Home Cruise Safely Are the In-Room Safes on Cruises Actually Secure?

This question has so many possible variables it is difficult to give a concrete answer. The hospitality industry, including cruise ships, have placed a greater reliance on in room safes over the last decade. Many travelers will not even consider a hotel room that does not have one. Online review sites and travel forums all have horror stories of valuables becoming missing from in room safes. Most of the time the location is in poorer countries and the safes are older versions. You see very few reports of safes being robbed on cruise ships.

There are a few different variations of hotel room/ cruise ship staterooms safes that are found today. A common factor is that the safes need to be controllable by the guest when the safe is open. In other words, with the safe door open the guest must be able to code the safe to open with the password they input or another method under their control. The major weak point on in-room safes is the need to reset them. Guest might lock the safe closed when they leave or forget the pass code they entered.

Safety Tip: Code-To-Close technology

The most common stateroom safes today uses Code-To-Close technology. Older safes could be locked by just closing it manually or hitting a lock button. Today the Code-To-Close technology requires the user to enter a code to both close to open the safe. These safes use either a magnetic strip reader or a keypad, some safes have both options. When using a safe with a magnetic strip reader, the guest places his valuables inside, closes the door, and swipes a credit card through the card reader. The light will flash, the machine will beep and the safe will secure. To open the safe you use the same card to open the safe by running it through the reader to open the safe. While some guests use their ship cards, it is not advised, as the card has your stateroom number on it and if you lose it, who ever finds it can enter your room and open the safe. Generally a card with a magnetic strip will work, so try to use the safe with a magnetic strip card with no value.

Keypad models work in the same manner, except to close the safe you enter a pass code of your choosing. On most safes of this style, when you lock the safe by entering your code the numbers will flash on a small display. It is best to verify the numbers as it locks in case you double keyed a number or hit the wrong one.

The override feature is where the most concern is. There is little to stop a dishonest person to use an override to open a safe. On older safes, the over ride was simply another pass code. The safe would have two, the one that the guest provided and another one set by the hotel. Some safes used a key as an override. It could be used in a hidden key slot on the door or a long handle key that fit through the top of the safe. Many of the latest safes use a Non-Resident master code contained in a portable programmer. These programmers are small hand held devices designed to open the safe. They require the user to log in and a record is maintained of each safe opened.

When you search the internet you will find very few reports in this topic, some are a little more difficult to believe. One report had $100 stolen from his safe and where he originally had only $20s and $50s, when he open the safe he had some $1s and $5s.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • While stateroom attendants are the ones most often accused of missing items from a stateroom, in the majority of the cases it was not. The crew members might not earn much by US minimum wage standards but what they earn is substantial in their home countries. So while some quick cash from a stolen cell phone might seem motivating, there is no job protection. If there is even a suspicion that the attendant did commit a crime, they are put off at the next port. The risk of punishment is too great.
  • Stateroom attendants do not have access to the master code or programmers to open a safe. This responsibility rest with the housekeeping supervisor or the purser staff.
  • Each entry into your room is recorded on most cruise lines. Every time a card is used to open your door it is entered into the security log. On some cruise lines, the attendants are required to swipe in and out of a room each time they enter, even if the door is opened for them.
  • If you wish additional piece of mind for your in stateroom safe, there are a number of devices on the market that will help you block the override functions.
  • If in doubt, store your valuables at the pursers’ office. For high dollar items you might want to consider using the ships safe. Safety deposit boxes within the ships safe are generally still available.