Insight

How the Death on the High Seas Act Factors in to Cruise Lines Having Lifeguards on Cruise Ships

However, despite the emphasis on a family-friendly environment, one major issue has historically dominated the discussion of cruise ship safety: the presence (or lack thereof) of lifeguards on cruise ships.

Death on the High Seas Act
Charles R. Lipcon

Charles R. Lipcon

November 30, 2017 10:07 AM

The cruise industry is filled with images of families enjoying their time at sea. Frequently marketed as vacations that everyone will enjoy, cruises especially appeal to families with children, seeking a convenient and exciting way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With so much to do on board and in the ports of call, it is no wonder that the industry continues to captivate a growing audience.

However, despite the emphasis on a family-friendly environment, one major issue has historically dominated the discussion of cruise ship safety: the presence (or lack thereof) of lifeguards on cruise ships.

A Brief History of the Problem

For years, the potential for seeing a lifeguard attending to a cruise pool was slim. There are two major reasons for this, both of which are financial. The first factor working against cruise ship lifeguards was the Death on the High Seas Act. Under this act, the death of a child has almost no value. Because families can only recover pecuniary losses and since children do not support the family income, the value of the death essentially becomes funeral expenses.

When we consider the true value of a child in the context of his or her family and community, it is easy to see how outdated and unjust this act really is.

The second reason cruise lines were traditionally against using lifeguards is that for every crewmember they must carry, that’s one less passenger they can bring aboard. Naturally, the company would rather have a paying passenger than a crewmember who they will have to pay. And so, for these two reasons, cruise pools remained a silently dangerous aspect of the vacation experience.

It is important to remember the impact of the Jones Act on this situation. Given that the Jones Act protects crew members who are injured on the job, any lifeguards who may become injured while on duty could hold the cruise line responsible. This means an increase in potential liability for the cruise line, which is certainly something they have wanted to avoid.

Many Cruise Lines Are Stepping up to Protect Passengers

Thus, the cruise lines have been placed in a difficult situation. Is it better to take a chance on pool safety by maintaining pools without lifeguards, thereby lowering the risk of crew member liability? Or does it make more sense to hire lifeguards, thereby lowering the risk of passenger accident and injury?

In recent years, the tides have begun to change. With the tragic drowning accidents of children receiving increasing media attention, the pressure for cruise lines to heighten the safety of their pools began to build. These accidents, which could have been prevented had a lifeguard been present, cast light on the fact that, contrary to many parents’ beliefs, cruise lines are not watching over their pools. Given the fact that most major cruise lines appeal to families, this negative media attention was the exact opposite of what the cruise lines wanted.[1]

Disney was the first company to commit to adding lifeguards, due to a tragic near-drowning incident in 2013. More recently, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have also thrown their hats into the ring, both announcing plans to gradually bring lifeguards to all of their ships.

Will Carnival Join Their Ranks?

Now, only one major cruise line remains: Carnival. As the largest operator of cruise ships in the world, it is well past time for the company to demonstrate its commitment to customer safety and add lifeguards to its fleet. With an estimated 1.6 million children under 18 on cruises every year, the risk for additional accidents and injuries in unattended cruise pools remains high.

It is hoped that Carnival will take the safety of its most vulnerable passengers seriously and join the ranks of the other major cruise lines who have vowed to improve pool safety with lifeguards.

Hopefully these changes in cruise pool protocol will in fact save lives so that every family can experience the relaxing and enjoyable cruise vacation that they deserve.

-----------------------

[1] Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman has pushed for the addition of cruise lifeguards for many years due to the devastating deaths and life-changing injuries in young children. They have also appeared many times in the news for their dedication to this topic and were glad to see the attitude toward cruise ship lifeguards begin to change.

-----------------------

Charles R. Lipcon is the founder of Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., a maritime law firm representing passengers and crew injured on ships worldwide. Mr. Lipcon has been handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault, and wrongful death claims for more than 40 years. Recognized by Best Lawyers and Best Law Firms year after year, he is responsible for numerous landmark cases and is the author of Unsafe on the High Seas and The Cruise Line Law Reporter.

Related Articles

The Reality the Cruise Ship Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know


by Justin Smulison

These cruise ship passengers planned for vacation and celebration, but their voyages ended in tragedy and catastrophe. Learn from their stories before buying your next ticket.

