Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Floating Fiestas: Party boats

In the episode of "Benidorm" that features the British Olympic Synchronised Swimming team, the hapless lump Liam fails to prevent the girls joining an 18-30 booze cruise, while young Michael and old Trudy, barred from getting on-board on account of their respective ages, attempt to blag their way on by concealing themselves in a crate, only to find themselves being forklifted onto a fishing boat instead. Hilarious consequences all round, naturally enough.

Advertised with the slogan "we drop anchor while you get ..." (well, I guess I shouldn't say what, but it completes a phrasal verb derived from a noun that rhymes with anchor), the swimmer girls do precisely this. It's the booze cruise after all, where shots have titles such as the "Leg Opener" and about which parents of those at the younger scale on the 18-30 spectrum (or younger still) would rather not know.

An alternative name for the booze cruise is the party boat. And it is not only to be found floating on turquoise Mediterranean waters off the Costa Blanca. It can also be found boozing and partying around on the gentle waves off the Balearics.

A year ago, the then Balearics government delegate, José María Rodríguez, announced that measures were to be instituted to tackle issues of safety, underage drinking and noise associated with party boats. Yet, were these measures that were to be designed to tackle problems that didn't really exist? In Capdepera (i.e. the resort of Cala Rajada), councillors said that there hadn't been a single complaint made against party boats, that operators respected the environment, including the noise environment, and that there had been no need for action to be taken against underage drinking.

The image of the party boat/booze cruise is very much the "Benidorm" one, but that was an image from a comedy series which, while it was often quite true to life, was a comedy nevertheless. This said, I can go back to an article I wrote two years ago which referred to how First Choice promotes its 2wentys holidays to Magalluf. "Join 2wentys for some serious party antics, with bar crawls, booze cruises and more ... ."

It doesn't automatically follow that the party boat is going to be an excuse for excessive drinking. But even if it is or it isn't, there is an issue when it comes to safety, a very clear issue - the sea. At least on a party boat, there are no balconies and there are no hard, concrete terraces, but a potential collision between a lumpy Liam sort who's taken on-board a great volume of vodka and the deep blue briny just might have less humorous consequences than an episode of "Benidorm".

Last September, it was reported that there were over 50 such party boats operating off Ibiza alone and it was further reported that there had been an increase in an absence of control. These reports were, therefore, three months after the announcement that measures were to be introduced to ensure control. A year on, and nothing has happened.

However, the director-general for ports and airports in the Balearics, Antonio Deudero, has now met with officials at the Council of Ibiza and said that there will be a study and an analysis of possible legal reform in order to regulate party-boat activity in the Balearics, the objective being to "guarantee maximum safety", words that sound very familiar, as they were ones expressed by Alcúdia's lady mayor twelve months ago when she was responding to measures that Rodríguez had been proposing.

If there really is a pressing need to regulate, then why is it taking so long? Twelve months on and all that is being proposed is a study. Well, wasn't this thought about last June? Or maybe there isn't such a pressing need. In Cala Rajada, they don't seem to have had any problems. Have there been elsewhere?

There are potential issues with party boats, just as there are with any boat and just as there are with many settings where young people gather to have a good time. But, control or no control, operators appear to understand the issues. So, is the attention being turned towards party boats just indicative of the soft target that is the youth tourism market and a perception that might not actually be real as in, for instance, all the underage drinking that's supposed to occur on party boats? "Benidorm" might only be believable make-believe, but even in this, young Michael was barred from the party boat and ended up instead having to row a rowing boat ashore.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

No comments: