Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
Bron_Holden

What is the current policy regarding keeping connecting balcony doors closed

Recommended Posts

I have recently returned from a cruise with friends on NCL.  We deliberately booked cabins side by side so that we could have the balcony doors open but our request to have them opened was denied.  We were initially told this was due to fire risk but when I queried this I was referred to the Safety officer who despite a phone call and a chase has still not provided me with an explanation.

 

I have checked the forums and many of the posts are older but do seem to indicate NCL operates this policy but not all other cruise ships do.  Can anyone advise me which companies still allow doors open and which don't. I would also appreciate it anyone can explain the safety reasons for not opening them at anytime.  I was told it was a fire risk and alternatively a fire door which it clearly isnt.  It has a gap above and below.

 

Thanks

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The balcony doors are meant to slow the spread of fire and as I understand it only a certain number of them can be open at any given time. Hopefully Chengkp75 will chime in and provide the correct info.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Balcony fires came to prominence with the 2006 fire aboard Star Princess. The fire started on a balcony and spread across many cabins on a number of decks. Extinguishing the fire proved challenging due to no fixed extinguishing system and access. In addition to extinguishing the fire, they also had difficulty establishing fire boundaries.

 

SOLAS requirements were updated after 2008 to require non-combustible  furniture on balconies unless a fixed fire extinguishing and detection system was installed. The cabin dividers are also required to be non-combustible, but unlike the interior doors are not fire screen doors.

 

In the event of another balcony fire, having the dividers closed will somewhat restrict the spread of fire. However, I am not aware of any SOLAS requirement, or requirement in Flag State regs (on ships I sailed on) to have the dividers closed at all times.

 

Since the risk of opening limited  balcony dividers is fairly low, as a Captain, I would have balanced the customer service benefit with the low risk. Unfortunately, when you ask the question at a Purser's Desk you receive a standard answer. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Many balcony dividers aren't meant to be opened.  If they are meant to be opened, there will be a door of some sort, with hinges.  Many are simply bolted into place and cannot be opened.  Some dividers are actually part of the hull of the ship.

 

Even when it's physically possible to open a divider, it's up to the captain if he allows it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As Heidi says, the balcony dividers were not able to be opened prior to the Star Princess fire.  The only reason they are made to be opened is to allow the fire teams to access from one balcony to the next, not for customer convenience.  The only legal requirement for keeping the dividers closed is when the adjacent cabins span two fire zones, i.e. the divider is the extension of the fire zone boundary out to the side of the ship.  These dividers are not to be opened except for ship's maintenance (while in port) or in an emergency.

 

The safety reason is that while there is a gap under and around the divider, it takes up the vast majority of the space between balconies, and is made (post Star Princess fire) of low combustibility materials.  This slows the "wind tunnel" effect that exists down the side of the ship, particularly with a divider open, to slow the progression of fire from one balcony to the next.

 

While there is no legal requirement to keep the dividers closed, it is a cruise line decision, as outlined in their ISM Code (International Safety Management), based on recommendations from their P&I insurance club and the class society surveyor.  Most lines will have verbiage in their ISM that the number of total dividers allowed to be opened at one time, and the number in a row allowed to be opened, is specified for the fleet as a whole, or that it is up to the Captain's discretion.  It really comes down to the Captain's risk tolerance, and each Captain is different.  NCL used to leave it up to the Captain, but the number of passenger complaints when the number was requested to be exceeded, and people refused could see others already open, that they decided to make it a fleetwide ban.

 

Finally, ships built before 2006, when the SOLAS requirements on balconies changed after the Star Princess, are not required to have openable balcony dividers, and most don't.

Edited by chengkp75

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Heidi13 said:

Balcony fires came to prominence with the 2006 fire aboard Star Princess. The fire started on a balcony and spread across many cabins on a number of decks. Extinguishing the fire proved challenging due to no fixed extinguishing system and access.

One would think they would change out all that flammable plastic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, jlp20 said:

One would think they would change out all that flammable plastic.

