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?

  • Astrogal

    Earlier this month, we sailed on “Oasis of the Seas.” My daughter and I were in the “whirlpool” in the Kids Zone that has a current where you go round and round. I suddenly saw a mom from outside the pool looking panicked and running into the pool. It turns out her son, who must have been only about 4 years old, was apparently having trouble keeping his head above water and was in distress. The mom went in and pulled him up and he seemed to be OK. The mom was angry at the other people in the pool who never noticed that anything was wrong, however that is the unfortunate nature of drownings – a child just often slips silently under the water without any warning and unless someone is there to see them, tragedy may result. Also, us other parents may have been too busy keeping an eye on our own kids to notice anyone in distress, and we couldn’t have been held responsible to babysit another person’s child when they as a parent have the ultimate responsibility for their own children and she should have been in the pool with him (it’s not a kiddie pool, as I said, it does have a current that moves you along so you can’t leave little kids alone in there, although there were). Also on this same sailing, an elderly woman apparently slipped and fell near the pool deck, hitting her head and there was blood on the floor. Crowds of people surrounded her as they took her away in a stretcher.

  • Marko

    Ok im not on RCCL payroll but I got to tell you that Indenpendance has a lots of swiming pools for children and there is no way any child could drown there.
    But if you allowed your child to go in pool with grown ups than it’s also your fault.
    Second thin, there are tousands of people up there. I find it very suspecious that a 6 year old child would go there unsupervised, and almost drown while others just stand next to it and watch.

  • Kristoffer

    Marko, the reason that thousands would not notice someone drowning is because media has given them a false image of drowning. I’d link you to Mario Vittone’s article “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning”, but he’s reorganized his site and it isn’t working right now.

  • Tracy

    Hi, I was poolside at the recent drowning of the young boy on Independence of the seas and I have to say it was horrific. nobody knows what happened, only that poor little boy and he’s in no state to tell us. The pool is deceiving whereby there is a shallow walking area of a couple of inches of water before it falls into deep water and you could very easily fall into deep water without knowing it. had a lifeguard been on duty, he / she may have been able to tell us but I do have to agree, I would be sitting alongside the pool watching my child and not leave a 6 year old unattended, but yes this may happen on holiday. there are signs saying no lifeguards, so again, you are told it is your responsibility to look after your child and I do have a 4 and a 5 year old so I do know what it is like. I will certainly now never ever take my eyes off my children in shallow or deep water after seeing what we saw on that day. RC should take part responsibility and employ lifeguards as on the rest of the holiday there were at least 3 security guards watching the pool all day!!

  • Tom

    I dont understand how any parent can rely on “someone” else to monitor or watch your own kids. I just dont get this mentality or expected sense of security. It doesnt matter if its a cruise, a vacation or holiday or a grand ole time. The responsibility and accountability will ALWAYS be on the ADULTS . In these unfortunate situations , it is the parents. Is it directly their fault per se, no – of course not. No parent wants to harm their own, but they play a big role in ensuring that no matter where their kids are – they are in an environment that is safe. Ive been on so many cruises and watch Parents just basically let their kids do anything they want. I understand, its a “vacation” but can you imagine if the cruises do get lifeguards? Soon they’l have to get babysitters and hall monitors too because often so, these parents dont use the best judement – rather theyll just continue using “others” as their false senses of security to do the job they should to begin with. Being said, I feel terrible for any of the situations above for any of the children and their parents – no one wants that, but its a clear reminder of how dangerous it can be and what we have to do to protect our children no matter where we are or what cruise you;re sailing.

  • chris

    i was on a cruise ship a couple of years ago and one small boy of about 4 was walking along the edge of an 8 ft pool when my wife beconed him away from the edge his mother came up and said its ok he can swim! but would he not panic in 8 ft of water? should he still not be supervised.
    i am sick and tired of some parents trying to make other people responsible for looking after there child.
    also if there are life guards the parents will think it is ok to leave there child and go of to the bar whilst the lifeguard becomes a babysitter.

  • Kristoffer
  • Gavin Dyer

    I have only sailed once on The Independence some 18 months ago and have to say that ALL staff went above and beyond with service. I have read the comments above and although i do not have any children I know my parents would have NEVER left as alone or un-supervised. It really is not fair to say that cruise liner’s need to supply lifeguards but as said above parents need to except that the kids are in a over excited mode being on holiday so need to make sure they know where and what they are doing at all times. I am not saying in ANYWAY any of the parents who have made comments above do not look after there children but i have witness that some are more happy to sit at a pool bar smoking and drinking and not knowing where the kids are or what they are doing. Parents need to except responsibility of the children at all times when on holiday unless they pay for them to attend a supervised play area which RC have on there ships if they want to have a break and relax.