Cruise lines and responsibility for children

Those of us who are involved in the cruise industry know that one of their major focuses over the last decade has been making their ships more and more family friendly.  In catering to this demographic, they have introduced bigger and better entertainment facilities, children’s programs, and shore excursions designed specifically with children and families in mind.

The question comes to mind, then, what responsibility the cruise lines bear for the children aboard their lines.  In my opinion, it goes without saying that they are fully responsible for a child’s safety within the setting of a children’s program.  Then too, for areas designed specifically for kids, such as game rooms or dance clubs.

But where, exactly does cruise line responsibility end and parental responsibility start?  The number of passengers aboard any large cruise ship can be equivalent to that of a small town- and should be thought of that way.  The ship’s safety policies and procedures information is easily accessible through the lines and a must-know for parents before sailing- find out what safety measures they have in place.  We’ve heard about how the security forces of cruise ships, on a number of occasions, have fought off pirate attacks… but what about the dangers that may lie within?

Should children be allowed to go exploring on the cruise ship on their own?  Are all venues safe and appropriate for kids to visit without adult supervision?

My opinion is that no, not every situation on board is a safe one, just like it’s not in everyday life.  Would you let your kids wander around by themselves, unaccompanied and unmonitored on the streets in a strange city (or at home, for that matter)? As parents, we must embrace the idea that supervision, while not always loved by the kids, is key in keeping them safe.

The ground rules for kids- especially older ones, who want (and deserve) more independence- should be set in advance.  Although travel on a cruise ship is a wonderful vacation, safety rules should still apply- don’t throw them out the window due to a false sense of security.  Kids should stick to public areas agreed upon once the family has explored the ship together.  They shouldn’t take off with people they don’t know.  There should be regular check in times, and curfews- just like there would be at home.  And if a child wants to be involved in a potentially risky activity- such as swimming- parents should take the time to accompany them.  After all, no crew member is (or should be expected to be) as invested in your child’s safety as you, the parent, are.

Yes, it may cramp everyone’s style a bit and will likely elicit groans and complaints from younger family members.  And obviously, these suggestions cannot stop every bad thing from happening, both on a cruise ship and in life.

But it’s a start, at least, to help keep our families safe.  After all, isn’t that the priority?

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