The U.S. Coast Guard air stations in Atlantic City, New Jersey medevaced a passenger  from the MSC Divina cruise ship yesterday, March 19, 2019.

The MSC cruise ship was approximately 100 miles off Atlantic City, New Jersey.  The 52-year-old man was reportedly found unconscious on the ship’s pool deck. There is no explanation how or why the passenger was rendered unconscious. According to NJ.com, a rescue crew aboard a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Atlantic City loaded the man onto a stretcher, hoisted him onto the helicopter and flew him to Atlantic City Regional Medical Center. The mission was supported by an HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

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Video credit: Video by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodge, U.S. Coast Guard District 5 PADET Baltimore, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City via Defense Visual Information Distribition Service (DVIDS).

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.

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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..

Two months ago, I wrote that Royal Caribbean Cruises was advertising that it was going to hire lifeguards on its cruise ships. In our December 22, 2016 article titled Royal Caribbean Cruises to Hire Lifeguards, I noted that Royal Caribbean had reconsidered its policy of only posting “swim at your own risk” signs and providing life jackets for children.

Like other cruise lines (with the exception of Disney), Royal Caribbean did not previously employ lifeguards even though a number of children have drowned or nearly drowned in pools on its cruise ships. Children have been found motionless under the water in lifeguard-less pools on the Anthem of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and the Independence of the Seas in just the last three years. The children were 4, 6, 8 and 8 years old.

Other cruise lines experienced similar tragedies in their swimming pools. In the last 2 to 3 years, a dozen passengers drowned or nearly drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards. The cases primarily involved children. In addition to the Royal Caribbean cases, Royal Caribbean Pool Lifeguardother cruise lines experienced deaths or near-drownings on their ships: Princess (4, 3 adults and one 8 year-old child), NCL (3)(ages 4, 6 and 10), Carnival (1)(age 6), and Disney (1)(age 4)(before Disney hired lifeguards). The near-drownings involved situations where other passengers rescued the children. 

Last month, we learned that Royal Caribbean entered into an agreement with IAM Star Guard Elite. "IAM" is the acronym for Innovative Attraction Management, LLC. IAM agreed to provide lifeguards as well as management, consulting, and risk prevention services to the cruise line IAM also also provide litigation support as part of its swimming pool related risk management services. IAM also scheduled an aquatics conference aboard Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas at Atlantis, Paradise Island when the Royal Caribbean ship called on the port of Nassau at the end of last month. 

Yesterday, with much fanfare, Royal Caribbean announced that it will staff all of its ships with lifeguards. The lifeguards will be dressed in bright red and white uniforms, and stationed at every pool, including the Solarium, during opening hours.

The new water safety program will include new signage and will be rolled out across all Royal Caribbean cruise ships over the next four months, starting with Oasis of the Seas.

Parents, of course, will still be expected to supervise their children. I have long advocated assigning a lifeguard to 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 Express newspaper in London covered the story and posted the results of a poll which indicated that the majority of its readers favored Royal Caribbean’s new policy. 70% of the readers who participated in the poll said "Yes, it’s a great idea" to the question "Should all cruise lines introduce lifeguards on board their ships?," with 30% responding "I don’t think it would make a difference."

But there has never been a public consensus regarding this issue. 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 the cruise line may begin to pass the costs of hiring lifeguards on to its customers and they do not want to pay higher cruise fares.

The hard-core cruise fan site Cruise Critic asked its readers "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. 

Congratulations to Royal Caribbean for joining Disney as the only cruise lines with a demonstrated commitment to keeping children safe around pools at sea. Hopefully, other cruise lines like industry giant Carnival will quickly follow suit.

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Photo credit: Lifeguard uniforms – Royal Caribbean PR via Express newspaper.

Two weeks ago, we reported that Royal Caribbean was posting a job description for a lifeguard on an onboard crew TV channel on one of its cruise ship (Ovation of the Seas). 

We viewed this as good news after at least five passengers, mostly children, have drowned or nearly drowned in the numerous pools on the Royal Caribbean ships. Its refusal to previously acknowledge that its we-don’t-use-lifeguards policy was literally killing children was particularly frustrating to see.  

It now seems clear that the cruise line appears committed to ending its ill conceived swim-at-your-own-risk policy. This weekend several people notified me that the cruise line is publicly advertising the lifeguard and lifeguard manager jobs on several sites on the internet, such as here and here

These job postings link to a program called Star Guard Elite, which touts a "complete Royal Caribbean Lifeguardaquatic risk prevention and lifeguard training system unmatched in the industry." Last month, the Star Guard Elite website offered the job of a cruise ship lifeguard manager with Royal Caribbean. Its Facebook advertisement says: "Have you ever wanted to live on a cruise ship and see the world? We are looking for the best and brightest Aquatics Managers to join our project with Royal Caribbean."

