Whether you’re a young adult considering an independent cruise for the first time, or you’re taking your older teens with you on a family trip, it’s good to understand the rules regarding drinking ages on ships.
The drinking age may be 18 where you’re from, but that doesn’t mean the same legal limit applied while at sea. So, let’s take a look at the drinking rules of some of the world’s biggest cruise lines and most popular destinations.
How old do you have to be to drink on a cruise?
On most cruises, the minimum drinking age is 21. Some cruise lines have a lower drinking age of 18, and on some cruise lines, it depends on where the ship is sailing – with most cruises that include ports in the US or Middle East having the higher legal age of 21.
The policy does vary by cruise line though. There are some cruise lines which let guests drink on Europe voyages, and others that permit drinking for 18- to 20-year-olds in some regions if parents sign a waiver.
So if you’re 18, 19 or 20 years old and you want to drink on your cruise, it’s important you choose the right cruise line.
There are also some cruise lines which follow Norwegian drinking law, which is slightly different. On those, guests aged 18 to 20 may be able to drink beer and wine, depending on parental permission, but spirits are not allowed until guests turn 21. So that cocktail of the day might just be out of reach for a couple of years.
There’s also one interesting unique policy, and it’s that of P&O Cruises. On a P&O ship, guests aged 16 and 17 are allowed to drink “modest amounts” of beer, cider and wine to be consumed with a meal on the ship, provided they’re accompanied by a parent or guardian.
It’s the same law as applies when in a licensed premises in the UK. But again, it excludes spirits.
How old do you have to be to drink in ports of call?
When you’re sailing on a cruise and you disembark the ship, you must follow the local drinking laws. This means there may be some cruises where 18-year-old guests are not allowed to drink on the ship, but they are permitted to drink while ashore.
Similarly, there may be some ports such as Amsterdam, where you’re allowed to smoke weed ashore but not on the ship!
The laws for cruise ships are about serving alcohol, not about having intoxicated people on the ship – so you will be allowed to board if you’ve had a couple of drinks while visiting a licensed premises ashore.
However, you’ll be subject to the same rules as adults when it comes to being drunk – if you’ve had too much while you’re ashore you may not be allowed back onto the ship.
It’s also worth clarifying that cruise lines’ private islands are treated the same as being on-board, so for example, even though the Bahamas has a legal drinking age of 18, if you’re on a cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas and the drinking age on the ship is 21, it’ll be 21 on the island too.
What cruise lines let you drink at 18?
The only cruise lines that have a permanent minimum drinking age of 18 are British cruise lines such as P&O Cruises, Fred. Olsen and Marella Cruises as well as Virgin Voyages. Most other cruise lines will permit drinking on itineraries that avoid the US and Middle East, although for Carnival it’s only cruises from Australia where the age limit changes.
Here’s a more in-depth look at the legal drinking age rules:
Can you drink at 18 on a cruise in international waters?
The legal drinking age in international waters is defined by the rest of the cruise itinerary. For most cruises that have a US or Middle East port on the itinerary, you won’t be permitted to drink at 18, even when the ship is in international waters. A drinking age limit will apply to the whole itinerary.
Can you drink in the Bahamas at 18 on a cruise?
The legal drinking age in the Bahamas is 18, so provided guests are disembarking the ship and drinking at a private establishment, they are allowed to drink at 18 whilst on a cruise. Cruise line-owned destinations will apply the same drinking age as they would for drinks on the ship.
Can you drink at 18 on a Caribbean cruise?
Most Caribbean cruises include a US port, even if it is just the home port, and so guests must be 21 or older to drink while on the ship, even while sailing the Caribbean. 18- to 20-year-olds can disembark at most Caribbean islands and drink in private bars not run by the cruise line, though.
Can an 18 year old drink on a cruise to Mexico?
Provided a Mexican cruise itinerary does not include any US port, guests aged 18 or over can drink onboard on most cruise lines. If a US port is included on the itinerary, 18- to 20-year-olds can only drink while ashore in Mexico, but not on the ship.
Can you drink at 18 on a Carnival Cruise?
On most Carnival cruises, the minimum age to buy and consume alcoholic drinks on the ship is 21. The only exception is for cruises sailing from Australia, where the minimum drinking age is 18.
Can 18 year olds drink on Norwegian Cruise Line?
18-year-olds are allowed to drink beer and wine on an NCL cruise, provided that the cruise does not have a US port on the itinerary. Also, an accompanying parent must be on the cruise and must sign the Young Adult Alcoholic Beverage Waiver, except on round-trip European and Australian cruises.
Can 18-year-olds drink on Disney cruise ships?
Guests on a Disney Cruise Line ship in Europe may drink alcohol if they are aged 18 to 20 and their parents or guardians on the same cruise sign a Beverage Consent Form. The form is not needed for round-trip cruises from Australia and New Zealand. Elsewhere in the world the drinking age on Disney ships is 21.
Can you drink on a Royal Caribbean cruise at 18?
You can drink on a Royal Caribbean cruise if you are aged 18 or older and your cruise originated from a port in South America, Europe, Asia, Australia or New Zealand. Any other cruises have a drinking age of 21. The minimum drinking age is also 21 on Royal Caribbean’s private islands, regardless of where the cruise originated.
Can you drink at 18 on an MSC cruise?
MSC Cruises allows guests aged 18 and older to drink on all cruises except those which feature a North American or Caribbean port of call. Those cruises have a higher drinking age of 21.
Read MSC’s Boarding Condititions to see the alcohol policy. It’s a long document so use search to find the relevant section. It only states that minors can’t drink alcohol, but it defines minors earlier in the document as those under the legal drinking age of the area the ship is cruising in.
Legal Drinking Age By Cruise Line
Here’s a look at the minimum drinking age for the major cruise lines depending on where the ship is sailing, according to their own policies.
I’ve not added a column for cruises in the US or Middle East because the same rule applies across the board – if a cruise line is visiting a US port then the minimum drinking age is 21.
Even cruise lines like Fred Olsen and Marella Cruises, on their rare calls to North American ports, raise their typical drinking age to 21.
|Cruise Line||Drinking age on non-US or non-Middle East cruises|
|Disney Cruise Line||18 with parental permission|
|Holland America Line||18 (20 in Japan)|
|Hurtigruten||18 for beer and wine. 20 for spirits.|
|Norwegian Cruise Line||18 with parental permission. 18 without parental permission in Europe and Australasia only. Beer and wine only.|
|P&O Cruises||18 (16 with a meal)|
|Princess Cruises||18 (20 in Japan)|
|Regent Seven Seas Cruises||21|
There you have it then – a comprehensive list of the legal drinking age for cruise ships, and when you’ll be allowed to have a drink depending on where in the world you are sailing.
For any guests planning on travelling without their parents, you’ll want to also check the rules as some cruise lines treat all under-21s as minors, so it may not be allowed.
I’ve made it easy for you though – my guide to the best cruises for 18-year-olds without parents has everything you need to find the cruise lines where you can travel, drink and have fun on your first independent cruise sailing.
And of course, whatever age you are, drink responsibly! Getting kicked off a ship for being too drunk will leave you with more than just a horrendous hangover to deal with – it’ll be a lot of stress too!