For the most part, they have.  As a result of the Star Princess fire, SOLAS now requires that all balconies either have a sprinkler on the balcony, or that all materials used in construction or furnishing of a balcony be of low combustibility materials.  Most of the plastics now used will smolder but not catch fire when exposed to open flame.  Most lines have gone the way of low combustibility materials rather than installing sprinkler heads and heat/smoke detectors on balconies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Guys

 

thanks for all your comprehensive replies.  I can confirm that the doors on our cruise ship could be opened with key.  I did try to speak to a rahter rude safety officer to explain my concern regarding fire and pointed out the fact that they could not be opened was also a fire hazard as one could become trapped in cabin if a fire broke out between the door of the cabin and the bed.  There are a number of electical points in this area and a fire could break out in corridor.  With a locked balcon door there is no chance of escaping via another stateroom.  Your only option is to jump or climb

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Bron_Holden said:

Hi Guys

 

thanks for all your comprehensive replies.  I can confirm that the doors on our cruise ship could be opened with key.  I did try to speak to a rahter rude safety officer to explain my concern regarding fire and pointed out the fact that they could not be opened was also a fire hazard as one could become trapped in cabin if a fire broke out between the door of the cabin and the bed.  There are a number of electical points in this area and a fire could break out in corridor.  With a locked balcon door there is no chance of escaping via another stateroom.  Your only option is to jump or climb

How do you deal with this in a hotel room with a balcony?  They do not have any access between balconies.  Both hotel rooms and ship cabins have sprinklers to suppress the fire in the cabin.  And besides, if your neighbors have locked the balcony door, you are still trapped on a balcony.

 

And, come to think on it, what do you do in a hotel room without a balcony, or a ship's inside or oceanview cabin?  There isn't any possible escape other than "climb or jump".  I guess you don't spend much time in a hotel?

 

Seriously, you're not trying to use a fire safety concern to justify what you previously stated was simply your desire to have adjoining balconies with your friends.

Edited by chengkp75

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 minutes ago, chengkp75 said:

How do you deal with this in a hotel room with a balcony?  They do not have any access between balconies.  Both hotel rooms and ship cabins have sprinklers to suppress the fire in the cabin.  And besides, if your neighbors have locked the balcony door, you are still trapped on a balcony.

 

And, come to think on it, what do you do in a hotel room without a balcony, or a ship's inside or oceanview cabin?  There isn't any possible escape other than "climb or jump".  I guess you don't spend much time in a hotel?

 

Seriously, you're not trying to use a fire safety concern to justify what you previously stated was simply your desire to have adjoining balconies with your friends.

You said it much better than I could have.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, chengkp75 said:

How do you deal with this in a hotel room with a balcony?  They do not have any access between balconies.  Both hotel rooms and ship cabins have sprinklers to suppress the fire in the cabin.  And besides, if your neighbors have locked the balcony door, you are still trapped on a balcony.

 

And, come to think on it, what do you do in a hotel room without a balcony, or a ship's inside or oceanview cabin?  There isn't any possible escape other than "climb or jump".  I guess you don't spend much time in a hotel?

 

Seriously, you're not trying to use a fire safety concern to justify what you previously stated was simply your desire to have adjoining balconies with your friends.

Thank you for your response.  I agree that if the balcony door is locked I am still trapped even more reason for being concerned as I have been led to believe more fires are caused at sea by faulty electrical appliances and sockets.  Hence why we are not allowed to leave them plugged in when not in room.

 

As to spending time in hotel rooms well you guess wrong.  However we have a fire service that can reach us with adequate ladders etc for evacuation and the fire is less likely to be caused by faulty sockets.  Nothing is completely safe.  I wanted not unreasonably a proper explanation of why NCL have a blanket policy on the opening of such doors when other cruise lines don't.  I also wanted to put to them a different scenario which they may not have considered.  All companies should carry out a risk assessment of the likelihood of  a balcony fire against the likelihood of a cabin fire and should have proper evacuation plans for both.  NCL may actually have done this at top level.  But none on the ship could or would explain this policy or even the evacuation plan in event of

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, Bron_Holden said:

Thank you for your response.  I agree that if the balcony door is locked I am still trapped even more reason for being concerned as I have been led to believe more fires are caused at sea by faulty electrical appliances and sockets.  Hence why we are not allowed to leave them plugged in when not in room.

 

As to spending time in hotel rooms well you guess wrong.  However we have a fire service that can reach us with adequate ladders etc for evacuation and the fire is less likely to be caused by faulty sockets.  Nothing is completely safe.  I wanted not unreasonably a proper explanation of why NCL have a blanket policy on the opening of such doors when other cruise lines don't.  I also wanted to put to them a different scenario which they may not have considered.  All companies should carry out a risk assessment of the likelihood of  a balcony fire against the likelihood of a cabin fire and should have proper evacuation plans for both.  NCL may actually have done this at top level.  But none on the ship could or would explain this policy or even the evacuation plan in event of

I would guess that the risk of fire from the shipboard electrical systems in a cabin is very low, but cheng would be better to address that. I would also guess that most cabin fires are caused by the passenger doing something they probably shouldn't be doing (like using an unauthorized appliance). It does sound like you are trying to second guess the experts in order to get what you want and the bottom line is it's their ship and their rules.

