Disney accidentally served my child a cocktail

I was about to move this complaint into my “case dismissed” file until I read a pretty serious allegation: that a Disney Cruise Line employee had inadvertently served a child a cocktail.

Before I get to the details of Aleeza Khanlian’s claim, I should allow for some context. Her letter to Disney is a rambling laundry list of problems, some of which seem pretty frivolous. She gripes about snarky waiters and the fact that her son’s birthday wasn’t properly “acknowledged” by the onboard staff.

Then, halfway through the tirade about the family’s one-week Mexico cruise on the Disney Wonder, she drops a bombshell.

On January 9th, during Formal Night, around 7:30 p.m., my family and I were in line to take a photo on Deck 3 Midship, just outside the elevators and stairs located between Port Adventures and Guest Services.

A gentleman came around serving beverages. He offered my husband a Martini and my four-year-old son what was supposed to be fruit punch. Well my four-year-old thought the “fruit punch” was disgusting, so we let our nineteen-month-old son try it, who coincidentally liked it.

Well, a few sips into the drink, another beverage server came around and told me that the drink I was letting my 19-month-old son drink was an alcoholic beverage.

I was beyond stunned! Caught so completely off guard, I simply looked at her and explained how the previous gentleman that was passing out drinks gave it to my four-year-old-son and told my husband it was fruit punch.

She informed us that indeed it was not fruit punch, that the alcoholic drinks have a leaf on the toothpicks in them to indicate that they contain alcohol. She took our so-called “fruit punch” and replaced it with a smaller glass that was supposedly the real kid’s fruit punch.

She also laughed it off saying, “Now you can say he had his first drink of alcohol. He’ll sleep well tonight.”

That wasn’t acceptable to Khanlian. She says had her toddler finished the drink, who knows what might have happened?

“And to think this incident happened upon Disney Cruise
Lines, which caters to children and families,” she adds. “There is just no excuse for it!”

Khanlian contacted a supervisor on board, who seemed to take her complaint seriously. Disney interviewed the employee who served them, and verified her story, she says. It apologized for the incident and offered to buy her family a round of non-alcoholic drinks at dinner.

When we returned to our room, there were goodies for my son’s (two light-up Pirate glasses, two Toy Story cups with light up Buzz Light Year clips, Caramel Popcorn, Goofy gummies, a jug, four cans of soda, a Finding Nemo stuff animal, and a Mickey stuffed animal.

Wow, nothing says “I’m sorry” like a gift bag of goodies. Right?

Wrong. “While [the supervisor’s] efforts to rectify the situation are greatly acknowledged and appreciated, we feel it is no longer in his hands and needs to be brought to the attention of higher authorities regarding this serious matter,” she says.

Khanlian sent a letter to the president of Disney Cruise Line. A representative phoned her husband, and assured him the persons involved in the cocktail incident had been disciplined, although he declined to say how, exactly, they had been punished.

“He asked what I wanted,” Gabriel Khanlian says. “I told him [I wanted] a refund.”

He says the representative refused, accusing him of “extorting” him.

“I believe a good resolution for them should have been a comp or a replacement cruise,” he told me. “But instead I got blown off from the president’s office. I think the matter is very serious.”

I agree. Although some cultures have a pretty relaxed attitude about giving alcohol to kids (I happen to have been raised in one) it is frowned upon in the United States.

Still, I thought Disney’s response was appropriate while the Khanlians were on the ship. The apology, the comped drink, the gift basket — that was classy and responsible of the company.

When the family appealed to the president’s office, the response should have been equally professional: an apology, an explanation of Disney policy regarding disciplinary action, and perhaps at most, a few vouchers that could be used on a future cruise. I’m not sure if a refund is appropriate.

But a request for a refund isn’t extortion. Calling it one seems very un-Disneylike.

If Khanlian’s phone call had gone differently, then I wouldn’t be considering this case. But now I am.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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