Are Cruises Safe?

The cruise ship industry is reeling after two deadly incidents in two days.

In the Caribbean Thursday, a huge fire broke out aboard one liner, destroying at least 100 cabins. One person suffered a heart attack and died. The day before, 12 passengers were killed when a tour bus carrying them back to their cruise ship in Chile plunged off a mountain road.

Concerns have also been raised recently about passengers disappearing from ships.

But Anita Dunham-Potter, a columnist who focuses on the cruise ship industry for, says taking a cruise is safe.

"The cruise industry is rapidly growing," she toldco-anchor Julie Chen on The Early Show Friday. "They're doing a very good job of keeping things in order. They controlled that fire pretty quickly, and unfortunately one man died, but it could have been a lot worse.

"I think the focus is more on cruise lines. They're a growing part of the travel sector. It's the fastest growing in the industry. Only 500,000 people cruised in 1970 and we have over 11.5 million cruising each year. And, that's expected to double in the next 10 years."

Rep. Christopher Shays (R, Conn.), who chairs a subcommittee looking into cruise safety, agrees it's safe to get on a cruise. But he told Chen the very statistics cited by Dunham-Potter "are the reason we need to look at this industry. They have every economic and ethical reason to want to protect their passengers, and I think they did, to the extent they controlled that fire.

"But what we want to get a handle on is what truly are the statistics, because there's also an incentive to downplay any problems that might be on board a ship."

Shays pointed out the waters are murky when it comes to which crimes ship companies have to report and which ones they don't: "Felonies, they have to report. If someone is murdered, but they say they're missing, that's not a crime, so they don't have to report it.