Edited by sparks1093

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
56 minutes ago, Bron_Holden said:

Thank you for your response.  I agree that if the balcony door is locked I am still trapped even more reason for being concerned as I have been led to believe more fires are caused at sea by faulty electrical appliances and sockets.  Hence why we are not allowed to leave them plugged in when not in room.

 

As to spending time in hotel rooms well you guess wrong.  However we have a fire service that can reach us with adequate ladders etc for evacuation and the fire is less likely to be caused by faulty sockets.  Nothing is completely safe.  I wanted not unreasonably a proper explanation of why NCL have a blanket policy on the opening of such doors when other cruise lines don't.  I also wanted to put to them a different scenario which they may not have considered.  All companies should carry out a risk assessment of the likelihood of  a balcony fire against the likelihood of a cabin fire and should have proper evacuation plans for both.  NCL may actually have done this at top level.  But none on the ship could or would explain this policy or even the evacuation plan in event of

I'd love to see your data on the fires at sea caused by "faulty electrical appliances and sockets", compared to the same on land.   I don't know what the underwriters in the UK state, but UL, the major appliance underwriter in the US, state on every appliance, that it should be unplugged when not in use, and they don't certify things that don't follow this rule.  The major concern with electrical appliances on ships is the use of consumer grade surge protectors, which due to no fault with the ship's wiring or outlets, nor any fault of the appliances you bring and plug into them, can cause a fire due to the differences in grounding methods between land and sea.

 

How do you figure there is a significant time difference between your fire department responding to a fire from a station perhaps a couple of miles away, and rigging a ladder to your balcony (assuming that the building is short enough to get a ladder up there), to the ship's security officer responding to the fire detector in your cabin, finding that the cabin is on fire, calling the fire teams, and proceeding to open the adjacent cabin to check, and then looking around the balcony divider, and finding you trapped there and opening the divider with the tool he has.

 

I've worked for NCL, and know intimately their risk assessment policies, and the fire plans for all emergencies, since as Staff Chief Engineer, I spent a couple of years as the "On Scene Commander" for all emergencies, controlling all emergency teams on the ship.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, chengkp75 said:

I'd love to see your data on the fires at sea caused by "faulty electrical appliances and sockets", compared to the same on land.   I don't know what the underwriters in the UK state, but UL, the major appliance underwriter in the US, state on every appliance, that it should be unplugged when not in use, and they don't certify things that don't follow this rule.  The major concern with electrical appliances on ships is the use of consumer grade surge protectors, which due to no fault with the ship's wiring or outlets, nor any fault of the appliances you bring and plug into them, can cause a fire due to the differences in grounding methods between land and sea.

 

How do you figure there is a significant time difference between your fire department responding to a fire from a station perhaps a couple of miles away, and rigging a ladder to your balcony (assuming that the building is short enough to get a ladder up there), to the ship's security officer responding to the fire detector in your cabin, finding that the cabin is on fire, calling the fire teams, and proceeding to open the adjacent cabin to check, and then looking around the balcony divider, and finding you trapped there and opening the divider with the tool he has.

 

I've worked for NCL, and know intimately their risk assessment policies, and the fire plans for all emergencies, since as Staff Chief Engineer, I spent a couple of years as the "On Scene Commander" for all emergencies, controlling all emergency teams on the ship.

 

 

Thanks again for such a comprehensive response I can see you know more than the average Joe about this subject so thanks for taking the time to share your info with me.

I just don't like being fobbed off when I ask for an explanation or ignored. Its a shame that NCL couldn't be bothered to get back to me themselves with a more adequate response despite promising to.  Having previously sailed with a number of different cruise lines and always being able to have my connecting door open I was of course disappointed.  I don't think asking for a reasonable explanation is too much when I know other cruise lines still allow it. You and  others are of course entitled to think what you like of my motives.

