"Pool Rovers" Not the Answer to Lack of Lifeguards on Sapphire Princess

Sapphire PrincessInstead of hiring trained lifeguards in response to the drownings on the Sapphire Princess, Princess has tasked bartenders, dishwashers, and other crew members to add an hour of work each day to being "pool monitors" or "pool rovers".

The U.K.'s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) recently criticized Princess after a passenger drowned on the Sapphire Princess. The cruise line did not hire lifeguards around the pool, it failed to conduct a risk assessment and the ship employees had no training on CPR or pools safety. 

A second passenger, a child, also nearly drowned last month. The child sustained serious, permanent injuries in a pool on the same lifeguard-less cruise ship.   

Despite these two tragedies, Princess still refuses to hire trained and experienced lifeguards. Instead, supervisors in the hotel and food and beverage departments on the Sapphire Princess are instructing their employees, hired to work in the galley, bars or passenger cabins, that they must work an extra hour around the ship's swimming pools as "pool rovers."   

This is an unpaid position. It is not considered a part-time job. These crew members people have no training in CPR, they have no idea about lifesaving techniques and procedures, and they have no clue what to do in case of a real emergency. There has been no training for these positions. These are inexperienced and non-trained "rovers" playing by it by ear. 

Sapphire Princess is in service to the Chinese market now. That means that virtually 100% of passengers are from China and only Mandarin Chinese. Most crew members cannot speak Chinese. There is a significant language barrier on the cruise ship.  What will happen in case of a real drowning involving another Chinese passenger?

The "pool rovers" are just instructed to hold a radio and call the Bridge if they see someone drowning. 

This is hardly what the MAIB recommended when it released its recommendations following its investigation into the drowning on the Sapphire Princess. 

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Photo Credit: Spaceaero2 licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via creative commons / wikipedia.

10 Year Old Girl Drowns on Norwegian Gem

A young passenger, reportedly a 10-year-old girl, drowned in a swimming pool aboard NCL's Norwegian Gem while the cruise ship was 75 miles east of Myrtle Beach yesterday afternoon. 

I first learned of the incident on Twitter from CNBC's @RyanRuggiero who tweeted "The Coast Guard is investigating a death that occurred aboard the Norwegian Gem off the coast of NC. The investigation is still ongoing." He mentioned that the death involved a child drowning on the Gem.

This incident will rekindle the debate whether cruise lines should employ lifeguard their ships.

Norwegian GemThere have been a number of drownings and near-drownings of minors on cruise ships in the last couple of years. 

This is not the first time a child has drowned on a NCL cruise ship.

Last year, two small children were pulled from a pool on NCL's Norwegian Breakaway as the cruise ship was sailing from New York to the Bahamas. Both children were unresponsive. The younger child (age 4) died on the cruise ship. The other child (age 6) was medevaced by the Coast Guard. Read our article: Drowning Tragedy Aboard the Norwegian Breakaway: Where Are the Lifeguards?

All of the major cruise lines without lifeguards have seen children killed or seriously injured in the cruise ship swimming pools. You can read about the incidents:

A four year old on the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas January 2015.  

A six year old on Carnival Victory October 2014

A six year old boy on Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas May 2014. 

A four year old on Disney Fantasy March 2013.

The child on the Disney cruise ship was permanently and seriously injured. Disney paid a multi-million dollar settlement and began employing lifeguards on its ships. No other cruise lines have followed Disney's lead.

Inclined to always blame the parents and give the cruise line a pass?  Think again. Read: Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships?

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Photo credit: Captain-Tucker via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

Passenger Drowns in Swimming Pool on Sapphire Princess

The Shanghai Daily reports that a passenger on a cruise from Shanghai was found dead in one of the cruise ship's pools.

The newspaper says that Princess Cruises confirmed the death of the 29-year-old woman onboard the Sapphire Princess cruise ship. 

"It is thought that she drowned," according to the newspaper.

The cruise reportedly left Shanghai for South Korea's Chejudo Island on Wednesday. The woman was found dead in the swimming pool on Thursday. The Princess cruise ship returned to Shanghai yesterday (Sunday).

There have been a rash of drownings, or near drownings, in the cruise industry the last two years. Most of the victims have been children. 

