INSIDE EDITION Investigate Cruise Ship Drinking
Cruise vacations aboard luxury ships are billed as good clean family fun, but we found that's not always the case on the high seas when we sent a team of producers on a recent Royal Caribbean cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Cozumel, Mexico.
While aboard Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas, we watched many passengers pound back booze day and night. In the ship's night club, our cameras spotted people passed out and one passenger face down on the bar. We also observed raunchy dancing and women exposing themselves.
From the moment our undercover producers walked up the gangway, the booze kept flowing. We saw many passengers drinking heavily before and during the mandatory lifeboat drill. Certainly not advisable considering what happened to the Costa Concordia when the luxury cruise ship capsized off the coast of Italy earlier this year killing over 30 people.
But the real boozing we witnessed occurred after the Liberty of the Seas set sail when legions of waiters descended on passengers with tray loads of booze pushing the drink of the day.
Some waiters even danced around balancing bottles of rum on their heads, while we saw others happily pouring passengers a double shot. And we learned the waiters have got good reason too.
"You make money on commission," asked an INSIDE EDITION producer.
"Oh yeah," said a waiter.
They told INSIDE EDITION the more booze they sell, the more money they make.
But nowhere was the pushing of alcohol more apparent than in the ship's main nightclub. Called The Catacombs, the two-level bar stays open as late as 5AM.
When the club finally called it a night, we saw a group of inebriated young men take off their shirts and flip cartwheels. But the drinking takes a heavier toll on other passengers.
One young woman was so plastered her friends had to help support her as she walked out.
And the heavy drinking is hardly limited to the ship.
While some passengers head off to Cozumel's beautiful beaches, others headed straight to the bars on shore, where you don't even need a glass to drink.
Just blocks from the dock, waiters blow alcohol straight into passengers' mouths.
And it's not just the young people binge drinking. Grandma and grandpa got shots poured down their mouths too!
But that's nothing. In the shadow of the looming cruise ships, passengers shuffle past waiters waiting to spray liquor into their mouths. Some jumped straight into this pool.
Some women who've been drinking all day then climbed on top of the bar and take more shots!
Then all the hard partying women standing atop the bar got their skirts blown up with a giant bottle of compressed air.
Back aboard the ship the party raged on, but we found some passengers didn't even make it back to their cabin before they passed out.
After tossing back shot after shot, one inebriated guy celebrating his bachelor party passed out face first on the bar. We didn't see the bartenders or the ships security officers do a thing about it.
Maybe they were too distracted by one female passenger we saw pulling down her shirt while sitting at the bar.
But such excessive drinking can have tragic consequences.
Security footage, obtained by INSIDE EDITION, shows 21-year-old Jose-Miguel Tello drinking in the same club on the same ship before he tragically went overboard in January 2011.
Randy Jacques, a cruise security expert hired by Jose's family, says that after Jose left the bar drunk, he became disoriented when the doors he tried were locked. He says Jose then tried to climb over this railing and down a ladder to the deck below. But Jose never made it – the video tragically shows him plummeting to his death.
Jacques said, "He wasn't cared for as a passenger. It's apparent he was over served alcohol."
Jose's mother is suing the cruise line for negligence saying: [Royal Caribbean] "increases its profits by 'pumping alcohol to passengers' and '[fails] to supervise and monitor the excessive use of alcohol by its passengers.''
Royal Caribbean denies these allegations.
While boozing by passengers aboard the high seas isn't likely to stop anytime soon, Jacques says the cruise lines need to be more vigilant to prevent other tragedies from happening.
Royal Caribbean declined an on-camera interview but sent us a statement saying they take the issue seriously and their bartenders and serves are all trained "to serve alcohol responsibly"..."and it is unacceptable for any crew member to knowingly serve an intoxicated guest."
Royal Caribbean also stated that several guests violated their guest conduct policy during our trip.