Updated September 21, 2017
One of the complaints we hear time and again is that kids on cruises are taking over the onboard hot tubs. But is allowing a child to use a cruise ship hot tub simply inconvenient or downright dangerous? Our members sound off on reasons they believe that kids and hot tubs just don't mix. Do you agree?
1. Small Children Can't Regulate Their Body Temperature
"I am a long-time cruiser," writes Ilene Karp, "with over 40 years of cruising and, until recently, kids in hot tubs were not an issue. It has, however, become way out of control. I have seen parents put infants in the hot tubs and I said to one that all she needed were some carrots and potatoes because she was literally cooking her child from the inside." Vivid yet disturbing imagery aside, it is true that young children can become easily dehydrated in hot water. According to the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP), "Children who are big enough to be in a hot tub should not use it for more than five minutes at a time, especially at the maximum temperature of 104 degrees. Infants and toddlers should not be permitted in a hot tub at all as babies' thin skin makes them more susceptible to overheating." And even then APSP advises, "All persons, and especially young children, should be encouraged to drink fresh water while they're soaking."
2. Surprises Might Get Left Behind (The Worst Kind)
In the interest of sanitation -- ever-important on a confined cruise ship -- some cruisers are staunchly against young ones who could have an accident, leading to the draining, cleaning and temporary closure of public hot tubs. "Chair hogs and loud neighbors are a pain, no doubt," Toni Vitanza writes. "But these folks are compromising the health of everyone onboard." Vitanza goes on to say, "At the very least I wish the lines would have a pop-up box on their websites so that before those with children under, say, age four, complete their booking they are clearly [informed of the rules]. Perhaps those pop-up boxes should even go so far as to let folks know that any violation which results in a pool or hot tub having to be drained and sanitized will also result in a charge to their sea pass." The APSP agrees, noting: "Since little ones have very little control over bodily functions, spas become unsanitary almost instantly when 'accidents' happen."
3. Bad Behavior Ruins Everyone's Good Time
Young ones don't always make the best hot tub companions due to their, shall we say, exuberant nature. "There are kids that climb over stuff, kick and push people out of the way, scream and carry on like wild animals, and their parents stand there and watch," says Angela. Cruisers who are aiming to relax with a soak and some scenery might find their downtime disrupted by an unwieldy child using the tub as their own playpen. But sometimes the parents get themselves in just as much hot water. David comments, "The biggest problem is always the parents who disregard the rules. Just try to argue with one of them. Combine this with the ship personnel who don't want to get involved or who think you're just a complainer and you have the recipe for a fight." In addition, consider adult behavior after a few drinks in a hot tub; is it something you would want your kids to be around?
4. Hot Tubs Aren't Safe for Unsupervised Kids
Just because a hot tub is smaller and shallower than a pool, doesn't mean that children can't get into harm's way. Drowning is always a potential hazard, and adults aren't necessarily present every time their children are racing around the pool deck and hopping into tubs. "Responsible adult supervision is key to child pool, hot tub and water safety. There should always be an adult designated to maintain constant visual contact with children whenever they are near, or could get near, any body of water," says the Association of Pool & Spa professionals. "The initial reason for [the rules] isn't enjoying the amenities, it's for reasons of safety," writes Sheree. "Safety of the children should be the highest concern for everyone -- yeah -- parents included. Infants and toddlers should NEVER be in a hot tub."
5. Rules Are Rules
"Parents should set a good example for their children and respect the rules," said Anne on the blog. Problem is, according to many cruisers in the know, rules are broken. "There is a trend among some parents," noted Amy B., "to think vacation means vacation from parenting and thus letting their kids do whatever they want. Parenting includes enforcing rules and telling your kids 'no' occasionally." Many cruise lines have age requirements in place for the health and safety of those utilizing pools and hot tubs, but whether they're enforced by crew is another story. "On our last cruise we were subjected to a parent bringing her 1-year-old in the 'adults only' hot tub in a diaper, and a gaggle of preteen girls in the 'adults only' pool area," writes Jen. Not that staff did anything about either situation. If they aren't going to enforce the rules, why hope for anyone to follow them?"
So why do some parents allow their kids in hot tubs in the first place? For one, some argue if there were more pools designated for kids, then they wouldn't resort to splashing about in hot tubs or adults-only areas. Some parents, like Gina Rodriguez Buchardt, have experienced this firsthand. On her cruise, "…there [was] no kiddie pool for kids and the one pool available [was] very deep and crowded. The splash areas for kids [were] cool but again, no pool and my child doesn't like the slides."
Some believe hot tubs are actually "warm tubs" and the theories about kid cooking are ludicrous. "Many hot tubs onboard aren't particularly hot," as Danielle Savarese Moore said on Facebook: "On the Valor, they weren't even hot, barely lukewarm." OBXRon agreed, posting "[I] have not found one hot tub in our 14 cruises that was 'hot.' These things are more like lukewarm incubators for germs…"
Ok, so maybe hot tubs, regardless of the temperature, should be limited after all.