A 6 year old boy was pulled from a swimming pool on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas in May this year. A 4 year old died and his 6 year old brother was injured after similar tragedies on NCL's Norwegian Breakaway, last February. A 6 year old child drowned on a Carnival cruise ship, the Victory, in October of last year. A 4 year child was seriously brain damaged after he nearly drowned on a Disney cruise ship, the Fantasy, in March of last year.

A 42 year old passenger drowned in a hot tub on the Carnival Dream last year. 

This death will reignite the debate whether cruise lines should employ lifeguards around the ship's swimming pools. Only Disney employs lifeguards on its ships, and did so only after the tragedy affecting the 4 year old boy who nearly drowned on the Fantasy

So far the facts are sketchy and there is no explanation how the drowning occurred.

We reached out to Princess and received the following statement:

"We are saddened to confirm that a female adult guest aboard Sapphire Princess has died from an apparent drowning in one of the ship's swimming pools. Our thoughts and prayers are with our guest's family and we are providing support and assistance to them during this difficult time. The incident is under investigation."

Near Death Experience Aboard the Independence of the Seas: When Will Royal Caribbean Hire Lifeguards?

Four days ago, we discussed the near drowning of a six year old boy whose heart had stopped when he was found on the bottom of a swimming pool on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas.

People contacting us say the boy slipped and struck his head. Other children reportedly pulled the unconscious boy from the pool. Royal Caribbean was not supervising the Royal Caribbean pool. 

Royal Caribbean, like Carnival and NCL, has no lifeguards assigned to its pools. Only Disney takes the responsible step of employing lifeguards on cruise ships.

Independence of the Seas Pool - LifeguardI have written at length about these type of situations.

Saving children's lives requires the joint efforts of the parents and the cruise line. Parents must obviously supervise their children, and the cruise line must supervise their pools.  If the pools are intended for adults only, then there must be cruise employees at the pools enforcing that rule as well as any other rules such as "no children," "no running on the pool decks" or "no horseplay." 

Contrary to what many people believe, a "no lifeguard" or "swim at your own risk" sign, without more, is legally insufficient to exculpate the cruise ship from liability.

Disney used to rely on "no lifeguard" signs, but after the near drowning death last year of a child who was rendered severely brain damaged and needs expensive lifetime care, the Magical Cruise Line now employees lifeguards throughout its fleet. It took only one prior incident for Disney to throw away the "no lifeguard" signs and do the right thing by assigning ship employees to the pools.

Today we were notified that a similar incident occurred previously on the Independence of the Seas. A concerned parents told us: 

"The same happened to my daughter, six years ago, who was age six at the time, on the Independence of the Seas. We had gone with large group of family and friends and it was our first full day at sea. All the kids were so excited and it was our first cruise so we didn't really know the rules or anything about the ship. The kids were running around on the children's area where the water fountains were, this area was a water area for kids, however, in the same area was a pool, which was really deep water, we had no idea and this is where my daughter jumped in, after following her cousin, who was eight months older than her and could swim a little. The pool was six feet deep, we checked afterwards and this was the deepest pool on the ship, even deeper than the adults pool, why this was put next to the kids area, I have no idea. My daughter could not swim and panicked, she tried alerting her cousin who tried to help but as she was so small too, she nearly pulled her down.

It was only by chance that my sister was walking past to go back to her room that she spotted them and had to jump in fully clothed to save her. We were only yards away but as this pool was right in the middle of area we couldn't see them."

It's easy to blame parents whenever they let their guard down for a minute. But its entirely foreseeable and predictable that parents, especially parents on vacation, will make mistakes - perhaps only for a few precious seconds.

Ignoring a prior similar incident when a child nearly drowns is a dangerous proposition for a cruise line. A prior incident provides "notice" of the danger and requires the cruise line to take corrective measures to prevent similar injuries or fatalities from occurring.

Putting away legal issues of liability, the best way to protect kids is to have the parents supervise the kids and the cruise line supervise the pools. 

That's why a responsible cruise line (so far only Disney) employs lifeguard to supervise the pools. 

How many other incidents will it take before Royal Caribbean does the right thing and hires lifeguards?

Near Drowning Aboard Independence of the Seas: Six Year Old Boy Fighting for Life in French Hospital

BBC News reports that a six year old boy was pulled from a swimming pool on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas yesterday. 

The AFP news agency says that the child's heart had stopped when he was found in the cruise ship pool.

BBC says that the cruise ship's doctor was able to re-start the boy's heart. The cruise line then requested that the boy be taken for emergency medical treatment ashore in northwest France by Independence of the Seas Swimming Poolhelicopter. 

