For many planning a vacation on a cruise ship, one of their main concerns is whether or not they can legally drink while onboard. If you’re an adult traveling alone or with your immediate family, there shouldn’t be any problems at all – but if you have younger kids (or even older ones), it may be more complicated than that.
So what exactly does the legal drinking age for cruise ships look like worldwide, and how do different cruise lines handle underage passengers?
Unfortunately, you must be 21 or older to consume or purchase alcoholic beverages on most cruise ships. However, a few cruise lines offer cruises for adults 18 years or older, such as Windstar Cruises, Oceania Cruises, and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. You should check with the cruise line you are considering to see if they allow passengers under 21 to consume and purchase alcoholic beverages.
Cruise Ships With Age Restrictions
The first thing we need to know about this topic is where you can get served alcohol aboard a cruise ship. Generally, you won’t mention an age restriction anywhere in the terms and conditions section when you book a cruise through a central cruise line such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, or Norwegian.
This means that you should expect to be able to buy alcoholic drinks pretty much everywhere on board, regardless of your age. However, particular areas and activities might still require you to be over the legal drinking age before being allowed to participate.
If you’re looking to take advantage of these restrictions during your next cruise, here’s a quick guide to help you stay within the boundaries of the law.
Cruising To The Caribbean
Many cruise lines allow minors under 18 to travel freely throughout the ship, so long as they don’t purchase or consume any alcohol themselves. Some cruise lines also offer special programs explicitly to keep young travelers safe and entertained while onboard. These include supervised teen clubs, dance classes, talent shows, and other activities to keep them occupied until bedtime.
However, things change dramatically once you step off the boat into port. Most Caribbean destinations limit the sale of alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, and many bars and restaurants are located right outside the cruise terminal.
As a result, it’s straightforward for teenagers to run out onto the street and start buying drinks without paying attention to any signs warning them against doing so.
Cruising To Alaska And Hawaii
Alcohol isn’t sold on Alaskan cruise ships; nobody under 21 can leave without supervision. This makes it extremely difficult for teens to obtain alcohol illegally once they arrive in port.
However, there are several ways to ensure your kids aren’t tempted to break the rules. First, try to plan your trip during the middle of the summer months, which are usually the least busy time of the year. Secondly, choose a cruise with a wide variety of educational activities since these tend to appeal to younger kids much more than traditional entertainment options.
Finally, avoid taking too many group excursions to shore, especially those led by independent tour operators. Instead, stick to scheduled tours organized by the cruise line whenever possible. That way, you’ll always know where your kids are going and how long they’ll be away from the ship.
Cruising Around South America
In Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru, the legal drinking age is set at 18 years old. When cruising to these destinations, therefore, you should only worry about making sure that none of your teenage guests tries to sneak off the ship without permission.
Once you reach port, however, you should let them explore the city unaccompanied. They’ll be perfectly safe to walk around town, provided that they remember to obey all traffic laws.
Cruising Around Asia
There are no specific laws governing the minimum age for drinking in Asian countries, so each country sets its guidelines based on local customs and traditions. In Thailand, for example, the legal drinking age is 19 years old, whereas Cambodia’s legal age is 16 years old.
Parents should exercise extreme caution when allowing their teenagers to go ashore in both cases. It’s important to realize that plenty of shady characters lurk around every corner, ready to prey on unsuspecting tourists.
Cruising Around Africa
In Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, the legal drinking age is 18 years old. In addition, the sale of alcohol is prohibited in any public place within 100 meters of schools, churches, mosques, hospitals, and government buildings.
Unfortunately, unscrupulous vendors often ignore these regulations, meaning that teenagers are sometimes forced to spend hours waiting in long queues to buy a bottle of water.
Cruising Around Europe
Most European countries have a legal drinking age of 18, although some exceptions apply in specific locations. In Spain, for example, anyone under 25 must prove that they are enrolled in school or working full-time to buy alcohol. Similarly, anyone under 21 is forbidden from purchasing cigarettes and tobacco products.
Cruising Around North America
In Canada, the legal drinking age is set at 19 years old, although provinces such as Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec have raised it to 21 years old. Meanwhile, the legal drinking age in the USA is set at 21 years old, although states such as California, Arizona, and Utah have lowered it to 18 years old.
Regardless of whether you’re sailing across the Atlantic or down the coast of Florida, you’re unlikely to encounter any problems with underage drinking unless you bring along many teenagers. If you’re worried about your 17-year-old daughter sneaking off the ship to meet up with her friends in the Bahamas, tell her to return to the cabin immediately after she goes ashore. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Cruising Between Australia/NZ, China, Japan & Korea
In Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and Korea, the legal drinking age is set at 18 years old. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean that your teenager will face any serious consequences if they manage to smuggle a few beers into the cabin, it certainly makes life easier for everyone involved.
Because the legal age for buying alcohol is lower than average, it’s far less likely they’ll get caught red-handed. Furthermore, because most bars and nightclubs are located near the cruise terminals, it becomes almost impossible for teens to escape the sight of security guards patrolling the streets.
Cruising Between Mexico & Central America
In Mexico, the legal drinking age is 18 years old, although some cities such as Cancun, Cozumel, and Playacar have extended it to 21 years old. Likewise, Panama has increased its minimum age to 20 years old, while Costa Rica has reduced it to 18 years old.
Cruising Between Canada & The Caribbean
In Canada, the legal drinking age is set at 19 years old, although provinces such as Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec have raised it to 21 years old. Meanwhile, St. Kitts & Nevis has established a new minimum age of 18 years old, while Barbados has introduced a strict ban on selling alcohol to anyone under the age of 18.
Cruising Within The United States
As mentioned earlier, the legal drinking age in the USA is 21. However, this rule has several exceptions, depending on where you live. Residents of Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Wyoming are allowed to purchase alcohol starting at 18 years old, provided they present proof of identification issued by either a parent or guardian.