Are new safety protocols on cruise ships too little and too late?

Anyone traveling on a cruise ship would assume that a vessel navigating the open waters with swimming pools on board would naturally staff lifeguards. Yet, the second most popular cruise line to Disney has failed in the past to keep watch over a popular leisure time activity.

Following the drowning deaths of two eight-year-old boys in pools on their ships, one from Maryland in 2016 and the other from Texas in 2015, Royal Caribbean announced enforcement of a new water safety program. According to a statement, their objective is to “raise awareness amongst our guests about the importance of vigilance while enjoying water features on our ships.”

Starting in March, the following protocols will be in place:

  • Children at every pool on its fleet of ships will be supervised by lifeguards trained by StarGuard Elite during opening hours
  • Suggestions that parents of children from four to twelve years-old have them wear swim vests
  • All children and teenagers will attend a water safety presentation to educate them early in the cruise

The parents of the Texas child in the 2015 drowning filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Royal Caribbean, claiming that the ship was traveling in rough weather and high seas. They allege that the pool should have been closed due to pool water splashing out due to the boat rocking. In addition, the ship doctor did not reach the boy until five minutes after he was pulled out of the water.

Safety concerns have been raised beyond their fleet of ships. To date, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line have also lost passengers to drowning in on-ship pools, yet did not staff lifeguards either. Disney began requiring lifeguards in 2013, six months after a four-year old boy nearly drowned on one of their ships.

In their announcement, Royal Caribbean did not claim a link between the program’s implementation and the tragedies that occurred over the past two years.

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Steven H. Dorne

Attorney Steven H. Dorne

Attorney Steven H. Dorne is an accomplished lawyer who practices in state and federal courts in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. He brings more than 30 years of experience and a long record of success to each case. His law practice is distinguished by careful preparation and thorough analysis of each case...

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