Edited by Bron_Holden

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can understand the concern about escaping the balcony...But the real crux of the matter is, that you want to create a larger balcony for family and friends.  But I do not see anywhere in cruise line advertising or cabin description a statement that if you book adjacent balcony cabins, you will be able to open the dividers to make a larger balcony.  Or to create connecting cabins when you have family/children in the cabin next door that does not connect.  Connecting balconies is not a right/ nor even a privilege.  It is a favor granted if the cruise line/captain/safety crew so desire.  If they don't do it, they have not broken a promise or contract with you.  They have simply proved your assumption that they will do it to be wrong.  EM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmmmm.... When we cruised on NCL Jade a few years ago, our cabin was adjacent to our travel companions (friends, not relatives).  We asked our steward about opening the divider, and he told us no, and that they would only open them for immediately family in adjacent cabins (as it allows access to your cabin from the adjacent cabin and thus is a security risk, but ok for families, apparently).  Our friend used a pair of tweezers to "unlock" the divider (it was just a hole with a rotating socket that latched it, so very easy to do), so we enjoyed our double balcony together, and we just closed it over when we weren't in our cabins. 

 

I guess I a) shouldn't have done this! and b) shouldn't be telling  you this!  🤣

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Bron_Holden said:

However we have a fire service that can reach us with adequate ladders etc for evacuation...

 

If you really believe that, I suggest you not stay in any rooms higher than the 10th floor.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, jlp20 said:

One would think they would change out all that flammable plastic.

While it looks like plastic, fire regs require it to be low flammability. During my shipyard days I attended many wind tunnel combustion tests on carpets, furniture fabrics and plastic furniture. As Cheng mentioned, they only smoulder, with no active flame.

 

Every product must come with a Flag State and/or Class Society approved flame test certificate. If no certificate was available, I had to schedule a burn test, with a TC Inspector before we could put the item(s) aboard the ship. The certificates then remain in the Flag State's files.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Heidi13 said:

While it looks like plastic, fire regs require it to be low flammability. During my shipyard days I attended many wind tunnel combustion tests on carpets, furniture fabrics and plastic furniture. As Cheng mentioned, they only smoulder, with no active flame.

 

Every product must come with a Flag State and/or Class Society approved flame test certificate. If no certificate was available, I had to schedule a burn test, with a TC Inspector before we could put the item(s) aboard the ship. The certificates then remain in the Flag State's files.

Heck, I had to get the flame retardant certificates for the real Christmas trees and garlands brought aboard the ship.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
26 minutes ago, chengkp75 said:

Heck, I had to get the flame retardant certificates for the real Christmas trees and garlands brought aboard the ship.

 

From this I gather that not only the furniture on the balcony must be flame retardant, but also everything inside the cabin and the rest of the ship as well? Except of course stuff that passengers bring.

 

Apart from real accidents some time ago, has it ever been tried to set fire to current cabins on purpose to see what happens? Like they tried to make a fire with a cigarette after the Princess incident?

 

There's probably some time when cabins are waiting in the shipyard before they are put on the ship. A perfect time to do a Mythbusters kind of experiment 🙂

 

The experiment is to see if and how they burn down on purpose in an extreme worst case scenario. The weather is hot and dry, a very angry guest smuggled a decent amount of gasoline on board and sets his own cabin on fire, twice the expected amount of various luggage in each cabin is scattered around, all dividers are removed, there are no sprinklers, nobody is around, huge fans are blowing, and the guests put up a huge banner along all cabins to celebrate their football club.

 

Not sure about the miles of hard to reach cables, but if everything except the lugagge simply won't burn, how can there be enough energy to keep the fire burning? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Bron_Holden said:

I wanted not unreasonably a proper explanation of why NCL have a blanket policy on the opening of such doors when other cruise lines don't. 

That would be a question that must be asked of NCL, and not here on the boards.

 

But I'm guessing the answer would be along the lines of "Because that's the policy we've set."  Pretty much any business can set their own policies, regardless of what other companies (in the same business) set as theirs.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Bron_Holden said:

Hi Guys

 

thanks for all your comprehensive replies.  I can confirm that the doors on our cruise ship could be opened with key.  I did try to speak to a rahter rude safety officer to explain my concern regarding fire and pointed out the fact that they could not be opened was also a fire hazard as one could become trapped in cabin if a fire broke out between the door of the cabin and the bed.  There are a number of electical points in this area and a fire could break out in corridor.  With a locked balcon door there is no chance of escaping via another stateroom.  Your only option is to jump or climb

You initially indicated the desire to open the balcony divider was for family/friends in an adjacent cabin. This is a reasonable request. However, I suggest mentioning the balcony as a potential escape route is not a safe or reasonable arguement, for a number of reasons.