A spokesman for a maritime agency in Brest, France said that the "child was found in a state of cardio-respiratory arrest at the bottom of the ship's pool."

This incident will be certain to trigger another debate whether cruise lines should staff their swimming pools with lifeguards. 

In the last year, four children six years of age or younger have drown or nearly drown on the major cruise lines, Disney, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Lines. None of these ships had lifeguards assigned to their pools at the time. 

A 4 year child remains brain damaged after he nearly drowned on a Disney cruise ship, the Fantasy, in March of last year.  A 6 year old child is dead after drowning on a Carnival cruise ship, the Victory, in October of last year. A 4 year old is dead and his 6 year old brother is injured after similar tragedies on NCL's Norwegian Breakaway, last February.

In our view, there is no excuse not to assign lifeguards to cruise ship pools. The costs is minimal and the need is substantial.  Yes, parents need to supervise their children but cruise lines need to exercise their corporate responsibility to supervise the pools, enforce pool rules, and be ready to perform CPR if necessary.

Here are two of our many articles on the issue:

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards?

Dangerous Disney Cruise Ship Swimming Pool: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

Disney is now the only cruise line which employs lifeguards, after the near-fatality last year. 

January 4 2015 Update: Another passenger performed emergency CPR on the child and saved him. Harpenden mum saves six-year-old from drowning on holiday cruise.

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Jolly Janner

Cruise Ships Without Lifeguards: Shame On You!

NC: Cruise Shihp DrowningIn the last nine months, four children age 6 or younger have drowned or nearly drowned on cruise ships.

A 4 year child remains brain damaged after he nearly drowned on a Disney cruise ship, the Fantasy.  A 6 year old child is dead after drowning on a Carnival cruise ship, the Victory.  A 4 year old is dead and his 6 year old brother is seriously injured after similar tragedies on NCL's Norwegian Breakaway.  

Cruise passenger Joe Boris, age 39, witnessed the NCL tragedies. He is motivated to convince the cruise industry to provide greater protection to children.

WTSB quotes Mr. Boris saying: "How can this happen? Why was there no lifeguard on board?" Boris said. "These cruise ships are money-making cash cows and to (make you) pay $11 for one drink. There's no reason why they can't supply a lifeguard at the pools."

"They boast on how this is a $900 million vessel holding almost 4,100 passengers, 1,600 crew members and they always say safety is of course their number one priority.  

"I honestly have to say to them, shame on you," Boris said. "Shame on you because there's no reason you cannot have or you shouldn't have a lifeguard present on board those ships."

There is absolutely no excuse for a cruise line, which pays absolutely no U.S. income taxes, not to invest in lifeguards. a dime from every passenger would more than pay for the lifeguards.  Here are some of our recent articles:

Dangerous Disney Cruise Ship Swimming Pool: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships?


WFSB 3 Connecticut

Drowning Tragedy Aboard the Norwegian Breakaway: Where Are the Lifeguards?

NCL Norwegian BreakawayNews broke tonight that two small children were pulled from a pool from NCL's Norwegian Breakaway as the cruise ship was sailing from New York to the Bahamas this morning. 

Both children were unresponsive. The younger child (age 4) died on the cruise ship. The other child (age 6) reportedly was medevaced by the U.S. Coast Guard accompanied by his grandmother a nurse from the ship.   

WBTW aired a video (below) of the sad events.

This is the third event in the last nine months involving children who have drowned or were permanently injured in cruise ship swimming pools.

The first tragedy involved a young child (also 4 yeas old) who slipped under the water on the Disney Fantasy cruise ship and sustained brain damage. You can read our articles below:

Dangerous Disney Cruise Ship Swimming Pool: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships?

Swimming Pool Mishap on Disney Fantasy Sends 4 Year Old to Hospital

To Disney's credit, it subsequently began to assign lifeguards to the swimming pools on its cruise ships.

The second recent event involved the death of a young child who drowned on the Carnival Victory.  Our article is below:

6 Year Old Drowns on Carnival Victory Cruise Ship

There is never an excuse when a child drowns in a swimming pool operated by an amusement park or cruise ship. Protecting children is the joint obligation of the parents and cruise line. There needs to be a combination of both personal responsibility and corporate responsibility to take care of kids around a pool.  

