Two months ago, I wrote that Royal Caribbean Cruises was advertising that it was going to hire lifeguards on its cruise ships. In our December 22, 2016 article titled Royal Caribbean Cruises to Hire Lifeguards, I noted that Royal Caribbean had reconsidered its policy of only posting “swim at your own risk” signs and providing life jackets for children.
Like other cruise lines (with the exception of Disney), Royal Caribbean did not previously employ lifeguards even though a number of children have drowned or nearly drowned in pools on its cruise ships. Children have been found motionless under the water in lifeguard-less pools on the Anthem of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and the Independence of the Seas in just the last three years. The children were 4, 6, 8 and 8 years old.
Other cruise lines experienced similar tragedies in their swimming pools. In the last 2 to 3 years, a dozen passengers drowned or nearly drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards. The cases primarily involved children. In addition to the Royal Caribbean cases, other cruise lines experienced deaths or near-drownings on their ships: Princess (4, 3 adults and one 8 year-old child), NCL (3)(ages 4, 6 and 10), Carnival (1)(age 6), and Disney (1)(age 4)(before Disney hired lifeguards). The near-drownings involved situations where other passengers rescued the children.
Last month, we learned that Royal Caribbean entered into an agreement with IAM Star Guard Elite. "IAM" is the acronym for Innovative Attraction Management, LLC. IAM agreed to provide lifeguards as well as management, consulting, and risk prevention services to the cruise line IAM also also provide litigation support as part of its swimming pool related risk management services. IAM also scheduled an aquatics conference aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas at Atlantis, Paradise Island when the Royal Caribbean ship called on the port of Nassau at the end of last month.
Yesterday, with much fanfare, Royal Caribbean announced that it will staff all of its ships with lifeguards. The lifeguards will be dressed in bright red and white uniforms, and stationed at every pool, including the Solarium, during opening hours.
The new water safety program will include new signage and will be rolled out across all Royal Caribbean cruise ships over the next four months, starting with Oasis of the Seas.
Parents, of course, will still be expected to supervise their children. I have long advocated assigning a lifeguard to every pool on a cruise ship. Lifeguards are needed because parents are not perfect, and there is a natural tendency for parents to let their guards down when they are on vacation. Kids deserve to have their parents and the cruise line working together to keep them safe.
The Express newspaper in London covered the story and posted the results of a poll which indicated that the majority of its readers favored Royal Caribbean's new policy. 70% of the readers who participated in the poll said "Yes, it's a great idea" to the question "Should all cruise lines introduce lifeguards on board their ships?," with 30% responding "I don't think it would make a difference."
But there has never been a public consensus regarding this issue. The majority of people responding to articles about children drowning in cruise ship swimming pools quickly attack the parents and even suggest that the parents should be arrested. Other readers selfishly voice petty concerns that the cruise line may begin to pass the costs of hiring lifeguards on to its customers and they do not want to pay higher cruise fares.
The hard-core cruise fan site Cruise Critic asked its readers "Do you think cruise ships should have lifeguards?" Only a little over 30% said "Yes, you can’t be too careful," with around 20% saying that lifeguards should be employed only "on ships aimed at families." 40% of the Cruise Critic readers said "No, it’s not their responsibility," which seems heartless considering how many children have died on cruise ships without lifeguards.
Congratulations to Royal Caribbean for joining Disney as the only cruise lines with a demonstrated commitment to keeping children safe around pools at sea. Hopefully, other cruise lines like industry giant Carnival will quickly follow suit.
Photo credit: Lifeguard uniforms - Royal Caribbean PR via Express newspaper.