3. “We’ve got a drinking problem.”
As the abundance of phrases like “three sheets to the wind” (meaning very drunk) and “splice the main brace” (an order to drink, delivered by a commanding officer) suggests, drinking and sailing have long gone together. And they continue to do so today. “Cruising is vacation,” says Colleen McDaniel, managing editor of consumer site CruiseCritic.com. “People like to relax, try the drink of the day, sample some wines or enjoy some celebratory champagne.
While some small luxury cruise lines like Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn and Chrystal Cruises are essentially open bar, mass market lines treat booze as big business. Since on most cruise lines, food and some nonalcoholic beverages are included in the ticket price, it’s that much more urgent that they make some profit off the booze. Ships sell drinks with restaurant-style mark-ups or through all-you-can-drink packages. (Carnival’s Cheers program costs $42.95 a day, although they do cut people off after drink number 15.) When CruiseCritic polled readers in 2011, more than a fourth of respondents said they typically spend more than $200 on drinks per cruise. (The average cruise lasts seven days.)
The trouble with drinking on a ship, some say, is that many cruises have instituted policies that prohibit passengers from bringing aboard bottles (either from home or purchased ashore). That means passengers are stuck paying the ship’s prices. Royal Caribbean, for instance, does not allow guests to pack beer or liquor. While it does permit two bottles of wine per room, a $25 corkage fee applies for each bottle consumed in a public area. Experts say some passengers have responded to the policies by trying to sneak past them. But when contraband is found, typically when bags go through the security screener, it’s confiscated.
Royal Caribbean didn’t respond to requests for comment. The Cruise Lines International Association says such policies help crews make sure overzealous passengers don’t end up too drunk.