The Breakaway is suppose to be one of the newer and bigger cruise ships NCL offers to the public.  It is a shame that NCL decided not to assign lifeguards to the pool from where the children were eventually pulled unconscious.  What lesson did NCL learn from the Disney and Carnival tragedies?

The cruise industry will collect between $35 and $40 billion a year, tax free, but NCL won't assign lifeguards to the public pools?      

NCL apologized. However, cruising families with children deserve reasonable care exhibited by the cruise lines and lifeguards to watch over the public pools, not after-the-fact apologies.   


Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Dickelbers

6 Year Old Drowns on Carnival Victory Cruise Ship

Carnival VictoryThe AP reports that a 6-year-old boy drowned in a pool on Carnival Victory cruise ship on Sunday. 

Carnival said that this was the first time a child drowned on one of its ships.  

But just last month a 41 year-old passenger drowned in one of the hot tubs on the Carnival Dream. 

We reported the last time a major cruise line experienced such an incident.  The Disney Fantasy has a small boy rendered brain damaged when he nearly drown.  You can read our articles:

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships?

Dangerous Disney Cruise Ship Swimming Pool: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

I was quoted by the AP about this latest fatality:

"There is a great deal of debate on whether cruise lines should have lifeguards, according to Jim Walker, a Miami maritime attorney . . . " 

"This involves the debate between personal responsibility and corporate responsibility," he wrote in an email to the Associated Press. "Yes, parents should have responsibility for watching their children but at the same time cruise corporations have a duty to watch over the parents and children and provide a reasonably safe place for them to have a family vacation."

Dangerous Disney Cruise Ship Swimming Pool: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

Earlier this week I wrote an article about a 4 year old boy who almost drowned in a pool on the Disney Fantasy cruise ship.

I advocated having a lifeguard at every pool on a cruise ship, especially on Disney ships which cater to families with kids.  Lifeguards are needed because parents are not perfect, and there is a tendency for parents to let their guards down when they are on vacation.  And why shouldn't Disney do it?  Like Carnival, Disney pays no U.S. taxes on its enormous cruise revenues by registering its ship overseas. It has money to burn. 

Disney Cruise Ship PoolDisney also claims that it trains over 1,000 lifeguards each year for its resorts and cruise ships. 

Kids deserve to have their parents and the cruise line working together to keep them safe.

A few people agreed, but most were quick to blame if not condemn the parents of the child who was pulled from the pool. The comments on my Facebook page were harsh.

Today I received a nice email from a concerned cruiser. She makes some good points, which Disney should consider:

"Hi Jim,

My family and I disembarked from the Disney Fantasy in Cape Canaveral on Sat March 30. While we had a terrific time, I was saddened to hear that a 4 year old boy nearly drowned getting on that ship just hours later. That news has pretty much spoiled my good memories because I have trouble bearing to reminisce about my good time in the midst of another’s tragedy. My prayers are with the boy and his family.

While on our 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Fantasy (Mar 23 to 30), I noticed that the pool areas where extremely chaotic and in my opinion an accident just waiting to happen. The design of the “Donald Pool” where the boy nearly drowned is what I would consider unsafe. The pool is over 5 feet deep but has very small width and length. It cannot accommodate the number of kids on the ship safely without kids being jumped on and kicked in the head etc. Also, because of the very small length and width compared to depth, there is not enough room around the edges for parents to adequately supervise the children. When my kids were swimming I had a very difficult time finding any room around the pool to watch them. I tried to get into the pool with my children and the lack of room in the pool resulted in my being jumped on, kicked in the face, etc. Also, the perimeter of the pool has a shallow area that pushes parental seating (and therefore supervision) even further away and obstructs the view of the children in the deep water.

In addition, there is a gigantic screen TV showing Disney movies that easily diverts people’s attentions.

Crowded Disney Swimming PoolThere are a very limited number of deck chairs around the pools but these are inadequate to allow supervision of the children and often only serve to block the view of other adults relocated to being further back away from the pool due to its design. I was very uncomfortable that Disney had no lifeguards at the pool but they had more than one person coming around to the deck chairs asking if you would like an alcoholic drink.

Finally, Disney in most of its show’s encourages adults to relax and allow their kids to roam the ship unattended. In fact one of the comics that they have in their shows makes a joke about parents not letting kids out of their sight and says “it’s a ship, where can they go”!

