Local 10 News reports that a child is in critical condition after nearly drowning on board the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas this evening.  According to Channel 7, "officials said the young victim was swept under a wave pool and remained underwater for several minutes." The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said the child was under water from 5 to 10 minutes.

The ship promptly returned to Port Everglades.

The 4 year old child was rescued by other passengers. The child was revived on board the ship and taken to Broward Health Medical Center. 

I first learned of the incident when the Port Everglades webcam @PTZtv tweeted "#OasisoftheSeas Oasis of the Seas Drowning approaching berth #18 #PortEverglades o. . . for medical disembark."

There has been great debate in the cruise industry whether to employ life guards to supervise the activities around cruise ship swimming pools. Royal Caribbean experienced a near drowning of a child on the Independence of the Seas in May of this year that left a 6 year old boy fighting for his life in a hospital.

To my knowledge, Disney is the only cruise line to employ life guards on its cruise ships. However it did so only after a 4 year old child nearly drown and sustained a catastrophic brain injury requiring life-time medical care and resulting in a multi-million dollar settlement.   

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 last week entitled 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.  

Here are other articles of kids drowning or nearly drowning on cruise ships:

6 Year Old Drowns on Carnival Victory Cruise Ship

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

No Lifeguards for Children on Cruise Ships? Maritime Law Encourages Cruise Lines to Act Irresponsibly

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

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

I’m interviewed below in the video about legal issues about the safety for children around cruise ships swimming pools. 

January 4 2015 Update: Where did this occur on the Oasis?  The Broward County Sheriff’s Office refers to a "wave pool" but I didn’t realize that the cruise ship has one. He referred to deck 15 where the Flowriders are located but the water there is not deep enough to drown in.  A web site in Italy discusses this issue.

Miami Herald publishes Near-drowning on Royal Caribbean cruise raises concerns about lack of lifeguards.


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Photo: PTZtv


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  • tim

    Parents should watch their kids also on board a cruise ship. Ships crew is busy enough as it is. Should every hotel around the world employ life guards then to watch the pools? This is the parents responsibility and not the cruise line. I have a kid myself and when we go swimming I keep an eye on him to make sure all is good. Take your responsibility as a parent and don’t leave your brain and sense of responsibility at the dock before you leave the ship!!

  • Vanessa White

    You’d think this was rocket science! If you are a parent, and your child is in a pool, WATCH THEM. If you have no inclination to do so, leave them with grandma if you have to cruise. I disagree that cruiselines should have the responsibility to hire lifeguards. If you make the choice to procreate, understand that it brings 100% responsibility for that child until he or she is 18 years old. Stop blaming others or expecting others to take care of YOUR child. It’s nuts that this is even an issue.

  • Kathy Sanders

    The Flowriders are located on deck 16 and are ALWAYS attended. That would not be where this occurred. I believe it was in a pool on the starboard side of Deck 15, which is a kid area which included a raised, clear pool that takes the kids round and around in a circle, like a whirlpool. The clear pool turns different colors at night. The child would have had to walk up either a ramp or some steps to get into this particular pool. Lifeguards are a good idea with so many passengers aboard w/all the associated chaos and things getting “lost in the shuffle”.

  • Issues with the wave pool before

    Weren’t there issues with the wave pool before? Something about the wave pool being murky or cloudy? Its the pools that basically is round and the water goes in a circle isn’t it? I think all those pools should be marked with a height sign saying you have to be “X” tall to enter this pool, like they do at amusement parks. Too many kids get into these pools and can barely touch the bottom or can’t touch at all. And they need life guards. There is something going on with the Oasis class ships. This isn’t the first time they’ve had a near death experience with a kid and the pools. They are just constructed with too many obstructions so it’s its not really easy to see the kids from where the chairs are.