This program is a product of IAM Star Guard Elite. "IAM" is the acronym for Innovative Attraction Management, LLC. IAM offers aquatic services including the providing of lifeguards as well as management, consulting, and risk prevention services.  It consults with a wide variety of water parks in the U.S. IAM also provides litigation support as part of its risk management services.

Not coincidentally, at the end of this month, IAM is offering an aquatics conference aboard the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas as well as at Atlantis, Paradise Island when the Royal Caribbean ship calls on the port of Nassau.

It seems that last year IAM StarGuard Elite joined the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association where it advertised CPR, AED, and water awareness services to cruise line excursion operators.

Although the cruise line has not publicly announced its association with IAM StarGuard Elite program, it seems that Royal Caribbean is finally headed in the right direction. So kudos to them.  It reinforces my opinion that today’s gigantic cruise ships with multiple swimming pools, water sides and jacuzzis are much more like a water park (which require lifeguards pursuant to state law) than a hotel (which typically doesn’t). Without lifeguards, future deaths of children on the increasingly huge Royal Caribbean ships with H2O parks, swimming pools and theme-park-like water attractions, seem certain. 

So Royal Caribbean will join Disney as the only cruise lines with a demonstrated commitment to keeping children safe around pools at sea. Hopefully, other cruise lines will quickly follow suit. 

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Photo credit: Boy drowns on Royal Caribbean – Jacab Priplett via Twitter via NY Daily News.

Carivanl Splendor DrowningLocal news stations in Miami are reporting that a two year old child nearly drowned in a swimming pool on the Carnival Splendor this afternoon.

NBC-6 says that the Miami Fire Rescue department responded to reports of a 2-year-old nearly drowning on a cruise ship, the Carnival Splendor, at the Port of Miami. The station reports that “the child was stabilized by paramedics and will be transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Pediatrics unit.”

With this latest incident, fifteen (15) passengers drowned or nearly drowned on cruise ships without lifeguards, including twelve children, over the past three years. After every such tragedy, many cruise fans quickly cast all of the blame on the children’s parents for not paying attention. But three adults drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards in just the last two years.

Lifeguards, of course, are needed on cruise ships. Lifeguards do more than just keep kids safe in pools. A certified lifeguard, trained in life saving measures, can immediately provide immediate CPR on the scene.

My view remains that children need a combination of trained and experienced cruise ship lifeguards and parents, closely supervising their children, to stay safe on today’s gigantic water parks on the high seas.

A child drowned on the Carnival Victory in October 2014. The Miami New Times wrote about the death of 6-year-old Qwentyn Hunter on the Carnival cruise ship with no lifeguards in Kids Drown in Cruise Ship Pools With No Lifeguards on Duty.

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Photo credit: NBC-6

Anthem of the SeasLast Wednesday, I received a number of messages from cruise passengers about an incident on board Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas regarding what was described as a woman (passenger) who either suffered a heart attack or nearly drowned in one of the ship’s swimming pools.

The cruise ship increased its speed to arrive back in port in New Jersey so that the passenger could receive shore-side medical treatment, although some people indicated that the woman died on the ship while it was returning to port.

This weekend, the Jersey Journal posted an article titled Cruise ship sped back to Bayonne after woman’s medical emergency in pool: Royal Caribbean. The article quoted one of the ship’s passengers who reportedly witnessed part of what happened when the Anthem was about halfway through its return voyage from Bermuda to Bayonne: 

"When we arrived in the area, she had just been pulled from the water and was unresponsive and had a pale/purple look." 

A press release issued by Royal Caribbean, however, downplayed the incident saying:

"On Tuesday, August 10, a 72-year old female from the U.S. onboard Anthem of the Seas was witnessed by guests having difficulty swimming in one of the ship’s pools. The guest was helped out of the pool, was initially treated by the ship’s medical team, but required additional medical attention. Therefore, the ship increased its speed for the earliest possible arrival into Cape Liberty, New Jersey for a medical evacuation. Royal Caribbean’s Care Team provided support to the guest’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with them."

The newspaper said that none of several area hospitals in Hudson County and Staten Island, or the U.S. Coast Guard for the New York/New Jersey area, or the Bayonne Police Department had "knowledge of any cases matching Royal Caribbean’s description of the incident."

Did the woman pass away after being pulled from the water unresponsive (or "helped out of the pool" as the cruise line euphemistically puts it)? Why wasn’t a medevac by helicopter requested? (We have reported on a prior medevac this June when a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flew 260 miles out to pick up ill passengers from a NCL cruise ship).

