It’s enough to drive you to drink! Teetotallers are being penalised for their partners’ drinking. Cruisers are being forced to buy two of the same alcohol package deals, whether they drink or not.

Even though one passenger abstains, under most cruise line T&Cs the first two adults (aged 18 or over 21 on some international voyages) must buy the same package.

“Both adult guests in Australia are normally required to purchase the same beverage package,” Royal Caribbean responded on its Facebook page about its unlimited drinks package. “If a guest would like to discuss beverage package options in more detail, we advise them to reach out to the contact centre – this has always been the case.”

Drinking for one

And in another bizarre rule, the drinks packages must only be used by the person who bought it. Meaning you can’t give your wife a glass of bubbles or your husband a beer. That risks having your drinks packaged cancelled.

The requirements are a bid to stop two people in the same cabin sharing one drinks package (since they are limited to the number of glasses, what’s wrong with that?). For some passengers, it’s a sobering extra cost. It could be up to AU$100 per day if a partner just drinks water and has the occasional coffee.

“Drinks packages are expensive enough for those of us who take advantage of it,” said one passenger who is about to embark on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

”But my wife doesn’t drink alcohol, or mocktails or soda, so why should she be obliged to purchase something that’s going to be a complete waste of money.”

Of course, it’s all about what cruise lines describe as “on board spend”. Royal Caribbean recently told shareholders on board spend was soaring, so it’s became an important source of income.

But as lines battle “inclusive” offerings like Oceania, Viking and Azamara where wine and beer are free at meal times, how long can it last?

“If cruise companies are only worried about customers who are taking advantage of the system, then there is something wrong with the system,” says Adam Glezer of Consumer Champion.  “Cruise companies should have no right to force their customers to pay for something that they are not going to use”.

Is the packaged cruise fare fair?

Princess Plus fare includes the cruise fare packaged with the Plus Beverage Package and Wi-Fi. Princess also recently been ramped up its Wi-Fi prices. The Plus Beverage Package applies to the first two stateroom guests aged 18 or over (21 on some international voyages). 

The internationally-available Plus Beverage Package is US$64.99 (about A$100 on current exchange rates) per day. Then add 18% service charge and that totals $76.70 per day (or $AU118) for all itineraries. For locals departing on Australian-based vessels, the Plus Beverage Package is A$110 per day (US$71), including an undisclosed service charge.

Your shout? Not allowed

On Carnival each adult assigned to the same stateroom must purchase the CHEERS! drink package. The T&Cs state if it is part of an offer received from Carnival, then it applies to the 1st and 2nd adults in the cabin. If the 2nd passenger is under 18, then a Bottomless Bubbles package (AU$7.50 Child or AU$9.95 Adult) is assigned.

Want to shout your new cruise friends at the table? Not a chance. Only one alcoholic drink may be ordered at a time. No sharing is permitted.

Under the Carnival terms if you are on the CHEERS! program, you cannot (even by paying) purchase sharing cocktails (aka fishbowls), floaters, pitchers (jugs), tubes and buckets.

Royal Caribbean says in terms of sharing a bottle of wine, guests can bring one bottle on per person and share in the main dining room at their table.

Consumer advocacy lawyer Joseph Arida from Arida Lawyers said that the lines are not forcing passengers to buy any package.

“There is an option to not purchase any drinks packages at all, but just pay as you go,” he says. “But if there was a clause inserted into the contract, that had the effect of forcing two people to purchase the same package, that could potentially amount to an unfair term under the Australian Consumer Law.

“However, the pre-sale representations made and the contract as a whole will need to be taken into consideration.”

Arida suggests Australian consumers contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission if they think the terms are unfair.

What the ACCC says

A spokesperson for the ACCC said:

  • · The Australian Consumer Law applies to businesses that sell travel packages to consumers in Australia.
  • · Under the Australian Consumer Law, businesses must not engage in false or misleading conduct in the sale or promotion of a service.
  • · False or misleading conduct can include the omission of key pricing information that will impact a consumer’s purchasing decision.
  • · Cruise lines should clearly disclose all relevant package options, pricing, and terms and conditions clearly and upfront, before a consumer decides to buy a particular cruise voyage.
  • · The Australian Consumer Law also prohibits unfair contract terms. Contract terms in standard form contracts are unfair if they:
    • cause a significant imbalance in the rights and obligations of the parties under the contract
    • are not reasonably necessary to protect the legitimate interests of the party who gets an advantage from the term, and;
    • would cause financial or other harm to the other party if enforced.

What do you think? Are drinks package rules in the spirit of cruising? Comment below.

For the best alcohol package deals, click here.