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Beware of Cruise Ship Holidays!
Posted on 23rd February 2015

Cruise ship holidays are experiencing something of a revival at the moment. Gone are the 70’s memories of The Love Boat to be replaced with floating luxury resorts catering for every need. With some the size of private islands these floating holidays are increasingly aimed at families with children, even babies. And here lies the danger.

As of 2014 only Disney employed lifeguards to watch their pools and they only did this after a fatal drowning of a 4 year old boy on their Fantasy cruise ship. That means almost all cruise ships offering family holidays have no means of monitoring their pools and the children using them. Leaving the responsibility solely to the parents or guardians of the children and it’s frankly not good enough. Many consider it corporate negligence that they do not supervise their own pools when they have clearly aimed the holiday at families with children.

Even children who can read “swim at you own risk” have no concept of what that means, especially when excitedly playing in a wave pool or queuing up for a water slide.

Interestingly Cruise ship operators are protected from huge negligence law suits by hiding behind an old Maritime law, also known as the “Death on the high seas act” This states that no emotional damages can be sought against a ship owner, this would include damages for pain and suffering, grief, bereavement and mental stress and pain. With virtually no financial consequence should a child die on their ship, the cruise line owners are not compelled or incentivized to change their policy. The employment of lifeguards would suggest they admitted responsibility for children, when clearly based on the law they don’t have to. As Children are not wage earners either, the chances of financial damages in the event of a child drowning are extremely slim indeed.

To their credit Disney now does employ life guards on its cruises but laughably as they are ruled by the USPH (United States Public health) children who are not completely potty trained and under the age of 3 cannot swim in their pools at all! Which must be a huge shock to those families taking toddlers on the toddler friendly Disney cruise ships for a holiday. I can well imagine the tantrums.

Cleanliness is an extreme issue on board cruise liners and the spread of Norovirus and cryptosporidium germs can of course contaminate an entire ship and lead to huge levels of sickness and diarrhea, as we have all read about. So clearly this potential risk needs to be take very seriously by parents of young children.

We all know paper diapers / nappies do not protect against faecal leaks in pools, so it is your responsibility as a parent to ensure you use a neoprene Happy Nappy when your child is in or around pool water and remove your child as soon as possible should they defecate.  Make sure the ship you choose has dedicated baby change rooms and that the nappy liner or disposable swim nappy used under the Happy Nappy is bagged and binned. Wash your hands and clear up after yourself to make sure the changing area is clean for the next baby.

If you and your family are tempted by a cruise do your homework.

  • Can your child play safely in the pools supervised by not only you but by trained lifeguards?
  • Can your toddler actually use the pool facilities at all?
  • Are there changing facilities especially for babies and toddlers
  • What time is supervision in and around the pool areas.
  • Are children allowed in adult pools? If so are there lifeguards?
  • Are there organized swimming activities and if so are the teachers/ supervisors trained in resuscitation?
  • Take a small inflatable paddling pool with you, that way baby can stay cool and splash in the day and also take a bath in the evening. Most cruise ships only have showers in room.
  • It’s better to be safe rather than sorry, oh and don’t forget to pack your Happy Nappy and take it with you. As it is still a discretionary product on board cruise ships you won’t be able to buy on board just yet. But we are working on it!

Happy sailing!