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article imageBooze Cruise tour ends in tragedy for young Australian in Croatia

By Paul Bradbury     Aug 5, 2014 in World
Omis - Friends and family are mourning the untimely death of a 23 year-old Australian, who died tragically on a party boat in Croatia.
With Croatia's emergence as the premier sailing destination in Europe, party tourism on the waves of the Adriatic Sea has seen a sharp increase in recent years, a trend which ended in tragedy on August 2, 2014, as a 23 year-old Australian drowned after falling into the sea in the harbour of the town of Omis, after trying to jump from one boat to the next, according to a report in The Daily Mail.
It is believed that Alex D'Aleo, 23, hit his head while attempting the jump and this contributed to the fall. Reports in the Croatian national media suggest that his absence was not noticed for a crucial six or seven minutes.
The untimely death of the young Australian has caused an outpouring of grief back home in Australia, and his twin brother Lucas, who was present at the tragedy, was quoted by the Australian Daily Telegraph from his Facebook page:
“Just hours before the tragic accident happened, the boys were doing exactly what we do best — drinking beers and carrying on in the sun,” Lucas wrote.
The European holiday was the trip of a lifetime for Mr D’Aleo, a talented soccer player who worked as a plumber.
He had run with the bulls in Pamplona, club-hopped in Ibiza and partied hard at a summer music festival in Belgium.
“I’d do anything to change what’s happened,” Lucas wrote on Sunday.
“They’re right when they say the good die young.”
The incident happened about 8:30 p.m., and D'Aleo was taken to hospital in Split, but was sadly pronounced dead on arrival.
Although the toxicology report is not yet available, local eyewitness reports suggest that the party had been drinking heavily prior to the accident. As a report in Dalmatia's leading regional newspaper explored last night, this is by no means the only Australian misfortune to happen among young partying backpackers in recent years.
Australians and Kiwis have earned a reputation for partying hard on the Adriatic coast, and not everyone is happy, with former Croatian tourism minister Pave Zupan Ruskovic famously losing her job as destination manager for Dubrovnik, when she called for them to be banned from the city in 2012.
"Already when entering the city they are drunk and crazy. And that's absolutely not appropriate for any city and in particular for Dubrovnik," she told the Dubrovacki List.
Ruskovic said they had tried to influence trip organisers to keep tours away from the city, or else they would have to implement rules to keep the rowdy visitors out.
"This summer season we've had an increased number of visits from young people from Australia and New Zealand and we were not delighted," she said.
"It would be better if they did not come."
Tragedies aside, the rise of party tourism on the high seas is causing other frictions between local communities and young international tourists who are drawn to binge-drinking sailing holidays on Croatia's stunning Dalmatian coast, whose picturesque islands are a particular attraction.
Specialised tour companies have sprung up to exploit the opportunity, with arguably the best organised and most successful being The Yacht Week from Sweden. For many, the highlight of The Yacht Week is a visit to Croatia's premier island of Hvar, not that everyone remembers the experience, as the boozing starts early and continues throughout the day. Here is the official itinerary of 'Hvarday':
1000 – First beer and toast to fellow crews and skippers “Have a happy Hvarday”
1000 to 1330 – Mingling between crews on TYW dock, sharing drinks and amusing stories of the week
1330 – A queue starts forming on the dock outside the Crew Boat for the infamous party
1430 – No one is left on the TYW dock, everyone is in the queue waiting with slightly nervous anticipation
1500 – Doors to the Crew Boat Party open
1530 – Crew Boat leaves – people who’ve made it onto the Crew Boat observe (with a slight sense of schadenfreude) the people who were too late walk back to the boat
1730 – Crew Boat Party finishes – everyone pours onto Hvar’s palm-lined riva and into Carpe Diem Bar
1730 – 2000 – TYW becomes the tourist attraction of the afternoon on the riva
2000 – Everyone grabs a bite and recuperates for what is to come…
0100 – Suitably revived and refreshed, guests hop on taxi boats leaving for Carpe Diem Beach Club
0800 – TYW survivors eventually make it back to the boat for a well deserved sleep
With such drunkenness on board, it is perhaps surprising that there have not been more incidents than the ones described in Slobodna Dalmacija above. This Digital Journalist interviewed The Yacht Week CEO William Wenkel recently and asked him about his company's responsibility towards its guests with so much booze cruising and the effect it is having on local communities:
Of course we provide our guests with health & safety briefings and we have terms & conditions to which they must abide to. However, any tourist or yacht charter guest is responsible for themselves, and this is the case in most countries in the world. We can, and DO, advise our clients (and if we’re privy to any “terror" behaviour, we’ll of course address it immediately) but ultimately we cannot take full control of their actions.
Local communities are trying to resist the drunken imposition on their tourism, particularly places such as Komiza and Palmizana, whose main attractions of peace and tranquility are being decimated by the rise of party tourism in their harbours. Palmizana followed Komiza with a petition to its mayor to either stop The Yacht Week, or move it elsewhere. When asked for his reaction to the petition, Wenkel replied:
If the situation arose where the authorities requested we change or cancel certain elements for the welfare of its residents, of course, we would abide - the welfare and beauty of Croatia is at the heart of our company and our foundation.
The Palmizana petition is due to be discussed at the next meeting of the Hvar Town Council (under whose jurisdiction Palmizana falls). The town councillors have already voted 100 percent to move The Yacht Week out of town, a decision which current Hvar Mayor Rino Budrovic has so far failed to implement for reasons unknown. A unanimous decision by the town council in Komiza on Vis has been met with a similar lack of action. The unanimous decision of town councils is obviously insufficient consensus for for The Yacht Week to stand by the commitment to abide by the wishes of the authorities quoted by Wenkel above.
The Croatian coast is one of Europe's hottest current destinations, and its chic and sexy image is a magnet for young party-goers around the world, but more attention to the rise of the booze cruise culture and the communities in which they operate will help to avert future tragedies such as the one in Omis, and to protect quality tourism for the considerable number of non-partying tourists who come to enjoy Croatia's beaches, culture, heritage and gastronomy.
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