Last time, our maritime lawyers discussed a seemingly exciting promotion that is – on the surface – aimed at helping cruise passengers save money. Norwegian Cruise Line has introduced an All-Inclusive package for 2015 sailings that features all the extras cruisers love, including unlimited dining, special internet discounts, and of course, unlimited drinks. But while it might save cruise passengers some money initially, it may end up costing them a lot more in the end.
The All-Inclusive deal comes with an “unlimited beverage package” offer, which for many, is great. As part of the package, guests can enjoy unlimited beverages from a wide selection of sodas, beers, wines, cocktails and other spirits. For those of us who have cruised before, we know drinks do not come cheap. If a glass of soda can run you $5, a cocktail can cost well over $15. On any given cruise, passengers may end up paying hundreds of dollars in drinks alone. Naturally, for cruise guests who enjoy alcoholic beverages, this package certainly has its appeal.
However, from the standpoint of a maritime lawyer, a cruise package that offers unlimited alcoholic drinks can be a ticket to disaster for some passengers. In our last blog, we talked about some of the effects of shipboard alcohol intoxication, and how it can lead to accidents, injuries, fights, sexual assault, and even death. If a cruise passenger who pay for each individual drink tend to drink more on board than on land, imagine how exponentially higher the likelihood of over-drinking is when there’s no cap on the number of drinks you can consume for money you have already paid out and will not be getting back. It is the same as going to a fixed price buffet, human nature takes over and people tend to over indulge.
Our firm has represented multiple passengers that but for being over served alcohol by the Cruise Line they were on would in all likelihood not have suffered the injuries they did. There have also been numerous cases of fatal alcohol poisoning – some of which involved underage passengers. While large Cruise ships have medical facilities equipped to handle minor injuries and common illnesses, if a passenger develops alcohol poisoning or suffers some other type of life-threatening emergency and needs specialized treatment, the ship’s medical staff usually lacks the resources and specialized training that are often times necessary to successfully help those victim. And by the time the vessel is able to be within reach of an airlifted to the nearest hospital or a Port with a hospital adequate equipped to handle the case, it may be too late.
Cruise lines know that alcohol is a factor in many accidents involving passengers, yet, Norwegian appears to be putting the ability to make extra money over the safety of its guests. Cruise lines are already under scrutiny for their sub-par shipboard safety policies. However, given that the cruise industry is one that values revenue above all else, Norwegians move probably makes perfect sense for them.
The fact that attention is being placed on the lack of safety onboard ships, means cruise lines have gotten a lot of bad press and thus, have almost certainly lost revenue as a consequence. Even if Norwegian has nothing but good intentions and is only trying to present passengers with a way to save some money, in the past cruise lines have not do a very good job of cutting passengers off when they’ve had too many drinks, nor are they very keen on providing victims with compensation for any accidents that result from over drinking. If there were specific policies that required cruise line bartenders to stop serving alcohol to guests after a certain amount of drinks or once a passenger displays signs of intoxication, like exist in some land based State laws, then it might be a different story. However, until then, this package will in all likelihood increase two things; Norwegians revenues and passenger accidents.