Exposing the ‘Ridiculous’ Rule on Cruise Ships Deemed as a ‘Rip-off’ by Travelers

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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.

Under the condition that if anyone wishes to avail the drinks package, it is mandatory for every individual in the same stateroom to comply. Although the packages are billed on an individual basis for each day, the sharing of these packages is strictly prohibited.

An Australian couple, known as Christine and Dave Russell, having gone on several cruises annually for the past ten years, recently felt the inconvenience of this rule. The predicament occurred when Ms. Russell chose to quit drinking a year ago.

This resulted in a scenario during three Carnival cruises, where Mr. Russell was unable to opt for the drinks package. This was due to the regulation stating that Ms. Russell would have been obligated to shell out $111 ($72 USD) daily despite not drinking.

“When this amount is multiplied by two and considering that only one person drinks, it totals a significant amount of money”, Ms.Russell pointed out to 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 has queried several significant cruise lines operating in Australia—like Carnival Cruise Line, P & O Cruises, Cunard, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Royal Caribbean—under similar circumstances. However, no one could provide a satisfactory explanation.

Carnival Australia, the parent company of seven cruise lines in Australia and New Zealand such as Carnival, P & O, Cunard, and Princess, has instead emphasized its commitment to the Responsible Service of Alcohol, stating that drink packages are available but not mandatory.

A representative of Carnival Australia noted, “Our drink packages are purely optional, and customers can buy beverages individually at competitive prices. This enables customization of their cruising experience based on their unique preferences.”

“The beverage package conditions meet the common industry standards that have been upheld for many years, and they’re comparable to other hospitality sectors when choosing a preset menu or beverage 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 is of the opinion that a cruise company which bucks the trend and eschews the usual regulations will gain advantage over their competitors.

Virgin Voyages and Disney Cruise Line, which had their first seasons in Australia this year, have both abandoned the old-fashioned drink packages.

Instead, Virgin allows vacationers to pay their “Bar Tab” in advance and rewards them with extra on-board credit for their initiative.

They advertise their approach as distinct from other cruise lines, as they don’t impose any unreasonable rules associated with drink packages.

Deals from Disney encompass bundle offers of bottled wine as well as a beer mug refill option. With this, guests get a 21 oz glass mug and have the opportunity to refill it for the price of a 16 oz beer at any of the ship’s bars that offer draft beer.

On the other hand, Royal Caribbean introduces a slight twist to the standard rule which states that the same beverage package must be purchased by individuals sharing a room.

If one of the guests in the room doesn’t consume alcohol, then a ‘Refreshment Package’ is required to be bought. This includes soft drinks, coffees, teas, juices, and non-alcoholic cocktails.

Travelers have expressed varying views about the cruise drink packages online, with some stating it’s not worthwhile whilst others emphasizing how they managed to get the value for their money.

One Australian TikTok user, going by the alias “jasmintiexo,” has put together a comprehensive analysis of every beverage she purchased on a Royal Caribbean cruise that lasted eight days.

The compilation reveals that she managed to secure drinks worth $US1151.50 (approximately $1760) for just $US520 (roughly $795).

Below, understand how major cruise companies in Australia implement the rule on buying drinks packages.

If you opt for the “Cheers!” package that includes alcoholic drinks, every adult sharing the same cabin is obligated to purchase it. The prices start at $111($72 USD) per individual, 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 (about $5 USD) 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.”

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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.

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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.

Starting price for alcoholic drink packages is $99 ($65 USD) for each person on a daily basis.

Under the revised terms and conditions, more than one passenger does not necessarily have to acquire alcoholic drink packages.

Based on the FAQ provided by Princess Cruises, it is not compulsory for the third and fourth guests in the same stateroom to buy or stick to the chosen package of the first and second guests. This suggests that the first two guests are expected to buy the same package.

Every guest is restricted to 15 alcoholic beverages a day and these cannot be shared.

The alcoholic drink packages start at $110 ($72 USD) per person, per day.

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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