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Cruise Ship Drownings Give Way to Lifeguards…Finally

Cruise Lines Finally Start Using Lifeguards…After Many Deaths and Injuries


Cruise ships have seen many drownings and near-drownings of children in recent years. Virtually none of the major cruise lines would place lifeguards on their ships…until now.

According to The Miami Herald and New Times, Royal Caribbean, Disney and Norwegian Cruise Lines have installed lifeguards on most of its ships.  This is in response to at least a dozen drownings or catastrophic pool accidents in cruise ship pools in the past few years.

The addition of lifeguards occurred because of the civil justice system: the payment of expensive lawsuits and the attendant bad publicity of brain damaged children leaving their ships caused the cruise lines to reconsider their profit-motivated decision to not have lifeguards.

Because the cruise industry benefits from an archaic law known as the Death of the High Seas Act (DOHSA) – dating back to 1920 – there was little incentive for cruise lines to incur the expense of lifeguards.  The law has been roundly criticized for protecting wealthy interests, decreasing safety, and depriving victims of a remedy. The Act only allows for economic damages for a death that occurs in navigable waters. That means children and others who do not work have virtually no economic damages from their death.  There is no pain and suffering recoverable for survivors.  Thus the parents whose child drowned in a ship pool would have no recovery.

Carnival Cruise Line remains the only major cruise line refusing to employ lifeguards.

The only financial impetus for the cruise lines installation of lifeguards were substantial payouts for children who were catastrophically injured. For the deaths there is virtually no economic detriment to the cruise lines.   It took the devastating injuries to numerous children for the cruise lines to suddenly recognize the value of the small expense of having lifeguards at its pools.