This morning the Carnival Miracle returned to New York with the body of an 18 year old high school student aboard.

The young man, scheduled to graduate from Saratoga Springs High School this spring, reportedly died of alcohol poisoning last night. He has been described as a "polite young man" in a local newspaper and as a "great, gentle kid" by extended family members on an on line cruise community website Cruise Critic.

18 year old kids are not suppose to die on cruises or during school breaks.

There will be debate where the alcohol came from and who is responsible for the young man’s death.

Carnival Miracle Cruise Ship One thing is certain. There’s way too much emphasis on booze in the Carnival cruise experience. It’s too easy for teenagers to gain access to alcohol on cruise ships. Its particularly easy when bartenders, working for tips, serve too many drinks without any regard to where the drinks eventually end up.  

In 1994, the LA Times published an article "Boy’s Death Raises Issues of Drinking On Cruises." A 14 year old boy aboard Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas consumed so much rum and tequila that he literally drank himself to death. The cruise line corporate communications manager at the time responded to the minor’s death cavalierly saying "the best advice that you can give is that a cruise is a resort vacation. It’s not a baby-sitting service."

So should parents watch over their teenagers like they zealously do at home?  That’s not what the cruise lines like Carnival tell you to do.  

If you click on the "Cruise Booze" category to the left you’ll see dozens of articles about excessive alcohol sales on cruises. The more booze on cruises, the greater the risk of crimes and death. As a parent of an 18 year-old-about-to-graduate, I find it hard to even think for a second of going on a cruise and returning without my son alive. 

Many years ago, my wife and I took a vacation to Disney World with our two boys. While my wife was watching our kids in the pool, I ordered a beer for myself and a wine for my wife.  The Disney bartender said he could sell only one drink per adult.  So I had to ask my wife to come buy her own drink.  I thought what a pain this was, but it was a responsible policy designed to keep alcohol away from underage drinkers.

There is nothing remotely resembling such a policy on cruise ships. Pushing alcohol is the business model of the cruise industry.

If this death becomes a story covered by the major press, you will see attacks on the parents for not supervising their child.  But most parents have no idea just how out-of-control cruise ships like Carnival are. Carnival earns many hundreds of millions of dollars aggressively pushing the booze. There are few security guards, There are no real safeguards like I experienced at the Magic Kingdom.  

Most parents spend their lives watching their kids like a hawk, but once on a cruise they get caught up in the fantasy environment marketed and sold by the "’fun ships."  They let their guard down. The result is tragedies like this while the cruise line makes millions of dollars selling booze.    

February 27 2013 Update: Here’s the statement from Carnival we received this morning:

"We can confirm that an 18-year-old male guest passed away in his cabin at approximately 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26 during an eight-day voyage of the Carnival Miracle which ended later that morning in New York. The cause of death has not been determined. With regard to speculation that he may have died from alcohol poisoning, we can confirm that, based on the preliminary investigation, there is no indication he was served any alcohol by shipboard personnel. Following his death, the cruise line contacted the FBI as per standard practice in this type of occurrence. FBI representatives boarded the ship on Tuesday morning to conduct an investigation. No foul play is suspected. We extend our deepest sympathies to young man’s family and loved ones during this very difficult time."  

  • Tim

    Very sad.

  • Dana

    My prayers are with the young man’s family!! This article is spot on!! I only cruise with Carnival and every two minutes someone is trying to sell me alchol!! You have to learn how to say NO or NO MORE!! Spring break is coming up. Can you imagine how many college age drunks on going to be on cruises!! One cruise ship has cancelled their all you can drink package just for spring break. Every cruise ship needs to follow suit and cancel their drinks package!! This could potentially save alot of lives this spring break!!

  • Michelle

    I was on this cruise and have to say how sorry I am for this family. On the 3rd night of the cruise we came across a large group of kids from the “Club O2 program” (which is the program for 15-17 year olds) Not only were they obviously intoxicated they were clearly still drinking. I pointed it out to security who shrugged their shoulders (literally) and said “well we can’t police them all”

  • Gary

    I feel so bad for the family. Sorry for their loss.

    This article is just a bit baised. You as a lawyer, should know that your statements are slanderish, towards Carnival Corp. Yet in your example it is on a RCC ship.

    As a parent, the only thing you can do is try to raise them the best you can do and let them know that there are consequences to their actions and some are real bad, and hope they make the right decisions.

  • Cindy

    I was on the cruise with my teenagers too. All the kids were drinking including my son. Kids can buy alcohol in the Bahamas and put it in water bottles, this child was old enough to drink on the cruise. I feel sick over this. I wont use the boys name as it was not printed in the above article but he had passed out in a common area, the employees of CC did see this (I’m told). The boy was then led to the cabin he shared with his 11 year old brother I am told, by my son. I am So very sorry for this family. Tragic!

  • Timothy Hickey

    My first question to you Mr. Walker would be if you have ever been on a cruise before? Because, if you have, you would know that it is VERY easy to bring alcohol aboard with you. I have eight out of the last eight times I have cruised. To automatically place the blame on Carnival and it’s staff is misplaced and irresponsible prior to completion of the investigation.

