A cruise line’s maximum drinks package that allows 15 alcoholic beverages a day – more than three-and-a-half times the daily intake recommended by Australian health advice – has come under attack.

Fifteen drinks a day is not enough, according to one US cruise passenger. He complained after maxing out his Cheers package aboard Carnival.

“When will Carnival realise that for most Americans on vacation that 15 drinks in one day with Cheers is not enough! We hit it every day on a cruise without getting fall-down foolish drunk so stop treating us like children,” the passenger posted on Carnival Cruise Line Brand Ambassador’s Joan Heald’s Facebook page. The passenger then went on to list his daily intake onboard Carnival Sunshine.

“One drink at breakfast, usually a spiked coffee or bloody mary. Sit by the pool after breakfast and will have 4-5 more until lunchtime. Have lunch and go back to the room and change, have 2 there while changing and maybe sit on the balcony for a few mins. Already at 6 or 7 by 1 or 2 p.m. Casino for a bit and have a few more drinks More with dinner. A few at a show or watching a band and then casino again. Basically drinking from 10 a.m. to past midnight,” he posted. “15 is not enough.”

A couple by a cruise ship pool with drinks
Enjoying a couple of drinks by the pool of a cruise ship.

But according to the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care recommendations, to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard alcoholic drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.

Even the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults drink in moderation. It suggests limiting intake to two alcoholic drinks or less a day for men or one drink or less for women.

In Australia, a standard drink contains 10g of pure alcohol – say a middy or pot of full-strength beer (285ml) while an average glass of white wine (150ml) has 1.4 standard drinks and an average glass of red wine (150ml) has 1.6 standard drinks.

Opinion was mixed on whether the line should remove the maximum number of drinks in the package.

“The Cheers program contains unlimited non-alcoholic beverages and 15 alcoholic drinks in a 24-hour period. Surely that is enough for most?” Heald commented.

Meanwhile, another follower commented: “I cruise many lines and have seen funny drunks and mean drunks. I feel putting a limit is a good idea as not everyone can know their limit. No one wants to be on a booze cruise except a small group of people. I love that Carnival is a family cruise line and I think to protect all there should be a limit. 15 drinks is generous for the price paid.”

a tasting paddle of beers
Cheers, but to how many beers?

From BYO to pay-per-drink to unlimited cocktails 

While most cruise lines offer flat-fee drink packages that are likely to save you money when cruising, just how much is enough – especially where there is no limit?

While there are unlimited drinks packages on Royal Caribbean, MSC and Norwegian among others, Virgin Voyages employs a pay-per-drink option. Furthermore, Disney Cruise Line does not offer drink packages either.

For its round-trip cruises from Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland and Brisbane, guests aged 18 or older may bring a maximum of two bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no larger than 750 ml) or six beers (no larger than 350ml) on board at the beginning of the voyage and at each port of call. But guests pay $27 per bottle corkage.

While cruise lines employ responsible service of alcohol provisions, it’s still up to an individual to judge how many they can responsibly handle.

But do you know many drinks have more than one standard drink – say a knockout cocktail or a heavy red wine?

Check the label on your bottle or container, or refer to the Standard Drinks Guide, to see how many standard drinks are in it. Or ask the bartender as they whip up another fruity cocktail that may have one, two or three nips in it. 

Or don’t buy a drinks package at all. Limit your spend rather than the AU$100 per day or so you might be up for otherwise.