How to Cruise Safely With a Child

The headlines have been horribly tragic. In July 2019, a toddler fell from an open window aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. In October 2017, an eight-year-old died after falling about two stories on the interior of the Carnival Glory. Then there were drownings (and near drownings) of children in cruise ships pools that became so regular that lifeguards were added by the cruise lines.

Thankfully, these stories make headlines only because they are rare. While the vast majority of cruise vacations are safe — and fun — vacations, there are still risks on the ship (and off) that parents need to know. Truth is that while the tragic accidents make the headlines, for each of these are there likely countless smaller injuries that can put a damper on your vacation.

The good news? Many of these accidents are preventable, but they take you being aware of risks and being vigilant even though you are relaxing on vacation. As any parent knows, handling a child can be a handful. Even on a cruise ship — designed to be safe for passengers of all ages — that focus on keeping your kid out of harm’s way can’t slip.

The following tips should help your child stay safer on a cruise…

Don’t Let Your Guard Down

You’re on vacation, the music is pumping, the drinks are flowing, and everyone is in a great mood. It’s so inviting to soak it all in, forget about all your stresses and finally relax. And on a cruise, you should relax and have a good time. But you don’t want to completely let your guard down. Every parent knows that it only takes a few moments of inattention to find that your kid has gotten into something they shouldn’t.

That’s why even though you are on vacation, if your child is under your supervision then you need to be sure to not let your guard down. The good news is that this doesn’t mean you’ll be babysitting the entire time during your cruise. Every major cruise ship has kids areas where you can drop off your child so they will be supervised while you go enjoy yourself around the ship. This is a great way to get a break while your kids also have a good time.

Pay Close Attention When Swimming (And Use a Life Jacket)

Pool area on a cruise ship

There have been a number of instances of children drowning on cruise ships. It’s tragic, especially in the fact that it is often avoidable. Today some cruise lines employ full-time lifeguards that watch over the pool while it’s open. Even with that added layer of safety, we think it’s important to still pay close attention to them when they are swimming. Pools can get crowded while swimming making it difficult for a lifeguard to keep eyes on every single person.

To give you a little more peace of mind, cruise ships also have life jackets available for kids to wear. There’s no charge for the service. This way if your little one has issues swimming or you simply want an extra layer of protection, you’re covered.

Make Sure Kids Always Use Handrails

While the most awful stories are the ones that make the news, injuries and accidents that are smaller can still wreak havoc on a vacation. For instance, what if your child slips going down a staircase? Stairways are everyone on a cruise ship (remember there are as many as 20 decks on the biggest ships), meaning you are always headed up or down.

To make sure a fall or a rolled ankle doesn’t happen to your kid on the stairs, make them always use the handrails. Remember, it’s not just the steps that can trip kids up; the ship is always in motion too. A slight movement or roll of the ship can trip up adults and kids alike.

Watch for Slick Areas

Wet deck of a cruise ship

In the tropics, rain showers can come and go within minutes, soaking the ship’s deck. Meanwhile there are pools with splashing, as well as the constant washing of the ship’s deck done by the crew.

In other words, if you are on an outdoor area of the ship then there is a good chance you’ll encounter wet spots. And while some flooring has a lot of grip to it for traction, other spots can feel like walking across ice when it’s wet. Always make sure your kids are wearing shoes with traction (no slick-bottomed sandals) and never let them run in wet areas.

Make Sure Your Kids Know What to Do If Separated

Being unexpectedly separated from your child can be terrifying anywhere. On a cruise ship (with lots of people around) or a foreign port, it can happen. That means you need to be prepared for what you and your child will do if you get separated.

A good idea is to set up a meeting point on the ship where you both go to the instant you realize you are lost. Make it somewhere easy for your kiddo to find. Your cabin can actually be hard to find as long hallways of doors look similar to each other.

While the chances of getting separated are small, a simple plan can save a lot of stress.

Never Let Kids Play on Railings

Ships railing

Each year people fall overboard on a ship. Often these are adults and sometimes a person was simply sitting on a railing and lost their balance. Cruise ship railings are high — usually higher than standard handrails — as they are meant to ensure no one falls over even if the ship rocks back and forth.

But ship’s railings are also attractive to kids as something to climb on. Remember that it only takes one slip or one momentary loss of balance to fall over if you are sitting or climbing the railing. Make sure your kids understand the dangers of climbing on railings and never let them play on them.

Understand That Safety Isn’t as Developed in Ports

You’d be forgiven if being on the cruise ship makes you feel like you are in a Disney theme park where everything is safe and secure. Modern cruise liners put a lot of effort into safety with lots of railings, warning signs, and rules.

Being out and about in port, however, you are in a foreign country. In these spots the local laws and customs may not be what you are used to seeing when it comes to safety. Many spots outside of the United States put more focus on the individual recognizing dangers instead of providing warnings or keeping people away from certain dangers. Meanwhile, you aren’t likely to find things like car seats in taxis for your toddler or other safety equipment.

Just recognize that ports of call aren’t the United States and may have more risks for small kids than you’re used to seeing.

The good news? 99%+ of cruises go off without a hitch. Just be sensible about safety and you should be fine.

Want more details on cruising with kids? See our 41 must-have tips for cruising with babies, toddlers, or kids.

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