Tourism & Cruises

Officials: Boy, 8, critical after near-drowning in cruise ship pool

An 8-year-old boy who fell into a pool on a cruise ship off the coast of New Jersey and nearly drowned is in critical condition, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The incident, aboard Royal Caribbean International’s 4,905-passenger Anthem of the Seas, occurred Thursday evening after the megaship set sail from Bayone, N.J. on a one-week itinerary to Bermuda and the Caribbean, according to media reports.

According to reports, the boy received CPR on the ship, which changed course and sailed toward Bayonne. New York City police officials say the boy was taken to a hospital on Staten Island.

The incident is another in a string of drownings and near drownings the major cruise lines have faced in recent years.

A similar incident on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas in January 2015, when a 4-year-old boy nearly drowned in a wave pool, spurred a lawsuit against the company to force it to post lifeguards at its pools.

Most cruise ships, like hotels, don’t have lifeguards on duty. Unlike hotels, the tight quarters on cruise ships makes pools more crowded and dangerous, said said Miami-based maritime lawyer Jim Walker.

“My view is that parents are naturally responsible for their children but it’s not an either / or [situation,],” Walker said. “I think you have to have both personal responsibility and corporate responsibility. Enough care to show the cruise line has been reasonable in providing a reasonably safe place for passengers to enjoy their cruise.”

Cruise ships are also protected by a 1920 law exempting them from financial responsibility in the death of a non-wage earner, such as a child or retiree, he said.

Though Royal Caribbean does not post lifeguards at its shipboard pools, it does post signs alerting adults to the “swim at your own risk” policy and provides lifejackets for children in a variety of sizes in the pool area, according to a spokesman for the cruise line.

At Carnival Corp., parent company of brands that include Carnival, Holland America, Princess, Seabourn, Cunard, Costa and Fathom, policy requires children under 13 to swim only with parental supervision.

About a dozen drowning or near-drowning incidents have occurred on major cruise lines in the last two years.

In May 2014, Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas reversed course on a seven-night western European voyage when a 6-year-old British boy was found at the bottom of a pool. The boy suffered a severe brain injury.

Three children aboard Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line have drowned or nearly drowned. In May 2015, a 10-year-old girl drowned on the Norwegian Gem and in February 2014, two children were found in a pool on the Norwegian Breakaway. A 4-year-old boy died, and his 6-year-old brother was airlifted to the hospital in critical condition.

In 2013, a 6-year-old boy from Orlando drowned aboard Doral-based Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Victory.

Disney Cruise Line is the only major cruise company that employs lifeguards around pools. It started the practice after an incident in March 2013, when a 4-year-old nearly drowned in a pool aboard the Disney Fantasy and suffered a brain injury. The incident resulted in a multi-million dollar settlement and lifeguards on all Disney ships.

This report was supplemented by material from the Associated Press. Miami Herald writer Jack Herrick contributed to this story.