(7 a.m. EST) -- This weekend, passengers onboard Oasis of the Seas will notice a few new crew members hanging out by the pools -- licensed lifeguards. The lifeguards are just one piece of a new water safety program Royal Caribbean is implementing fleetwide that will also include water safety instruction and shipwide signage.
"We are a family brand," Lyan Sierra-Caro, Royal Caribbean's manager of corporate communications, said in a phone call with Cruise Critic. Pool-based fun is an "important aspect of the cruise vacation for all guests, and we are doing everything we can to ensure they have the safest vacation possible."
The lynchpin of the new water safety program will be licensed lifeguards trained through the line's partnership with StarGuard Elite, a water risk prevention and training consulting company based in Florida. At least one lifeguard will be stationed at every pool (including the Solarium) during all open hours, and will be noticeably visible in bright red and white uniforms. All have been hired specifically as lifeguards and will not serve in any other role onboard.
The program doesn't stop there; it will have an educational component as well, starting with a 15-minute water safety presentation during the Adventure Ocean open house session on embarkation day. The presentation is for kids and parents. Youth staff will also go over all water safety rules at both the Adventure Ocean Youth Evacuation Plan safety drill on the first evening and during the Teens 411 info session. Even the captain will mention water safety during the muster drill. Child water safety flyers will always be available at the guest services desk, as well as in Adventure Ocean.
Water safety reminders will not stop on Day 1. Cruise directors will mention water safety in their daily messaging, snippets of advice will appear in the daily Kids Compass and families will find colorful notecards in their cabins with safety reminders like "Play smart. Swim smart. Stay safe." or "Swim vests are best."
Swim vests for kids ages 4 to 12 will continue to be available, but signage will be added at the pool and in cabins to encourage parents with young kids to use them.
Additionally, water safety signage will be reimagined to be more noticeable. Signs will be individualized for the different pools and will be posted at towel stations as well. On ships with poolside movie screens, safety messaging will be displayed off and on throughout the day.
Sierra-Caro emphasized that lifeguards are not meant to replace the watchful eye of a parent. Children under 12 still require a parent or guardian to be present to swim in any pool.
Find out more about how to keep your kids safe at the pool, with Cruise Critic's cruise ship pool safety tips.
The entire water safety program will be rolled out to the Royal Caribbean fleet over the next four months, beginning with Oasis of the Seas and followed by 14 ships done by mid-April. All remaining ships will have the program by June 15, before the height of summer vacations begins.
The full roll-out schedule(subject to change)
Oasis of the Seas: February 26-March 5
Harmony of the Seas: March 7-11
Independence of the Seas: March 11-16
Anthem of the Seas: March 11-14
Liberty of the Seas: March 12-19
Freedom of the Seas: March 22-29
Allure of the Seas: March 23-26
Brilliance of the Seas: March 24-30
Quantum of the Seas: March 26-31
Ovation of the Seas: March 29-April 3
Navigator of the Seas: March 31-April 5
Serenade of the Seas: March 31-April 7
Jewel of the Seas: March 31-April 4
Rhapsody of the Seas: April 5-8
Majesty of the Seas: April 21-24
Empress of the Seas: April 24-29
Adventure of the Seas: April 26-29
Enchantment of the Seas: May 8-12
Grandeur of the Seas: May 13-18
Explorer of the Seas: May 15-26
Mariner of the Seas: May 26-June 4
Radiance of the Seas: May 28-June 6
Voyager of the Seas: June 5-12
Vision of the Seas: June 15-27
--by Dori Saltzman, Senior Editor