Norwegian GemNorwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced today that it will hire lifeguards on certain of its cruise ships, according to a press release.   

The press release, which also advertises "27 dining options, award-winning entertainment, superior guest service and more across all of the brand’s 14 ships," states that NCL will finally employ "certified lifeguards" on a limited number of cruise ships this summer. NCL will hire lifeguards throughout the rest of the NCL fleet sometime in 2018. 

NCL indicated today that it will first employ lifeguards on its largest ships, including the Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway

NCL says that for the last several years it employed what it called "pool monitors" to supervise swimming pools on certain of its ships. These individuals, however, were not certified in advanced life-saving training by the American Red Cross.

Disney Cruises has hired lifeguards for the past several years, following a near-drowning of a four year old boy which caused significant brain injury and eventually led to a multi-million settlement for the lifetime medical needs of the child.

Royal Caribbean became the second cruise line to hire lifeguards when it announced two months ago that it would abandon its ill-conceived swim-at-your-own-risk policy which led to numerous drownings and near drownings on Royal Caribbean ships.  

In the past several years, several children drowned in swimming pools on NCL ships:

Two years ago, a 10-year-old girl drowned in a swimming pool aboard NCL’s Norwegian Gem.

In February 2014, 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.  

Following the drowning on the Norwegian Gem, a woman on the cruise who witnessed what she described a "truly horrifying scene" with her family, started a petition via change org to convince NCL to hire lifeguards. 

As I have written before, there has never been a public consensus regarding this issue, at least among people who pay for cruises. The majority of people responding to articles about children drowning in cruise ship swimming pools quickly attack the parents and even suggest that the parents should be arrested. Other readers selfishly voice petty concerns that they do not want to pay higher cruise fares if the cruise companies pass the costs of hiring lifeguards along to their guests.

The hard-core cruise fan site Cruise Critic asked its readers after Royal Caribbean adopted its new lifeguard policy:  "Do you think cruise ships should have lifeguards?" Only a little over 30% said "Yes, you can’t be too careful," with around 20% saying that lifeguards should be employed only "on ships aimed at families." 40% of the Cruise Critic readers said "No, it’s not their responsibility," which seems heartless considering how many children have died on cruise ships without lifeguards.

So congratulations to NCL for joining Disney and Royal Caribbean as the only cruise lines with a demonstrated commitment to trying to keep children, and other guests, safe around pools at sea. Hopefully, industry giant Carnival will eventually follow suit.

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

Image credit: Corgi5623 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

April 20, 2017 Update: gCaptain published Norwegian Cruise Line Hires Lifeguards After Multiple Child Deaths. gCaptain writes: "The need for Lifeguards aboard cruise ships was first highlighted in the a highly controversial expose gCaptain published in 2013: Deadly Distractions – Parents Question Cruise Line Policy As Boy Remains In Coma..

  • Keith

    The fairest way forward in my opinion would be for cruise lines to have nominal surcharge per child to cover the lifeguard cost, incorporated into the fare.
    Also, possible criminal charges pressed against adults who’s children are found unsupervised in pools, each case being assessed on merit of course.

  • Doug

    While a lifeguard is a good idea, this will only lead cruise ships to begin treating the pools like public pools with set hours for the pool to be open/closed, unless they plan to staff the pools 24-hours a day with lifeguards. And some cruise ships have multiple pool areas, so this can get to be an expensive staffing solution. I am not sure how well this will be received by cruisers in general, and those costs will have to come from somewhere.
    As far as a charge per child, I am not sure that this is really fair, considering a recent report of a drowning was an elderly lady. On the flip side, my wife and I never went near a pool on our first cruise, so is it fair for every passenger to pay a pool fee?
    It will be interesting to see how the cruise lines address this over the next few years.

  • John

    So tired of the whole lifeguard thing. I stay in hotels all the time and there is no lifeguards. There are no nurses or doctors either and a 911 call is at least 5 minute response. Compare that to cruise ship where a call for help will get you first responders doctor and nurses in less than a minute. People have to start being responsible in swimming pools and looking out for one another. I don’t think that every hotel should have a lifeguard nor that cruise ship should have them either. Also there is a zero sum game for crew berthing. So adding lifeguards will result in someone else losing a job and for other crew members to work harder. Lastly as Doug pointed out there is a real chance that pool time will start to get restricted. I enjoy freedom and do not need more restrictions and monitoring. So a big no to having lifeguards on ships.