NBC’s Today show aired a special program this morning titled Why do some cruise ships lack lifeguards to watch children?  

In my opinion, the answer is simple: cruise lines are cutting corners to increase profits. Plus, cruise lines face no legal consequence if the child dies. The cruise industry doesn’t face financial accountability because a child’s life has no financial worth under the Death on the High Seas Act.

Lots of cruise fans like to assign 100% fault on the parents. However, that won’t prevent children from drowning in unattended cruise ship pools in the future. Cruise lines have a legal obligation to exercise reasonable care to keep kids safe. Not hiring a lifeguard is reckless.  A warning sign by itself won’t work. Kids don’t pay attention to signs. Some kids can’t even read. Small children can’t comprehend the risks involved, especially if they can’t swim.  

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) says that it attempts to manage pool safety for kids only by using signs. It’s a flawed policy that will ensure that children drown while on cruise vacations.



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  • CM

    Disney now has lifeguards on its cruise ships.

  • Nola M

    How about holding parents responsible for supervising their own children in public areas such as the swimming pool.
    I have been on many cruises, and I’m pretty sure that if you are with your child in pool and you are watchful and not drunk, your kid will be fine.
    I’ve been a lifeguard and trained in Water Safety Instruction, and it’s shocking to me that I spend time on a cruise vacation checking for children that are not being monitored while their parents are sunning themselves or drinking at the pool bar.
    For me, this is not a cruise issue, it’s a parenting issue.
    If you are not in the water, the child should not be in the water.
    If you maintain constant eye contact with a child while that child is in a pool on a cruiseship…it’s pretty certain that the child will not drown. Drowning does not happen immediately…it takes a while.

  • Nola:

    Parents should obviously supervise their kids; however, as you point out they are not perfect. Sometime they don’t pay attention. Your examples are good ones – they suntan by the pool and drink at the pool bar. These are compelling reasons to require lifeguards. The attention of both parents and the cruise lines are needed to keep kids safe.

  • Chase

    Sorry, disagree with you here. There are countless vacation resorts in Orlando (I highlight because, like cruises, it is a family vacation destination) that do not have lifeguards. Instead, guess what they have? That’s right, signs warning of such. And it’s perfectly legal and acceptable. Even under the stricter jurisdiction of U.S. law. So I don’t fault cruise lines for no lifeguards, it’s not their responsibility, it’s solely the parents’.

  • For many years I’ve been discussing the changes I’ve seen about private facilities using lifeguards less and less. In fact I brought it up at the NDPA conference two years ago and many people acted like what’s wrong with me, don’t I understand budget cuts…
    But these are private facilities that turn a profit and there is an enormous change. I’ve been an aquatic professional for more than 40 years. But when I was a child and we visited large hotels in Florida they always had guards. In New Jersey I trained lifeguards for private campgrounds and then the campground lobby got requirements changes there.
    My big point was that we aquatic safety professionals have not lobbied to require lifeguards the way the industries have lobbied to avoid the minimal cost. Certainly it is minimal compared to 1) loss of life 2) the financial costs when there is a drowning.
    Parents need to be far more vigilant and we need to educate people about this but certainly well trained lifeguards make a facility safer. I still believe it’s important that we as aquatic safety professionals advocate politicically for private businesses like Disney utilize guards.
    And & Nola- no drowning does not always take “a while.” It’s important that if you are a guard and a WSI that you understand that people can drown in twenty seconds. Your statement is misleading and dangerous. A lot of uneducated people believe that it takes ” a while” whatever ” a while is, and that misinformation needs to be countered.

  • Jennifer

    As a parent, and now a grandparent, I do not expect any establishment to be responsible for my grandchild’s safety, pool or not, unless you are paying them (IE babysitter). Expecting a lifeguard at a pool is adding additional expense of a cruise and therefore I would be subsidizing what parents should be doing anyway-watching their own children. If they don’t want to do that on vacation, then don’t bring them along.