Children, Cruise ships, Pools and Supervision

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Considering the tragic events posted yesterday about two children, ages 4 and 6 who drowned in the adult pool on the NCL Breakaway; one being revived and one dying on the scene, I had to seriously consider if I was going to share this post. I had written it yesterday morning, before the news broke, because of my experience while on-board the same ship, the morning the children died. All I can think of, is this was such a needless tragedy that was easily preventable. I am deeply sorry for the family who suffered an unimaginable loss, for the crew and staff who had to witness it and to the guests who will forever be impacted by this horrible event.

For people who like to Cruise with your family, there are so many options available if you want some adult time without the responsibility of constantly supervising your little ones. Norwegian Cruise Lines have an amazing, complimentary kids program. There is well-trained staff responsible for children’s safety, so that you can enjoy some time away from them while still knowing they are well taken care of. Parents or caregivers are given a beeper or handy phone to stay in constant communication with the staff, so they can be reached immediately if needed.

One complaint many people have about children on a ship is when they see children running at large with no apparent supervision. I was on the Norwegian Breakaway yesterday (February 2) and I too saw the exact same thing. There were 2 little boys, perhaps 3 and 5 who ran the halls and the deck constantly, apparently by themselves, the entire duration of the cruise. I brought it to the attention of on-board staff twice, as we never did see them with a parent or caregiver. When you think of all the trouble a young child can get into by themselves, I do not understand the mindset of leaving a little one to their own devices.

Supervision of minor children is a parent’s responsibility. Unfortunately, some parents have very different ideas on how to parent responsibility. It is NOT the cruise lines task to supervise your unattended child. It is not the crew’s responsibility to parent your child. Nor is it the responsibility of other guests to ensure your child is safe and kept out of harms way. Young children need to stay in their parent’s line of sight 100% of the time, no exceptions. Accidents can happen under the best of circumstances but when children are left with no adult supervision, that is simple negligence.

If your child wants to use the pool, there is a child’s pool available to them and as a parent, it is your responsibility to be IN the pool with them while they are swimming or within arm’s reach of them at all times. This is the expected standard of care for every child using a pool on land and it is no different while cruising on a ship. Every Country, Province and State has their own version, but almost all are identical in content. Bringing children into the adult only pool is an inconvenience to the other guests. It is not an option, just because you do not want to be in the kids pool. I want to stress that the kids pool area is away from the bars on deck and the smoking room; it is located beside the Splash Zone, play area, rock wall and water slides. It’s 20 feet away from the adult area, so it is by no means in an out of the way location, as you can see by the picture.
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Other guests should not have to approach ships staff, to have the staff approach you, to remove your children from an adult swimming pool, when signs are clearly posted that children are not allowed to be there. The rules are there for the enjoyment of ALL guests, not to inconvenience you from doing what you want to do. The adult only pool is located in an adult area, with 4 adult only hot tubs, 2 bars and an enclosed smoking room to one side. If you feel that strongly that the “adult only” rules do not apply to you or your children, then perhaps a cruise vacation where a majority of your time will be spent in a public venue, is not for your family. Luckily there are many vacation options that can fully service families.
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If you have chosen to not place your children in the stellar on-board children’s programs, that are complimentary, but perhaps want to stay at one of the wonderful pubs, listening to music, or to continue a lucky streak while gambling in the casino and your young children do not want to sit quietly allowing you and the other guests to enjoy the entertainment, letting them run around the ship by themselves, is NOT an option. This is child abandonment which places the child at risk and places an undue burden on other adults who may feel a responsibility to protect the children and offer supervision while in their sight.

Children can not run back and forth from one end of the ship to the other, weaving in and out of other guests and climbing over chairs like an obstacle course. They are not allowed into the buffets by themselves to place as many deserts as they can on a plate before spilling the contents onto the floor, before running away. Your children, while confined to the safety of the ship are still exposed to a multitude of dangers from being left alone with no supervision. It is no different than leaving your child alone in a crowded shopping mall.

The majority of children and their parents are NOT an issue but for the 5% who seem to not understand public common courtesy rules or who fail to follow their parental supervision responsibilities, then it can make things frustrating for others. As a guest on a cruise, always bring dangerous or irresponsible behavior of children to the immediate attention of the staff or ship security, instead of trying to deal with it yourself by confronting the children or their parents or caregiver unless a child is in imminent danger.

Perhaps it’s time for ALL cruise lines to implement a Parental Responsibility Policy to ensure that there is a minimum standard of expectation when it comes to basic child supervision for children when on-board a ship. If a parent does not use the on-board programs to supervise their children and they fail to supervise their children so, then a clear series of consequences need to be enforced with a three strikes you’re out, rule.

STEP 1: Verbal Warning to the parents:  bring it to the parent or caregivers attention that the children under their supervision are exhibiting inappropriate behaviour. Remind them of their parental responsibility to supervise their children and ask that their children stop the offending actions immediately.

STEP 2: 24-Hour Removal with Parent/Ship Notification: If the inappropriate behavior does not stop, the offending child and one parent or caregiver will be confined to their cabin and out of public space, for 24 hours. Ship Security will be notified.

STEP 3: IMMEDIATE DISEMBARKATION: Any parent who fails to properly supervise their child/children putting either the child or other guests at risk, after being in a 24 hour removal, will result in either the immediate confinement of the entire family to their cabin for the duration of the cruise or immediate disembarkation from the ship. Parents and Ship Security will be notified.

I am personally tired of de-facto supervising other people’s children because their parents or caregivers are not doing an effective job. I am tired of worrying about the welfare of other people’s children, when they are left in dangerous situations by the adults responsible for them. I am tired of the sense of entitlement that some parents feel, that their children can do anything they wish and have no rules for their kids of how to act properly while on a ship. I am tired of seeing ship staff berated by parents who feel their children should not be told ‘no’.

If a family is on-board and the couple wants to relax and enjoy a vacation, and not supervise little children, then they should use the children’s programs for their kids so they have a safe place to play and explore. The physical and mental burden irresponsible parents are placing on other cruise guests and the ships staff, is unreasonable. They are YOUR children and you MUST take care of them, you MUST protect them and you MUST supervise them.

If you fail to do your duty as a parent, the consequences are far too severe to even consider. You are risking your child’s very life because you feel a sense of entitlement to do what you want, instead of what’s in the best interest of the child you brought with you onto the ship. And once confronted with your parental failure and explained how your children could be in danger, instead of being angry with the cruise line staff or other guests, how about you feel remorseful for the danger you willingly placed your child in?

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About travelonlywithjodi

As a Canadian living in a country of such great diversity, the experience of vacationing throughout the world brings you a deep appreciation for the beautiful world around us as well. Spending money on travel is like investing in your soul. Be inspired. TravelOnly with Jodi.
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