This week I was saddened to hear of yet another drowning death of a child in the swimming pool on a cruise ship. I wish I could say I was surprised, but this is not the first time this has happened. Though there have been several incidences in the past few years, most cruise lines still have not done much about ensuring child safety on board. The best solution would be to have lifeguards during the hours the pools are open, but since most cruise lines seem to hesitate in making that decision, it is up to the parents to ensure their kids’ safety.
After cruising with our own kids for the past decade, I’ve come up with some helpful tips for other parents who can learn from our experiences.
Safety Tips for Before the Cruise
My family and I live in California, where nearly everyone has a pool, so for us teaching our toddlers to be water safe was a top priority. If you are planning a cruise trip with your child, consider investing in swim lessons prior to your trip to make your child a better swimmer or at least teaching him or her to float
Bring Your Own Life Jacket
Many water activity venues might not have a jacket that is your kid’s size; buy an inflatable or neoprene life jacket that you can pack and bring along on your trip. If you have a child with autism, have your child practice wearing it at home to get used to the ‘feel’ of it and not object to wearing it on the cruise ship.
Invest in a Drowning Alarm
There are currently several bracelet type devices on the market that make a shrieking sound when they come in contact with water. Having your child wear one can help alert the cruise line staff when and if your kid goes into the water.
Consider a GPS Device
A GPS device can be useful to trace older kids’ whereabouts on the ship and as well as locate special needs kids who tend to wander off. You should be aware that not all systems work well at sea, so you might need to check which device is best for you.
While on Board the Cruise Ship
Reiterate Pool Rules
If your child is keen on using the pool, go with them and explore the ship’s pools as soon as you can. While there, reiterate basic safety rules like staying away from the water slide exits or roughhousing with peers. Make sure to remind your kids to stay in the shallow areas close to steps or bars, especially if they are young or poor swimmers.
Do Not Let Young Children Wander the Ship on Their Own
As a frequent cruiser, I can’t stress that enough. Too many people board cruise ships and seem to let go of their common sense, proper judgement and basic parenting skills. Over the years, I’ve encountered kids as young as five unaccompanied in elevators, in pools even shopping on their own in ship’s stores. Even after many documented cases of accidental deaths, attacks, and rapes, some parents still foster the concept of “That won’t happen to me and my kid,” which is incredibly counterproductive.
As a parent, you are responsible for your child’s behavior and safety, so it is up to you to decide when and whether it is acceptable for them to explore the ship on their own. Unfortunately, some make the wrong decision. In most cases, a child should not really be allowed to go on their own before the age of nine especially to the upper sports and pool decks if they can’t swim and are not reliable enough to check in with their parents at designated. times.
Remember by following just a few simple steps, you can help make sure your cruise holiday is less stressful and doesn’t become a tragedy.