably incidents do sometimes occur. For this reason, it is important to be prepared to effectively respond to incidents. The Group’s safety and security preparedness efforts include training our crew to handle situations so as to minimize their impact on guest and crew.
Each Royal Caribbean Group ship is staffed with a security team that is part of the ship’s permanent crew. The Staff Captain, who is also the second in command, oversees the Security Department. The Security Officer is the head of the security team and is responsible for day-to-day security operations onboard. The Security Officer is typically supported by one or more Deputy Security Officers and Supervisors, who direct the activities of a team of guards.
We recruit our onboard security professionals from around the world and hire candidates with backgrounds in the military, law enforcement or private security sectors. Our recruiting process involves conducting face-to-face interviews with candidates before they are considered for hire. We conduct such interviews in many places around the world, to find the best talent available.
We require our security personnel be fully familiar with international regulations and provide them with internal specialized training as well as training that results in certification from government-accredited companies. In addition, each security team member who works on an RCL ship with a U.S. itinerary must obtain a visa from the U.S. Department of State. This requirement helps strengthen our recruitment and screening process, as any applicant for the security team who is denied a visa by the U.S. Government will not be hired.
Each Security Officer is independently certified by an outside organization as having met the knowledge requirements of RCL’s internal security processes, as well as the U.S. Government (CVSSA) security requirements and standards. On an annual basis, every Security Officer in our fleet participates in a week-long shoreside security seminar held in Miami that is continually reviewed and modified to incorporate new measures and national and international requirements. This curriculum also includes role-playing in different shipboard security scenarios to allow the Security Officers to practice their skills. In addition, U.S. federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security Investigations, have participated and provided up-to-date presentations in their respective fields of expertise.
Our Security Officer training also places an important emphasis on access security. Access security training topics include technical equipment, recognition of characteristics of persons who may threaten security, crowd control and management and conflict resolution.
In addition to the specialized training that our officers and security staff receive, every crew member must undergo ship familiarization and emergency assignment training upon reporting onboard and before performing their duties. This training is overseen by the Safety Officer and the Security Officer, and includes Security Awareness Training, Pre-Departure Safety Training, Ship Safety Orientation Training, Crowd Management Training and Personnel Nominated to Assist Passengers in an Emergency Training. Specific training modules are also delivered for each crew functional area.
Crews are regularly trained and drilled on a variety of topics and scenarios. Some of these are mandated by regulations, while others are a part of the Group’s Above and Beyond Compliance focus. As an example, our crew practices its abandon ship procedures much more frequently than is currently mandated (twice per month versus the once every three months required by regulations). Other types of required drills include: Fire Fighting, Search and Rescue, Medical, Emergency Steering, Blackout Recovery, Crowd Management, Lifeboat Command, Damage Control, Chemical and Oil Spill, Man Overboard and Security Threats.
Crew members also take part in a variety of other company-required training topics such as leadership, safety observation, ethics, communication and environmental policy training. In addition, all crew members must complete pre-departure safety training, which includes a walk through the vessel with the safety officer to identify different safety systems, escape routes, and guest safety issues.
We also have special systems and procedures in place to ensure effective preparedness in case of fire. While each of our ships is equipped with advanced fire detection and suppression systems, fire safety really begins with prevention. Our ships are constructed and outfitted to comply with stringent international fire safety regulations, including requirements for fire integrity of bulkheads (walls) and windows, and fire resistance characteristics of fixtures onboard (such as furniture and carpets). Our ships are inspected throughout construction by third-party safety inspectors from recognized classification societies, and flag and port state safety agencies, such as the U.S. Coast Guard.
Even though fire risk is minimal, fire suppression systems are installed throughout each ship. The primary fire suppression system on most ships is a water-mist system, which converts water into a mist state that presents more surface area for smoke and heat to be absorbed. Water-mist systems are very effective and also safe for people who may be near them when they are activated. In areas such as engine spaces and galleys, we have installed both water mist and CO2 systems. In addition, we have gone above and beyond compliance with regulations by installing foam systems in certain technical spaces and wet chemical extinguishers in all of our galleys. These wet chemical extinguishers are similar to ones found in land-based kitchens and are especially effective in the case of a deep fat fryer fire.
Our ships are also equipped with an extensive series of fire sensors, which are monitored by crew members on the bridge and in the engine control rooms. If a fire detector indicates there may be a fire onboard, response personnel are immediately dispatched to the area to evaluate the situation. If indicated, mobile firefighting groups respond, outfitted with full firefighter gear, breathing apparatus and special heat-seeking systems that use thermal-imaging cameras. These cameras (both hand-held and helmet-mounted) help to quickly identify the source of a fire and to locate any people who may be in the affected area. Responding crew also have access to an Impulse Fire Extinguisher (IFEX), which shoots a blast of water using pressurized air and is ideal for rapid response in quickly suppressing a fire. With these tools, our highly trained personnel on the bridge and on the scene can manage fire-related situations effectively.
