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 sustained serious injuries which may be permanent in nature. 

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