A young passenger, reportedly a 10-year-old girl, drowned in a swimming pool aboard NCL’s Norwegian Gem while the cruise ship was 75 miles east of Myrtle Beach yesterday afternoon. 

I first learned of the incident on Twitter from CNBC’s @RyanRuggiero who tweeted "The Coast Guard is investigating a death that occurred aboard the Norwegian Gem off the coast of NC. The investigation is still ongoing." He mentioned that the death involved a child drowning on the Gem.

This incident will rekindle the debate whether cruise lines should employ lifeguard their ships.

Norwegian GemThere have been a number of drownings and near-drownings of minors on cruise ships in the last couple of years. 

This is not the first time a child has drowned on a NCL cruise ship.

Last year, two small children were pulled from a pool on NCL’s Norwegian Breakaway as the cruise ship was sailing from New York to the Bahamas. Both children were unresponsive. The younger child (age 4) died on the cruise ship. The other child (age 6) was medevaced by the Coast Guard. Read our article: Drowning Tragedy Aboard the Norwegian Breakaway: Where Are the Lifeguards?

All of the major cruise lines without lifeguards have seen children killed or seriously injured in the cruise ship swimming pools. You can read about the incidents:

A four year old on the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas January 2015.  

A six year old on Carnival Victory October 2014

A six year old boy on Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas May 2014. 

A four year old on Disney Fantasy March 2013.

The child on the Disney cruise ship was permanently and seriously injured. Disney paid a multi-million dollar settlement and began employing lifeguards on its ships. No other cruise lines have followed Disney’s lead.

Inclined to always blame the parents and give the cruise line a pass?  Think again. Read: Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships?

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page


Photo credit: Captain-Tucker via Wikipedia Creative Commons 3.0

  • ida

    & where were the parents; guardians of ALL these children? Let’s not blame 100% the Cruise LINES. Overall a very sad situation. 😢

  • Riversongs

    WHERE were the parents? A parent would not allow their child in a pool at home without watching them, why would they allow their child in a pool anywhere else? Especially on a ship where everyone is “partying”.

    A life guard would help, but actually the majority of passengers are adults. Children on cruise ships NEED to be watched by their parents. A cruise ship is NOT a giant playground to let your kids run free on.

    Yes I have a son. I would never not watch him around a pool.

  • Dottie Fitzgerald

    Been on 18 cruises and have seen kids in the pools with no parent in sight. I can only wonder what are the parents doing??? I am not on a cruise to watch after someone else’s kids, sorry for their loss but don’t blame the cruise lines, it’s not their responsibility or other passengers to watch their kids.

  • Ward

    I was just on the Oasis of the Seas 2 weeks ago and was surprised to see that they did have a lifeguard in the children’s pool area. Hopefully that trend will continue expanding.

  • Joan Stach

    Sorry for parents lose, but I am NOT a babysitter on my cruise. When my son was young I made sure I ALWAYS watched him while he was in the water. Now parents allow their children into adult areas to run and scream oblivious to the rules. There are areas for children so they are safe. If parents want to party, place the kids in a children’s program where they are supervised. Nice to see little ones walking throughout the ship with their pots and spoons to bang on as they go on their merry way. Each child wearing a colored wrist band. That’s the way to go!

  • Piratebhoy

    I worked in this business for 12 years. I have first hand knowledge of the “pool game” onboard many companies NCL included. Lifeguards are no gaurantee that drownings won’t happen. How many happen on land with a LG present? Lots. This should not be a lets bash the cruise industry. I agree there needs to be steps taken here. BUT I am willing to state right now that 90% or more of the accidents involving children on the pool deck are e due to the negligence of the parents. I have seen more times than I care to count. I have seen and felt their wrath when an employee is admonishing unacccpetable behaviour on the pool deck , in the pool or on the slide. People in uniform are treated as playground supervisors while mum and dad get their drink on and tan their pasty white bods. Sitting or lying down 58 feet away from a crowded pool is not keeping an eye on your child. because no one else is. While I think the Lines should invest in LG It should also educate and remind parents that ultimately they are the ones responsible for the children should an accident happen.

