With all the cruise ship problems in the news lately, I’ve been seeing advice articles for what to do if the ship you’re vacationing on suffers a disaster. I collected some of the common questions and decided to see how my characters on the Nebula Dream did, compared to what experts suggest. It may be a bit of a challenge to do without providing spoilers….
Can you make preparations in advance for a cruise ship disaster, just in case? On the Titanic, most passengers and crew totally bought into the unsinkable advertising. There were a few, however, who had misgivings for whatever reason. Perhaps the most famous was Esther Hart, a Second Class passenger who was so concerned, she stayed awake all night every night of the cruise, fully dressed. When the ship ran into the iceberg, she and her daughter Eva got into Lifeboat 14 but her husband remained on Titanic and was lost. On my ship Nebula Dream, I have one passenger who has such a terrible premonition that she demands to be taken back to the planet. In modern times, the experts recommend having some cash, a working flashlight and a fully charged cellphone.
Should you worry about pirates? Titanic didn’t have this problem. We know in the modern world, there are very active pirates in certain areas of the world and while they might not tackle a huge cruise ship, you should be wary if you’re sailing in dangerous waters in anything smaller and/or slower. Speed is the best weapon for evading capture by the modern pirate. And on my Nebula Dream?
Let’s just say absolutely, pirates become a VERY big problem.
Can you trust the crew? The officers and crew of Titanic are generally credited with heroism and selflessness above and beyond. In many of the recent incidents involving cruise ships with engine problems, the crew’s efforts in staggeringly bad conditions have been spoken of positively by the passengers. My novel was written years before the infamous Costa Concordia episode, where the captain abandoned ship well before all his passengers were safe. On the Nebula Dream, my hero Nick becomes highly critical of Captain Bonlors fairly early on, shall we say.
If your ship suffers a disaster, should you be worried about food and water? From the research I did, it seems a person can probably last 2-3 weeks without food, depending on their condition at the start of the fast. Not that it’s recommended! But water is a much more serious issue. Humans can only go 3-5 days without water. No one really had time to worry about either issue before the Titanic sank, although some bread was tossed into at least one lifeboat by the crew. On Nebula Dream they took some nourishment at one point but for the most part were too busy trying to get off the ship and dealing with other issues to worry about food or water.
Some final thoughts: Several of the advice posts mention that with thousands of people stuck together on a cruise ship having problems, things could get unpleasant, and therefore you might want to stick to your cabin as much as possible. On Titanic there were tales of people getting drunk toward the end and possibly some looting. On Nebula Dream there was definitely some of that happening and Nick found a way to keep his own small band of survivors moving around the ship without running into too many other people.
Perhaps the best advice I read, in more than one place, is trust your own instincts about what to do. Ultimately the person who is most invested in your survival is you. Speaking only of my fictional Nebula Dream, the captain at first tries to minimize the trouble the ship is in and Nick, the hero, is not buying it. He takes action in the ways that seem best to him, trying to save as many of the civilian passengers as he can. (Nick is an active duty special forces operator, traveling aboard the Dream through a fluke.)
Since the Titanic sinking is a legend in my family, as one Second Class passenger who survived was allegedly a distant relation, I grew up always asking myself the question, now what will I do if (name the situation – fire, earthquake, plane crash, workplace violence) happens. I know where the exits are, I know I’m not stopping to turn off my computer, I have a cache of bottled water and emergency rations at the office and in the car…Nine times out of ten there won’t be a disaster, your cruise will be pleasurable and trouble-free, the Great Quake won’t hit…but just keep that little inner ear attuned to your surroundings and the situation and be prepared!