Disney Cruise Line implements restrictive onboard alcohol policy

This week Disney Cruise Line (DCL) implemented a new onboard alcohol policy effective September 30th, 2015.  The change is as follows:

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.

If you are not familiar with the exiting policy, it was much more relaxed.  Basically, “if it fits (in your carry-on), it ships”.  Before you could bring a bottle of wine for dinner every night plus a few bottles of spirits.

This new policy applies whether you are on a three day cruise or a fourteen day cruise.  You can resupply at each port-of-call, but good luck finding a decent wine in the Caribbean.

Since the policy was announced, die-hard Disney cruisers have taken to social media sharing their disappointment and support (mostly disappointment) for the new policy.  If you take a look at the visitor comments on Disney Cruise Line facebook page, you will see no shortage of comments on the topic.  There are hundreds of comments and they still keep coming in.  Disney cruisers have been flooding customer service with calls and e-mailing as well.  DCL has a PR nightmare without a doubt.

The way I see it there are three angles to the story:

  • Disney Cruise Line simply wants to increase revenue.  That’s what Disney does.  DCL hasn’t made a statement yet but you can assure you that it will be something like this “We have evaluated our onboard alcohol policy to make it more in line with the rest of the cruise industry.  We still have a generous policy.  Thank you for your concerns.” That will cause even more outrage among people, but I honestly don’t think things will change.  Some have argued that it’s for some other reason, but when you look at the facts, it’s hard to ignore the revenue lost by their old policy.
  • The “Holier than thou” have also risen up in support of the new policy (although mostly in the closed facebook groups).  People that have fallen into this category have quickly labeled people as “alcoholics” and “drunkards”.  They have reminded everyone that this is a “family cruise”.  In all my cruises, I’ve seen very few people on a Disney ship that I could classify as “drunk”.  When I have seen people that were drunk, it was always at the mixology class.  You take a bunch of inexperience drinkers and serve them five cocktails in under two hours and that’s going to happen.  This is when you see Mommy showing up tipsy to the Oceaneer’s Club to pick up the kids before dinner.  Is DCL going to stop having mixology classes?  Absolutely not at $20 a head.
  • Supporters of the old policy quickly become combative with the “Holier than thou” stating that they don’t deserve their titles simply because they had a glass of wine at dinner.  Their argument consists of a few things.  The first issue is obviously cost.  Why pay $9 for one Rum and Coke, when they can bring an entire bottle for $15.  They remind us that DCL is already charging a premium for their cruise and the previous alcohol policy made it bearable.  The next issue is that some people don’t drink beer or wine.  They prefer spirits and now we can’t bring those onboard.  The last issue people have is that the onboard beer and wine selection is really not that good.  If you are a fan of craft beers, well you are on the wrong ship.  The wine selection is all over the place, and I haven’t really had that many good glasses.  When it comes to cocktails, the bar menus really aren’t great.  They are dated.  What’s worse is that the bartenders can’t deviate much from the bar menu.

If you do decide to bring some wine on board, the uncorking fee is now $25 (up from $20).  Now for a pro-tip.  If you have your own wine, go get a wine glass from any bar and pour your wine into it.  Pour yourself a healthy glass.  Then walk into dinner with that glass and you completely avoid the uncorking fee because the wait staff assumes you bought the wine on the ship.

This really just makes DCL like any of other cruise line when it comes to alcohol.  You are just going to have to sneak it on.  It’s really not that hard to do, you just have to be creative.  I hate that it comes to this, but I think that’s what passengers will do.

Here is what I really think will happen.  First, DCL won’t change the overall policy.  However, I think they will recant and allow you to bring one bottle of spirits.  If you look at the comments on facebook, that’s really what people are most upset about.  The overwhelming sentiment to drink a Cuba Libre on your balcony is huge.

I’ve also reached out to the Disney Cruise Line PR contact and have had no response at this point.  I’ll post an update when I hear more.

Read more about my Disney Cruise Line tips and tricks.