Jo Kling, CEO of and president of Landry & Kling, has been working with companies on cruise meetings for three decades. While she emphasizes the stellar safety record of cruise ships, she understands that clients have questions following the January 13 grounding of the Costa Concordia. Here is her perspective on keeping your group safe on ships.

What should planners keep in mind when it comes to cruise ships and the safety of their groups?

Understand the serious nature of the safety (“muster”) drill — and participate in it! At Landry & Kling, when we start planning our client's agenda, we alert them to the drill — which they sometimes find inconvenient. We also prepare a written program guide for planners to hand out to their attendees, which includes a reference to the muster drill on the first day, so they are aware of the drill and can plan to attend it. Planners should tell their people to read the instructions on their cabin doors about the location of their muster stations, and to watch the safety video that most lines broadcast during embarkation.

Are there other safety precautions planners should take?

Planners who normally set up group transfers or excursions on land-based programs know to check the liability insurance for the vehicle operators, and the same applies with shore excursions during a cruise.

What do you see as the implications of the Costa Concordia tragedy for meeting professionals?

Planners should pay special attention to the operational efficiency of the cruise lines they're considering. For example, during ship site inspections, inquire what systems and procedures are in place for everyday care and maintenance of the ship. Look to see whether there are officers visible throughout the ship overseeing that those procedures are followed — that things occur when scheduled, that everything runs like clockwork. Cruise lines that earn high ratings for their guest relations or purser's desk likely have strong communications and training in place. Typically when you find good communications flowing between the various departments — from the cruise director, shore excursion department, dining rooms, room stewards — it's a sign that someone's really in charge.