In light of the recent drowning death of an 8-year-old boy in a swimming pool on the Royal Caribbean ship Anthem of the Seas, cruise safety is in the spotlight, and people in the travel industry are offering advice for passengers.
The boy, Prince Adepoju of Maryland, was treated by the ship’s medical team after the June 30 accident and airlifted to Staten Island University Hospital, where he died on July 2, a hospital spokeswoman, Arleen Ryback, said. The incident occurred shortly after the ship left its port in Bayonne, N.J., for a nine-day trip to Bermuda and the Caribbean.
The boy’s death, reported by the hospital on July 11, was ruled an accidental drowning, with a seizure disorder as a contributing condition, according to Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for the New York City Medical Examiner’s office.
The boy’s death is the latest in a recent series of drowning incidents involving children aboard cruise ships. Last December, another 8-year-old boy drowned on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, and last August, an 8-year-old girl nearly drowned aboard Princess Cruise’s Sapphire Princess three days after the ship left Shanghai. In addition, a 10-year-old girl drowned in a crowded swimming pool in May 2015 on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Gem.
The deaths highlight the fact that most cruise lines do not have lifeguards at their pools, said Jim Walker, a maritime lawyer with the Miami-based law firm Walker & O’Neill. “Cruise ships have warning signs by their pools that say that passengers are swimming at their own risk, but the problem is that many young children can’t read these signs,” Mr. Walker said.
Following the latest drowning on one of its ships, a Royal Caribbean spokeswoman said the cruise line places a high priority on water safety. “Signs are always posted that warn passengers to swim at their own risk, similar to what is found at many hotels,” the spokeswoman, Cynthia Martinez, wrote in an email. “We have provided our fleet with children’s life jackets available at the pool area as an added safety precaution. We still strongly recommend that children not be in the pool area unsupervised.”
Eileen Ogintz, who writes a weekly column on family travel called “Taking the Kids,” said Disney is the rare cruise line that does have lifeguards onboard. Ms. Ogintz said the lifeguards were added after a near-drowning on one of its ships left a child permanently disabled.
A Disney spokeswoman, Rebecca Peddie, said lifeguards were introduced on its fleet of four ships in the fall of 2013. But Ms. Peddie would not elaborate on what precipitated the move, saying only that Disney regularly reviews its operations and makes changes.
Despite these accidents, drownings aboard ships are uncommon, and pool-related incidents are rare, said Colleen McDaniel, the senior executive editor at Cruise Critic, a cruise reviews and information website. But Ms. McDaniel and other travel experts said the drowning on Anthem of the Seas reinforces the need for travelers to keep safety measures in mind when they’re on a cruise.
People in the travel industry shared a number of tips to help travelers minimize concerns about water safety, crime and staying healthy aboard cruise ships, which often carry hundreds, if not thousands, of passengers.
Swim At Your Own Risk: Because most cruise lines don’t provide lifeguards, children should never be allowed to swim without supervision, said Julie Danziger, a cruise specialist at the New York City travel consultancy Ovation Vacations. “Either you need to be watching them or make sure that if they’re going to the pool as part of an activity with the cruise ship’s kids club, that there will be an attendant with the group at all times,” Ms. Danziger said. She also said that adults should bear in mind their own water safety. Recent drownings have not been confined to children. In August 2014, a 29-year-old woman drowned aboard Princess Cruise’s Sapphire Princess, and a British marine accident investigation found that the absence of properly trained employees in the pool area contributed to the woman’s death. Ms. Danziger advises adults who are not strong swimmers to avoid swimming alone at off-peak hours such as early morning or late at night.
Watch Your Belongings: Many travelers have a false sense of security when they’re on a cruise, experts said. “You feel like you’re in a cocoon away from the rest of the world and nothing can happen to you, but, in reality, if you’re on a bigger boat, you’re surrounded by hundreds and even thousands of strangers,” said Ruth Turpin, the owner of Cruises, Etc., a cruise-focused travel agency in Fort Worth, Tex. “I’ve had clients who feel so carefree on cruises that they leave their rooms unlocked and all their belongings out.” That’s not a good idea. Ms. Turpin recommends always locking your room, putting away valuables like cash and passports in the room safe and not leaving your belongings unattended in public areas. “It’s common to save lounge chairs on a cruise by putting your handbag or iPad on the chairs,” she said, “but, if you do so, you’re putting yourself at risk for theft.”
Wash Your Hands Frequently. The most common cause of gastrointestinal illnesses on cruise ships is norovirus, an infection characterized by vomiting and diarrhea, according to Dr. Henry Murray, an infectious disease expert at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York. With norovirus, you run the risk of being sick for several days and ruining your vacation. However, your chance of contracting the virus can be reduced by washing your hands often, especially before you eat and after using the bathroom, Dr. Murray said. “The virus can live on any surface you touch, so hand washing is a good way to protect yourself,” he said. But, he emphasized that cruise passengers should not be overly concerned about getting the stomach bug because most cruises are safe from food- and waterborne illnesses.
Don’t Book a Cruise on a Ship Without an Infirmary. Any cruise ship you’re considering should have an infirmary, preferably one that’s open 24 hours, said Ms. Danziger of Ovation Vacations. This infirmary would typically be staffed by a nurse, and possibly a doctor, capable of treating a range of medical issues from a sore throat to a broken bone, she said. She added that on a reputable cruise line, travelers are more likely to receive high-quality care at the infirmary. If the cruise you’re considering doesn’t have an infirmary, Ms. Danziger doesn’t recommend booking it. “If something does happen, you need the assurance you have somewhere to go for help, especially if you’re in the middle of the ocean,” she said.
Be Cautious on Port Visits. Even if your cruise ship is luxurious and safe, that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to the port cities it docks in, said Ms. Turpin of Cruises, Etc. If your boat stops in Rio de Janeiro, a city where crime is known to be a problem in certain areas, for example, the cruise line will probably warn passengers not to navigate through the city alone. And you should heed that warning. Instead, you might take one of the cruise line’s group excursions or book a private guide. Also, it’s best to leave your cash and flashy jewelry behind.
Stay Healthy in Port, Too. Staying well on a cruise isn’t just about exercising caution onboard; travelers also need to think about the ports the ship is stopping at. “Make sure you’re up-to-date on all the immunizations you need for whatever destinations you’ll be visiting; know if you need to take malaria medication; and pack and use mosquito repellent if you’re going to a Zika-affected area,” said Dr. Murray, the infectious disease expert.
Get a Flu Shot. It sounds counterintuitive to get a flu shot before your Mediterranean cruise in July, but Dr. Murray said being in a closed environment, such as on a cruise, increases your risk for the flu. “You can get the flu in the summer too, especially if you’re going to the tropics,” he said.
The following post was excerpted from nytimes.com. Full attribution and a link to this article follow directly.
Published by nytimes.com
July 14, 2016
Written by Shivani Vora – Travel: Updates
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