  • PhilCompton

    Having worked on a cruise ship for many years I have always said there should be lifeguards on all pools like there are ashore. Sort it out Cruise Lines.

  • Jessica

    If the parents didn’t teach their kids to swim, that’s their problem.

  • Estell

    Tragic. My heart and prayers go out to all the families of these children. However, just like at home. If there is no lifeguard on duty, for whatever reason, at a public pool, beach or even your own back yard, parents/guardians are responsible for their own children. These cruise lines should be held accountable.

  • If parents are prone not to pay attention, that’s more reason why the cruise lines should employ lifeguards around the pools.

  • M Wright

    If I can watch my two sets of twins there is no excuse of parents of singles. I don’t understand why parents think they can go on vacation and not be a parent. You wouldn’t let your child go unattended to a hotel or motel swimming pool. It’s a cruise ship any different?? You are a parent for life. Your children are your responsibly. If you know your kids can’t swim why would you let them go out by themselves. Do you not check out the swimming area before hand? Must not if you let your kids go off by themselves.

  • David Castro

    I honestly think they should have lifeguards anywhere near a pool where kids are present, cruise ships can get very crowded, specially the pool areas, so even watchful parents can lose sight of their kids no matter how attentive they are….

  • Evan

    Parents need to watch their kids in the pool just like they have to do at home, its not the cruise line responsibility to be a babysitter.

  • Suzie

    This is tragic and my heart breaks for this family, however,it is a parents responsibility to be watching their kids on these ships. The rules and regulations are made well aware. Bottom line is you know there is no lifeguard. If you don’t want to watch your children get a babysitter and leave them home. Children are a 24/7 responsibility if you don’t want to put in the time required don’t have them. Bar/waitstaff is trained for emergency but a cruise ship is not a free for all.

  • Heather

    It would be an added bonus for these ships to hire lifeguards but it remains the parents responsibility to look after their own kids.There are programs for daycare aboard the ships if you want down time. You wouldn’t take your child to the beach and just drop them off so why would you just let them run unsupervised here.

  • Michael Voight

    Lifeguards would mean the cruise line has a greater liability. Without lifeguards, the liability is basically on the parents. It’s about money, and parents need to watch their children

  • Micheal:

    Cruise lines have a legal duty to exercise reasonable care for all passengers, adults and kids. Not employings lifeguards is unreasonable. It’s an intentional decision by the cruise lines not to exercise any care to protect children. Not hiring lifeguards doesn’t shift liability to the parents. It creates liability on behalf of the cruise line.

    Everyone agrees that parents need to supervise their kids but they often fail to do so. Not hiring lifeguards takes away any possible safety net, so to speak, to keep kids from drowning.

  • Joe

    Bottom line parents need to watch their kids. It is not the ships responsibility. Just because you are on vacation does not give you license to stop being a parent. While it is very sad. I 100% blame the parents

  • Doreen

    Where were the parents? As a parent and now as a grandparent, I don’t take my eyes off my kids/ grandkids for a second. Whether at a playground, pool or beach. And often find myself watching other lone children, wondering where their guardians are. And I should not have to do this. A lifeguard, alone, is not a solution. Parents should never be “on vacation” from their kids, unless they have delegated a responsible adult to supervise them.

  • Jen

    Accidents happen to all of us and when they happen in the pool, a lifeguard is trained to respond in the safest way possible. I didn’t read anything in this article that said the parents weren’t watching their kid, or expected anyone else to do it. There weren’t any details about how this happened so who knows if the outcome might have been different if there had been a lifeguard present? Chances are it would have been and if you don’t think the chance to save at least one child from drowning in future justifies hiring lifeguards, then you can’t have a soul.