The design of the pool, the atmosphere of the ship, the easy access to alcohol and the lack of lifeguards are simply drownings waiting to happen, no matter how vigilant the parents. Unless Disney makes some changes to their procedures, and assumes a better level of corporate responsibility, I unfortunately suspect we will see more drownings on the Disney Fantasy in the years to come.

With deep concern and prayers for all . . ." 


April 8, 2013 Update:  According to the Orlando Sentinel, the child is struggling with his recovery at the Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando.  

Photo Credit: USA TODAY

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships?

This weekend, there was a "near drowning" of a 4 year old boy on Disney's Fantasy cruise ship.  

The incident reportedly occurred during the afternoon when a family boarded the Disney cruise ship and before the ship sailed. The boy was pulled from the pool, apparently non-responsive, and had to be taken to an emergency room at the Cape Canaveral Hospital, and then airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. Fortunately this happened while the ship was in port so the child could be rushed to receive emergency medical treatment rather than a few hours later on the high Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship Pool Near Drowningseas where no such assistance would have been possible.

The latest word I heard was that the boy had survived, and was stable and recovering.

The parents of the child were reportedly not at the pool but arrived when the boy was rescued. The parents were soundly criticized by cruise fans on the Disney boards and the Cruise Critic on-line community.

People have posted comments on my article on Facebook criticizing the parents. Some say things like there are no lifeguards on any cruise ships, which all parents should know. Others say that the passenger ticket states that the cruise line does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising out of swimming pools. Still other say that there are signs on cruise ships saying that there are no lifeguards on duty and that swimming is at the passenger's risk.

I understand the concept of personal and parental responsibility, having two boys who my wife and I are raising. But I also understand that the law also demands corporate responsibility as well. It's easy to criticize a parent when a child is injured; we are all perfect parents when it's not our child, aren't we? But I find that those people who are quick to blame parents when kids are injured and who talk incessantly about "personal responsibility" are the first to defend corporate malfeasance and use the term "personal responsibility" as code words for condoning the complete absence of "corporate responsibility."     

Cruise lines like Disney have legal responsibility to parents and children on Disney cruise ships. A "no lifeguard on duty" sign does not legally exonerate a cruise line, or a hotel, or an amusement park.  It simply raises the issue whether the sign was legally conspicuous enough to provide an effective warning to the parents.   

It is inexcusable for Disney not to assign multiple lifeguards around the ship's pools. Is it correct that Disney Cruise Line has no lifeguards at all?  If so, that's reckless. Yes, parents need to be responsible, but they will make errors. Reasonable safety can exist only when there is both personal responsibility and corporate responsibility. 

A friend brought to my attention that Disney advertises that it has well-trained lifeguards on its cruise ships and in its parks.

In a 2008 publication entitled Walt Disney Report on Safety, Disney states that it trains over 1,200 lifeguards a year, including on its cruise ships. Here's what Disney states:   

"Lifeguard Training"

"Together, the Disneyland® Resort, Walt Disney World® Resort and Disney Cruise Line® train more than 1,200 lifeguards a year to monitor activities at these venues."

"Our lifeguards must complete a thorough training program that exceeds most U.S. standards and includes both a water-skills test and up to 24 hours of basic training in water rescue techniques, CPR, basic first aid, oxygen administration and the use of AEDs. After completion of basic training, lifeguards must also perform four hours of in-service training each month, undergo eight hours of recertification Disney Resort Drowning Deathtraining every year and participate in frequent unannounced audits by one of the world's premier aquatic safety service providers."

Is this bait-and-switch?  Does Disney tell the public that its kid-friendly resorts and ships have well trained lifeguards but in reality it does not have any?

Last month, a 13 year-old boy died at a Disney amusement resort near Epcot which had no lifeguard. You can read about that death here.

Disney issued a statement after the dream-vacation turned into a nightmare. The Imperfect Parent quotes Disney saying that it was "saddened" by the death and " . . . our hearts go out to his family, friends and loved ones. We have reached out to his family to offer care and assistance during this difficult time.” 

Families don't need after-the-fact condolences.  They don't need "no lifeguard" signs. They need some of the 1,200 lifeguards who Disney claims it trains each year doing their jobs at the pools in the Disney resorts and on the Disney cruise ships so that no other children are killed or seriously injured when their parents are imperfect.

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Photo Credits:

Disney Fantasy cruise ship pool - Fodors

Disney resort pool - Wikipedia via Daily Mail