Swill and Swim: Royal Caribbean Offers “All-You-Can-Drink” Package

We have often discussed dram shop actions and liability for “over-serving” patrons at bars and other businesses. Royal Caribbean appears willing to go where few other businesses are now willing to venture. The cruise line has introduced a new one-price, all-you-can-drink cruise package. I wonder how much legal analysis occurred before this floating dram shop case was launched.

Of course, the cruise line lawyers could argue that alcohol is lighter than water and helps people float when they fall over the side.

Want to drink yourself silly while moving across deep ocean in the dark? It will cost $29 per person per day for all beers, house wine by the glass and a 25% discount on all other wines and liquors. However, for just $39 per person per day, the package includes all beers, house wine by the glass, all liquor (except premium and speciality brands), cocktails and 25% discount on all other wines and premium and speciality liquors. Then there is the Premium Package at $49 per person per day offers all of the above plus glasses of wine that normally sell for up to $10, cocktails, premium liquor brands and a 25% discount on all bottles of wine, glasses of wine over $10 and speciality liquors.

There is obviously little danger of drunk driving on a cruise so long as the bar is closed hours before docking. The question is whether the cruise line is risking liability on the host of injuries that can occur on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. It is unlikely that many of these all-you-can-drink patrons are going to take kindly to being told you can drink no more. When they fall off the ship or down a flight of stars, the question of liability could prove significant for the cruise line.

Notably, in Godfrey v. Boston Old Colony, a Louisiana dram shop case, the court heard an expert who testified against such packages:

Fred Del Marva, a qualified expert specializing in Premises Liability, Premises Security, and Dram Shop Litigation in the food service and lodging industries submitted an affidavit. In it he attested to the following: Price was not intoxicated at the time he was admitted to Waldo’s; “reasonably prudent bar operators do not adopt a pay one price for all you can drink policy”; due to the blood alcohol level of Richard Price at 12:45 a.m. on the morning of the accident, an adequately trained staff should have recognized that Price had become intoxicated and the staff should have refused to serve Price any more alcohol; he concluded that Napoli and other members of Waldo’s staff committed the following affirmative acts which breached the standard of care of reasonably prudent bar operators and which could foreseeably result in serious injury to its patrons

The question is whether a maritime dram shop rule applies. This has long been a controversy and some cruise lines have succeeded in playing the gap in coverage when their bars take to sea. In Voillat v. Red and White Fleet, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4359, the court noted that there still remains no general maritime dram shop law. Due to the absence of such a general law, the Court applied California’s law which exempts liability if the injury is caused by other intoxicated customer. The court held:

Since Meyer, the Ninth Circuit has not adopted a general maritime dram shop rule. The court declines to fashion its own rule because doing so would require the court to engage in the difficult task of choosing among various competing state regulatory approaches. Such regulatory power is more appropriately left to the states. . . . Under California law, plaintiffs fail to state a claim for relief under their sixth claim for improper service of alcohol.

Other states have found the issue more uncertain, indicating that a maritime dram shop law has been recognized. One such good discussion is found in Kludt v. Majestic Star Casino,, 200 F. Supp. 2d 973 (N.D. Ind. 2001). Here is the full pertinent analysis:

