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Cruise Line Lifeguarding

Counsilman-Hunsaker Conducts Cruise Line Life-guarding Course
By: Matt Ball

As part of our partnership with the American Red Cross, Counsilman-Hunsaker was contracted by Norwegian Cruise Lines to conduct lifeguard training aboard their brand-new vessel, the Norwegian Joy, in Eemshaven, Netherlands. In recent years, we have seen too many accidental drownings aboard cruise ships. For decades, cruise ships have adopted a ‘swim-at-your-own-risk’ policy as an industry standard. But now Norwegian, among other cruise lines, are taking further steps to ensure the safety of its youngest guests by adding certified lifeguards to their fleet. We consider ourselves fortunate to have the opportunity to share our expertise and help make these pools safer for everyone. That being said, when conducting training on a cruise line like this, there are certain things to keep in mind that can help create a better training experience for everyone.

The Joy, which was not yet fully completed, had a full crew of 1,700 people and hundreds of additional contractors aboard every day. Some were there for a single day, while others had been on board for weeks. Cruise ships have their own community atmosphere. It’s important to remember that everyone feels their work on the ship is important, so try to be courteous and respectful to everyone and their work aboard the vessel.

Crew members participating in our lifeguard training put in ten hour days over a three-day period. The training consisted of both classroom sessions aboard the Joy, as well as in-water sessions that took place on-shore at the Zwembad de Beemden in Bedum, Netherlands. The classroom sessions covered a variety of swim safety information and topics, while the in-water sessions dealt with actual procedures and drills the lifeguard team would need to conduct on the job. We recommend working with small classes of 5-10 participants to ensure that individual attention can be given to each staff member. Lifeguards can mean the difference between life and death for some cruise-goers, so it’s important that they get personalized, proper training. All six participants in Counsilman-Hunsaker’s training course passed and achieved levels of lifeguarding certification (Traditional Deep Water Lifeguarding or Shallow Water Lifeguarding).

Cruise ships tend to attract international travelers. This is no different when facilitating training on a cruise ship. There will likely be language and cultural barriers to overcome. All of our training participants spoke little to no English. Be prepared to spend extra time simplifying concepts, and ensuring that all information is comprehended. Speaking slowly and clearly while avoiding cultural idioms can help as well. Ultimately, patience is key. With these strategies, your participants may surprise you with their skills and ability to function as a team.

Conducting lifeguard training on a cruise liner varies greatly from training on-land in the typical pool or water park environment. The American Red Cross Lifeguarding program remains the gold standard in lifeguard training even on the high seas. It offers a great educational experience while simultaneously meeting the requirements for the course. However, you will need to alter the training to address some of the differences and challenges associated with lifeguarding on a cruise ship.

For example, Counsilman-Hunsaker consulted with international maritime law experts to ensure we were providing the most accurate information regarding standard operating procedures, including legal considerations, facility management and safety. This innovative approach allows our instructors to be more knowledgeable and provide information that is more applicable to cruise line lifeguarding classes.

Due to the large number of people aboard the vessel every day, a cruise ship can be an unpredictable place. Allowing for flexibility in your training is essential. Our flexibility as instructors allowed us to adapt the classroom and pool schedule, despite last-minute challenges. While Counsilman-Hunsaker was aboard the Norwegian Joy, management of the ship transferred from the general contractor to the Norwegian Cruise Line crew. The new crew was conducting their first shakedown cruise. This required altering the schedule to allow more time at the pool early in the week, as we would soon lose access.

Counsilman-Hunsaker will be training more American Red Cross lifeguards in May onboard four Norwegian ships. Norwegian Breakaway, Epic, Escape, and Getaway will all soon have Counsilman-Hunsaker-trained lifeguards aboard. Counsilman-Hunsaker will also be developing Standard Operating Procedures across two classes of vessels in the coming months.

We are proud to partner with the American Red Cross for delivery of lifeguard training courses internationally, as well as to have Norwegian Cruise Lines as a client.

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