The short answer is yes, and the strange thing is, it's thanks to the Titanic disaster.
When people think of a cruise ship disaster, they often think of the Titanic. The iconic disaster has played on the minds of cruise passengers ever since. Some say it was because the ship was so large, some because the number who died was so high but there were a couple of main factors that made the Titanic such a tragedy. Firstly, the ship only carried 20 lifeboats. This was adequate to carry 52% of the passengers on board. The builders had designed the ship to be able to carry 48 lifeboats but unfortunately White Star line, the owners made a cost cutting decison that 20 would be adequate on this ship that had been advertised as unsinkable.
Secondly, the freezing cold waters were leathal to those passengers who jumped into the sea after the lifeboats were full. At those temperatures, rescue would have to be immeadiate in order to survive.
White Star line were not committing any crime by only having 20 lifeboats. In fact, the law of the time stated that the Titanic should have 16 lifeboats so in fact, White Star line was adding more than was legally required. The Titanic also carried collapsible lifeboats and floats, the latter of which could not protect the passengers from the cold.
However, after the Titanic disaster, the cruise industry was so affected by this tragedy, that numerous safety conventions were established most of which were included in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, often known as SOLAS.
The introduction of SOLAS saw prescribed numbers of lifeboats and other emergency equipment being made law along with safety procedures. Part of this also included ensuring the radio was continuously monitored using a couple of radio watches and a back up system, as an additional failiure on Titanic was some ships not hearing the emergency broadcast and some ships mistaking flares as private ship to ship communications.
SOLAS exists in modern day law. Since it's introduction in 1914, there have been ammendments to ensure the best standards are maintained, including advances in technology such as the removal of morse as an emergency code. SOLAS was last updated in 2010, where more chages were brought into force.
In terms of safety for passengers, the existance of this list of safety requirements, which is adopted worldwide, ensures the high levels of safety for passengers no matter which cruise line or country they cruise to.
Another point to remember is that because major ship disasters is so rare, when one does occur, it is such a shock. With most forms of transport, there have been accidents, but when it comes to cruise ships, it really does go to show the saftey when, if asked, many people could not list more than five accidents, and that would include the Titanic, 100 years ago, completely different than if asked about planes, or trains or even buses.
Therefore, as strange as it sounds, passenger safty today is excellent due to the Titanic.
You can read a related article on lifeboat drills here - Lifeboat drills
Whilst this article was being written, the news of the Costa Concordia was announced. Cruising4holidays.com passes condolences to those families affected by the Costa Concordia capsising.