The Defendant argues that there is no existing maritime rule regarding what is essentially dram shop liability, that application of maritime law is inappropriate here, and that, under Wilburn, this Court must apply state law. In support of its argument, the Defendant cites a decision of a United States District Court in California in which that court held that, although the court had admiralty jurisdiction over the passenger’s tort action pursuant to general maritime law, no federal maritime dram shop rule existed and that, as a consequence, California’s dram shop statute provided the substantive law governing the plaintiff’s admiralty claim. See Meyer v. Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc., . 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21431, 1994 WL 832006, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 29, 1994) (citing Wilburn, 348 U.S. at 313). That court, thus, declined to fashion a federal maritime dram shop rule that would impose tort liability on sellers of alcohol for injuries resulting from their sales. Id. The Plaintiff, [**15] however, cites a decision of a United States District Court in Texas in which that court held that admiralty jurisdiction existed over a casino riverboat owner when a passenger who became intoxicated while drinking alcoholic beverage at the casino riverboat killed three persons while operating his automobile after departing the riverboat. Young v. Players Lake Charles, L.L.C., 47 F. Supp.2d 832 (S.D. Tex. 1999). The Players court determined that a defendant can be held liable under general maritime law for providing alcohol without adequate supervision, stating that because “there is an existing maritime rule governing the issue of dram shop liability,” “there is no need to perform a Wilburn analysis to determine whether the Court must apply state dram shop law.” Id. at 837. Thus, the briefs and arguments submitted by the parties demonstrate the unsettled nature of this area of federal law. Furthermore, in presenting this issue to the Court, the parties were not able to identify authority in the Seventh Circuit that would resolve this dispute, and the Court has been unable to find such.

In resolving this dispute, the Court finds the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Kermarec v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, 358 U.S. 625, 3 L. Ed. 2d 550, 79 S. Ct. 406 (1959), to be instructive. In Kermarec, a plaintiff was injured while visiting a seaman on board a vessel berthed at a pier, and the Supreme Court held that the district court erred in applying New York substantive law HN7Go to the description of this Headnote.where the petitioner was injured aboard a ship upon navigable waters. Id. at 628. The Court noted that even though jurisdiction was originally premised on diversity grounds, the cause was to be governed by standards of maritime law, stating “if this action had been brought in state court, reference to admiralty law would have been necessary to determine the rights and liabilities of the parties.” Kermarec, 358 U.S. at 628. See also Branch v. Schumann, 445 F.2d 175 (5th Cir. 1971); King v. Alaska Steamship Co., 431 F.2d 994 (9th Cir. 1970). See also Pope & Talbot v. Hawn, 346 U.S. 406, 98 L. Ed. 143, 74 S. Ct. 202 (1953). Although the Court in the present case declines to fashion a federal maritime dram shop rule, the Court finds it appropriate to apply fundamental principles of negligence law that have been adopted as general maritime law. Nevertheless, because state law may supplement maritime law, the Court will also consider the alternative theory of liability under the Indiana Dram Shop Act.

The new policy could prove to be a costly mistake for the cruise line. Over-indulgence of food and drink are well-known facts on these cruise trips. Royal Caribbean better hope that this does not become an “all-you-can-sue” packet for tort litigators.

Source: USA Today

Jonathan Turley

19 thoughts on “Swill and Swim: Royal Caribbean Offers “All-You-Can-Drink” Package

  1. A whole new meaning to ‘high sea’

    “So, how was your cruise vacation?”
    “It must have been great! I was hung over for 3 days after and am on the list for a new liver very soon.”

  2. Obviously, “man overboard” isn’t a term the powers that be at Royal Caribbean ever heard of.

  3. I think I need a listing of what constitutes a “premium” liquor before I can decide which package would be best. I agree with Prof. Turley that this sounds like an accident looking for a cruise ship to happen on!

  4. So long as Hazelwood is not at the helm….we are ok…

    Now what would be interesting is how would you be able to tell if you are sea sick…

  5. AY,

    Which is why my Honeymoon took place at the safer location of Vail. Also, we found a bed a breakfast that was part of a culinary school.

  6. Gyges,

    I am gonna go back to the BB game…..

    But….What was the spiciest thing on your honeymoon…..

    Food now…ok….I like spicy food….the hotter the better….I can say that I have not met…yet….a pepper that I could not eat….sometimes they bring a little tears to your eyes….but in the end….its all worth it…

    Off Topic….