  • Barb

    Tim, I agree with you 100%. So many of today’s parents are a different breed. They don’t take responsibility for their own children. I see it everyday where I work, children running all over the place and the parent usually doesn’t know where they are. A big part of being a good parent is keeping your children safe and this is especially important on a cruise ship where there are so many areas of temptation for young children. It is the responsibility of the parent to keep close watch over their children, not the crew’s (or the store employee or the town who owns the playground they play at. Get my drift?) We have cruised many times and we have always felt safe and secure with our surroundings. The crews are very attentive at keeping everyone safe onboard and are visible everywhere. Yes, this incident was unfortunate but surely could have been prevented had the parent taken responsibility and been with that child, especially one that young. Enough said.

  • Jay

    Nice to see people commenting on the “real” source of the problem. The PARENTS, not the cruise lines. I have a 2 year old daughter and have been on 2 cruises with her already. My wife and I watch her 24/7, it’s what being a responsible parent is all about. If you want to sit on your lounge chair and drink margerihtas all day, leave your kids at home with a relative.

  • J

    I fill that only do you need to watch your kids on the ship the parents let their kids run wild in the department stores the resturants .I fill sorry that the parents lost their baby my heart and my prayers goes out to you .I have a 9 year old. and a 13 year old I still hold their hands when get out of the car going across the parking lot to the mall or grocery or etc. my grand kids think they are to old for me to hold their hands I guess I am from the old school if something should happen to any of my kids I would go crazy the parent are on vacation but the ship is not a baby sitter while on vacation they do have baby sitters but not at the pool it is the parents / 24 / 7 never an ending . I am so sorry for your loss parents please pay more attention with the kids on a cruise I can not swim I fear water but I love to cruise but I am a grown woman and I stay away from all pools for real no shame in my game God bless the families for their loses

  • Barb

    When you take children to the beach, playground or a cruise ship it is the sole responsibility of the parents to keep their kids safe by watching them constantly. If you want a VACATION leave the kids at home! Also “man overboard”…. what in the world was he doing to go overboard….sitting on a rail or drunk?
    I have been on many cruises and can’t see that happening unless from plain stupidity!

  • Kyler

    Just got off of the Oasis this morning. Found it interesting that they now had a crew member standing gaurd at the kid pool area most of the day, just that pool though.

  • Lizzie

    I know on the Carnival Paradise cruise I was on there was a life guard certified crew member at the top of the slide and there were crew members watching. Maybe not a life guard with a swimming device or anything but is it really needed in a pool that small? I think with a 4 yr old child it’s all on the parents.

  • Audrey

    To respond to the question about the exact spot where this near drowning occurred on Oasis of the Seas on Jan 3, 2015- I witnessed the entire debacle- it wasn’t in a ‘wave pool’ or the Flow Rider- it was a small circular pool right next to the ‘waterpark’ area on the main pool deck (Deck 15?). This small ‘pool’ swirls around and had approx 4-5 steps up/down to get into it (similar to a hot tub). The ‘swirling current’ was approx 3 feet deep and was pretty strong even for my older kids (9 and 7 at the time). It would have been incredibly easy for a young child to be overwhelmed in that pool. That child would have been saved (or not had long term injuries) if a crew member (even if it wasn’t someone who was lifeguard certified) manning that pool, stopping smaller children from entering. Not only was the entire incident horrific to witness, but the lack of preparedness and response times of the crew was disturbing. While one of the passengers pulled the boy out of the water and started CPR, I yelled to one of the wait staff to call for help and she just looked at me like she didn’t understand. I then ran to one of the bartenders to tell him to call 911/emergency and he told me to go ask someone else to call…I had to run to another bartender at a different bar…really? It took the medical team about 5 min to arrive (there are 13 decks between the medical facility and this pool deck & they were NOT running- I could see them get off the elevator). Apparently the mom had reported the child missing shortly before he was found but I did not see ONE crew member check the pool- something that should be done immediately upon the report of a missing child. Why was there no satellite medical station on a POOL deck that caters to young children (to get medical aid there faster when minutes count?). I am an avid cruiser but the whole incident left me not only shaken for this poor boy and his family but also gave me no sense of comfort that this crew could handle (or was prepared properly) an emergency at sea. If you market to FAMILIES as a vacation destination, you should have some responsibility in protecting the youngest cruisers.