  • Sandy

    I have been on 9 cruises, 5 with Carnival, and at times with my teenagers in tow. I will say this, I caught my teens drinking a couple of times on the ship. Our last cruise was on the Carnival Miracle out of New York, & teens had no problem buying booze on this ship. Luckily, my kids thought having a couple drinks was cool, and they didn’t go hog wild. Also, if your cruise ship goes to Cozumel, Mexico, your teens will have no problem buying booze in Mexico. I asked a bartender in Mexico what the drinking age is, and his answer was, “it’s supposed to be 18, but we serve anyone who can see over the top of the bar”. Most 10 yr olds can see over the bar. Isn’t that wonderful? I feel very, very sad for the family who lost their 18 yr old son on the Carnival Miracle. This never should have happened, & Carnival will never admit involvement, even though BOOZE CRUISE is the name of their game.

  • kevwebber

    Im so sorry to here for this loss ,i cruise alot and to be honest the lad could drink ashore like this ,its not down to the cruise line ,it sounds like he was on a mission to get smashed ,most of us have done this when we were young.i think he was just so unlucky ,please done blame the cruise company ,and here in uk he is an adult ,ive cruised on carnival and they are a fantastic company RIP x

  • Dee

    Sympathies to the family.

    LOTS of speculating going on about this incident.
    Can we wait for the investigation to be final before we become judge and jury?

  • What investigation? The FBI never releases the results of its investigations and usually declines prosecution even when there is a murder. The cruise line investigation is to defend itself and will never be released, plus the PR representative already denied any responsibility. What investigation is the public and the family suppose to wait for? Carnival acts as the judge and jury and already declared itself innocent.

  • Tina

    I know this is very sad but I was wondering if they bought bottles on the ship and was given their bottles that night. We found the ship very responsible with the drinks, yes they do ask you if you want drinks all the time but they only allow 15 drinks and you have to wait at least 15 min in between them and I couldnt order for my husband, he had to order his own they wouldnt give me 2 drinks at one time. We also noticed at one bar parents were buying and doing shots with their 17 year old children Either way it is very sad, so young!

  • Sandy

    I love Carnival Cruises. I sailed with other cruise lines & always went back to Carnival, because they’re the most fun. However, the point I was making in my last post is that Carnival will never take responsibility for a death due to alcohol. Parents have to be vigilant over their kids, no matter what age they are, and especially on cruises. The cruise IS going to push the booze, for sure. The people working on the ships have been taught to always be nice to passengers. The staff is not going to haggle with teens who might be of age. They will most likely serve them rather than argue with them. Carnival was much more sympathetic in their public statement about the teen’s death than Royal Caribbean was when they had a teen death from alcohol in 1994. But, they do not feel responsible. Royal Caribbean said they were not a babysitting service, and Carnival completely denied any responsibility. Bottom line is, parents have to be hyper-vigilant on cruises. Sadly,it’s too late for this young man, and my heart & prayers go out to his family. But,if this post helps to save another teen’s life, my purpose will have been served. I’ve posted what I know to be fact on the cruises I have been on. Cruises are a blast, but NEVER throw caution to the wind, & let the sea breeze take it away, because there’s always a shark waiting just below the waves, hidden from sight. You don’t want to be the person who receives the bite.

  • Dana
  • LH

    I was on the Miracle this week as well. While I admit the alcohol is plentiful, I surprisingly did not the the drunk, stumbling, loud, obnoxious behavior one would expect in such an environment, from the teens or the adults. (I did see the boy who later passed away, “sleeping” on a sofa in the piano bar, friends by his side). As sad as this is for his family, perhaps his own choices and behavior should be considered. He was not force-fed the alcohol, he drank it himself. Just as a drunk driver would be responsible if they hurt someone else, so should someone whose actions hurt themself. Please don’t think I am unsympathetic to this boy’s family, my heart breaks for them, I can’t fathom this kind of loss, I am a mother myself. There but for the grace of God go I…

  • Donny Rhodeski

    If your 18 years old your old enough to know your limits. Its a Boat your not driving anywhere and for years in the USA And even NY 18 was the legal are to drink… We have all been 18 and all drank before you cant Blame anybody for this ..

    Its a Sad Loss for a teenager ..

  • Cheryl Rick Klein

    Sadly, my daughter at 11:30 Monday night witnessed
    this young man passed out on a couch and called
    security. She also saw his mother trying to wake him up
    a short while later with little results.
    Ship security allegedly just put him in a wheel chair and
    and took him to his cabin.
    Why didn’t they take proper measures and take him
    to examined by the ship M.D????????
    My daughter,15 was shocked and even took a few photos of this young man
    completely passed out and I was horrified because I was awakened
    about 3:AM by a announcement to by what sounded
    like the caption of the Miracle, to perform some “operation”
    in a cabin on the 7th deck just a few doors away from mine.
    My husband went out to hallway and security
    told him to go back to his cabin.
    I knew then someone had passed away and I was sickened
    to find out few days later it was a 18 year old boy.
    My heart goes out to the family. All our prayers are with you.

  • Julie

    My heart goes out to the boy’s parents, however, as easy as it is to say its the cruise line’s fault, that’s not necessarily the case. As parents, we are much more accountable for our children’s actions than the cruise line, and an 18 year old is old enough to take accountability for his/her actions as well. This is an emotionally charged occurrence,(after all, someone lost a child) and in situations like this, its easy to be angry and blame the wrong people. It’s kind of like blaming the teacher for your child’s poor grades, not yourself for neglecting to make sure the homework gets done, or the child for not taking his or her classwork more seriously.

    Either way, as a parent, I hope to never feel the pain I am sure this boy’s family is feeling right now and I wish them Godspeed in their healing.

  • Betty

    We have been on 18 Carnival cruises..yes alcohol is sold. My point is that if you are bringing under age kids with you a big discussion should be had before the trip and the parents should monitor them while on the trip..Would you let your children run free without knowing where they are or who they are with on land?