Do Cruise Ships Need Lifeguards?

By Karen

Carnival Cruise Line just can’t catch a break but, this time, being Carnival had nothing to do with it.

On Oct. 13, a 6-year-old Florida boy traveling with his parents and 10-year-old brother drowned in the pool of Carnival Victory, on the last day of a 4-day cruise.

The boy’s brother was in the water with him, but it was the DJ working nearby who noticed the child struggling. Another passenger jumped in and pulled the boy out, and a crew member tried to revive him.

Today CBS This Morning had some maritime ambulance-chaser on, railing against cruise lines for not having lifeguards. There’s also some of that in the CNN report.

Carnival responded that this was the first child to drown on one of their ships, and pointed out that most hotels and land-based resorts don’t have lifeguards either.

If you could get your hands on the statistics, you’d probably find that fewer children have died on all cruise ships combined than anywhere else their families might vacation.

Drowning happens fast, and I’ve read that most sink quietly, without screaming and thrashing for attention.

Back when I was 13 or 14, I was walking beside a crowded public pool, a few steps behind my 4-year-old cousin, when she stepped over the edge into 5 feet of water. I immediately jumped in and pulled this struggling bundle from the bottom and heaved her out of the pool.

NOBODY in or out of the pool noticed what I was doing. Had I not seen her go in, my cousin would have drowned.

I feel certain it was the same scene on Victory, but 2 crew members DID try to help.

What I have seen on many cruise ships is that parents abdicate their responsibility for their kids, and don’t even bother to get them into ship-supervised programs where crew is dedicated to watching them. But I’m not saying this boy’s parents were at fault; I don’t know how they were handling childcare.

But you will see kids of all ages roaming ships in packs at all hours, doing disgusting things at the buffet, tying up the elevators, yelling, running, and being a total nuisance, while their parents are nowhere to be found.

I don’t think a lifeguard could have prevented the tragedy on Victory, nor do I think that cruise ships are ever the place for young children. They’re loaded with strangers, they have myriad trip and fall hazards, not to mention the possibility of going overboard.

What I question is the judgment of adults who think bringing young kids on a cruise is ever a good idea. And I fault cruise lines who promote the notion that their ships are amusement parks that happen to float. It gives people the wrong idea.


6 Responses to Do Cruise Ships Need Lifeguards?

  1. Tracy Moses says:

    Karen, I think you’re spot on and this is a specific (and very tragic) example of a larger problem I’m seeing (although I concede I don’t know the exact circumstances of this situation). Years ago I read something about our society becoming the “cult of the child” and it does seem to be true. Parents think every nook and cranny of our world should be kid-friendly and the rest of us have no right to expect a respite from their behavior (however natural it might be) or for the parents to be attentive. While I would never wish this on anyone, no matter the circumstance, it does illustrate that sometimes there’s nothing wrong with some things being “adults only”.

    I’m getting ready to go on a cruise myself next month and paying double for the privilege of traveling alone. While many complain that my cruise line is for the white-haired set, I’m rejoicing because it most likely means I won’t have to deal with the screaming, obnoxious, rude behavior so frequently demonstrated by kids these days (wow I sound old!). I can save the “get off my lawn” rants for when I return!

    It made me sad to read this story, though. I can’t imagine what they’re going through.

  2. Zappa's Mom says:

    When will parents realize that lifeguards aren’t babysitters.and for that matter babysitters aren’t parents?
    I’m off the subject here a bit,but,did you see the series that Jamie Oliver did about school lunch programs in the US? The first episode was shot in a school district in West Virginia with massive morbid obesity rates among adults and children. Long story short,he was told that certain foods could not be served because they would require knives and forks.The staff pointed out that most of the kids didn’t know how to use them because they weren’t used at home.He very incredulously replied that since they were TEACHERS they could TEACH their students how to use said utensils,since parents didn’t do so at home. I think I saw it on BBCAmerica,but I know Netflix has it.It was frightening

  3. Bacardi1 says:

    Wow, Karen – Carnival needs to start paying you some sort of publicist fee – lol!

  4. catsworking says:

    Bacardi, the irony is that after my cruise on Carnival Glory last year, you couldn’t PAY me to set foot on one of their ships again. But it wasn’t the kids behaving badly on that sailing, it was the adults.

