Drinking Age on Cruises: Here’s What You Need to Know

If you’ve ever been on a cruise, you know that there’s plenty of booze on board these luxury ships. However, with so much alcohol flowing, it’s natural to wonder about the drinking age on cruises.

Can a passenger under 21 enjoy an adult beverage? What happens if they do? The answers to these crucial questions might surprise you.

Today, we’re looking at the drinking age on cruises and what you need to know.

Let’s dive in!

Do Cruise Lines Have Strict Drinking Policies?

Despite what you may think, cruise lines have stringent drinking policies. Getting caught serving alcohol to minors is a severe offense and can land them in hot water. Luckily, there are some built-in safeguards to prevent this from happening.

Because cruise ships operate on a cashless system, purchasing drinks requires passengers to present their cruise cards. These credit card-sized cards are how passengers pay for items while on board. If they attempted to buy an alcoholic drink, the system would reject the charge.

If you think you can skate around the system by having someone over 21 buy your drink, think again. Like on land, buying a drink for someone underage is highly illegal.

Cruise lines take these issues very seriously. Passengers could face serious consequences, including getting removed from the ship.

A red cocktail on a table with the ocean in the background.

Can You Drink At 18 on a Cruise Ship?

The rules regarding drinking on a ship significantly depend on the cruise line and the homeport. Many U.S.-based cruises have a minimum drinking age of 21. However, some cruise lines allow guests 18 to 20 years old to drink alcohol under unique circumstances.

The first instance where it is acceptable is when sailing from specific ports. For example, cruises that start in South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand often allow 18 to 20-year-old passengers to drink.

However, they typically require the parents of the minor to sign a waiver before the passenger can drink on board.

Cruise Ship Terms Everyone Should Know

Can You Drink at 18 on a Cruise in International Waters?

The second exception for 18 to 20-year-olds drinking on a cruise is when the ship is in international waters. However, this isn’t a hard rule across the industry.

Some cruise lines allow it, and others do not. Under this exception, passengers will require a parental signature before consuming alcohol.

As we mentioned, providing alcohol to a minor is a serious offense. If you want to finish your cruise, do not buy drinks for minors. In addition, always follow the ship’s alcohol policies. Failing to follow the rules can have serious consequences.

A cruise ship on open waters.

What Happens If You’re Caught Drinking Underage on a Cruise Ship?

Passengers caught violating a ship’s alcohol policy can face extreme consequences. Depending on the circumstances, it could result in the removal of a passenger from the boat.

In these situations, the passenger is responsible for arranging and paying for transportation. If you’re not prepared, you better call and request a credit increase on your credit card.

Generally, most cruise lines will issue a warning to the passenger first. They may have them sign legal documents stating the warning, but it is a relative slap on the wrist. If caught again, the passenger will likely get removed from the ship at the next port.

Unfortunately, this is one of those case-by-case basis. Just because cruise lines have given warnings previously doesn’t mean they will in the future. We recommend that you avoid testing your luck or the compassion of the security officials.

The legal drinking age varies based on the cruise line. If you have concerns about your cruise’s drinking age requirements, check your cruise line’s official statement. However, here are summaries of the drinking age policies for the major cruise lines.

Royal Caribbean International

According to Royal Caribbean International’s alcohol policy, guests must be 21 to consume alcohol on North American and Caribbean cruises.

On the other hand, the legal drinking age drops to 18 for South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand cruises. However, Royal Caribbean International requires guests to be 21 on their private destinations in Labadee, Haiti, and CocoCay, Bahamas.

Four people clicking glasses of champagne in a pool.

Disney Cruise Line

The drinking age for passengers on board Disney Cruise Lines is 21. However, passengers 18 to 20 years old on round-trip cruises from European countries with drinking ages under 21 can consume alcohol.

However, a parent must sign the company’s Beverage Consent Form and be present while the individual is drinking.

Additionally, Disney offers cruises that leave from Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, and Brisbane, Australia. These sailings allow guests 18 and over to purchase and consume alcohol without parental consent.

However, during repositioning cruises from Australia or Hawai’i, a parent must sign the Beverage Consent Form and be present during consumption.

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line follows the U.S. drinking age for all U.S.-based cruises. This means passengers must be over 21 to consume alcohol throughout the cruise. However, this is only for U.S.-based cruises.

Carnival Cruise Line also departs from Barcelona, Australia, London, Rome, and Singapore. These cruises follow the minimum drinking age for these countries, typically 18 years old.

Not sure which company to go with for your next cruise? Read Head to Head: Carnival vs Royal Caribbean.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Lines requires passengers to be 21 to consume alcohol. However, once their ships enter international waters (typically three miles from U.S. territorial waters), guests 18 to 20 can drink beer and wine.

This does require them to have a parent sign a waiver at the ship’s front desk. Unfortunately, this rule does not apply to sailings to Hawaii or Alaska.

Princess Cruises

Like many other cruise lines, Princess Cruises requires guests to be 21 when sailing out of North America. However, any sailings from Europe, Asia, South America, Australia,  or New Zealand can drink at 18. 

While drinking on cruises can make sailing more exciting, you must be careful. You could be in serious trouble if caught violating the ship’s policies.

Regarding the drinking age on cruises, this is one you want to follow. Violating it could get you kicked off the boat and banned from future cruises.

Close up shot of the front of Disney's Wonder cruise ship.

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