Our cruise ship injury lawyers want to warn families about to take a cruise with their children to be extra careful to supervise them closely whenever they are using one of the ship’s swimming pools. This is especially important as virtually no cruise lines provide lifeguards. We find this extremely difficult to believe, especially in light of a number of recent tragedies that have killed and severely injured children who have drowned onboard cruise ships.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, death by drowning among children one to four accounts for more deaths than any other cause except birth defects. Yet currently no U.S. laws require cruise lines to provide lifeguards at their pools, and some of those ships carry hundreds or even thousands of children on every voyage.

Boy Drowns on Norwegian Cruise Ship

Our condolences go out to the family of a four-year-old boy who died aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway when he drowned in one of the ship’s swimming pools, off the coast of North Carolina. He and a six-year-old boy were airlifted to Carolina East Medical Center in New Bern with his grandmother and one of the ship’s nurses. He died on the way.

The Breakaway is one of Norwegian’s newest mega cruise ships with 18 decks and the capacity to carry up to 4,000 passengers. The ship, based in New York City, has a Manhattan-inspired theme, several swimming pools, and a designated aqua park for young children. Its Splash Academy provides supervised swimming for children ages 3 to 17. It is unknown if these kids were signed into care at Splash Academy or were supervised by family at the time of the accident.

Six-Year-Old Boy Drowns on Carnival Cruise Ship

This tragedy follows the death of six-year-old Quentin Hunter of Winter Garden, Florida, who drowned aboard the Carnival Cruise Line’s Victory in the midship pool, while at sea last year. That child’s death case was investigated by the Miami-Dade police department, which has found no foul play.

Boy Brain Damaged aboard Disney Cruise Ship

A Minnesota four-year-old was left brain damaged after a near drowning aboard Disney Cruise Line’s Fantasy. The boy was admitted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, where he remained unresponsive for several months.

Why are children getting hurt on cruise ships? One of the reasons is that both parents and the cruise lines fail to understand that these mega ships are giant floating resorts that require as much vigilance and supervision as children would need if their family were staying in a hotel in New York City, Sao Paolo, or Shanghai. But seduced into a getaway “vacation” mindset, parents are urged to let their hair and guard down and to relax and let the ship take over the baby-sitting and supervision of the children. That simply is not working.


Currently, Disney is the only major cruise line with lifeguards, a policy implemented after the child nearly drowned last year. Cruise lines feel that simply putting up signs saying “swim at your own risk” is enough, and they turn their backs on passenger safety. That is simply wrong, especially in light of the fact that cruise ships are offering passengers everything from giant margaritas to casinos and spa treatments that lure parents away from their children.

Even when parents are present, they are not trained lifeguards. That is an important distinction as many feel that if a child drowns on a ship, it is the parents’ fault for allowing the tragedy to occur. But parents who are sitting poolside do not have the experience or training to detect if a child is drowning, much less the rescue skills that lifeguards possess.

According to Mario Vittone, a former Coast Guard rescue diver and trained lifeguard, “drowning is not the violent, splashing call for help that most people expect.” Rather, “drowning is a deceptively quiet event” without the desperate yelling and splashing that people have learned to expect from watching movies.

We recommend that parents keep an especially close eye on their children who are using the swimming pools. One approach is to be in the pool with your child at all times. If you have to leave the pool, even for a few minutes, take your child with you. Do not rely on strangers and certainly not the cruise ship to protect your children.


For more than 20 years I have represented passengers who have been hurt on cruise ships, in cases against Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Disney, Holland America, Silverseas, or MSC. If you have been involved in an accident while taking a cruise, it is important to consult quickly with an experienced maritime lawyer to ensure that your legal rights are protected. Please call our cruise accident law firm today toll free at 1-866-597-4529 or email us for a free initial legal consultation.