Last week, our cruise ship lawyers here at LM&W talked about Norwegian Cruise Line’s new all-inclusive alcohol sailings, where the ship will include alcohol in the ticket price for select three- and four-day itineraries on the Norwegian Sky. We discussed how alcohol has often played a role in cruise passenger accidents and injuries – sometimes even leading to fatal alcohol poisoning. Yet, instead of regulating alcohol sales on board ships, cruise lines continue to encourage a drinking environment. While many cruise passengers avoid purchasing alcohol during their sailing, Norwegian’s new all-you-can drink option can lead to a greater number of people becoming intoxicated and, consequently, a greater number of accidents.
From our perspective, there are a ton of cons associated with the all-inclusive alcohol sailings. But from a passenger standpoint, we can see how not having to worry about purchasing individual drinks or an expensive beverage package might be appealing. But is the option really that much of a benefit for cruisers or is it just another way for the cruise line to make a profit? Let’s take a look at what the real cost of these sailings looks like.
Though Norwegian hasn’t outright stated that the new “booze cruise” sailings are going to be more expensive than non-inclusive cruises, an online Time Magazine article studied the cost of these new sailings, comparing them to similar cruises to determine what the new price would run potential cruisers. While cruise pricing can be hard to pin down, given that the cost of a trip can vary significantly depending on when a person books, what type of cabin the passenger secures, the time of year when the sailing will take place, among other factors, Time found that Norwegian’s all-you-can-drink cruises were priced at about $130 higher than those that didn’t offer the all-inclusive alcohol. On a four-day cruise, this increase adds up to $32.50 per day, per passenger. The average price for a drink on a ship ranges anywhere from $6 to about $9. This means that the average passenger, whose drinks cost about $8 each, would have to consume around four alcohol drinks a day in order to break even.
Passengers who do the math themselves may try to get their money’s worth and drink as much as possible, which can lead to severe intoxication and a slew of accidents on board. It would appear as though the cost increase alone is seemingly creating a situation where binge drinking is encouraged. Without being limited by extra expenses and given the higher price that they pay for these special booze sailings, it is highly likely that passengers who may not regularly consume a lot of alcohol will be doing so just so that they can get the value they paid for.
This kind of excessive drinking can cause a range of issues. For one, more passengers may find themselves making visits to the cruise infirmary for hangover remedies, injuries related to alcohol intoxication, and other medical emergencies. Onboard medical facilities are not cheap, so there’s another potential cost many passengers may not realize.
Excessive drinking can also lead to other terrible incidents, including assault and cruise ship rape. With more people drinking on board these cruises, more individuals will have lowered inhibitions. According toresearch published for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 50% of violent crimes involve alcohol consumption either by the victim, the perpetrator, or both parties. One of the reasons for this is because alcohol can change someone’s moods and perceptions, causing some to act overly aggressive and others overly passive. The fact that some people can lose complete consciousness following excessive alcohol consumption can also enable assailants to commit a sexual crime.
Having looked at what the real costs of the all-inclusive drink sailings appears to be, it would appear that the cons outweigh the pros. If the price of the cruise is higher, the risk of accidents and alcohol-related tragedies greater, and the potential to require medical attention factored increased, there are several costs for passengers, the greatest being a drastic reduction in onboard safety.