This week, two cruise stories have been brought to my attention, the first of which made the lunchtime and evening National and International press and TV News, whilst the other doesn't appear, as yet to have been reported upon.
The first story related to an on-board bar-room type brawl on P&Os newest cruise ship, Britannia. I was alerted to the story as the mainstream TV newsreader reported that there had been a violent, bloody, mass-brawl break out on the ship. I watched horrified as footage was shown of Union-Jack-waving crowds on deck jeering and singing raucously. This must be serious, right if it makes the TV News? These images of hoards of passengers causing an affray on deck were perpetuated across the online media outlets and in the press.
When I listened to later reports it became even more bizarre. Apparently a clown had been involved in the incident which had taken place in the buffet at two o'clock in the morning.
WAIT! In the buffet? At 2am? What was that footage then of jingoistic passengers virtually rioting on the pool deck? Oh yes, that would have been The Great British Sail-away Party - a tradition on every P&O cruise ship when departing their final port, where families are given little paper flags to wave to Rule Britannia and Rod Stewart's 'I Am Sailing'. A good-natured family event which would have taken place around 9 hours before the 'mass-brawl'.
I suppose a picture of an almost deserted buffet cafeteria, save for a few of the Entertainment staff and a party of inebriated holidaymakers, albeit in black tie, wouldn't have provided the same desired shock and awe. The addition of a clown into the mix added yet another outlandish dimension
Whilst following the story online and in the press I came upon sensationalist headlines such as these examples:
Violent brawl on cruise ships Buffet - Blood Everywhere - The Express
Horrified mum brands P&O cruise 'Benidorm on sea' after mass brawl at buffet - The Mirror
Bloody fight starts on UK cruise ship after 'clown' shows up - NY Post
It would appear that following a Gala Formal Night a group of revellers was in the buffet where for whatever reason an argument ensued which quickly escalated into a drunken fight. Crockery and chairs were used as makeshift weapons resulting in six people receiving cuts and bruises.
Security were alerted over the tannoy and quickly brought the situation under control, confining those involved to their cabins until the ship docked in Southampton and they were handed over to the police.
I cannot find reports of exact numbers of people involved but this quote from a witness to the event suggests that it wasn't such a 'mass-brawl' as initial reports and images suggested.
Just to clarify, the majority of those onboard were perfectly civilised and nice individuals. It was just ruined by a few drunk idiots. - The Telegraph
Hampshire Police have made the following statements about the incident onboard Britannia:
"Officers are investigating following reports of a public order incident on board P&O's Britannia. Six people - three men and three women - were assaulted. A number of injuries were suffered including significant bruising and cuts. Investigations are ongoing".
They went on to say: 'There was no clown on board or involved in this incident.'
'A 43-year-old man and a woman, 41, both from Chigwell, Essex, have since been released from custody pending investigation after being arrested on suspicion of assault.'
Compare this to coverage of the second item which fell into my inbox in the form of a news release from Princess Cruises' PR Department. It is a feel-good story announcing the rescue efforts of the Captain and crew of Sea Princess.
You can read the full news release in my previous post below but in short, three sailors had to be rescued from a life raft after their boat sank off the coast of Curaç ao and they were adrift. Sea Princess, interrupted her World Cruise, and diverted 60 nautical miles in order to save the shipwrecked men.
Great story huh? Yet there has been no TV coverage, at least here in the U.K. On googling the incident I could find only one account of it which was on the World Of Cruising website. Fellow cruise bloggers will no doubt have covered it on social media, but it is unlikely to make the front pages of the tabloid press, or onto the TV news.
I am not, in any way, attempting to trivialise the Britannia incident. Absolutely not! This was appalling behaviour by any standard, the like of which I've never seen in 16 years of cruising; and of course there is no justification for violence under any circumstance. However to portray it as a much bigger incident than it actually was, is misleading and sensationalist.
I believe that these negative stories, when over-hyped in this way, contribute to the misconceptions surrounding cruising and have the potential to deter would-be first-timers.
In my opinion, most of these stories would appear to have had one shared intention - to show cruising in a negative light by exaggerating the severity of the fracas. This isn't the first time (think back to the Viking Sky coverage earlier this year), and it sadly most certainly won't be the last.
Cruise blogs, trade magazines and websites will carry both the good and bad news but are likely to report fairly and without bias, sticking to the undisputed facts.
Of course potential passengers are entitled to be made aware of any issues that might affect their decision on their choice of holiday, but by the same token surely they would also benefit from hearing positives too?
As someone trying to persuade newcomers to try cruising, it saddens me that at least some will be deterred from doing so due to reading negative news stories.
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