  • Julia

    I was on the Gem two summers ago with my then 7 year old daughter. It was EGREGIOUS what was going on on that ship and when I got back home to NYC you had better believe that I was on the internet complaining to NCL that it was a tragedy and catastrophe waiting to happen as many of the kids were unsupervised and diving into the pool. they were big kids unsupervised and endangering the little kids. parents cannot be expected to watch constantly as I did because I was a single parent glued to watching my daughter but I had also to defend many other little people who were left unsupervised with semi adequate swimming skills. I remember telling NCL in August of 2013 “it is just an accident and death waiting to happen” and I urged them to get a lifeguard. THey refused to act on my eyewitness account. Too bad I didn’t save my email Perhaps the parents of that little 10 year old would have their baby today.

  • Cheryl

    First, I would like to say that this is a tragedy and my prayers go out to the family and those involved, including the staff that I am sure tried their hardest to revive this little girl. I am sure they all wish they had been successful in their attempts. Second, I have travelled with a lot of inattentive parents on both cruise and land tours. I have traveled on several cruises with both my children, grandchildren and children of other family and friends. They never left my site unless they were in the approved child day care program that was available onboard. And I still went and checked on them frequently when they were there. I have witnessed children of all ages swimming unsupervised, running in hallways, up and down stairs, playing on elevators and running in dining areas where servers have trays of hot food and beverages. As several others have stated, I am not on vacation to babysit other people’s children. If you aren’t prepared to watch your children, leave them home. Or pay to bring a responsible person with you on the cruise that you can trust with your children. We have also done that in the past. And no, we are not “rich”. The responsibility for watching children belongs to the parent. Lifeguards would be great, but the primary responsibility for watching children belongs to the parents. Lifeguards should not be depended on to watch your children. They should be there as a second pair of eyes. Again, my condolences to this family during the tragic time. I will keep your daughter and your family in my prayers.

  • Sharon Johnson

    Usually there are others in the pool when a child drowns and no one notices. It is NOT their responsibility. What makes anyone think a life guard is always going to see a child in danger? All children should have flotation devices and a parent watching at all times. Sure the parents.

  • JEFF E


  • CD Bild

    So all of your perfectly attentive parents have the answers now don’t you? It is astonishing to see not only the lack of sympathy for these parents but your judgmental, know it all stance of ignorance. I am unable to paste a URL here, but I urge everybody to Google “Drowning Does Not Look Like Drowning”. There is a propensity to believe that a drowning person will flail and wave their arms and cry out for help, that cannot be further from the truth. Educate yourself about drowning before you make further fools of yourself by saying that that would not happen on your watch. Want to bet? Rise above your hubris, do it for your children.

  • not ur buisness

    My deepest regards to those families who have lost a love one. Yes, parents/guardians should always keep eyes on the kids. Now think about this… How many of us have been in a department store with a younger child and all of a sudden they are no where in sight? You call out for them and get no response. Finally after 30 agonizing seconds you hear laughing coming from a clothes rack and they think it’s funny cause they’re “playing”? To a company who promotes “kids sail free”, they need to be more responsible!!!!!!!!

  • Dawn

    CD Bild
    Thank you for saying what really needed to be said. This can happen to any parent. We all want to think that we are the most attentive and perfect people, but tragedy can happen to anyone. It is very true that someone can drown right in front of someone, and they may not notice. I feel sad for everyone who is judging people for something that they know nothing about. There could be so many different scenarios that played out here, yet almost everyone is blaming the parents when they do not have all of the facts. That is sad. These parents are suffering enough, and now they need to be dealing with the masses blaming them when no one here knows all of the facts. I am happy something like this has never happened to me, but I do know that it could have been me no matter how diligent I’ve been. Everyone needs to realize this. Good night.

  • jo

    suspect cruise ships feel that their liability is less if they do NOT have a life guard…ships have abundant staffing for everything…and it is not about spending a few extra bucks to hire life guards…but rather what they believe will be increased liability if they do have life guards…need to have them, these are kids lives….

