Refused Service? How Old You Need To Be To Drink on a Cruise in International Waters

If you’re aged 18, 19 or 20, you might be wondering at what age can you drink on a cruise ship?

woman having drinks at Carnival Cruise's Blue Iguana Tequila Bar

The legal age to drink alcohol on a cruise varies between 16 and 21 years. The exact age to drink on a cruise depends on the cruise line, the location of the cruise ship, the type of alcoholic beverage and whether a minor’s parents are present or not.

As a general rule, you have to be 21 to drink on a cruise in the United States and 18 elsewhere in the world. However, there are some exceptions.

Drinking Age By Cruise Line

The table below shows how old you have to be to drink on a cruise ship.

Cruise LineUnited States & Private IslandsRest of the World
Celebrity Cruises2121 (18 with parent’s permission)
Costa Cruises2118
Disney Cruise Line2121 (18 with parent’s permission)
Fred. Olsen Cruise Line21 (18 in international waters)18
MSC Cruises2118
Norwegian Cruise Line21 (18 in international waters with parent’s permission)21 (18 with parent’s permission)
P&O Cruises2118 (16 with a meal)
Princess Cruises2118 (20 in Japan)
Royal Caribbean2118
Virgin Voyages21 (18 in international waters)18

Please note that there are many exceptions to the age limits above and also some differences about what constitutes the United States for these policies. You can read more about this below.

bar on cruise ship

FAQs about the legal age to drink on a cruise

Can 18-year-olds drink on a cruise in the US?

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol in the United States. However, this law does not apply to cruise ships when they are international waters.

You can read more about what international waters means and what’s legal there in this article.

Whilst most cruise lines have policies to prohibit under 21s from drinking at sea, others allow guests aged 18, 19 and 20 to drink alcohol when the ship is a certain distance from the US shoreline.

Read more: Can You Drink On A Cruise At 18? (International Waters?)

What counts as the US for a cruise?

Some cruise lines count any cruise that includes at least one US port in the itinerary as a US cruise. For others, only cruises that depart from US ports are included in this definition. This can make a difference, for example, for a transatlantic cruise from Southampton to New York.

Cruises to Alaska and Hawaii sometimes have their own rules. For example, NCL allows 18-year-olds to drink beer or wine with a parental waiver, but this rule doesn’t apply to Alaska or Hawaii cruises where guests must be 21 or over to drink.

Alaska Cruise

Can you drink on a cruise at 18 with your parents’ permission?

Some cruise lines allow guests aged 18, 19 and 20 to drink on a cruise with the permission of a parent or guardian.

The parent or guardian will usually have to fill in a waiver to allow their son or daughter to drink. The parent or guardian must also be a passenger on the cruise.

Also, you can’t just ask your 21-year-old friend to be your guardian for the duration of the cruise, they must be your full-time legal guardian for the waiver to be accepted.

Can you drink if you turn 18 or 21 during your cruise?

If you celebrate a milestone birthday on board a cruise, most cruise lines will allow you to drink alcohol from the day that you’re old enough. You’ll need to visit the guest services desk with your ID to have them update your cruise card.

Cruise Line Policies

Carnival cruise drinking age

Carnival Cruise Line’s policy states:

“Guests must be 21 years of age or older to be served alcohol on board.”


Celebrity Cruises drinking age

Celebrity Cruises policy states:

“The minimum drinking age for all alcoholic beverages on all Celebrity Cruises ships is 21 years of age. However, on cruises embarking in a country where the legal drinking age is lower than 21, a parent who is sailing with his or her son(s) and/or daughter(s) who is between the ages of 18 to 20, may sign a waiver allowing the 18- to 20-year-old to consume alcoholic beverages.”


Costa Cruises drinking age

Costa Cruises policy states:

“The Guest agrees that no alcohol shall be purchased or consumed by any Guest under the age of twenty-one (21) on cruises embarking or disembarking Guests at U.S. ports, or under the age of eighteen (18) for all other cruises. “


Cunard drinking age

Cunard’s policy states:

“Guests who are under 18 years of age are not permitted to purchase or consume alcohol on board. However, whilst in U.S. waters, Cunard enforces and abides by the U.S. legal drinking age of 21 years.”


Disney Cruise Line drinking age

Disney’s policy states:

“The drinking age on board is 21. However, during roundtrip cruises departing from any European country that has a lower drinking age, parents or guardians may sign a Beverage Consent Form that allows their 18- to 20-year-old children to consume alcoholic beverages while in the adult’s presence.”


MSC Cruises drinking age

MSC Cruises’ policy states:

“Alcoholic drinks in any form will not be sold to Minors during the cruise. When the itinerary includes a port located in the U.S.A. the same conditions will apply for any passengers under the age 21.”


NCL drinking age

Norwegian Cruise Line’s policy states:

“The minimum drinking age for all alcoholic beverages on Norwegian Cruise Line ships is 21. Guests who are 18 – 20 years of age can purchase and consume beer or wine when the ship is in international waters (3 miles out of US territorial waters). The age modification does not apply for Alaska and Hawaii sailings. The parent or legal guardian must be onboard the sailing with the young adult and present themselves at the Front Desk so they can sign the form allowing the consumption of beer and wine only. 

On cruises embarking in a country where the legal drinking age is lower than 21 and where a young adult (age 18, 19 or 20) is not travelling with a parent or legal guardian, they will generally not be permitted to consume alcohol. There may be exceptions made to this restriction in areas of the world where local laws require and Norwegian Cruise Line concurs. Details on such exceptions can be obtained from the Guest Services Desk.”


P&O Cruises drinking age

P&O Cruises’ policy states:

“Anyone under the age of 18 (under 21 when in United States of America waters) will not be served alcoholic beverages on board and must not be in possession of alcohol.

It is prohibited to attempt to purchase alcohol for those under 18 in the bars and shops on board, although 16 and 17 year olds may be bought modest amounts of beer, cider or wine to drink with a meal in the restaurants when accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.”


Princess Cruises drinking age

Princess Cruises’ policy states:

“The age for drinking on Princess ships is 21 years old. For cruises between Australia/New Zealand, China, Europe and Singapore ports, the drinking age will be 18 years old. For cruises between Japan ports, the drinking age will be 20 years old.”


Royal Caribbean drinking age

Royal Caribbean’s policy states:

“The minimum age to consume alcohol on Royal Caribbean International ships on sailings originating in North America is twenty-one.

The minimum age to consume alcohol on Royal Caribbean International ships on sailings originating in Dubai, United Arab Emirates is twenty-one.

The minimum age to consume alcohol on Royal Caribbean International ships on sailings from South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand is eighteen. 

The minimum age to consume alcohol at all private destinations remains twenty-one without regard to where the sailing originated. “


Suggested read: Royal Caribbean Drinks Menus (with Prices)

Virgin Voyages drinking age

Virgin Voyages’ policy states:

“The drinking age in international waters is 18, in the United States it’s 21, and in other ports, we’ll go with whatever their country’s laws specify.”



The general rule is that you have to be 21 or over to drink alcohol on a US cruise and 18 or over for the rest of the world. There are some exceptions to this and each cruise line has its own policy.

If you’re in any doubt, please confirm with the cruise line before you book your cruise.

And if you’re ready to take a cruise without your parents at 18, then check out my guide to the best cruises for 18-year-olds to help you decide which ship to choose.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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