A mass brawl on a cruise ship was fuelled by passengers indulging in a “15 free drinks” offer, eyewitnesses have said.
Two people were arrested after the fight broke out on P&O’s Britannia cruise ship last Friday as it was returning from a week-long trip to the Norwegian fjords.
Six people were injured in the brawl and one witness was covered in blood after plates and furniture were thrown when two groups of passengers had an argument at about 1.30am in the ship’s Horizon restaurant on the 16th floor.
The two people arrested, a 41-year-old woman and a 43-year-old man, have been released under investigation.
One person on board described the cruise as “Benidorm on Sea” and said many passengers were on an unlimited drinks package.
Since the beginning of this year, P&O passengers have been offered a £40-a-day “Ultimate” drinks package, which allows them to have 15 drinks, including wine and spirits, in a 24-hour period between 6am and 6am.
A female passenger said she and her young son were woken by the aftermath of the brawl.
The woman, who did not want to be named, told Mail Online: “From the moment we embarked on the ship we found many of the other guests to be rude, have zero manners or respect for others.
“The boat was basically Benidorm on Sea with a me, me, me attitude. We found many people were there purely to drink as much as they could with their unlimited drinks packages.”
On the afternoon before the fight, the ship hosted a “Great British Sailaway” party.
US-based maritime lawyer Jim Walker, from Florida, told The Times that his cases often involved drinks packages offered by many cruise companies.
He said: “Are we seeing a correlation between drinks packages and violence? Generally we are.
“We’ve had cases where passengers have been involved in bar fights and the alleged assailants have had a drinks package. They’ve said that they drank all 15 drinks, that they didn’t want to leave any money on the table.”
Cruise companies that embark from the US are required by law to disclose the number of criminal incidents on board, something that isn’t enforced in the UK.
P&O’s US owner, Carnival, recorded 134 serious criminal incidents on its ships in the past three years, including 100 alleged sexual assaults, The Times reported. The figures only apply to ships that set off from the US and do not include any P&O cruise liners.
Police and P&O said a clown was not the cause of the mass brawl, refuting earlier reports.
It had initially been reported that the violence erupted after a passenger dressed as a clown interrupted a black-tie party held in one of the ship's 13 restaurants.
According to a female entertainer who works on the Britannia, the clown crashed a black-tie party held in the 16th-floor restaurant, prompting anger from the other passengers.
However, P&O said there was no clown on board and said this was supported by ship staff. This was confirmed by Hampshire Police.
After the Britannia arrived in Southampton, a man, 43, and a 41-year-old woman, both from Chigwell, Essex, were arrested on suspicion of assault.
The pair were released from custody on Sunday but remain under investigation.
Hampshire Police said: "There was no clown on board or involved in this incident. Officers are investigating following reports of a public order incident on board P&O's Britannia.”
The Britannia was returning from Bergen, Norway, following a week-long cruise which would have cost the passengers about £1,000.