When the Costa Concordia ocean liner hit rocks and began sinking off Italy in January 2012, killing 32, many travelers began questioning cruise ship safety, especially the competence of ship captains and crew.

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But deaths and injuries on cruise ships are extremely rare. For instance, in 2011, more than 16 million people safely cruised the world's waterways, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the North American industry's main marketing group.

Still, when you embark on a cruise, as on any vacation, you need to be cautious and take some precautions. Toward that end, here are 6 cruise ship safety tips.

1. Study Your Surroundings

When you board a ship, you're typically handed a map (if not, pick one up at the purser's office). Study the layout. Give yourself a tour of the ship. Also check the cruise ship safety chart on the back of your cabin door for the route to your assigned muster station, your designated area to congregate in the event of an emergency. If there is a safety video playing on the TV, take time to watch it.

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2. Heed the Safety Drill

You will be required to attend a safety drill. Yes, it might come at a time when you'd rather be sitting by the pool, and to seasoned cruisers, it will be a boring exercise. But do as instructed. Grab your orange life jacket from your cabin, head to the assigned muster station (as indicated by the big letter on your life jacket) and listen to the crew instructions. This is not the time to take photos or chat. It is the time to really learn what to do in the event of an emergency.

3. Locate the Life Jacket

Most ships will require you to try on your life jacket at the drill — you can typically find it in a closet in your cabin. But even if not instructed to do so, try it and make sure it fits. If you have kids, make sure your cabin is equipped with an appropriate infant or child life jacket. Notable features include a whistle you can blow to draw attention.