Tests Confirm Teenage Cruise Passenger on Carnival Miracle Died from Alcohol Poisoning

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Alcohol on cruise shipsFar too many people get hurt out on the high seas due to cruise line negligence.  Some incidents are caused by a crew member’s lack of experience in emergency situations while others are the result of onboard crimes. There are some that are also caused by mechanical failure when crews fail to properly check and maintain equipment. But aside from the countless accidents and injuries that are suffered on cruise ships due to a lack of maritime safety, there is another problem that has plagued the cruise industry for far too many years and which no one seems to do anything about – alcohol.

We understand the purpose of a cruise vacation is to have fun, relax and enjoy yourself, and for many people, that involves drinking a few cocktails. However, it has become apparent from countless passenger reports and incidents involving alcohol poisoning or sexual assault that cruise lines tend to push the sale of alcohol, regardless of whether the passenger is already overly inebriated or not. The more alcohol they sell, obviously, the more money they make. So cruise lines do their best to get their passengers to drink up.

Sometimes, crew members don’t even check the IDs of those they are serving alcohol to. This results in countless minors becoming intoxicated and getting hurt whether it’s in a slip and fall, a fight with another passenger or crew member, or overboard accident. The same goes for adult passengers.

It is unfortunate that cruise lines do not put a cap on how many alcoholic beverages they serve to passengers, because if they did, they would certainly avoid a lot of bad press and liability for alcohol-related cruise ship accidents.  Maritime law requires cruise lines to provide a reasonably safe environment on ships and, we contend, this includes monitoring passengers to make sure no one is intoxicated beyond reasonable capacity. But because cruise lines seemingly would rather take the chance on an accident happening and later denying responsibility than lose revenue from alcohol sales, we are stuck in a sad carousel of passenger injuries and deaths related to cruise line negligence.

One of those sad and disturbing accounts involving the lack of alcohol regulation in the cruise industry is the story of Seth Younes, an 18-year-old senior who died onboard the Carnival Miracle back in February.

Our firm reported on this tragic passenger death when it happened, but because autopsy reports were pending and investigations still hadn’t been closed, it was originally only suspected the teen died from the overconsumption of alcohol. However, authorities have now confirmed that Younes in fact suffered from acute alcohol poisoning.

Younes was sailing on the Carnival Miracle with his parents and 14-year-old brother when tragedy struck. The siblings were sharing one cabin while their parents shared a stateroom across the hall. On February 26, the night before the cruise ship was scheduled to return to home, Younes’ little brother woke his parents up telling them Younes was making strange noises and was not waking up. The ship’s medical staff tried to revive him but it was too late. The high school senior was dead and the cause is reportedly alcohol.

Officials reported the results of  the blood tests last week confirming alcohol poisoning was the cause of death. More specifically, Younes suffered from alcohol poisoning and then died from asphyxiation after throwing up because he was overly intoxicated.

But after all these months, the question still remains: Who gave the teen alcohol on the ship?

Was it a crew member? Was it another passenger?

After the teen’s death, Carnival issued a statement denying that any of the Miracle’s crew members served Younes alcohol, but this wouldn’t be the first time a cruise line has lied to cover up its wrongdoings.

If further investigations find that it was indeed a cruise ship crew member that served Younes alcohol or noticed another passenger giving him drinks and failed to do anything about it, Carnival may be found responsible for the incident and may be ordered to pay damages to the young victim’s family.

Of all cruise lines, Carnival, the “Fun Ship,” is known for its party atmosphere.  Carnival is famous for its late night clubs and nonchalant environment, but does the death of this teen over alcohol positioning show that maybe it’s time Carnival tightened the reigns?

Injuries and deaths caused by the overserving of alcohol on cruise ships is something that can be  controlled by the server; even more so on cruise ships than elsewhere.  Cruise ships generally have a cashless system, requiring passengers to pay for alcoholic drinks by use of a card, which is swiped into a computer.  That same computer can easily monitor how many drinks per hour are being purchased on that card and, presumably, consumed by the cardholder.  This is not rocket science – but it does not fit into most cruise lines’ business models.  Many cruise lines sell their cabins at discounted prices, as lost leaders, to get passengers aboard their ships so that they can spend money onboard.  This onboard revenue, especially the onboard net profit, often exceeds the revenue generated by operating the ship and merely selling the cruise.  Monitoring and limiting alcohol consumption on cruise ships, responsibly, will necessarily lead to less onboard revenue.  Hence, cruise lines are dissuaded from acting responsibly.

Perhaps paying out substantial verdicts and settlements will have a significant enough effect on their bottom line to serve as an appropriate deterrent from acting irresponsibly . . . .