Monday, August 17, 2015

Change to Alcohol Policy on Disney Cruise Line

Very rarely do I write about "news" in the cruise industry.  However, I wrote a lot about Disney Cruise Line's very generous alcohol policy (previously allowing any amount of liquor that could fit in a carry-on sized bag or suitcase) in my Disney Fantasy Cruise Review because it was so generous in comparison to other mass-market cruise lines, most of which limit quantities of alcohol brought on board to one bottle of wine, if any.

Satellite Falls

Official statement from Disney Cruise Line's FAQs:

Effective for cruises embarking on or after September 30, 2015, Disney Cruise Line Guests 21 years and older may bring a maximum of 2 bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no larger than 750 ml) or 6 beers (no larger than 12 ounces) on board at the beginning of the voyage and at each port-of-call.


Guests wishing to consume wine or champagne that they have brought on board in one of the dining rooms will be charged a corking fee of $25.00 per bottle. Please note:

These beverages must be packed in carry-on (not checked) bags or luggage.
Any alcohol packed in checked luggage will be removed and stored until the end of the cruise.
Any wine or champagne in excess of 2 bottles or beer in excess of 6 beers will be stored until the end of the cruise.
Bringing liquors and spirits (including powdered alcohol) on board is prohibited. These items will be stored until the end of the cruise.
Guest MUST retrieve any stored alcohol at the end of the cruise. Items not retrieved will be destroyed, and no compensation will be offered.
Alcohol brought on board may not be consumed in any lounge or public area.
Please note that the Disney Cruise Line alcohol policy is subject to change without notice.

Well, I suppose the crackdown on alcohol brought on board was bound to happen eventually.  In fact, people were predicting it back when I was preparing for my Disney Cruise because they had just removed the alcohol policy entirely from the FAQs.  But before shouting, "Doomsday, doomsday!" let's break it down and take a look at what it really means.

Guests 21 years and older may bring a maximum of 2 bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no larger than 750 ml) or 6 beers (no larger than 12 ounces)

"Guests 21 years and older".... that means that every legal drinking adult is entitled to bring 2 bottles of wine/champagne or 6 beers.  So if you have two adults per stateroom, that's 4 bottles of wine/champagne or 12 beers.  Better yet, have one adult bring the wine and another adult bring the beer.

on board at the beginning of the voyage and at each port-of-call.

"And at each port of call."  Not or.... and.  This means that as a legal drinking adult, you can replenish your stash throughout the week.  On a 7-day cruise with three ports of call (in which I'm not counting Castaway Cay, Disney's private island), you can accumulate up to 12 bottles of wine/champagne or 24 beers per legal drinking person. That's still a lot of booze!

So how does the change in Disney's Alcohol Policy affect me?

I will admit that one thing that really stood out on Disney Cruise Line for an adult with no children was DCL's very generous alcohol policy.  No other cruise line allowed guests to bring bottles of liquor on board.  So when I sailed with my family in May 2014, we took advantage of the alcohol policy and hit up the liquor store before embarking on our 7-day Caribbean cruise.

However, we rarely hit up our own liquor stash during the week.  My dad, more than anyone, would add some vodka to his lemonade, but for the most part, we found going back to the room to mix drinks inconvenient.  Not to mention, we wanted to hit up the nightlife and enjoy Disney's many themed bars and specialty drinks.  The boys bought the DCL refillable beer mugs and used those more than anything to get a buzz on ($14.95 for the mug + cost of draft beer... 22 oz refills for the price of 16 oz).  We had brought on board more alcohol that we needed (one bottle of rum, one bottle of vodka) for the five of us.  And I know that I brought home a full bottle of champagne that we had brought on board.

So while I don't think that Disney's change in alcohol policy is the end of the world, I'm also not happy with it, either.  The generous alcohol policy was something that really set Disney apart and started to justify the extremely expensive rates, especially for adults with no children.  It really sucks that Disney is tightening down, again, taking away benefits without reducing rates.  The change in alcohol policy won't stop me from cruising Disney, but it is something that I'll have to factor in when assessing the value of a Disney Cruise, as compared to other cruise lines.

I do understand why Disney would feel a need to revise their alcohol policy.  It is extremely generous in comparison to other cruise lines, and that could (though I have heard no stories of such happenings) lead to dangerous situations or guest behavior problems.  But I think that the biggest bummer in the revision is not allowing guests to bring their own liquor on board.  A carry-on full certainly isn't necessary, but maybe someone wants to celebrate with a special bottle of scotch or a specific brand of tequila.  What is the harm in that?  I personally think that a better revision would be to allow one 750 ml bottle of liqor or two 750 ml bottles of wine/champagne or six beers.... but that's just my suggestion.  Disney, are you listening?

What do you think about Disney's revised alcohol policy?  Will this affect your decision to sail on Disney Cruise Line?  Let me know in the comments below!