    I’ve actually sailed on Carnival Victory (the ship where the boy drowned) twice, and it is a beautiful ship. That whole situation was just horrible. Imagine how the boy’s older brother must feel. He was in the pool, too.

    I don’t think cruise ships need more lifeguards. They need fewer kids. Yes, the ships do provide supervised programs and separate facilities, but too many kids are allowed the run of the ship by their parents.

    Tracy, I’m going to be making a 13-night transatlantic crossing on Royal Caribbean, and I snagged a balcony cabin for slightly less than $1,000 sailing alone. It’s a repo cruise with the ship straight out of drydock, so there could still be a mess of unfinished work onboard, but I couldn’t beat that price anywhere.

    PLUS, have you heard that Royal Caribbean has started awarding singles an extra loyalty point for every night sailed? I’ll earn 26 points for this cruise instead of just 13, which will put me within 2 points of Diamond status, one of the top tiers that gets a lot more perks and better discounts.

    ZM, don’t get my sister the teacher started on parents abdicating their responsibility to educate their kids at home. On the other hand, if the kids in WVA aren’t learning table manners at home, then they should be taught at school. The alternative is to let them grow up to behave like cavemen who can’t get good jobs, and just perpetuate the cycle of failure.

  5. MorganLF says:

    Ditto all on the dearth of parenting skills. I sat in a doctors office last week while a freakish Frankenstein headed little foreign child of about 4 or 5 screamed constantly in shrill foreign words, jumped on and off the furniture multiple times, flicked the light switch at least three times-plunging the waiting room into darkness railed at his parents…yes they were both there, ran relentlessly back and forth knocked over a table….When i could no longer take it i barked at him to stop, his parents then told him shhhhh. I was one second from wrenching his arm and shoving him into a chair…hard, but the nurse saw me and quickly ushered me into a waiting room.

    No child in my care…or presence ever got away with that. Countless trips to the city with a three and four year old to see the Nutcracker and every play Disney ever produced taught me that I needed to be ever vigilant and triple alert. Not once was there an incident and crying, smart talk? Nope, I did not allow it.

    So whats the deal with these parents who treat their children like Ming vases and refuse to step up? Its always someone else responsible. I feel for those parents really I do, but when I’m at a pool or the beach with a kid, I hover like a hawk…its really quite exhausting an entire cruise would be out of the question.

  6. catsworking says:

    I’m not talking about the parents of the boy who died because I know nothing about them, but I have seen so many parents on ships with shit for brains, it’s ridiculous. I don’t get why they even consider it a vacation.

    Once I was in a cabin beside a family with 3 very young children. Their cabin was 150 sq. ft. or less with beds taking almost all the floor, so they had to crawl over each other to move. Kids had to be bathed in a TINY shower. I didn’t need an alarm clock because EVERY morning I was awakened by the youngest one screaming.

    Morgan, you’re right that there’s absolutely no excuse for a parent to sit in a public place and let their kid annoy everybody. But it’s not the kid’s fault. He’s just being a kid. It’s the parent who deserves a good smack in the head.

    On cruise ships, some parents seem to think they’re on vacation from the kids. They put them in separate cabins alone and give them free rein to get into trouble. The ships try to corral the minor kids in special programs and play areas, but don’t force anybody to participate.

    Even though it’s forbidden, parents will bring infants in diapers into the pool. Kids will fill a pool, splashing and screaming, so adults can’t enjoy it.

    I once was seated at dinners with a boy about 10 and certainly old enough to know better, who would sit there every night with his head in his plate, whining like a 2-yr-old that he was tired, didn’t like the food, etc. His parents would at first ignore him, then try to reason with him, for WAY too long before sending him to bed so the rest of us could eat in peace.

    I’d have jerked that little shit up short on the first whine and said he could be in bed by 7 every night and forget about having dinner for the rest of the cruise, or he could sit up, behave himself, and show some respect for the other adults at the table.

    And don’t get me started on kids flying. If there’s one rotten brat on a plane, I’ll be seated beside it, without fail. I’ve been hit, sprayed with orange juice and Cheerios, had Gummy Bears stuck to my carry-on. One kid on one flight was so bad and so loud, other passengers came up to me after we landed to offer condolences.

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