Near-Drowning on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas Revives Cruise Ship Lifeguard Debate

May 28, 2014

(11:45 a.m. EDT) A 6-year-old boy is in serious condition after nearly drowning in a pool on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas yesterday, reviving the issue of whether or not cruise ships should add lifeguards to all onboard pools.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said that the boy was rescued from the swimming pool of the ship, which was currently on a seven-night cruise from Southampton to Spain. Although the boy was initially treated by the ship's medical team, he required additional attention, she said. “Therefore, the ship altered its course and sailed towards land in order to meet a rescue helicopter.”

According to the (U.K.) Daily Mirror, the boy was on holiday with his parents when the incident occurred. He's now recovering in a hospital in Brest, France.

CC member Whitelighter, who is onboard, said that the captain told passengers that the alarm had been raised by other children in the pool.

“The child was pulled out by adult passengers, 2 of whom had medical training and started a recovery immediately,” he wrote on the CC forums. “The ship's medical response team was on hand very quickly. There is no doubt that the actions of all involved saved the boy's life.”

Unlike the beach or public pools, most cruise ships do not have lifeguards stationed at their pools. Signs are always posted that warn passengers to swim at their own risk, similar to what you'd see at many hotels.

Currently, Disney Cruise Line is the only major line to have lifeguards stationed at its family pools onboard. The line made the change last September, six months after a four-year-old boy nearly drowned on Disney Fantasy.

Other accidents have prompted cruise passengers to ask whether lifeguards should be required. In February 2014, a four-year-old boy died and a second six-year-old child was airlifted to a hospital after drowning on Norwegian Breakaway.

According to the American Red Cross, families need to set stringent rules for water safety, no matter where they are. Their tips include:

*Always swim with a buddy, do not allow anyone to swim alone.

*Never leave a young child unattended near water and do not trust a child's life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water.

*Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.

*Always stay within arm's reach of young children and avoid distractions when supervising children around water.

*If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.

--By Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor