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Are all-you-can-drink packages slowly ruining the cruise industry?

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 29/07/2019 Jane Archer

This weekend has been a gift for cruising. The naysayers, those who regard everything about cruise ships and passengers with horror, have been able to point to the fight on P&O Cruises’ Britannia and say I told you so.

And for those who say cruising isn’t what it used to be (blame the end of formal nights and Captains’ Tables), what more proof is needed than reports of a brawl, blood ‘everywhere’, comments about Essex and passengers confined to their cabins.

Except – and apologies but here comes the voice of reason – both schools of thought are way out of line.

Representational image © Getty Representational image

Millions of people enjoy cruise holidays every year and very few will have ever experienced an incident like this. I myself have been on hundreds of cruises over the past 20 years and have rarely even seen cross words exchanged.

That’s not to say arguments don’t happen. One of the things guaranteed to cause upset – just as it does on land – are the so-called deckchair hogs, who put towels on sun lounges and then disappear for hours on end.

And noses are often put out of joint by those who turn up for dinner in t-shirts and jeans instead of abiding by the dress code of the day (just for the record, jeans and t-shirts are rarely appropriate).

But all that is a far cry from the incident this weekend - or indeed when a family group of 23 passengers was kicked off a Carnival Cruise Line’s ship in Australia in February 2018 for reportedly attacking other passengers.

Guests said glasses were thrown about and video footage shows people screaming. It’s said there were cheers as the miscreants were removed from the ship by police. No wonder.

And ten years ago, what should have been a festive Christmas on P&O Cruises’ ship Ventura turned into a nightmare, like the ‘worst days of Benidorm’, according to one passenger.

Others told of two boys trying to set light to a Christmas tree, foul language, and drunk teenagers.

Therein lies much of the problem of course. Among the many attractions of a cruise holiday (and actually of most holidays, whether on water or not) is the fact that you can indulge in a few more glasses of your favourite vino than normal, or splash on an exotic-sounding cocktail or two, because you don’t have to worry about driving home afterwards.

Drinks are included in the cost with top-end cruise lines such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Silversea, but most lines charge for it and it is not cheap.

A pint on a P&O Cruises’ ship will set you back just over £4, while a glass of red wine costs from about £4.50. Go on the American ships and prices are much higher - £6 and £8 or more, and with a 15% gratuity slapped on as well.

To sweeten the pill (or should that be cocktail?), most cruise lines have all-you-can-drink packages, which save having to sign a chit every time you order but do rather challenge people to drink as much as their livers can stand to make sure they get their money’s worth.

Which seems to have been what caused the Britannia brawl, which kicked off at 2am in the buffet following a day in Bergen, the last port of call on a Norwegian fjords cruise before the ship headed home to Southampton.

Plates and furniture were reportedly used as weapons, and eyewitnesses have pointed the finger at unruly people ‘there to drink as much as they could’.

It’s very easy to do given bars on cruise ships open as the first passengers stagger out to the pool after breakfast and continue serving until the last people have gone to bed.

Sadly their behaviour turned what should have been the end of a fun holiday into a North Sea nightmare. Should it put people off cruising? Definitely not.

What happened on Britannia could equally have happened in Benidorm (which always gets it in the neck), Brighton or Barbados.

But in case anyone is still apprehensive, I have two pieces of advice. One is not to go to the buffet at 2am (bed is a far better option!). The other is to decamp to one of the luxury lines.

Pictures: Cruise Critic's top-rated cruise destinations of 2019 

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