 

All modern passenger vessels must meet strict fire loading standards, with all materials being non-combustible. Cabin and alleyway ventilation systems are designed for safety. Evacuation routes to the Assembly Stations are highly regulated with respect to signage, lighting, fire protection standards, etc. In the unlikely event of a fire, the crew are deployed to assist and direct passengers to the Assembly Stations. None of these protections apply on the balconies.

 

Fixed fire extinguishing systems are very also very effective, being high pressure water that creates tiny water droplets, which  almost instantly knock down and extinguish even large fires. Only sailed with these Hi-Fog Systems once, but the demonstrations were extremely impressive. While activated, the extinguishing medium is not hazardous to human life.

 

If you experienced an electrical fire in your cabin, on a modern ship, I see no reason why you will not have time to vacate the cabin into the alleyway. If you experienced a fire in an alleyway, you head in the opposite direction. In the extremely unlikely event you experience fire in an alleyway, on both sides of the cabin - you remain in the cabin, as the ventilation is designed to keep smoke out.

 

I have completed numerous risk assessments on these subjects and although fire aboard ship is a serious issue, the risk factors in the cabins are fairly low. In summary, marine regulations for fire safety are significantly more stringent that those for homes, hotels, etc. I would be more concerned about escape routes at home, or in a hotel than I am aboard a ship.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, chengkp75 said:

Heck, I had to get the flame retardant certificates for the real Christmas trees and garlands brought aboard the ship.

Ha Ha - fortunately we escaped that one, although we used fake trees. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, AmazedByCruising said:

 

From this I gather that not only the furniture on the balcony must be flame retardant, but also everything inside the cabin and the rest of the ship as well? Except of course stuff that passengers bring.

 

Apart from real accidents some time ago, has it ever been tried to set fire to current cabins on purpose to see what happens? Like they tried to make a fire with a cigarette after the Princess incident?

 

There's probably some time when cabins are waiting in the shipyard before they are put on the ship. A perfect time to do a Mythbusters kind of experiment 🙂

 

The experiment is to see if and how they burn down on purpose in an extreme worst case scenario. The weather is hot and dry, a very angry guest smuggled a decent amount of gasoline on board and sets his own cabin on fire, twice the expected amount of various luggage in each cabin is scattered around, all dividers are removed, there are no sprinklers, nobody is around, huge fans are blowing, and the guests put up a huge banner along all cabins to celebrate their football club.

 

Not sure about the miles of hard to reach cables, but if everything except the lugagge simply won't burn, how can there be enough energy to keep the fire burning? 

Affirmative, all the ship equipment & furnishing, etc must be fire rated. I worked with the Transport Canada Naval Archs testing individual equipment at a local approved laboratory with a wind tunnel. I have observed a few types of carpet (wool/nylon blend), various upholstered furniture, plastic, etc. Have never seen a modular cabin burned. They also complete a calculation of fire loading for each space.

 

When testing various modern extinguishing systems they normally use burn tanks for the demos.

 

Fires in modern cruise ships that gain a hold are most likely in the Engine Room or Galley, where they have sufficient fuel to keep burning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Heidi13 said:

Affirmative, all the ship equipment & furnishing, etc must be fire rated. I worked with the Transport Canada Naval Archs testing individual equipment at a local approved laboratory with a wind tunnel. I have observed a few types of carpet (wool/nylon blend), various upholstered furniture, plastic, etc. Have never seen a modular cabin burned. They also complete a calculation of fire loading for each space.

 

When testing various modern extinguishing systems they normally use burn tanks for the demos.

 

Fires in modern cruise ships that gain a hold are most likely in the Engine Room or Galley, where they have sufficient fuel to keep burning.

 

Then why bother about dividers between cabins being open? If the cabins simply don't have the capacity to keep themselves burning, let alone get hot enough to get cabins next to them burning, I'd want as many dividers open as people want. Firefighters would have quicker access and guests would have another route to escape. How would an insurer not like that?

 

The engine room is obvious, but the galley? Once burning, I can see how frying oil can keep burning but all around it there's is nothing but metal and food that contains so much water that it could be used to stop a fire. Also, when the oil is hot enough to burn there must be enough crew around to find the blanket that solves the problem immediately.

 

The engine room is dangerous because there's fuel I guess. Would it be possible to have the fuel stored in tanks that are attached to the side of the ship and could be released into the sea in case of a fire? Or, much less environmentally friendly but necessity knows no law, could a ship simply release all of its fuel in case a of a fire?

 

 

 

 

Edited by AmazedByCruising

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...