Cruise Ship Law

Will New Royal Caribbean Drink Package Deals Create a Problem with Alcohol Use and Accidents?


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Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. is comprised of attorneys that are nationally-recognized industry leaders in the field of maritime and admiralty law. Our team of lawyers has over a century of combined experience, has successfully handled over 3,000 cases, and has recovered over 300 million dollars in damages for our clients.

Royal Caribbean rolled out with a special deal for passengers last year. The company released several drink package offers that allow those onboard to enjoy a selection of beverages at cheaper prices. The packages include both soda and alcoholic drinks, depending on the package that’s selected. This sounds great for consumers who enjoy a lot of drinks – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic – which can cost a pretty penny onboard. Even soda can cost upwards of $3 per drink, so the expenses can add up pretty quickly.

The packages were pretty popular, until cruise guests encountered a bit of an issue. If one person in a cabin wanted to purchase the deal, then all other guests in the same stateroom also had to buy the package. This wasn’t perceieved as a very fair deal, since not everyone who travels together enjoys the same kinds of beverages, nor wants to pay extra for something to drink aside from the water, coffee, juice, and tea that is complimentary on all ships.

So then, Royal decided to modify their offer. Now, if only one person wants to purchase the package, then they don’t have to worry about their travel partners having to do the same. The company also released a new breakdown of its package prices, which range from $20 to $65 per person, per day. Alcohol packages start at $40. Those prices may sound a bit high, but for someone who likes to drink a lot of soda, bottled water, or alcohol, it’s not as bad as it seems.

But do these packages create more of a problem than they solve for cruise guests?

Alcohol has always been an issue for many cruise lines. Though a bartender on a cruise ship should have the same amount of common sense as a bartender in a regular land-based establishment, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, passengers are overserved alcoholic beverages to the point that they are unable to function properly.  They may lose cognitive and physical functions and may get into altercations, may injure themselves or may even fall overboard – which is exactly what happened with one of our clients.

She was on a Carnival ship enjoying herself with her fiancé and friend when she decided to have some drinks. At a bar, Sarah kept getting offered free casino play if she kept ordering alcohol and became, as she described, “extremely intoxicated.” Back in her stateroom, after being overserved alcoholic beverages, she was unable to focus or maintain her balance and fell overboard.

Miraculously, she survived, but the ship took over two hours to make a rescue. Had she never been given so many drinks, the accident would have never happened. But crew members are instructed to push alcohol because it leads to more profit. Also bar tenders and bar waiters make most of their money as tips and as such, the more they sell, the more money they make.  Cruise lines make much of their money from alcohol sales, which can get very pricey. The new deal will save passengers some money, but may encourage them to drink more since the packages provide for unlimited beverages.

An unlimited alcohol plan wouldn’t be such a bad idea if bartenders knew when to cut someone off. Bartenders should be responsible for keeping track of how many drinks a passenger is given, and after a certain amont or at the point when they start to appear visibly intoxicated, stop serving them.

Bartenders do this at restaurants and other establishements on land, so they same practice should be maintained on cruise ships, where the chances of getting hurt are even greater.

The unlimited alcohol package could also lead to an increase in the number of minors who are given alcoholic drinks. There have been many cases in which minors became intoxicated on a ship, despite the fact that crew members should check each and every ID card to verify the passenger’s age. A few months ago, a teen cruise passenger died from alcohol poisoning and we have yet to learn how he even got the drinks in the first place. A teen, not knowing any better, may try to use their parents’ or older siblings’ unlimited drinks card to get a beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages and may end up getting sick.

These are all factors that must be considered before an alcoholic beverage package can be offered. While this can be a win win situation for the cruise lines and for the passengers, like everything else in life needs to be done in a prudent manner so unintended consequences can be avoided.

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