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Tainted alcohol in Cozumel?


scendro
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I recently cruised on the Norwegian Breakaway over Christmas.  One of our stops was in Cozumel.  Now I’ve been to Cozumel several times and we typically take a taxi to the beach when we are in port.  This time we did the same and my family of 6 went to Playa Palancar.  
 

We arrived at the beach and a few minutes later my 25 year old daughter bought everyone a round of drinks.  I was the only one drinking a margarita (the others drank beer and my youngest daughter had a pina colada).  The margarita was not very big, the size of a small plastic tumbler.  It did not taste excessively strong.  
 

About an 45 minutes later, I went and purchased another round.  At this time I felt a little buzzed but not drunk at all.   Same drink order.

 

About  half way through my second (small sized) margarita, I started feeling really drunk (which is NOT normal for me.  I don’t drink a lot but occasionally have margaritas when we eat out at a Mexican joint and normally can handle a jumbo margarita no problem. 
 

My husband helped me out of the water and I went to lay on the beach.  Within a few minutes everything was spinning.  My husband thought this was odd (as I hadn’t had any alcohol that day or the previous day) and he tried to get me to drink some water.  A few seconds later I was vomiting on the beach.  My husband was there and put me onto my side as I couldn’t stop vomiting bile right there on the beach (talk about humiliating as I am not a big drinking and haven’t been drunk since I was in my early 20’s!) .  I was so drunk I couldn’t move and honestly was very scared as I knew something wasn’t right.

 

My kids managed to get me into a taxi (I had to carry a beer bucket) and get me back onto the ship.  I vomited for about an hour and passed out once I got back to the room.  Amazingly I woke that evening feeling better.

 

A few notes- this was not the flu.  I had no flu or food poisoning symptoms.  I had not been out in the sun very long and I tolerate the sun well.  I don’t have a history of sun poisoning and prior to this cruise, my husband and I were in a 13 day cruise in November to the Caribbean and I sunned all day without issue.  The drinks I ordered were small and normally 1 1/2 small margaritas would NOT get me drunk.  Another note, the margaritas didn’t taste strong.  
 

I have a suspicion that I was served tainted alcohol.
 

I am writing this post to caution others.  If you order a mixed drink in Cozumel, be sure that you have others around you that can keep an eye on you.  This could’ve ended really bad if I had stayed out in the water or didn’t have family to get me back to the boat. 

 

 

 

 

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Sorry to hear that! Is it possible it was the water, not the alcohol? The margarita might have had ice made from tap water, and enough of it melted to contaminate your drink. The symptoms sound like what I had after I drank coffee on a train in Mexico. (I thought the coffee maker would get hot enough to kill the microbes, but apparently not.)

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19 minutes ago, strickerj said:

Sorry to hear that! Is it possible it was the water, not the alcohol? The margarita might have had ice made from tap water, and enough of it melted to contaminate your drink. The symptoms sound like what I had after I drank coffee on a train in Mexico. (I thought the coffee maker would get hot enough to kill the microbes, but apparently not.)

My daughter had a pina colada made with same ice (different alcohol) and did not get sick . I didn’t get “the runs” either.  Plus, I felt extremely “drunk”.  
 

FYI, I contacted the consulate and the State Department by email and advised them of the incident.  

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There were some similar reports posted about 18 months ago.  During a visit to Nachi I asked the manager, who assured me that they had been using the same liquor distributor for over 10 years and had never had an issue with tainted booze.  

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49 minutes ago, scendro said:

My daughter had a pina colada made with same ice (different alcohol) and did not get sick . I didn’t get “the runs” either.  Plus, I felt extremely “drunk”.  
 

FYI, I contacted the consulate and the State Department by email and advised them of the incident.  

Oh, I didn’t realize anyone else with you had the ice too - sounds like it wasn’t that then. FWIW, I didn’t get the runs from the water either - just vomiting. I wouldn’t have described my feeling as drunk though, just nauseated. Hope you get some answers!

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Wow - that is scary.  My husband and 21 year old son are headed there this week.  I am probably the farthest thing from an alarmist, but I’ve read about incidents like this too often lately to not take it seriously.  I’ve suggested they only drink bottled beverages while there.  Thanks for the post.

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Sorry to hear of this.

Did you or your family speak with the manager at Playa Palancar?

If so what did they say? If not email them and let them know. State Department can do little as this isn't epidemic to whole island or country.  Just one beach bar.

Did you or your family notice anyone else drinking margaritas and showing similar results? If so, there's a  bar wide issue at Palancar. If just you, it's an unfortunate one off. Could be anything reacting to the alcohol, or the alcohol itself.

For the cruiser asking about Nachi, different beach club. Don't  panic.

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I'm not a doctor, but this doesn't sound like tainted ( methanol adulterated) alcohol. You wouldnt be symptom free after a few hours. Indeed the worst complications don't manifest until later. Given that methanol ingestion can cause blindness and multiple organ failure, I'm astounded that you didn't seek medical treatment if you suspected this. There's no doubt that something happened to you, but I don't think it was tainted alcohol. Just to be on the safe side, it wouldn't hurt to run this by your doctor to see if blood tests might be in order.

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I've never been to Playa Palancar - just Nachi Cocom and Mr. Sancho's, but I'm assuming it's similar. If it was a tainted bottle of tequila, while you might have been the only person in your group drinking that particular alcohol; I really doubt you were the only person at that particular beach club drinking tequila. Did anyone from your group notice other people at the club getting suddenly, violently ill like you did? 

 

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  • 1 month later...

I'm pretty sure what you experienced was grain alcohol also known as everclear. It's tasteless and gets you drunk very fast. It is very common in cruise ports and is legal in some U.S. states as well. I had my education with it in Key West; and I've also encountered it in Texas. This is also usually what leads to the alcohol related problems you hear about at college parties etc. It is always good to know what you are dinking. We usually stick with beer or wine and just proceed with caution with mixed drinks when you are in these places. 

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