  • kalikok

    I agree with both sides…where are the parents?….why aren’t there any lifeguards on duty. The bottom line is parents should stop blaming anyone but themselves. If you leave your child unattended, for any reason, you are leaving them vulnerable. Shame on you! They do not know what is wrong or right and what is dangerous or not. Grown adults still have that problem. However on the other hand, I notice that a lot of the cruise lines that advertise are trying to target families. If you’re going to do that, then you better create a family safe environment. Yah, spend thousands and millions in hiring certified lifeguards. Saving one life is worth way more than that!

  • Nicole

    It’s the PARENTS responsibility to watch their own children! This makes me sick! I bet the parents were just sitting at the bar or casino! Stop bringing your children on vacation if you are not going to watch them! Disgusting!

  • sharon

    parents should be with their children by/in the pool. signs are posted all around that there are no lifeguards and parents are responsible for the kids.
    it’s sad but parents need to be more aware!

  • Angela

    Where are the parents? I would never allow my children to swim ANYWHERE without my presence. What is wrong with people these days?

  • Mary

    Why are the parents blaming anyone but themselves? It is your responsibility to make sure your children are safe and accounted for at all times but especially near water. I never had a near drowning of my daughter as I kept my eyes on her at all times and I started giving her swimming lessons when she was 3.
    It is heartbreaking but the parents need to admit their own fault in all this.

  • Lucy

    I did not see anyone behaving in a self-righteous manner. They are making valid observations. And to Jim Walker, why are you assuming that the comments are from arm chair parents? That would indicate they never had children. And just because the parents need to accept responsibility, and that is the general consensus, doesn’t mean that there is not sympathy. Perhaps, Mr. Walker you feel it is acceptable to not watch your children at all times and make sure they are safe. In that case I shall keep your children in my prayers. In the mean time my prayers go out to the parents who lost this little girl.

  • Lucy:

    Of course parents need to supervise their children. But they are human and sometimes make mistakes. When we had pool parties for our kids, we hired lifeguards at both ends, not because we were inattentive but because we are responsible. It’s reckless for a cruise line not to invest in child safety.

    Kids deserve the efforts of parents and genuinely-concerned cruise lines with trained and experienced lifeguards. This crowd is fixated on blaming the parents while letting the cruise lines off of the hook. That’s no recipe to prevent the next child from drowning.

    It’s not an either / or situation. You need both to keep kids safe.

  • Debbie

    Ignorant parents…..where were they???

  • Cathy

    I wish they would just leave the kids at home! It would be safer for everyone.


    We have worked almost 20 years onboard NCL in middle to high rank positions and know for a fact that while everyone giving their opinion above on this very sad accident has a bit of truth in their comment, the reality is that it is overwhelming to see the amount of children that are left running unsupervised all over the ship, and not to mention pool deck or any other deck for that matter, but alone in the cabins as well. Not to say this was the case, of course, but this is a comment for everyone out there who cruises with children. There have been instances when children are left alone to run all over the ship unsupervised, and other adults blame the cruise line for this. We have personally dealt with irate passengers who demand the cruise line take care of these children. Supervise them! There have been children who have had accidents inside a cabin, falling form a bunk bed or having a foldable bed close on them for jumping on it, or burn themselves with a hair curler…. Is that the cruise line’s responsibility? should there be a 24 -7 room steward watching cabins who have kids? Should there be kids running all over gift shops with glass cases and glass doors? What about those others in balconies, that their parents do not supervise? What about balcony and cabin doors that slam shut due to draft coming from open balcony doors that parents do not realize that at sea create this strong draft? What about those who are left alone up and down gangways, or who attempt to climb railings, jump down stairs, play in elevators, only to be stopped in time by a crew member who rushes to alert that kid of the danger of what he or she is doing….or some even on Dad’s or Mom’s arms, dangerously over railings just to pose for pictures? So many, oh so many instances of danger everywhere, and only some parents will pay attention when told. Others won’t. Because for some reason, there is this idea that once you enter a ship, your kids are safe to be let loose, as if the only thing to worry about is that they won’t get lost or be abducted. Yeah, they are in a “contained” environment, but full of dangers regardless of how many crew are employed onboard. While crew is very customer oriented, crew is not there to babysit, crew has their jobs, and a damn long schedule too at that, with almost no time to fit any supervising of unattended children. Nor should they have to. And while all previsions are made and there is constant safety being drilled into people’s heads by well trained crew, it still isn’t enough and it will never be. At some point, somewhere, there has to be a line drawn in terms of responsibilities. We are not referring to this particular case of course, as we do not have the exact facts of what happened to the little angel (heartfelt condolences to any parent that looses a child), or any other kids that might have had such terrible accidents. Who knows what happened here. It can take a second to drown, just a second. And in a crowded pool deck, were there is a mass of people on sea days for example, overcrowding any pool, you have to be a hawk in order not to let kids out of your sight at any time. As far as hiring life guards, we are of the opinion that’s a tough one. Our experience is that the cruise lines in general normally work with very tight manning and a life guard position would have to be a position for a person who does that during the day and something else during the night. Which professional Life Guard would do that? For example, be part of the entertainment team in the evening, or sell drinks, etc. They would have to hire two of them at least, as there are various pools and in order to allow work in shifts. That would mean another 2 or 3 beds destined for this position, which is not a position that generates revenue, so it will be a tough call. The cruise lines will give priority to positions which bring in money. Everyone else, is secondary. Also space is an issue in crew areas on some ships. Just explaining some ship realities.

