Do Cruise Ships Need Lifeguards?

October 15, 2013

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.

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