    Does anyone have any knowledge of the new designer drug called 2-CE? It apparently is the new teen/kid rage…something akin to LSD….but the usage is something like the Mexican Cheese a few years ago…

  7. If the cruise lines want to play russian roulette with their bottom line, what business is that of mine? I’m not a stockholder. If some guest wants to drink him/herself into oblivion, what business is it of mine? I have to maneuver myself around those people on any given Saturday night bar crawl in Cleveland or at any given performance at Play House Square. Trust me, whether the drinks are free or the guests have to pay, there will always be those who blindly stumble.

  8. What could possibly go wrong . . .

    And if you’ve ever taken maritime law or practice maritime law? You have a good idea how many cases involve the grog run amok.

  9. Relevant and a great show too, Gyges. I read this morning that they are finally moving forward on an “Arrested Development” film. To which I said in my best Cartman voice, “Sweet!”.

  10. Buddha,

    We’ve got all 3 season on DVD, including the “made for cable” version of the pilot. Now THAT was a show that knew when to quit.
    Unlike a certain show that whose title rhymes with The Hex Miles.

  11. The problem with a culture that is in major part drug-seeking but has artificial limits placed on the range of choices (and stifles even the dissemination of dispassionate information of the range of drugs available) is that it forces people to make bad drug choices among those that are legal. All you can drink (open bar) aficionado’s that I have known always struck me as making bad drug choices, they needed more than as much alcohol as they could drink and having a wider range of choices would have been to their benefit IMO.

    AY, all I know is what I find in Wikipedia. It’s a hallucinogen with effects similar to LSD with intense colors, fractal-like visuals and physical side effects similar to organics like mescaline, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea etc. Prolonged and severe muscle tensing can also occur.

    It was discovered by Alexander Shulgalin who considered it ‘difficult but worth-while’. If he calls it ‘difficult’ I’d be disinclined to deal with it, just from the non-mental side effects. Unlike mescaline the nausea and muscle-tensing can be long lasting. Not my idea of a good time.


    There are some interesting interviews of and presentations by Shugalin on YouTube.


  12. Gyges,
    Great video of a great show.
    When I was in college there was substance referred to as “window pane” LSD. I stayed away from it, but some guys got messed up on it. After seeing them I stuck with my Strawberry Hill!

  13. I bet the first people to sign up will be muggers and serial murderers. Imagine if 37 catatonic ’49$ special’ patrons went missing over the course of the cruise. Sick mind? Perhaps.

  14. The name Window Pane covered a delivery format starting in the 70’s. Who knows what was on those tabs your acquaintance’s took, depending on when the name had become a generic for the delivery format.

    Lack of quality control is a destructive side effect of criminalization. The thing about drugs of that family is that their strength and quality was unpredictable so people were subject to wide variations in the attenuation of the effects but certain effects were consistent in all drugs of that class. That 2 people could have different reactions to 2 doses out of the same batch was indicative that how one was affected relied in some major part on what one brought to the experience.

    Around ’69-’70 a batch of LSD called Window Pane showed up in my neck of the woods that was carried on tiny, 1/8″ (or slightly smaller) single squares of firm, transparent material. They were actually rectangles being just the tiniest bit smaller along their width. Probably gelatin but rigid and as thick as a drivers license/credit card. You took it like a pill but it didn’t really melt like gelatin, it stayed pretty firm. Strange little ‘tabs’.

    It was a very pure dose, very high quality. Most of the people I knew who had taken it thought it was very strong but since most drugs were probably cut with something or produced in less than laboratory clean conditions and subject to poor construction, I thought it was strong, and heavy, due to its relative purity. It was amazing stuff.

    There was later confusion over its name but it was sold under the name, and most people referred to it as, Window Pane because it looked like little panes of glass. It was rare too, it only came around once. I haven’t heard that name in a decade or more, but boyoboy, it was memorable… good times.

  15. MCTs help to speed up one’s metabolism and the calories it generates are easily burned. A mixture of equal parts coconut oil and l0olive oil drizzled of greens is delectable. Commonly used cooking oil can easily go rancid or get hydrogenated especially at high temperatures, which can be harmful to our body.

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