By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert
We have been on 11 river cruises in Europe and will go back again in December to take our 12th cruise. There are many reasons why we like to river cruise so much, but one key reason is that it is a safe trip and it makes it a great vacation for most folks. We would never consider cancelling our trip due to the current world situation in Europe, because we have so much confidence we will be safe. As a retired Army Officer, I can assure you I never would put myself in danger anyway just to have a vacation. I do, however, understand concerns in today’s world. We have traveled during many periods of unrest or tension in Europe and always felt safe, as long as we take simple steps to avoid potential dangerous situations. Please consider these items before you decide that travel to Europe or taking a river cruise in Europe is dangerous:
No one can promise you will be safe anywhere in the world, including where you live today in the US. Despite the headlines, you are actually safer traveling to Europe than the risks you face in daily life. From 2001-2013, according to the US State Department, 350 US citizens have been killed overseas. In that same time period in the US (2001-2013), according to the Center for Disease Control, 406,496 people were killed by firearms and again from 2001-2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 520,000 people died in auto accidents. Perception of danger overseas is not the reality.
Terrorists want to spread their political agenda by fear and intimidation. They want the 24-hour coverage of the news channels to show how horrible they are and that they disregard human life. Terrorism is random and this increases fear. The terrorists win if we stop traveling. Do not worry constantly, just use good common sense to limit chances you will be harmed.
Tips to Protect Yourself in Europe
- Buy Travel Insurance
There are many ways travel insurance can add a level of protection to safeguard your trip. Travel insurance can cover trip cancellation for qualified reasons (you never go on the trip) and trip interruption for qualified reasons (you go but do not complete the entire trip); medical problems, evacuation home or to a hospital, lost or delayed baggage and flight insurance. Not all policies cover all the above situations, especially trip cancellation coverage and the costly cancel for any reason policies. Most policies we recommend are primary coverage—that means they pay first regardless of other coverage. One of the best features is an emergency contact center, manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist in an emergency situation. Just so you know, we never travel without travel insurance. We always offer travel insurance, but you are not required to buy (disclaimer, we are paid a commission on these products, but the real reason we recommend travel insurance is that we want you to consider your personal risk and situation. We have a professional responsibility to ensure you are properly informed). We can help guide you through the process but we will never promise coverage for a specific situation —this is something you should discuss with the insurance company directly. Travel insurance just adds peace of mind, in my opinion. There are also policies that provide emergency evacuation that are not a medical necessity.
- Watch the News on TV
Just keeping up with world events can help you recognize potential danger areas to avoid. CNN International and BBC Worldwide are usually available in most places we have stayed and are available on most river cruise ships. Don’t become glued to the TV–just monitor so you are protected and informed
- Realize that some venues make be directed to be closed or a ship might make a change in port stops or tours.
For your protection, you will often see more police at public transportation areas and there may be more security screening to enter some areas, museums or other attractions. We have experienced all of these and in most cases, it was totally reassuring, and the delays were minimal. Just be flexible and all will be all right.
- Enjoy your trip but be aware of your surroundings
This is the common sense rule. We always expect to have fun, but are aware—if something just does not seem right, use caution.
- If traveling alone, make sure someone knows where you are and when you are expected back
While we recommend traveling with someone or in a group, if you are travelling alone, let the hotel front desk or the river cruise ship reception know if you are going out on your own. It just adds another level of security.
- Register with the State Department
The US State Department has a Safe Traveler Enrollment Program. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It allows US citizens to sign up to receive alerts from the US State Department, allows the US Embassy a way to contact you if needed and provides a way family or friends can contact you in an emergency. Here is the link to their website to register https://step.state.gov/step/
- Carry some items with you to help you be prepared if an emergency situations arises.
We always carry with us contact info for the hotel we are staying at or the emergency contact info for the river cruise ship, a copy of our passports, some local cash and a credit card. We also have our cell phones.
How River Cruise Companies Help Insure Your Safety
River cruise lines train their crew members to insure your safety. The sailing crew members (usually the Captain, First Officer, Engineer and deck hands) are well experienced—most have been sailing for years and the know and avoid dangers that could occur on your river cruise. There is always a safety briefing on each river cruise prior to sailing.
The captain (left), hotel manager (top right) & Cruise manager always stress safety to the guests.
The cruise director and local guides also add a level of security—they know about potential problems and can insure guests do not venture into dangerous areas. The cruise lines also monitor weather conditions and river levels to insure safety. The ships all have great safety features, such as radar to help avoid other traffic on the rivers. There is a 24 hour guard on each ship and outside entrances are locked during night-time hours and no one is granted access without proper ID. When each guest leaves the river boat, they are required to take a card with emergency phone numbers. This also allows the crew to know if you did not re-board prior to the departure of the ship.
These are just a few of the reasons we like river cruising so much—they are a safe way to travel. We hope this will inspire you to give me a call at 713-397-0188 or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) so I can help you visit Europe on a river cruise and help you:
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