Champagne Hands Railing

Cruise Line Alcohol Policies 101

Posted July 30th, 2013

Alcohol is a fascinating social lubricant, permeating dry land culture from the after work cocktail to the weekend wine session, bent over a BBQ and surrounded by the mutterings of friends and family. While drinking norms vary from port to port, consumption laws and cruise line alcohol policies should be reviewed by ALL travellers before boarding – an 18 year old Australian is welcome to indulge in a pub session back home, onboard an American cruise however, he or she might find themselves relegated to sobriety, sipping away on mocktails and soft drinks. Save yourself the hassle of unexpected surprises or sudden limitations.

Enjoy a drink on your cruise - know the alcohol policy


BYO is an institution, attracting hordes of diners and celebrations; it’s a personal service and certainly more accessible to those who can’t afford a ten year old vintage, by the bottle or glass. Unfortunately, most Australian and international cruise lines confiscate any bottles of beers, wine and spirits before you board, making a cheeky cabin nightcap pretty much impossible. If you’d like to save money and avoid over-spending, major cruise lines offer beer, wine and spirit packages to fun-loving cruisers. Be aware this counts for duty free purchases too – while you may pick up some cheap deals in port or in the shops, Australian customs demands any duty free liquids be sealed and unopened.

What’s My Age Again?

Drinking ages range from cruise to cruise, depending on the port of origin and the nationality of the ship. Australian cruise lines require passengers to be 18 years and over to purchase or consume alcohol in any lounge, bar, dining, poolside or cabin area. Essentially, if you’re under 18 and your mates have booked a schoolies cruise, resign yourself to drinking Coke and laughing at their stupidity. If you’re safely over the drinking age, carry ID anyway, as bartenders and service staff are within their rights to request proof of age if you look a bit on the young side – yes, even when you’re thirty-five and significantly older than the fresh staff behind the bar.

American cruises generally set their minimums to 21 years of age, in line with current national drinking laws. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the drinking age of the ship and govern any wayward teenagers appropriately.

Duty Free Tipples?

We touched on duty free purchases earlier. Most cruise lines allow passengers to buy alcohol and cigarettes in their specialty stores or pick up a local drop in port – the catch is, you can’t enjoy its flavours and fusions straight away. Cruise security and store clerks are within their rights – according to charter – to collect and withhold your loot until arriving at your final destination, to ensure a safe, sane journey.

The days of maritime good times and lawless fun have well and truly folded, as cruise lines clamp down on irresponsible consumption and rowdy groups of twenty-something’s, teenagers and older groups. The cruise ship is no longer a playground of absolute abandon, but an enjoyable ocean jaunt into the great unknown.

For more information on the alcohol policy on your next cruise ship, call one of our Cruise Specialists on 1300 954 661.

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