Vacationing on a cruise ship is the last place you expect to suffer a serious injury. Unfortunately, personal injury accidents can occur any time, any place. The Port of Miami is one of the busiest in the nation, with over four million passengers traveling through per year. In light of the recent incident involving a woman going overboard from a Carnival Cruise ship based out of Miami, cruise-goers wonder how to stay safe on ships and while visiting other countries.

Check Your Ship’s Report Card

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rates cruise ships according to their public safety, in regard to the transmission and spread of illnesses. A cruise ship houses anywhere from 1,500 to 5,000 people at one time—a breeding ground for a variety of potentially contagious illnesses. Check your cruise ship’s results before purchasing a ticket to find out how the ship did according to CDC standards. The report cards include scores for overall cleanliness and repair, food preparation, water quality, pest management, and hygiene.

Take Hygiene Into Your Own Hands

While cruise ships strive to keep things as sanitary as possible, individual health is your own responsibility. Preventing an illness while on a cruise ship is largely up to you and your own hygiene. Wash your hands often while on a cruise, and take advantage of the hand sanitizer stations throughout the ship. Wash your hands before eating and drinking, and after using the restroom, changing diapers, helping a sick person, and blowing your nose. Give your hands a thorough wash after touching high-contact surfaces, such as railings, doorknobs, and elevator buttons.

If you feel like you’re coming down with something that’s more than seasickness, visit the onboard clinic. The ship’s doctor can prescribe medications and bed rest, if necessary. If the doctor diagnosis you with a contagious illness such as the flu, do your shipmates a favor and remain in your room as much as possible. Cough and sneeze into your elbow, and wash your hands often.

Stay Vigilant On and Off Deck

Cruise ships are similar to large cities – there are hundreds if not thousands of strangers existing together, the alcohol is flowing, and individuals have a duty to act responsibly. Many people let their guards down while on vacation, although this is precisely when the risk of getting into trouble is highest. Be aware of your surroundings while on deck and while in a foreign destination. Don’t walk down dark hallways, don’t wander too far away from the port when you dock in a new country, and don’t accept drinks from strangers. Notify the Purser’s Office the minute you suspect something dangerous.

Vigilance does not only include watching out for attacks from others—it also means watching your alcohol intake and surrounding yourself with friends you trust to keep you safe while drinking. Alcohol on rough waters poses a significant risk of accidentally falling overboard. If this happens when you’re alone or in the middle of the night, there’s no guarantee that anyone will notice until it’s too late. Don’t trust strangers to take care of you or see you to your room at the end of the night. Partner with a relative or friend you’re traveling with to drink safely.

Understanding Cruise Ship Law

As a vessel responsible for thousands of passengers, a cruise ship has certain duties to ensure safe transportation. Cruise ship laws mandate that cruise ships have a special duty to protect passengers, from crew member assaults and criminal attacks to premise injuries, such as faulty staircase railings. If a person disappears from a cruise ship, the cruise line must perform a reasonable search and rescue mission. Understanding your rights and responsibilities as a cruise passenger enables you to recognize whether you have a case in the event of a cruise ship accident.