What the Cruise Ship Industry Isn’t Telling

How Injury Lawyers Can Keep Their Heads Above Water by Referring Maritime Cases


by Justin Smulison

The maritime lawyers at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. are ready to help injury lawyers fight for their clients in catastrophic cruise ship injuries.

Maritime Lawyers for Personal Injury Cases

Trending Articles

Presenting The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2025


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is proud to present The Best Lawyers in Australia for 2025, marking the 17th consecutive year of Best Lawyers awards in Australia.

Australia flag over outline of country

How To Find A Pro Bono Lawyer


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers dives into the vital role pro bono lawyers play in ensuring access to justice for all and the transformative impact they have on communities.

Hands joined around a table with phone, paper, pen and glasses

How Palworld Is Testing the Limits of Nintendo’s Legal Power


by Gregory Sirico

Many are calling the new game Palworld “Pokémon GO with guns,” noting the games striking similarities. Experts speculate how Nintendo could take legal action.

Animated figures with guns stand on top of creatures

Announcing The Best Lawyers in New Zealand™ 2025 Awards


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is announcing the 16th edition of The Best Lawyers in New Zealand for 2025, including individual Best Lawyers and "Lawyer of the Year" awards.

New Zealand flag over image of country outline

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Japan™ 2025


by Best Lawyers

For a milestone 15th edition, Best Lawyers is proud to announce The Best Lawyers in Japan.

Japan flag over outline of country

The Best Lawyers in Singapore™ 2025 Edition


by Best Lawyers

For 2025, Best Lawyers presents the most esteemed awards for lawyers and law firms in Singapore.

Singapore flag over outline of country

Announcing the 16th Edition of the Best Lawyers in Germany Rankings


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers announces the 16th edition of The Best Lawyers in Germany™, featuring a unique set of rankings that highlights Germany's top legal talent.

German flag in front of country's outline

How Much Is a Lawyer Consultation Fee?


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers breaks down the key differences between consultation and retainer fees when hiring an attorney, a crucial first step in the legal process.

Client consulting with lawyer wearing a suit

Presenting the 2024 Best Lawyers Employment and Workers’ Compensation Legal Guide


by Best Lawyers

The 2024 Best Lawyers Employment and Workers' Compensation Legal Guide provides exclusive access to all Best Lawyers awards in related practice areas. Read below and explore the legal guide.

Illustration of several men and women in shades of orange and teal

Things to Do Before a Car Accident Happens to You


by Ellie Shaffer

In a car accident, certain things are beyond the point of no return, while some are well within an individual's control. Here's how to stay legally prepared.

Car dashcam recording street ahead

Combating Nuclear Verdicts: Empirically Supported Strategies to Deflate the Effects of Anchoring Bias


by Sloan L. Abernathy

Sometimes a verdict can be the difference between amicability and nuclear level developments. But what is anchoring bias and how can strategy combat this?

Lawyer speaking in courtroom with crowd and judge in the foreground

The Push and Pitfalls of New York’s Attempt to Expand Wrongful Death Recovery


by Elizabeth M. Midgley and V. Christopher Potenza

The New York State Legislature recently went about updating certain wrongful death provisions and how they can be carried out in the future. Here's the latest.

Red tape blocking off a section of street

Attacked From All Sides: What Is Happening in the World of Restrictive Covenants?


by Christine Bestor Townsend

One employment lawyer explains how companies can navigate challenges of federal and state governmental scrutiny on restrictive covenant agreements.

Illustration of two men pulling on string with blue door between them

6 Ways a Lawyer Can Help You With Your Medical Malpractice Claim


by Adam Malone

If you believe you have a medical malpractice claim, contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. Read on to learn how they can help with your claim.

Doctor in white lab coat showing x-ray to patient in blue scrubs

Georgia Proposes Law Requiring Parental Consent for Minors on Social Media


by Gregory Sirico

With data collection on the rise, Georgia lawmakers are currently petitioning for Senate Bill 351, which would require a user's age before social media use.

Teenager with hood on using phone as notifications pop up

Colorado Attorney General Calls For Cannabis Reclassification


by Gregory Sirico

In this article, Best Lawyers highlights a recent call to action by the Colorado state attorney general, requesting a full drug reclassification of cannabis.

Cannabis buds sitting on a checkerboard tabletop