Royal Caribbean is no stranger to swimming pool medical emergencies. An eight year old boy died after being pulled from an unattended swimming pool on the Anthem of the Seas in June of this year. A four year old and a six year old nearly drowned in pools on the Oasis of the Seas and the Independence of the Seas respectively.

Before this latest incident, fourteen (14) passengers drowned or nearly drowned on cruise ships without lifeguards, including eleven children. After every such tragedy, many cruise fans quickly blame the children’s parents for not paying attention.  But three adults drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards in just the last two years. 

Lifeguards, of course, do more than just keep kids safe in pools.  A certified lifeguard, trained in life saving measures, can provide immediate CPR on the scene of a heart attack or other medical emergency.  

If a passenger suffers a near drowning or a heart attack, and a lifeguard is not on the scene to immediately provide CPR, it may be too late – for the medical team to run up from a lower deck on a huge ship, for ship personnel to decide whether to request a helicopter medevac, or for the ship to speed up to return to port. 

Photo Credit: By www.GlynLowe.com from Hamburg, Germany – Anthem of the Seas – Cruise Ship in Hamburg, CC BY 2.0.

Multiple news sources are reporting that Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas cruise ship turned around after leaving Bayonne, New Jersey because an 8-year-old child was found unresponsive at the bottom of one of the ship’s swimming pools this evening.

ABC-Channel 7 News NY says that the "8-year-old is currently on life-support."

Children drowning or nearly drowning in cruise ship swimming pools unattended by life guards is not an uncommon topic. 

Anthem of the SeasLast December, an eight year old child drowned in an unattended swimming pool on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas. The child was pulled unconscious from one of the cruise ship’s pools by a passenger. 

In January last year, a 4 year old boy nearly drowning aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas on January 3, 2015. The Miami Herald published Near-drowning on Royal Caribbean cruise raises concerns about lack of lifeguards after that incident.

In May 2014, a 6 year old boy nearly drown on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas and left the child fighting for his life in a hospital.

Last year, in an article titled 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.

All major cruise lines have lost children and passengers in swimming pools on their ships. Like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, NCL and Princess Cruises continue to refuse to hire lifeguards.

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 on the Fantasy 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 billions of 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 and to be trained and certified in life saving measures and CPR.

Read Thoughts From A Concerned Cruiser about cruise ship swimming pool safety before Disney hired life guards.

The Miami Herald covered the issue and interviewed me, reporting that there have been a dozen passengers who have drowned or nearly drowned in cruise ship swimming pools without lifeguards in the last 2-3 years involving primarily children: Royal Caribbean (4)(ages 4, 6, 8 and 8), Princess (4) (3 adults and one 8 year-old child), NCL (3)(ages 4, 6 and 10), Carnival (1)(age 6), and Disney (1)(age 4)(before hiring lifeguards).

July 11 2016 Update: The boy, identified as Prince Adepoju of Maryland, died on July 2, 2016, according to multiple media reports.

 

Photo Credit:  By GlynLowe, Hamburg, Germany https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46635956; Video Credit CBS-2 NY. 

 

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Sapphire PrincessInstead of hiring trained lifeguards in response to the drownings on the Sapphire Princess, Princess has tasked bartenders, dishwashers, and other crew members to add an hour of work each day to being "pool monitors" or "pool rovers".

The U.K.’s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) recently criticized Princess after a passenger drowned on the Sapphire Princess. The cruise line did not hire lifeguards around the pool, it failed to conduct a risk assessment and the ship employees had no training on CPR or pools safety. 

A second passenger, a child, also nearly drowned last month. The child sustained serious, permanent injuries in a pool on the same lifeguard-less cruise ship.   

Despite these two tragedies, Princess still refuses to hire trained and experienced lifeguards. Instead, supervisors in the hotel and food and beverage departments on the Sapphire Princess are instructing their employees, hired to work in the galley, bars or passenger cabins, that they must work an extra hour around the ship’s swimming pools as "pool rovers."   

This is an unpaid position. It is not considered a part-time job. These crew members people have no training in CPR, they have no idea about lifesaving techniques and procedures, and they have no clue what to do in case of a real emergency. There has been no training for these positions. These are inexperienced and non-trained "rovers" playing by it by ear. 

Sapphire Princess is in service to the Chinese market now. That means that virtually 100% of passengers are from China and only Mandarin Chinese. Most crew members cannot speak Chinese. There is a significant language barrier on the cruise ship.  What will happen in case of a real drowning involving another Chinese passenger?

The "pool rovers" are just instructed to hold a radio and call the Bridge if they see someone drowning. 

