‘Ridiculous’ drinking rule Aussie cruisers want scrapped

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When it comes to drinking on board a cruise ship, there is a rule that has even the most dedicated cruisers scratching their heads, claiming it is a “rip off”.

Drink packages are a common offering on cruises, allowing guests to pay upfront to have the cost of alcoholic drinks at bars and restaurants on board the ship covered.

But there is often a catch – and it can be a terribly frustrating one.

If one person wants to purchase the drinks package, everyone in the same stateroom has to, despite the packages being charged per person, per day and strictly not allowed to be shared.

Australian couple Christine and Dave Russell, who have been going on multiple cruises a year for the past decade, found out how pesky the rule was when Ms Russell decided to stop drinking 12 months ago.

It meant on three Carnival cruises, Mr Russell had to miss out on purchasing the drinks package because Ms Russell would have been forced to pay $111 a day too if he had.

“When you times that by two and only one person drinks, it’s a lot of money,” she told news.com.au.

“I’m not going to drink $100 a day in soft drink. I don’t generally drink soft drink anyway, I only ever drink water.”

Ms Russell described the rule as “frustrating” and “annoying”.

Carnival’s policy is that its ‘Cheers!’ drinks package, including up to 15 alcoholic drinks a day and other non-alcoholic beverages, must be purchased by each adult assigned to the same stateroom. No sharing is permitted.

news.com.au reached out to a number of major cruise lines that sail in Australia with similar conditions – including Carnival Cruise Line, P & O Cruises, Cunard, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean – and not one could give a reason.

Carnival Australia, which is the parent company of seven cruise brands in Australia and New Zealand, including Carnival, P & O, Cunard and Princess, instead said it took its Responsible Service of Alcohol seriously and drink packages were optional.

“Our beverage packages are completely optional, and guests have the freedom to purchase beverages individually at competitive prices, allowing them to customise their cruise experience according to their personal preferences,” a Carnival Australia spokesperson said.

“Our beverage package conditions align with general industry standards which have been in place for many years, and mirror other hospitality industries when opting for a set menu or drinks package.

“Guests who are pregnant or don’t drink alcohol do not have to buy a beverages package, and we offer a wide selection of non-alcoholic beverages.”

Adam Glezer of Consumer Champion, who advocates for Australian customers with issues in the travel industry, told news.com.au the rule was “unreasonable” and “a profit making exercise”.

While he believes drink packages on cruises are a brilliant idea, he said cruise companies should not be pressuring people to buy them if they don’t want to.

Mr Glezer, who is a cruiser himself, said it was “disappointing but not surprising” the cruise companies had failed to give a reason for the rule.

“They haven’t given a reason because there’s no explanation that would paint them in a decent light,” he said.

“I’m fighting for this to be changed because a drinks package should be optional per individual.

“If someone drinks, they should be able to purchase the drinks package without others in the cabin being obliged to purchase the same package.

“I’ve met a number of people that have been quite annoyed by the situation.”

He believes a cruise company who decides to buck tradition and “get rid of the ridiculous rule will have an edge on their opposition”.

Virgin Voyages and Disney Cruise Line, which had their first seasons in Australia this summer, have both ditched traditional drink packages.

Virgin instead allows guests to pre-pay their ‘Bar Tab’ and get bonus on-board credit for doing so. It promotes its offering as being different to other cruise brands, with “no restrictive drink packages with unreasonable rules here”.

Disney’s deals include packages of bottled wine and a refillable beer mug offering, where guests receive a 21 oz glass mug and can refill it for the cost of a 16 oz beer at any bar on the ship that serves draft beer.

Royal Caribbean has a slightly different take on the traditional rule that the same drink package must be purchased by those staying together.

If a guest within the stateroom does not drink alcohol then a ‘Refreshment Package’ must be purchased, including soft drinks, coffees, tea, juices and non-alcoholic cocktails.

Travellers have shared mixed reactions to cruise drink packages online, with some warning it is not worth it and others explaining how they got their money’s worth.

One Australian TikTok user, who goes by the handle ‘jasmintiexo’, created a detailed breakdown of every drink she ordered on a eight day Royal Caribbean cruise.

It showed she was able to get $US1151.50 (about $1760) worth of drinks for $US520 (about $795).

Woman gets $1.5k worth of drinks on cruise for $800

See how major cruise brands in Australia apply the rule on drink packages below.

Carnival Cruise Line

If purchasing the ‘Cheers!’ alcoholic drinks package each adult assigned to the same stateroom must purchase it too, starting at $111 per person, per day. There is a limit of 15 alcoholic drinks a day. No sharing is permitted.

If the drinks package is part of an offer you have received from Carnival, then it is applicable to the 1st and 2nd adults in the cabin only; if the 2nd passenger is not 18 years of age, then the ‘Bottomless Bubbles’ package (soft drink and juice) will be assigned at $7.50 per day.

Carnival Cruise Line told news.com.au: “If one of the guests sailing together chooses not to purchase a package, they always have the option to enjoy beverages ala carte.”

Celebrity Cruises

Guests must purchase the same drink package for all guests of legal drinking age in the same stateroom. Packages may not be shared.

A non-alcoholic drink package will be added instead for teens 13 to 17 years old, pregnant guests, and recovering alcoholics or guests with a medical issue that does not allow them to consume alcohol.

Alcoholic drink packages start at $US89 ($136) per person, per day.


Each adult assigned to the same stateroom must purchase the same drinks option. Sharing is not permitted.

On a five to 14 night cruise, the ‘Beers, Wines and Spirits’ package starts at $US72 ($110) per person, per day.

P & O Cruises

If two or more guests aged over 18 years are sharing a cabin all guests must purchase the same drinks package. There is a limit of 15 alcoholic drinks a day. Sharing drink packages is not allowed.

Alcoholic drink packages start at $99 per person, per day.

Princess Cruises

The requirement for alcoholic drink packages to be purchased by more than one guest is not included in the updated terms and conditions. However in its FAQ, Princess Cruises states third and fourth guests in the same stateroom are not required to purchase or be defaulted to the selected package of first and second guests in a stateroom, implying the first two guests must purchase the same package.

Alcoholic drinks are limited to 15 beverages a day and must not be shared. The alcoholic drink packages start at $110 per person, per day.

Royal Caribbean

If purchasing the ‘Deluxe Beverage Package’ it is required that it is purchased by all guests of legal drinking age in the same stateroom. Packages cannot be shared.

If a guest within the stateroom does not drink alcohol then a ‘Refreshment Package’ must be purchased. This includes soft drinks, coffees, tea, juices and non-alcoholic cocktails.

Prices can change depending on the sailing.

The alcoholic drinks package is said to cost between $US56 ($86) to $US105 ($161) per person, per day, and the ‘Refreshment Package’ costs $US29 ($44) per person, per day (both excluding gratuity).

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