Chaos broke out onboard a Carnival cruise ship sailing out of Jacksonville, Florida, after a fight between several passengers occurred. News of the brawl quickly spread as several passengers captured the fight on their cell phones.

The video footage, later shared on multiple news sites and social media, showed passengers on the Carnival Elation throwing punches and shoving each other, while other passengers and crew members attempted to break up the fight. As a result, multiple people were injured.  

The Elation is a member of the Carnival Cruise Line’s fantasy-class of ships. It can house up to 2,190 passengers when fully booked. The vessel, based out of Jacksonville, Florida, was ending a five-day Bahamas voyage at the time of the incident. The trip started on July 2, and the fight broke out on July 6, just as the vessel was heading back to its home Port of Jacksonville. 

Wednesday, the day of the incident, did not involve stopping at a port of call but was a “Fun Day at Sea,” which arguably did not end up fun for many of the ship’s passengers that day.

Injuries were not isolated to those starting the fight. At least eight people were reported as being injured. One report from a female passenger from Atlanta said that both of her grandparents were hurt, as well, suffering from a concussion and swollen hand.  

In one video shared by passengers, a female passenger is seen attempting to intervene to stop the fight, only to be knocked to the ground. Eventually, security officers broke up the fight, but not before multiple people were injured onboard.  

Following the incident, Carnival Cruise Line released a brief statement about the fight: “Our security team onboard Carnival Elation intervened in an altercation between guests. The matter was reported to law enforcement and an investigation is being completed. We won’t tolerate behavior that disrupts other guests’ vacations and those who instigated the altercation will no longer be able to sail on our ships.”

A Disturbing Trend of Violence

Unfortunately, incidents like these are not uncommon. When you combine a large group of people in an enclosed space for a long period of time with unlimited alcohol, the possibility of fights is always there. When these fights occur, however, those injured are not always the ones who started the fight. Oftentimes, innocent bystanders can get caught in the mix, resulting in significant injuries.

According to recent reports, fights like these are not isolated incidents. People have expressed concerns that there seems to be a continuing trend of violence onboard cruise ships.

A similar incident occurred in June on the Carnival Magic vessel as it sailed towards New York City. This incident started on the dance floor of the Magic between three passengers over a lover’s quarrel.  Eventually, the fight quickly escalated, involving nearly 60 people before it was finally broken up by security.  This fight involved passengers smashing beer bottles to attack one another and resulted in one female passenger being cut during the brawl. The fight spilled out from the dance floor on the fifth floor onto the casino on the same floor, eventually moving to the first floor of the vessel.  The fight got so out of control that eventually the ship’s security team involved the U.S. Coast Guard to help break it up.

Another fight occurred on the Royal Caribbean International’s Voyager-class Navigator Seas in early July. This fight started out between family members on the fifth deck of the vessel near Café Promenade. At the time, the Navigator of the Seas was in the midst of a three-to-four-night cruise from Los Angeles to Catalina and Ensenada. This brawl involved dozens of passengers with similar reports of multiple injuries and security being required to intervene and end the fight.

What Are the Consequences of These Violent Incidents?

When physical fights break out on cruise vessels, cruise lines are quick to intervene. However, as was the case in the Carnival Magic brawl, security may not always be able to stop the brawl before things get out of control. Occasionally, the cruise line may be required to contact the Coast Guard or other authorities to assist in breaking up the fight.

Once the fight has been diffused, cruise lines normally act quickly to enforce consequences for those involved. In situations involving violence, the passengers starting the fight will be detained in the vessel’s brig, if one is available on board. If not, the individuals involved will be moved to secure areas on the vessel where they can be closely monitored.

When a crime occurs at sea, it is the ship’s captain who makes the important decisions on what to do with offenders who have either committed a crime or are suspected of committing a crime. The captain is the one who oversees the decisions on whether to dock early and report the crime or continue course, detaining the passengers who committed the crime until it is appropriate or safe to release them.