Public Health (Food & Water, Safety, Norovirus)
There are many guidelines and regulations that govern shipboard public health, including local, national and international regulations. The guidelines we follow throughout our fleet are contained in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) comprehensive Operations Manual, which details standards, procedures and inspection criteria related to topics such as: communicable disease prevention and management, gastrointestinal illness surveillance, potable water, recreational facilities (including swimming pools, whirlpools and spa pools), food safety, integrated pest management, housekeeping and child activity centers. We also adhere to the guidelines of Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) and the European Union’s Ship Sanitation Strategy and Program (SHIPSAN).
We work closely with U.S. and other governmental public health authorities where our ships sail to assure that we comply with their laws and regulations. To measure our compliance, our ships are inspected by governmental authorities, third-party public health experts and our own internal inspectors. Our ships routinely receive high ratings from ship inspections, and scores for our ships that call on ports in the U.S. are published by the CDC/VSP.
We also have a team of internal public health inspectors that visits each ship twice a year. In addition to evaluating the quality and effectiveness of water quality, food safety, pest management and outbreak prevention public health measures, they also provide training to our crew on the best ways to maintain a healthy ship.
The purity and cleanliness of our shipboard water systems is a very important part of the comfort and safety of our guests and crew. These systems include our potable drinking water and our recreational water used for swimming pools, whirlpools and spa pools. Potable water is either produced on the ship through reverse osmosis (desalination) or taken onboard (bunkered) while the ship is in port. As a further precaution, all potable water, whether bunkered or produced, is chlorinated to eliminate any harmful bacteria that may be present. All bunkered water is also tested for quality and held in a tank until test results demonstrate it is safe for shipboard consumption. Only then is the water approved for release and use onboard.
According to CDC standards, we are required to test our shipboard water four times per month. In keeping with our Above and Beyond Compliance policy, we exceed this standard by testing each ship’s water systems 60 times per month. The CDC also regulates our recreational water by specifying chlorination levels and monitoring frequencies. We exceed these levels and have installed electronic chlorine and acidity (pH) level recording devices to help ensure levels remain consistent.
Our food safety protocols and procedures are also based on CDC recommendations, and many even go Above and Beyond the stringent requirements stated in their VSP operations manual. These food safety practices include cleaning and disinfection of food preparation areas and equipment, employee hygiene, prevention of cross contamination, following instructions on proper handling of potentially hazardous foods that are susceptible to becoming contaminated, and many others.
Time control and temperature regulation are two of the most important factors in ensuring food safety. When supplies and provisions are landed on our ships, they must be at the right temperature, or we will reject them. Once we have accepted the supplies, we follow strict guidelines on the time for food supplies to be moved from the container or truck to the refrigerator or freezer onboard. There are also strict guidelines for how long food can remain out of the freezer or refrigerator before it is prepared, how foods are thawed, and how long foods can remain at a buffet station.
To ensure the safety of the food we serve, we have adopted the food industry’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach. The seven principles of HACCP are: hazard analysis, identification of critical control points, identification of critical limits for each critical control point, identification of critical control point monitoring requirements, corrective actions, record keeping, and verification to ensure the HACCP system is working.
Outbreak Prevention Plan
Our Outbreak Prevention Plan (OPP) is our guide for preventing and responding to any outbreak of illness onboard our ships. The emphasis of this plan is on gastrointestinal illnesses, which are the most common cause of land-based and shipboard outbreaks. The CDC closely monitors and regulates our performance in this important area.
Our plan was developed in consultation with both internal and external public health and medical experts, and is designed to first prevent outbreaks from occurring and then to halt the spread if one develops. The plan is an eight-step strategy that includes screening of guests and crew before boarding, surveillance of any suspected outbreaks on a ship, high levels of sanitation and cleaning of the ship, effective communication with guests and crew in the event of an outbreak, isolation of affected guests and crew as appropriate, complimentary medical treatment, electronic reporting of cases and symptoms to better identify the potential origin or source of the outbreak, and appropriate disembarkment of any guest or crew member who requires hospitalization or medical treatment that cannot be provided onboard the ship.
Medical (Facilities Onboard, Training Staff)
Every ship in the Royal Caribbean Group fleet has a dedicated medical facility, staffed with contract medical doctors and nurses. Shipboard medical facilities are available to both guests and crew in the event medical treatment becomes necessary while they are onboard. The medical facilities are generally open six hours daily, but medical professionals are available 24 hours a day for acute guest or crew medical needs that may arise. There are procedures for emergency communications and deployment of the medical teams anywhere on the ship where services are needed. These teams are supplemented by personnel trained to carry equipment and stretchers if needed.