  • Penny Lang

    While it is certainly a tragedy, it is not the cruise line’s responsibility. The adult(s) supervising the child/children are ultimately responsible for their own child/children’s safety.

  • Shannon

    I hate to say it, but people NEED to do their homework before going on ANY vacation. I’ve been on 3 cruises. I am 21 years old. If you look on the cruise lines website or actually decide to read signs or anything while on the ship, it CLEARLY says that “lifeguards are not available so SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK” oh and hate to say it, “anyone under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult to use the pool”. It’s not the cruise lines fault. where are the parents? I know adults want to have fun and let their kids run wild, but it’s not the other guests or the cruise lines employees to watch over your kids (unless they are the specific workers for the child daycare that the cruise offers for young passengers). So my advise, parents and kids READ THE STINKIN SIGNS ON THE BOAT AND READ THE FAQ ON THE WEBSITE TO AVOID ALL PROBLEMS!!

  • Linda

    I was on the Gem a few months ago. I usually cruise when the kids are in school, but this time it was during spring break. I was told there were 700 kids and it seemed like 5 parents were watching them. The hot tubs were only supposed to have 7 people in them and there were 17 including babies in diapers. Kids were racing through the hallways, buffet, pool deck etc. and there didn’t seem to be a parent in sight. One child was dancing on a table on the 12th deck while we were at sea, and the mother was right there. A crew member had to tell the kid to get down. Maybe offering unlimited drinks is a bad idea for people with kids. I’ve seen parents drinking mojitos at 9am. I knew it was just a matter of time before something happened, and yes I am a parent, and I never let my son go around the ship until he was much older than 10. If he went to the pool one of us was with him and watched him. It’s a tragedy that happened but maybe it will get parents to watch their children more carefully.

  • Andrew

    Im still on the Gem now. And i was right there. On this incident i can blame NCL.
    For their lack of effort. Passengers who were nurses and doctors did all the work while NCL workers watched and looked paniced. They did not know what to do. They kept telling the real nurses and doctors to stay away. I talked to one of the ICU nurses and she said they are handling it all wrong. They told her to move away meanwhile shes yelling at them on what to do. The girl had a pulse. But i believe she was underwater for too long. I watch my kids like a hawk. There were so many kids not being watched at all. I watch every kid including mine whenever im near water. Just so happens i get some food and come back and bam someone is pulling this kid up from the pool.
    Bottom line, NCL dropped the ball on this on big time. If you werent there then dont say a thing backing NCL. Cause they did absolutely nothing. The passengers came to the rescue. Applaud them. They were fighting for the kid while NCL looked DAZED.