The cruise line will likely choose to ban these passengers from sailing in the future aboard either one line of vessels or even all the company’s family of cruise lines. Depending on where they are in the voyage, the passengers at-fault may also be disembarked at the trip’s next port of call with no refund and no assistance offered to return to them to the cruise’s port of embarkation.

Of course, legal consequences will be enforced for those involved. The severity of these consequences depends heavily on the behavior involved, whether any injuries were reported, and the scope of the incident.

This most recent violent occurrence onboard the Carnival Elation is still being investigated, and as a result, no information has been released regarding what the final consequences will be for those involved. 

Helpful Tips

At the start of a cruise, passengers are educated on any and all safety measures. It is important that you, as a passenger, are aware of what to do in the event the unthinkable occurs. The ship’s crew also relies heavily on the passengers to report any crime when it is observed so that they can react quickly and appropriately. If you are witness to a fight like this breaking out, you should immediately report it to the crew so that they can quash the fight before it gets out of hand. However, you should only do this if it is safe to do so. If reporting the crime will put you in any danger, you should remove yourself from the danger first before acting further.

Determining Criminal Jurisdiction

Figuring out which laws govern how the situation is handled can be tricky. Ultimately, it depends on where the ship was when the fight occurs. If the ship was in port when the fight breaks out, the port has jurisdiction over the matter. Additionally, every country has continued jurisdiction over the ship while it is still in waters that are within twelve nautical miles of their shore. Anything past that limit, falls under the laws of the ship’s official registered country. Again, the ship’s captain will make the determination on whether they will make an unscheduled stop at the closest port to have the local authorities detain those involved in the crime.

What Are Your Rights as an Innocent Bystander?

Being witness to this type of violence while on a cruise ship is a scary experience, one that is enough to ruin a trip that was meant to be full of rest and relaxation. If you have been injured in one of these types of violent incidents onboard a cruise ship, you do have rights for your injuries.

If your injuries are caused by another person involved in the fight, you could pursue seeking damages from that individual, especially if the action committed by the person that resulted in your injury is determined to be reckless or negligent. However, if it can be proven that the cruise line through their crew was negligent in supervising activity on the ship, resulting in your injuries, you may have a legal claim against the cruise line. This can be complicated since you will need to prove that the fight that resulted in your injuries was a direct result of the cruise line’s negligence. For example, if it can be shown that crew members were overserving individuals’ alcohol, and the fight began as a direct result of this failure to cut off passengers who had obviously had too much to drink, you may have a valid claim for damages. Additionally, if the cruise line fails to provide adequate security for passengers onboard, this, too, could be a possible claim for damages for your injuries.

Cruise lines have their own strong legal teams on their side, and they will do anything possible to refute your claim for damages. You should never have to handle these types of legal matters alone, which is why it is important you have a strong legal advocate on your side.  

Hire an Experienced Cruise Ship Injury Lawyer

This case provides an important reminder of the importance of hiring an experienced maritime personal injury lawyer to handle your claim against a cruise line. Cruise lines employ sophisticated attorneys who specialize in cruise ship accident cases and understand the unique laws and rules and procedures that apply under international law, Federal Law, and maritime law.  

If you are injured while aboard a cruise ship, we recommend that you consult with a law firm that has decades of experience holding cruise lines like RCCL, NCL, Celebrity, MSC, Disney, and Carnival responsible for putting their profits ahead of their passengers’ safety.

Aronfeld Trial Lawyers is proud to offer anyone who has a potential claim a free initial legal consultation with an experienced cruise ship PI attorney, via telephone at 305-441-0440, toll-free at 1-866-597-4529, email [email protected], SKYPE, or Facetime. Call us today–we are ready to help you obtain compensation for your pain and suffering, medical expenses, time lost from work, transportation costs, and loss of the enjoyment of your cruise.

Related Resources:

Carnival cruise brawl caught on camera broke out over alleged cheating, passenger says (

Another Altercation Between Guests on Carnival Cruise Ship (