Our shipboard medical facilities and operations are subject to guidelines from national and international agencies and organizations. The principal guidelines applicable to our shipboard medical facilities are those established by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), Cruise Ship & Maritime Medicine Section. Our shipboard medical facilities are built, stocked, equipped and staffed to meet or exceed ACEP’s guidelines.
Each ship is staffed by one to three medical doctors and two to five nurses, generally depending on the size of the ship and the number of guests and crew. We follow strict requirements regarding the credentials of medical staff in our facilities. We confirm licenses and medical school graduation and closely examine post-graduate training for prospective medical personnel. Prior to serving onboard, medical personnel must also successfully complete Basic and Advanced Cardiac Life Support Training Courses. In addition to cardiac care skills, our medical staff are expected to be able to manage complex problems, such as respiratory and airway emergencies, sutures, orthopedic issues, interpret routine x-rays and perform and interpret basic, but comprehensive, laboratory analysis.
To meet the needs of our guests and crew, medical facilities stock a variety of equipment, including cardiac monitors and defibrillators, ventilators, x-ray machines and processors, laboratory equipment for a variety of acutely needed tests, and minor surgical and orthopedic supplies. Each ship also has a well-stocked formulary of medications (including “clot-busting” thrombolytics), based upon ACEP-established, shipboard appropriate categories of pharmaceuticals.
We are constantly evaluating new technologies and equipment that could improve the quality of our onboard medical care. For example, we have equipped our ships with Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), which are small portable machines that can restart the heart of a person who has collapsed from a sudden cardiac arrhythmia, often due to a heart attack. We have installed digital x-ray technology on all of our ships, allowing x-ray images to be transmitted to onshore experts for further consultation. Each of our ships is also stocked with portable First Responder Bags to help the medical team respond to emergencies.
In conjunction with the University of Miami, we have implemented a Teledermatology program that permits high-definition digital photographs and case histories to be transmitted over the internet and reviewed by expert dermatologists ashore, to obtain timely consultations and treatment advice, the same service they provide to the U.S. military.
We are also able to perform life-saving blood transfusions at sea. Our medical staff has the ability to type blood donors and to screen their blood for communicable diseases (including HIV). Eligible family member donors of the same blood type are considered first; however, in the event a family member is not available or suitable, voluntary donors from the shipboard guest or crew population are considered. We have had the opportunity to utilize this life-saving intervention on numerous occasions.
In emergency medical care situations, such as heart attacks, congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmias, our ships maintain special medications onboard to stabilize the patient until the patient is able to be medically evacuated to an appropriate shoreside medical facility. Evacuation of emergency medical patients from a ship may take place at a scheduled port-of-call, or may require a deviation from the ship’s scheduled itinerary to the nearest appropriate port. Another alternative that may be available for use in life-threatening situations is evacuation via helicopter from a ship’s helipad or via basket lift.
In 2006, we established a dedicated team of trained specialists to provide a full range of professional logistical support and reassurance in the event one of our guests experiences a personal emergency while sailing with us. In 2009, we extended these services to our crew members on all ships. Led by medical professionals, this group, known as the CareTeam, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide support during a family tragedy at home, an illness or emergency onboard, or an incident while ashore. The CareTeam Specialists, who are based at our headquarters in Miami and the United Kingdom, also provide a much-needed coordination point for communication between RCL and the affected guest, their family members and traveling companions.
In 2010, we advanced the capabilities of the CareTeam when we created a shipboard CareTeam Associate capability on each of our ships. A CareTeam Associate is a crew member that is available on each ship to augment the shoreside efforts of the CareTeam Specialists in initiating specialized services and handling certain cases where the actual presence of an understanding person is crucial. It is their responsibility to be physically available to provide assistance to any guest or crew member who may need it. Generally, CareTeam Associates are chosen because they are very dedicated, approachable and compassionate crew members with good listening skills. They remain calm under the toughest of situations, have strong organizational skills, are eager to learn and maintain a good disposition.
Our overall strategy is to have the CareTeam Associate immediately become involved following the notification of an emergency. They serve as an extension of the CareTeam in our corporate effort to support the logistical and emotional needs of an affected guest or crew member. We have both male and female Associates on each ship, and we assess each circumstance to try to match an appropriate Associate to the person in need. The CareTeam Associate is also available to leave the ship with the affected guest or crew member, if circumstances call for it.
We fully understand that, should a personal tragedy or emergency arise during a cruise, the affected guest or crew member will need to devote 100 percent of their time to focusing on their own needs. Far from home and away from family and friends, persons in need can benefit from our trained professionals, who have the experience and resources to provide compassionate logistical support. In such cases, there can be an overwhelming need for a caring and understanding person to help; a person who knows what to do and how to do it, speaks the language, and is ready to step forward at the right moment.
The CareTeam can help the affected guest or crew member with a wide range of services and support.