Carnival’s Beverage Policy – Fair or Extreme?


Sheri - Hi CruisersIf you’ve been following cruise news this summer, you’ll likely be familiar with Carnival’s new beverage policy, which went into effect in July of 2015. As ever, opinions on the topic are varied and range greatly from the heated “I’ll take my cruising business elsewhere if you don’t let me smuggle alcohol onboard” to “that sounds fair to me”. So, what is the policy? If you have the time you can read the whole policy here:

To summarize, Carnival is no longer allowing cruisers to bring plastic bottles onboard. I’d imagine that this means one of two things to most people who cruise with Carnival: 1) “I can no longer bring my own water in plastic bottles onboard” or 2) “I can no longer smuggle booze in water bottles on embarkation day”.Bottled Water

Interestingly, not much else has changed with the beverage policy. Cruisers can still bring 12 cans or a carton of soda and a bottle of wine per adult onboard on embarkation day, as long as it is in one’s carry-on luggage. Yep, all the mayhem is surrounding one change…plastic bottles. AND, to top if off, Carnival has offered 12 bottles of water, delivered to your stateroom, for $2.99 per 12 pack of 16.9 ounces of water. I mean, you’re going to pay less at Costco for bottled water, but have you ever checked the price of bottled water in most hotel rooms? $4-5 is not an uncommon price to pay for water. You can either pre order the water, and have it waiting in your stateroom, or order it from room service, with a gratuity charge once onboard.

Is Carnival going overboard or are they simply responding to an embarkation and safety issue? A look at their FAQ’s clearly point to the latter with topics like this one:
Q. You’ve allowed guests to take on bottled water for years. Why change now?
A. We are concerned over the potential for behavioral issues associated with the unmonitored consumption of alcohol that results from alcohol that has been smuggled on board as well as the excessive amount of beverages we are having to individually examine during embarkation and the associated impact it has on the embarkation process and our security resources. 

Now, if you’re up for a little entertainment- the refreshingly-honest FAQ’s are a fun read. The Q&A can be found here:
Carnival Bottled WaterWhat’s our take on this? We recently returned from a 7 night Mexican Riviera Carnival cruise where the new policy was in place. It took a little pre-planning because we normally do pack our own water, and of course, that water is usually in plastic bottles. I bought two 12-packs in advance of our cruise online and the water was waiting for us in our room. We packed our max of 12 sodas each adult in our carry on luggage and skipped the wine this time because we knew we’d get a free bottle in Nick and Nora’s, the Steakhouse, on night one (a nice perk Miracle offers to fill the otherwise quiet steakhouse on embarkation day). On embarkation, there was a large garbage bin near the xray scanners FILLED with single water bottles. Carnival is not letting any plastic sneak through, not even the one in your hand. Thankfully, they did offer chilled water throughout the terminal, to compensate. One port day, we returned to the ship with 1 bottle of water we’d bought onshore and 1 Carnival-labeled bottle in our backpack. The security officer made us toss the “outside” water, and said “Carnival water only” after the backpack went through x-ray. Again, the employees are not, at least on our sailing, letting any plastic sneak by.

So, the final word from us is that $2.99 is a fair price for water, and the policy is probably needed to protect the company and the cruisers. Carnival could have handled this differently, taking the opportunity to overcharge for water, prohibiting soda and wine, and being greedy in general. But, they didn’t.

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Sheri and her family are California based cruise content creators focused on providing practical tips and advice to new and seasoned cruisers. CruiseTipsTV’s audience enjoys following Sheri and her family as they travel the world by ship creating travel films. Sheri has visited destinations like Japan, Mexico, Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean, and has experienced 33 cruises on 6 cruise lines. She was named one of Porthole Cruise Magazine’s 10 Travel Influencers Changing How We Vacation in 2018 and 2019. Sheri has been quoted in the New York times, CNBC, Forbes, Prevention, and Business Innovator Radio. Her YouTube Channel, CruiseTipsTV has over 85,000 subscribers and 15 million views.