Posted by: Sarah Lee | December 4, 2009

Can we handle our drink?

Shaken not stirred: Martini Bar, Celebrity Equinox. Click image for more photos of the ship.

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Feverish headlines this week announced that Celebrity Cruises is set to launch ‘booze cruises’. The meat of the story is that the line is launching all-inclusive alcohol packages for cruisers.

When I first experienced cruising I was surprised to discover that drinks were not included in the price of your cruise (perhaps some of this is based on the fact that I’d attended ship launches where travel agents, journalists and industry professionals were hosted by cruise companies with alcohol widely available). Given the type of experience on ships – all-inclusive activities, all-inclusive meals (bar some speciality restaurants), all-inclusive entertainment, etc, etc, it seemed reasonable to me that drinks would be included also. Instead cruisers pay for drinks separately.

So on hearing about Celebrity’s plans I figured it was about time, after all, they are only offering services provided at all-inclusive hotels the world over. But then a tirade of  ‘binge drinking on the high seas’ began, and Celebrity was accused of being irresponsible.

Ok, so there is a difference between all-inclusive drinking at hotels and all-inclusive drinking on a cruise ship – the potential dangers are greater (drunk falling overboard being the main one – but it’s not that easy unless you climb over waist-high barriers).

I find all of this slightly worrying. Celebrity won’t be selling drinks packages to children, but adults who should be able to elicit enough self-control not to drink themselves to the brink of disaster on a cruise ship. Why as a society do we always look for a scapegoat, someone to blame for our bad behaviour? Why do we find it difficult to take responsibility for our behaviour? And why do we expect companies to nanny us? If as travellers we can’t take responsibility for our actions then surely we shouldn’t be leaving the country at all.

For me the important question is whether these drinks packages offer value. A CruiseCritic poll revealed that 20% of US cruisers are very interested in the packages, while 50% might be interested. But it also points out that the cheapest package, starting at $34.50 a night, only makes sense if you drink 5-7 beers a day. As you have to purchase the package for each day of your trip it might prove most economical only for cruisers that can really handle their drink.

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