Child Safety at Sea: Freed and Stuart Talk Cruise Policies to Protect Kids

Protecting kids at sea has been a hot topic of late, as some major cruise lines have adjusted their pool policies to add lifeguards. Most revealing on the subject of child protection, though?

Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support and service, Royal Caribbean International, told hundreds of agents attending the final General Session of Cruise360 on Saturday that Royal Caribbean initiates a process 30 days prior to sailing to help assure no registered sex offenders sail on the line.

It sends every passenger manifest to a qualified third party, which compares the names on that manifest with any names on the National Sex Offender Database. If any matches are discovered, the line cancels the sailing, said Freed to both applause and a few "wows" from agents seated at this reporter's table.

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Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s PR office confirmed that this process is actually completed for all three of its brands -- Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.

Freed also stressed that while the booking will be cancelled, "we do protect your commission."

She said some agents have been surprised as they did not know their client was on a sex offender list.

Freed said she encountered one agent at a Cruise 360 workshop who stood up and said: "You know I did get that call from you, you did protect the commission and we respect that you guys want that kind of environment [onboard]."

"For us, it's a priority to have a safe environment onboard," Freed said.

Royal Caribbean also recently announced that it will have lifeguards at all pools on all of its ships. Freed added that the line also will provide life vests for complimentary use by young children. 

Speaking of pool safety, Andy Stuart, president and CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line, also briefly addressed his line's "pool policy" change with reporters at Cruise360 on Friday afternoon.

He said the line started trialing the use of pool monitors on some of its family- focused big ships back in 2015. It's now adding lifeguards at family pools and "we now are partnering with the Red Cross to train our lifeguards." 

Stuart said those lifeguards will be on duty at family pools of its big, family-focused ships (Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Breakaway or Norwegian Epic, for example) for the upcoming summer season. 

Next year, Norwegian will extend the program -- lifeguards at family pools and life vests for small children -- to its entire fleet. 

"It's very important that we get this right," Stuart said. But he also added: "Parents must still take responsibility for their children." 

Here's more on what the duo said:

Freed explained that Royal Caribbean's ships are large, innovative ships with many features appealing to multi-generational family groups and individual families traveling with kids and teens.

In addition to the Adventure Ocean children's club and a teen club, Royal Caribbean has nurseries on its ships. "A lot of couples start having children later in life," Freed noted, "so they want to bring along their infant but they don't want to be with the infant all the time."

She stressed that Royal Caribbean has highly qualified people in charge of those children's activity programs. All kids' counselors must have a college degree in a related field such as early childhood development.

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