Imagine the fuss if you bought a bottle of wine from a bottle shop and the owner told you: “You can’t share that with your friends, by the way. It’s against the rules.”

Well, a common rule on cruise ships is that if one person in a cabin purchases a drinks package, everyone else of legal age in the cabin has to purchase one as well. In case they share it.

The rule exists to prevent people from purchasing one package among two or multiple people and sharing the drinks. But just think about that: you buy something and then can’t share it? Many cruise passengers believe that simply isn’t fair or right.

And it could be seen to be encouraging drinking to excess – something cruise lines say they are trying to discourage.

The idea becomes ridiculous when, for example, in a travel party of two, one guest is a big drinker and the doesn’t drink. 

If cruise lines had a way to police sharing of the package, non-drinking travellers or travellers who aren’t big drinkers and are cruising with someone that has purchased the drinks package, could save a lot of money.

But what’s wrong with that? It’s only wrong, of course, because these cruise lines want to double dip on your holiday. There is NOTHING WRONG with someone wishing to share the drinks they purchased with a friend.

It’s also complicated for passengers as different cruise lines have different rules. And they aren’t always clearly outlined. This could lead to passengers paying more than they may need to.

What the cruisers say about drinks package sharing

For example, Royal Caribbean’s official policy is that all guests of legal drinking age must purchase the package. However, guests can call up and ask to change this. The rest of the party instead, will be allowed to purchase a refreshments with package, that doesn’t include alcohol.  

Alison Easten sails on Royal Caribbean and says she enjoys a drink. But her usual travel partners don’t, making it a complicated situation. 

“I think the rule is rude. My cabin buddy has maybe one to two drinks per night. Whereas I would use up a package. It’s not fair that we both have to buy one.

“Furthermore, the soft drink package won’t do as she doesn’t drink them either. They have our pictures on our swipe card, surely it shouldn’t be too hard to police?”

Cruiser Nicholle Talbot called on Princess Cruises to allow individual purchases of drinks packages. 

“They need to listen to their customers who only ‘need’ one drinks package per cabin as the other person is not a big drinker and is prepared to pay for any drinks they may want.

“Yes, we know that that people have previously abused this but it’s up to the staff to police it.”

On Princess, guests do have the option to purchase individual drink packages. However, the packages offer significantly poorer value than Princess’s bundled Plus and Premier packages. It required all adults in the cabin to buy the drink package together.

Here’s what you need to know and what cruisers are saying:

A Royal Caribbean Bartender drinks package sharing
A Royal Caribbean Bartender.

P&O Australia

With P&O Australia, cruisers do have the option to purchase drinks packages individually. Not all legally aged members of the cabin need to buy them as well. It should be noted that this is the rule in Australia.

The only kicker is that P&O has recently nudged up the prices of their drinks packages. Starting now at $109 and $119 per day for the P&O Drinks package and P&O Plus package.

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean presents an interesting conundrum. Their official policy reads: “The Deluxe Beverage Package policy requires all guests wishing to purchase the Deluxe Beverage Package to do so for ALL guests of legal drinking age in the same stateroom.”

However, many Royal Caribbean guests report calling up the cruise line and instead being allowed to purchase one Deluxe Beverage Package (which includes alcohol) and one Refreshment Package (which does not include alcohol).

A Royal Caribbean representative confirmed this with Cruise Passenger: “Both adult guests in Australia are normally required to purchase the same beverage package. If a guest would like to discuss beverage package options in more detail, we advise them to reach out to the contact centre.”

While this represents a more flexible policy than some other major cruise lines, there are still passengers upset. 

Linda Wilkie wrote: “Royal Caribbean would not allow my husband to get the Delux Drink’s package without me getting the refreshments package, therefore if he wanted a package I was forced to also take a package.

“I don’t drink alcohol or any high sugar content drinks, so why should my husband be unable to purchase a deluxe drinks package, if I don’t buy some sort of drinks package?”

Another cruiser Kristen Joanne has one sleight-of-hand workaround.

“A way around it is if you are in a group, book the big drinkers in the same room – Royal Caribbean don’t know who’s really in what room.”

Royal Caribbean's Schooner Bar.
Should you able to share your drinks package?

Princess Cruises 

Princess Cruises is another cruise line that presents an interesting conundrum in this space. 

The line allows guests to purchase drinks packages individually without having to buy for everyone in the cabin. However, on Princess, drinks packages are more expensive individually than the bundled Princess Plus and Premier.

The policy for Princess Plus and Princess Premier is that if one adult in the cabin purchases them, then the other adults are required too as well. These packages have a range of other inclusions such as Wi-Fi, fitness classes, unlimited juice bar, speciality dining, photo packages, and more. 

This has positives and negatives. This means, for example, if there is a couple, and wants to drink a lot on their cruise and the other doesn’t, both will be forced to buy a Plus or Premier package, however, unlike the other major lines, the non-drinking guest will still receive a range of other benefits, most notably, WiFi. 

For example, cruiser Angela Kate says despite not being a big drinker of alcohol, she still gets value from the Princess Plus package. 

“I’m not a big alcohol drinker. I’m lucky if I have one or two per day. But I still buy the Plus and get value out of it because I would purchase the wifi anyway and I do drink coffee, bottled water and some soft drink.”

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival’s official policy reads: “Each adult assigned to the same stateroom must purchase the program (drinks package). If the program is part of an offer you’ve received from Carnival, then it applies to the first and second adult in the cabin only; if the 2nd passenger is 18 years of age, then the Bottomless Bubbles package will be assigned.”

This means that all legally aged members of a cabin must purchase the drinks package if one member wishes to. 

Exceptions are few and far between, for example Lauren Killender Rothnie shared her experience.

“I have 2 disabled adult sons and they still have to buy it if my husband and I wanted to.”

Celebrity Cruises 

Celebrity Cruises requires that if one adult purchases the drinks package, all the others in the cabin must as well. However, they have some listed exceptions.

“Our policy requires that any guest wishing to purchase the Drink Package must do so for all other guests of legal drinking age in the same stateroom. However, we will make an exception for the following:

  • Children 12 years old and under will NOT be required to purchase a Zero drink package.
  • Teens – A Zero Proof drink package will be added
    • 13 -17 years old (Europe, Asia, Australia)
    • 13 – 20 years old (USA)
  • Pregnant guests – A Zero Proof drink package will be added.
  • Recovering alcoholic or medical issue that does not allow guests to consume alcohol. A Zero Proof drink package will be added.”