Cruise Line Minimum Age Policies: What Young Adults Need To Know

minimum age policies for cruises

One of the most frustrating times in anyone's life is that awkward time between 18 and 25. It's a mixture of confusing and often conflicting messages about your status as an adult member of society. For instance, you can vote and serve in the military at 18 but can't buy a pack of cigarettes till 21 or rent a car till 25. Well ... unfortunately the same situation applies to booking a cruise. Most cruise lines will not allow guests under 21 to book a cruise or even board the ship unless they are accompanied by a chaperone, guardian, or parent who declares they are responsible for the "Young Adult" guest.

This may seem like an unfair policy and it is even more confusing to our Canadian readers since 21 seems pegged to the US legal drinking age but in Canada you can drink at 19 and to confuse things further ... many lines such as Norwegian Cruise Lines will even allow guests as young as 18 to drink while the ship is in international waters with a waiver signed by their parent or guardian. 

The cruise industry operates in its "own world" in many aspects because they are fundamentally international operations. As such, you'll find a variety of different lines having similar policies but with different details. It is incredibly frustrating when by all means someone at 18 here in the US is considered an adult, can buy a house, fly to Europe and rent a hotel but generally speaking can't book a cruise. To add to the confusion, the 21 age restriction isn't specifically a drinking age issue because some lines allow you to drink at 18, in international waters with parent or guardian signs a waiver.

It is also important to note that just as the minimum age to book a cruise and drink on the cruise varies from line to line, so do a variety of other policies on the ship. These include things such as access to different venues such as comedy clubs, casino, and certain "adults only" areas such as Carnival's Serenity area where you need to be at least 21 to enter.

That being said though, with the exception of drinking and gambling where there are specific legal restrictions, most other policies are entirely at the discretion of the individual cruise line, ship, and crew so for instance a mature and respectful 20 year old traveling with their 25 year old companion will probably have no problem entering the Serenity deck on a Carnival cruise.

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Cruise Line Minimum Age Policies

Each cruise line has it's own nuances so while we've listed the major cruise line minimum age policies below, it is important that you work with a travel advisor to confirm specific details such as what you will be able to do or not do if you are under 21 as well as what the specific line considers when it comes to determining if your companion qualifies as a chaperone, guardian. In some cases this is a legal determination requiring official paperwork while others simply require a notice of liability to be submitted that essentially says that the senior guest in the cabin agrees to be responsible for the actions of the younger companion.

Furthermore, these policies are for cruises departing from North American ports. Other regions may have different age policies.

Norwegian Cruise Lines -

"policy dictates that a minor or young adult under the age of 21 must be accompanied in the same stateroom (or a connecting/adjoining stateroom) by a guest 21 years of age or older at the time of boarding."

Princess Cruises -

"No Guest under 21 years of age is permitted to book a cruise, and any Guest under 21 years of age must travel in a stateroom with a Guest 21 years or older who shall assume responsibility for their care during the cruise."

Royal Caribbean -

"No Guest younger than the age twenty-one (21) will be assigned to a stateroom unless accompanied in the same stateroom by an adult twenty-one (21) years old or older. "

Holland America Line -

"Guests under 21 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or chaperone who is at least 21 years old"

Carnival -

"Guests Under the Age of 21 MUST travel with a relative or guardian of 25 years of age or older"