Courthouse News Service reports on a disturbing story of Carnival allegedly over-serving alcohol to a passenger who fell off the cruise ship and then not taking reasonable steps to rescue the overboard woman.

The case involves cruise passenger "Sarah."  As Courthouse News explains: 

"After Carnival cruises got her so drunk she fell overboard, and eyewitnesses reported it, the captain refused to turn around the ship for 90 minutes, then refused to airlift her to hospital to treat her fractured bones." 

The incident occurred aboard the Carnival Destiny in October of last year. Sarah was cruising to Jamaica with her fiancé and her friend Rebecca. We wrote about the incident when it happened: Why Carnival Destiny Passenger RescueDid Carnival Delay Rescuing An Overboard Passenger From The Destiny?

The lawsuit alleges that a bartender kept pushing drinks on her. To encourage more alcohol sales, the Carnival bartender offered them free $5 coupons for the ship’s casino. As a result, Sarah became "extremely intoxicated" and fell into the ocean but not before first striking a life boat during her 100 foot fall.

Her injuries included what is describes as "fractured orbital bones, lung contusions, hypothermia, fractured ribs, dissection of the carotid artery, heart arrhythmia, broken optical shelves, blood clots in her eyes, arms, and legs, as well as extreme hematomas all over her body."

Sarah’s friend, fiance and others on the ship saw and/or heard her fall into the ocean and immediately notified several Carnival staff members.  Carnival refused and delayed before they turned the ship to cruise ship around and eventually found her nearly two hours in the ocean, severely injured and without a life vest. 

But the woman’s ordeal was not over. Carnival refused to airlift her to a hospital, but diverted the cruise to Key West, where "doctors explained that they did not have the equipment to handle the severe trauma that plaintiff had suffered. They also stated that the plaintiff should have been air evacuated from the cruise ship directly to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami."

The story was also covered by Cruise Critic, and the members of that on-line cruise site are blaming Sarah for not exercising "personal responsibility."

Bur cruise lines are considered to be persons under the law. Cruise lines have responsibility to their guests. There is case law in Florida that cruise lines face liability when they over-serve passengers past the point of intoxication which appears to be the case if the allegations are true.  Plus it’s inexcusable to delay a couple of hours before trying to rescue an overboard passenger, whether they are drunk or not.

People may scoff at the case but Carnival earns hundreds of millions of dollars pushing alcohol on its huge fleet of cruise ships. It faces a multi-million dollar exposure in a case with such egregious allegations.   

  • Mark Gaouette


    It’s easy to fall off a cruise ship when those charged with your safety do something stupid (and irresponsible) like serve you alcoholic drinks at an assuming pace and then do nothing to make sure you you’re not a danger to yourself. Ship’s railings are quite short despite how robustly they are designed. If you’re intoxicated and you lean over these railings to be sick, gravity, or a sea swell, can take you over the side very quickly.

    Take the case of Daniel DiPiero. Daniel DiPiero was reported missing from Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas on May 15, 2006. Daniel, (who was of legal age to drink on the ship) after a night of drinking with his friends in one of the late night bars, apparently had reached his limit and wandered out of the bar alone and collapsed on the nearest deck chair. The time was just after midnight. The last few hours of Daniel’s young life were recorded on video cameras, on a deserted cruise ship deck. The same surveillance camera that recorded his falling overboard also recorded his precise activity prior to that. The video observed him awakening around 2:15 a.m. walking over to the railing, apparently vomiting, and then sliding over the rail into the sea. The ship’s security did not have a roving deck patrol on the weather decks, especially around the time when most of the bars and discos on the ship were closing up for the night. The sight of a young man, obviously passed out from over indulging in alcohol surely would have caught the attention of a passing security patrol, or even other guests as they strolled past him. But that was not the case as he laid unconscious in a deck chair on the fourth deck. It was almost eleven hours before someone noticed Daniel missing. No one from the cruise ship was monitoring the video cameras (a fact they later admitted to law enforcement authorities).

    The tragic case is similar to the death of Lindsay O’Brien. In January 2006, 15 year-old Lindsay O’Brien fell to her death off the Costa cruise ship Majica off the coast of Mexico after being served alcoholic drinks over a two hour period. Costa Cruise Lines investigation downplayed the significance of serving alcohol to a 15 year-old girl and then claimed her death was the result of her own suicide. It seems hard to believe that any reasonable person, outside of the cruise lines, could believe that a teenager or a young adult, who has been served an over-abundance of alcohol in the environment of a cruise ship is not a danger to themselves, especially when he or she are leaning precariously over a short ship railing, vomiting into the sea. She and her under-age friend were served almost 15 drinks over a two hour period by a bartender who seemed more inclined to count his bar commissions rather than be concerned for the young girl’s safety.

    By the way, 15 drinks is the amount of alcoholic drinks you now can consume in a 24 hour period with the cruise lines’ new all for one drink package, or you can have them all at once (like Lindsay) and wander around the ship and do something stupid as you suggest.

    Cdr. Mark Gaouette, USNR (Ret)

  • rich d

    Come on people. NO ONE opened this idiots mouth and poured the drinks down her throat with her kicking and screaming. When will people take responsibility for their own actions. If she cant say no or walk away, why is the cruise lines problem. No one forced her to get that drunk. If all it took was 5 dollar casino vouchers, I think this person has a serious drinking problem. In case you have forgotten, these drinks are not free, the woman chose to pay for them and drink them. What do you suppose the ships should do, put glass around the whole ship so no one falls off just in case they cant say 2 simple words when offered a drink….no thank you…..

  • Fran

    So, if I go to a disco on land and get super mega drunk and then leave and drive my car and have an accident, is the disco’s responsability for selling me that much alcohol? Maybe it was not that much, maybe I didnt eat enough, maybe I get drunk pretty easily. Just wondering…