A video of a brawl on the Carnival Paradise as the cruise ship was sailing back to Tampa last month has been circulating for the last two days. Newsweek covered the melee in an article titled “Cruise Ship Fight Video Shows Chairs Being Thrown Amid Chaos.” The magazine states the “6-and-a-half-minute video shows chairs being thrown across a dining room and a group of several women entangled in a fight, throwing punches, pulling hair and dragging one another to the ground.” A security guard appears at the scene nearly a minute into the fight. A cruise passenger identified as @Rizzarioman123, who appears from time to time in the video with his eyes seemingly bloodshot, holding a drink in his hand looking for some late night pizza, is heard cursing and encouraging the brawlers as he narrates, blow-by-blow, the fraucus posted on TicTok.

Cruise Radio covered the ruckus and included a statement from Carnival which cited its grandiose but illusory code of conduct which states, in part: “Our Carnival Values underscore that everyone should feel welcome and included, and that everyone on board demonstrate care and respect towards others.” 

Carnival Cruise Line has essentially cornered the market, so to speak, on shipboard violence in its nightclubs and pool bars over the years. Not surprisingly, Carnival has the most physical assaults “leading to serious bodily injury” as per the language of federal law with a total of a least fourteen (14) physical assaults with serious bodily injury reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2023. (In comparison, there are only eight (8) physical assaults with serious injury on all other cruise lines combined making the fleet of Carnival cruise ships by far the most violent cruise ships sailing on the high seas).

In the past, Carnival Cruise Line has characterized brawls like this as “limited, isolated and unprecedented.” Anyone who follows the cruise industry knows that these types of fights which occur on Carnival ships are hardly rare. But in this brawl, the Carnival PR team simply states that those implicated in the violence will be banned from cruising with Carnival again. With Carnival enjoying unprecedented sales and its ships sailing full, this is not much of a deterrence of future violence.

There literally are several dozens of videos on YouTube of fights which have erupted on cruise ships over the years. The vast majority of these brawls occur on Carnival ships.

There are reasons for this problem, in my opinion:

The “wider audience:” Cruising is now more popular than ever. The cruise line’s trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), says that over 30 million passengers will take a cruise this year.  Cheaper fares have attracted what Carnival Corporation’s former chairmen Micky Arison characterizes as the “wider audience.” This audience is generally a younger and harder partying crowd. Nearly fifteen years ago in an article titled Cruise Ship Brawls – A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships, I wrote about former CEO Arison discussing potential issues associated with cheap cruise tickets and a more diverse group of passengers.

Arison said: “cruise ships are a microcosm of any city or any location and stuff happens . . . The negatives of discounting might be less commission for agents and less revenue for us but the positive is it opens up the product to a wider audience.” I mentioned that the “wider audience” will undoubtedly include a younger crowd from a different demographic, including what I call the hard partying “Bud Light – tank top” crowd. Carnival has failed to hire additional security to police this more raucous crowd.

Too much alcohol on increasingly gigantic ships: Cruise lines aren’t profitable based solely on their cruise fares. Of all “onboard purchases,” including casino sales, shore excursions, specialty restaurants and gift shops, alcohol sales are the key to keeping the tax-free foreign flagged cruise ships profitable.  Pushing alcohol sales are a key part of Carnival’s so-called “fun ships.” Carnival collects literally hundreds of millions of tax-free dollars a year selling booze on the Carnival Cruise Line fleet. Bartenders, who make a earning solely on gratuities and tips, are often prone to over-serve guests.

Ill trained and and insufficient number of security guards: A common complaint we hear from passengers is that ship security does not intervene at an early stage to stop potentially violent situations from escalating and getting out of hand. Carnival often responds to brawls by praising its supposedly “highly trained security staff.” But images of its security personnel and ship officers kicking and beating passengers (and trying to stop passengers from filming the out of control violence) speaks volumes about Carnival’s shipboard security and the cruise line’s so-called “zero tolerance” of such violence. In many videos, Carnival security personnel are often seen observing the fights or trying to stop people from taking videos of the melees.

Years ago, I asked how Carnival will handle the “wider audience” flocking onto its larger cruise ships. If cruise ships are like cities and “stuff happens,” as Carnival’s Arison rightfully suggests, what steps are cruise lines taking to protect U.S. families? I asked then and will ask now whether Carnival and other cruise lines will ever hire a full complement of well trained and experienced security guards? Or will they continue to try and save money with only a few inexperienced “guards” trying to protect their guests from the inevitable violence when thousands of people squeeze into the huge ships and far too much booze is added to the mess?

The answer to these questions is contained in this video and the numerous other Carnival brawl videos online.

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July 2, 2024 Update:

TicTok removed the video but @rizzarioman123 posted it on YouTube:

July 3, 2024 Update:

Image credit: Carnival brawl – TicTok by @rizzarioman123, I Meme Therefore I Am (ImMeme0); Carnival Paradise – Crew Center CC By 4.0 commons / wikimedia.