In the past couple of weeks a number of events have occurred which have motivated me to direct this column to important advice to help protect you and your family from financial or personal losses.
Last month, a four-year-old boy drowned while on a cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas. This is not the first such drowning, or near drowning, of its kind. Earlier last year, in May, a 10-year-old girl drowned in an unsupervised pool aboard the Norwegian Gem as it sailed off the coast of South Carolina. In October 2013, a six-year-old child drowned while on a Caribbean cruise with her family aboard the Carnival Victory.
Following each of these deaths there was a cry for voluntary, or legislative action, to have cruise ships make sure there is always a lifeguard stationed at its swimming pools. So far, the only line that has done this is the Disney Cruise Line, an action it implemented only after a four-year-old child was pulled from the pool of its Fantasy cruise ship. In this case the child was alive, but suffered a brain injury which will necessitate expensive medical care for life.
It is not just on cruise ships where parents need to exercise due diligence every minute their children are in or near pools. Most resorts do not hire lifeguards either. Even though signs were posted that there were no lifeguards on duty, it was at a Disney resort in 2013 where a 13-year-old boy was found at the bottom of a swimming pool and could not be resuscitated. This is the season when we are often taking our children for family vacations on cruise ships, or to the many all-inclusive resorts in the sunspots of Mexico and the Caribbean.
As parents, or grandparents, we need to understand how quickly a drowning can occur. As one writer pointed out, a child drowning does not appear the same as on television, where after loud thrashing and screaming, a bystander jumps in the pool just in time to save the day. Water can be a silent killer, and as we become engrossed in conversation with our spouse or friends, the worst and most unexpected things can happen.
I know this first hand.
When my son was only three-years-old, while on a vacation in Florida, we were walking back to our rented condo for lunch with my son following behind me playing with a towel over his head. I was confident he was with me — until something made me turn around to find him not there. Blinded by the towel, he had turned in the wrong direction and tumbled into the pool. When I got to the side of the pool, his face was about 15 centimetres under water, kicking his feet and looking up at me with the widest eyes I have ever seen as I grabbed his hand and pulled him out of danger. It could have been the worst day of my life, and it taught me a lesson I will never forget: lifeguards or not, we bear the responsibility of watching out for our children.
The second event that prompted this column of cautionary information occurred just last week. Most will have noted how many people were injured when an Air Canada flight from China went through a period of massive turbulence. It was so severe many passengers were tossed from their seats, sustaining significant injuries.
While, thankfully, these injuries were non-life-threatening, they were severe enough to send 13 people to hospital for care or observation. How many times have you seen it? The announcement encourages all passengers to keep their seat belts on for the entire time they are in flight, while dozens of people make no move to secure themselves as requested.
The turbulence encountered on this flight was clearly worse than on most. But other reports in the past have been about head injuries, bodily bruises, along with other stretches or strains. Most of these could have been avoided by simply keeping seat belts fastened during the duration of the flight. Buckle up and stay that way.
Finally, while not in the same genre as the two above circumstances where life and limb are at stake, it was the massive snow storms, and other major weather events over the past week that prompted me to remind readers of the importance of having travel insurance.
If you are scheduled on a cruise from Florida or any other port of embarkation, and you don't make it on time because of weather delays, the ship will sail without you. You will have no recourse to get reimbursed, unless you have proper coverage.
A good policy will even arrange for you to fly on a day after the storm to one of the ports of call on the ship's itinerary. Alternatively, you will get all of your investment returned by the insurance company, not the cruise ship.
A number of people I know have saved thousands of dollars because they had this coverage after the ash from the huge 2010 volcanic eruptions in Iceland grounded hundreds of flights.
The cruise ships still sailed during that period with the passengers who had already arrived. For those who had not, their cabins remained empty because they had been paid for. Those without insurance would have lost all or part of the cost of their vacations.
Insurance is often seen as an unnecessary expense by many, but as an old insurance company slogan read, "We hope you never need us, but we hope you have us... just in case."
Follow Ron's blog at www.thattravelguy.ca
Ron is a dedicated traveller, having explored 65 countries around the world as well as all but one province in Canada (Newfoundland).