Cruise Ship Law, Norwegian Cruises

Norwegian Cruise Line Announces All-Inclusive Alcohol Option for Select Sailings: What Does This Mean for Passenger Safety?


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Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. is made up of attorneys who are nationally recognized industry leaders in the field of maritime and admiralty law. Our team of cruise lawyers has well over two centuries of combined experience, has successfully handled over 3,000 cases, and has recovered over 300 million dollars in damages for our clients. Several of our attorneys have even been selected to “Best Lawyers” ® by US News & World Report every year as far back as 2016.

Norwegian-Sky-to-offer-all-inclusive-alcohol-sailingsThe cruise ship accident lawyers at our firm have often discussed how dangerous it can be for cruise passengers to become intoxicated while on a ship. Unfortunately, cruise lines tend to promote a drinking culture, as a huge portion of their profits stem from alcohol sales. Though there’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks while on vacation, the problem is that not every cruise ship bartender cuts passengers off when they’ve had one too many, leading many passengers to become overly intoxicated, which then leads to accidents, injuries, sexual assault, and even alcohol poisoning deaths. Many times, the victims of alcohol-related incidents are underage, such as the 14-year-old who died from alcohol poisoning aboard the Carnival Miracle in 2013.

But while alcohol has been the cause of several tragic accidents and fatalities on ships, it doesn’t appear as though the cruise industry is going to make any changes to better regulate onboard alcohol sales and consumption. In fact, things might actually get worse pretty soon, following a recent announcement by Norwegian Cruise Line.

Norwegian announced this week that it will be offering an all-inclusive drink package for guests on select Norwegian Sky sailings. This means that passengers are going to be able to drink all the alcoholic beverages they want for the entire duration of their cruise without having to pay a penny. No individual drink charges. No beverage package. No limits. This is a recipe for disaster if we ever saw one.

Last summer, the cruise line offered an all-you-can-drink package for a limited time and for a set price. Now, the cruise line has taken it one step farther with the free all-inclusive option, which is poised to launch in January 2016 for three- and four-day sailings aboard the Sky ship from Miami to the Bahamas. These short weekend cruises already have a reputation of being “booze cruises”, and the unlimited drink option could really take things over the edge and create a very unsafe shipboard environment.

So far, Norwegian hasn’t announced whether it will be taking any additional measures to keep passengers safe after introducing the unlimited booze cruises – though it would be a wise decision for the cruise line to do so. Given the history of alcohol-related incidents on ships throughout history, offering unlimited alcohol to passengers can create an extremely dangerous environment for everyone on board.

Having something for free, like alcohol, usually makes that commodity much more appealing than it usually is. If alcohol is available so easily, it’s likelier that passengers will indulge (and over-indulge) much more than they normally would if they had to pay for each drink. So what exactly does this mean for passenger safety? It certainly means that onboard safety can be compromised.

Alcohol lowers inhibitions, motor skills, and reaction times. Having a greater number of intoxicated passengers on a ship due to the unlimited alcohol offer who do not have full control over their actions can lead to a larger amount of passengers getting hurt, such as by stumbling and falling or medically, by suffering alcohol poisoning. It can also lead to a greater number of passengers getting into unsafe situations, such as attempting some sort of daredevil act like climbing over a rail or allowing an unknown person into a stateroom, which can lead to an act of cruise ship sexual assault. And given that many cruise lines don’t have lifeguards or even thoroughly trained or experienced security guards, current cruise industry safety policies may not be enough to prevent tragedies from happening.

There are far too many things that can go wrong aboard the all-inclusive alcohol cruises. The option may prove profitable for Norwegian, but it may come at the cost of passenger safety.

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