Cruise operator P&O’s PR battle is shaping up to be quite the quagmire. There’s the continuing saga of the 2002 cruise ship death of Dianne Brimble, an unseemly ad campaign and damaging revelations from a former P&O staffer that the cruise operator has a policy of paying bar staff a commission on drink sales.

Now
Crikey has received a tip that P&O is being investigated by liquor
licensing authorities over serving alcohol to under-aged passengers on
their schoolies cruises. The schoolies cruises – not advertised on
their website,
we are told, because they are all fully booked – are an increasingly
popular choice for school leavers these days. And judging from the chat
on various online schoolies’ forums, there are good reasons for this.

Says one happy future customer on the boredofstudies
P&O schoolies 2006 forum: “im not gana b 18 either, but it dusnt
matter cuz any age can go into the clubs on the boat which is the
maddest thing..and u no what ive heard from a few diff ppl that surfers
is getting old, and not as many popl as they used 2 go there, heaps
still go, but personaly i think d cruise is beta and way more fun,
especially if u r underage.”

P&O spokesman John Richardson
told Crikey this morning that there is “no substance” to the suggestion
that the cruise operator is being investigated by liquor licensing
authorities over this matter, nor have there been any complaints
calling for such an action. He says P&O is in close communication
with the NSW police – the schoolies cruises depart from Sydney – who
come on board each of the cruises at their return, to debrief with
security.

Richardson also told Crikey that P&O staff do not
serve alcohol to under-aged passengers on any of their ships, and have
extensive security measures – including age-coded wristbands and cruise
cards (used as currency on the ships) and extra security staff – in
place to prevent under-aged drinking on the schoolies cruises.

But
the security staff would have their work cut out for them because, as
our young chat room friend points out, the licensed areas of the ship
are open to all ages, so there’s not much stopping 18+ passengers from
buying alcohol for their under-aged mates.

And if that’s not
enough for concerned parents and nervous cruise operators to ponder,
here’s some more tips from the kids at the National Schoolies Week Forums:

…ATTENTION GUYS!!!!! The P&O cruise is the mecca for hot chicks. Huge bonus since they’re constantly in bikinis!!!

…my
brother also went last year and said it was the best, he went on the
8th and he said the ratio was like 1 guy to 3 girls. I CANT WAIT!!!!!

Peter Fray

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