Yesterday, a young child drowned on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas, according to the website of cruise expert Ross Klein. A letter (below right) handed out to passengers states that the child was pulled, apparently unconscious, from one of the cruise ship's pools by a passenger. A medical team administered CPR on the boy which was not successful.
This incident will again raise the issue of why virtually all cruise lines do not assign lifeguards to cruise ship swimming pools. The problem is widespread and well known in the cruise industry.
As matters now stand, only Disney Cruises assigns lifeguards to cruise ship swimming pools. However it did so only after a 4 year old child nearly drown and sustained a catastrophic brain injury aboard the Fantasy cruise ship requiring life-time medical care and resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement.
This year began with a 4 year old boy nearly drowning aboard the Oasis of the Seas on January 3, 2015. Royal Caribbean. The Miami Herald published Near-drowning on Royal Caribbean cruise raises concerns about lack of lifeguards after that incident. Royal Caribbean also experienced a near drowning of a child on the Independence of the Seas in May of last year that left a 6 year old boy fighting for his life in a hospital.
I have long advocated for having a lifeguard at 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 cruise industry collects $45 billion dollars a year from passengers and pays virtually zero in U.S. taxes. It's shameful for every cruise line except Disney to refuse to hire lifeguards to keep kids safe.
In an article published earlier this year titled Cruise Ships Are Unregulated Trouble on the High Seas, the New York Times wrote that Congress has exempted these cruise ship behemoths from virtually all regulations. The Times characterized the last death of a child in a pool without a lifeguard as a problem with letting cruise lines regulate themselves.
Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have legal responsibility to parents and children on its 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.
I understand the concept of personal and parental responsibility. But I also understand that justice 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."