This is hardly what the MAIB recommended when it released its recommendations following its investigation into the drowning on the Sapphire Princess. 

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Photo Credit: Spaceaero2 licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via creative commons / wikipedia.

A year ago, I wrote about a passenger drowning on the Princess Sapphire Princess. The passenger’s death is just one of many mishaps where cruise passengers were killed or seriously injured in a lifeguard-less swimming pool on a Carnival, Disney, NCL, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Princess responded to our request for a comment at the time. After the obligatory "our thoughts and prayers are with our guest’s family," the cruise line refused to comment except to say that "the incident is under investigation."

Well, the investigation is over.  The UK’s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) concluded that Sapphire Princessthe cruise line’s use of a warning sign (stating that lifeguards are not on duty & persons using the pools do so at their own risk) was inadequate to reasonably safeguard its guests. 

The drowning occurred in the Neptune pool on deck 14 forward. The MAIB noted that the swimming pool was not supervised. The medical team, once it finally arrived, did a good job but was unreasonably delayed. Crew members who first responded were not trained in CPR. The victim was discovered by other passengers who were unfamiliar with CPR. The crew member (a Serbian) involved in calling 911 for emergency medical attention could not communicate with the crew member (an Asian) who answered the call due to a language barrier.

Princess had not performed a a risk assessment relating to hazards involved in the use of swimming pools. Princess also failed to assign designated attendants to the pool and failed to monitor the pool via CCTV.

The regulations on safety in swimming pools ashore "strongly indicates that constant poolside supervision provides the best assurance of pool users’ safety." However, it also recognizes that a risk assessment may determine circumstances where a safe swimming environment can be delivered without constant poolside supervision, which Princess did not conduct. The guidance specifically recommends constant poolside supervision with deeper polls and where food and drink are available to pool users, both of which applied to the Neptune Pool on the cruise ship.

Princess also failed to train their hotel staff in medical first-aid techniques or require such training prior to being hired.

The MAIB stated that "the lack of dedicated pool attendants potentially delayed the response to the incident in respect of raising an alarm and administering appropriate medical treatment. The monitoring of CCTV coverage of the area might have prompted an earlier response and would have given post-incident information."

The MAIB said, simply, that the "use of a ship’s swimming pools is a significant part of a holiday experience, and a passenger’s awareness of any attendant risk is likely to be lower . . . "

The report also stressed that "with no designated attendants at the vessel’s pools, it was left to other pool Cruise Shipping Poolusers and bystanders to recognize that (the victim) was in need of urgent assistance and to raise an alarm . . . had there been a dedicated pool attendant monitoring the passengers in the pool, the victim’s situation could have been identified at the earliest possible opportunity."

The MAIB concluded that ‘the staffing of pool areas with personnel who are suitably trained in medical first-aid would allow a more appropriate response to medical emergencies." 

The MAIB mentioned two further swimming pool accidents involving passengers on board Princess cruise ships – a drowning on the Diamond Princess on June 23, 2015, and a near-drowning on the Sapphire Princess on  August 5, 2015 which you can read about here. We are unfamiliar with the June 23, 2015 incident (does anyone have info?)

It appears that as of this late date, despite multiple incidents, Princess has still not even conducted a risk assessment for its pools nor has it assigned lifeguards or monitors to this dangerous location.  

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Photo Credit: Top – gov.uk MAIB; bottom – Pro Publica

A newspaper in Shanghai, the Shanghaist, reports that an eight-year-old girl is in critical condition after being found unconscious in the swimming pool of a Princess cruise ship last week.

The child and her mother, both from Shanghai, reportedly sailed on the Sapphire Princess, scheduled to call on ports in Japan and South Korea’s Chejudo Island.

The newspaper reports that the mother had taken her daughter to play in the “kiddy pool” and was lounging nearby when she noticed the girl was missing. Other passengers found the child unconscious Sapphire Princess Cruise Shipin a deeper pool. Surveillance film revealed that the girl had been struggling for some seven to nine minutes before she was discovered.

The child was put on a ventilator. She was eventually transferred to a hospital ashore in Shanghai, 12 hours later.

Princess had no life guards are on duty. Princess said that there were warning signs written in Chinese posted around the pool, stating that parents were responsible for supervising their children.

Warning signs are no substitute for attentive parents and alert lifeguards.

A 29 year-old woman was found dead in a pool on the same cruise ship a year ago.

This latest incident will spark a debate whether there should be lifeguards on cruise ships.

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  ten year old girl on the Norwegian Gem in May 2015.

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 boy drowned and his six year old brother was medevaced after nearly drowning in a pool on the Norwegian Breakaway in February 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.

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Photo Credit: “Sapphire Princess02” by Yankeesman312 licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.