  • John

    My wife and I witnessed this tragic event right before our eyes while on board the gem this past week. My wife is a registered nurse and tried to help, but was told “they were handling it and to stay away”.

    After the incident she was completely upset with the lack of treatment she witnessed by the staff personnel. That poor girl was being worked on by inexperienced people, pool side for more than 15 minutes before being rushed down to the medical center.

    As a parent traveling with 3 kids, I agree it is our responsibility to “watch our children”. However the pool deck was really crowded at that time, and with those crowds it was very easy to lose sight of your kids.

    The family pool is 5′ – 6′ deep, which is very dangerous IMO for children and inexperienced swimmers. I’m amazed that NCL wouldn’t employ trained lifeguards with that setup.

    The bottom line is an innocent child died, and my heart goes out to the family.

  • Me

    I was on that ship 🙁 the shallowest part was 4’11” (our ship is beautiful though)

  • Debby

    I was also on the Gem last week I just left the pool but my friends where still there and we feel there should not let the kids go in the hot tub and it is full with kids and you shouldn’t be in a hot tub no longer than 15 min and the kids are in them all day the kids go from the hot tub to the pool from hot to cold is not good. and lifeguard is very needed not just to save a child or person but we don’t go on a Vacation to have to see something so sad and all we did was think about the little girl all week..I seen a pic of her and her family we seen the pic at the pic place they didn’t take it down untill my friend told them. she was a beautiful little girl. I will always remember this trip because of what happened to her.R.I.P.



  • Misty

    I was unfortunately the ICU nurse that one eyewitness spoke about in one of the comments. I agree that it is EVERYONE’s responsibility to watch children around water . They should have a lifeguard, and parents should also be watching. One thing that I have failed to find in ANY news article, including this one, was a lack of equipment. CPR can only go so far, and I personally believe that it was a lack of WORKING EQUIPMENT readily available that was the biggest factor in her death. It took over ten minutes to even get an AED, suction, or any form of medical supplies to the scene. I literally saw a NCL worker WALK to get oxygen. When suction arrived, it did not even work. When she finally was hooked up to the AED, there was no pulse (asystole) so she could not be shocked. It took too long…. I was at the other end of the 12th deck (pool deck) when this happened, and it took about 3 minutes to run from where I was to the scene. By time I got to her, she had no pulse. This was unfortunate, and I hope that this is an eyeopener to all cruiselines, as well as parents. And one more thing, I have been on the NCL Gem twice now, and I have NEVER seen an AED throughout the ship. There HAS to be more medical equipment throughout the ship, not just on the 4th floor (literally 8 floors down from the pool!). There has to be equipment readily available by the poolside. Rest in peace little angle, I am so sorry we could not save you. Please everyone, instead of arguing on who is to blame, please pray for her and her family, and that this will never happen again.

  • Maggie

    So sadlly to here that a young passenger past away during our crusing on that ship. I fail to understand why the practice’s of not having life guards. Personally this should always be mandatory. We as passengers and some with young ones we all presumed that cruse ships does not have risks. Some of these risks can be minimized if there is life guards on both ends of the pool on a station and two walking on both SIDS. Also controlling how many people entering in and out of the pool. These are just basic rules and common sense and all the life guards should always have CPR and some of degree of basic medical background.
    Most of all me deaply and heart felt condolences to the parents, family and friends of this family.

  • Elaine

    I think most people agree that the cruiselines are not to blame and parents should be present. I will be going on a cruise in a couple of months and taking my 4 year old for the first time. There’s no way I would even consider allowing him in the pool without me. When he’s in the pool I’m in the pool. When I’m sitting outside the pool he will be too. Having said that I do think that the cruise ships need to have lifeguards. I know it’s a parents responsibility to ensure the safety of their kids, but it’s not the kids fault they have idiot parents. Let’s not let the kids die to teach their idiot parents a lesson.