The finger of blame has been pointed in a number of directions following a cruise ship brawl in the North Sea. One broadcaster even implicated a passenger "dressed as a clown" for starting the fight.

However, this battle at sea may have little to do with fancy dress.

The week-long cruise round the Norwegian Fjords ended in chaos and a brawl aboard P&O's Britannia, with two passengers being charged with assault.

It is hardly an isolated incident. Neither is it something we in the Southern Hemisphere are entirely free of. Last year the Carnival Legend sailing out of Australia erupted in a fracas involving three families.

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Video footage of the boozed-up battle in the Pacific made it into Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker's blog post "Top five brawls" on fun ships.

Cruise ship brawls seem to have become so regular now as to have their own a "best of" category on YouTube. (The Carnival Glory 2016, is a clear winner.)

And yet – on the other hand – somehow in an industry growing globally with millions of passengers annually, few cruise goers have a bad thing to say about their time onboard.

Last year 112,000 Kiwis took to the sea, and barely exchanged cross words.

However, the brawl last week on the P&O ship has left a bad taste around cruising. The behaviour of drunken passengers prior to the fracas have been described as a scene reminiscent of "the last days of Benidorm."

But perhaps this is the source of the problem. Drinking on cruises is nothing new, but there is a change around how it is done.

For the snooty cruise passengers who decry it as cultural decline, you can sink that idea right now.

From the Gin Palaces of the 1930s to the modern day booze cruise to nowhere - alcohol and cruising are as inseparable as barnacles from hull. Prior to the invention of the at-sea waterslide there was scant else to do.

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In the past 50 years a lot has changed. The fashion of cruising has gone from a stuffy parade of silverware and supper service to relaxed, jeans and t-shirt and casual grazing buffets. Perhaps, the biggest change in cruise culture has been the all-you-can-drink package.

Scant else to do: Drinking and cruising go hand in glove. Photo / Getty Images
Scant else to do: Drinking and cruising go hand in glove. Photo / Getty Images

In Cruise Critic's review of 15 cruise lines, it found almost half offerd so-called "unlimited" offers on drinks for between $60 and $115.

At the beginning of the week the Mail Online identified the inclusive booze deals, and passengers determination to "get their money's worth" to be fueling the problem.

One guest on the Britannia said the passengers were rife with "a me, me, me attitude."
She and her children were physically shoved, by rushing tourists.

"We found many people were there purely to drink as much as they could with their unlimited drinks packages," she said.

A pint aboard a P&O cruise will set passengers back around $9. On US ships this could be as much as $16, before gratuity.

Passenger would have pay around $2000 for these all-inclusive packages, so the incentive.

Onboard brawls, a new phenomenon? Cunard liner Caronia on passage to Egypt. Photo / J W Brooke, Getty Images
Onboard brawls, a new phenomenon? Cunard liner Caronia on passage to Egypt. Photo / J W Brooke, Getty Images

The brawl which resulted from pushy passengers looking to maximise economy of their sailing, broke out at 2am in the buffet before the ship's finals stop in Bergen.

Eye witnesses said plates and furniture were used as weapons, as the fight broke out between passengers trying to drink as much as they could.

Until these 'unlimited drinks' deals are revised, there's every chance it might happen again.

Should it put passengers off cruising? Of course not.

But you might want to avoid going to the buffet at 2am. Get some sleep instead.