(1:40 p.m. EST) -- Effective spring 2012, the minimum drinking age for all alcoholic beverages on Royal Caribbean ships sailing from South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia and New Zealand will be 18.
To be clear, the current policy does allow 18- to 20-year-old passengers cruising in the aforementioned regions to purchase alcohol onboard -- as long as their parents sign a waiver. Under the new policy, parents will no longer be required to sign the waver. The minimum drinking age on Royal Caribbean ships sailing from North America will remain at 21.
In a statement, the line said the change is being made to "better accommodate the cultural norms in the regions of the world where Royal Caribbean ships sail." According to Adam Goldstein, the line's president and CEO, Royal Caribbean sources roughly half of its passengers from outside the United States.
The policy tweak comes as little surprise. Across the industry, onboard drinking ages generally mirror laws in the region in which the ship is sailing. For instance, the minimum drinking age for Costa Cruises, which deploys its ships globally, is 18 for any vessel leaving from a non-U.S. port and 21 for any cruise leaving from the United States. Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines and others have similar policies.
--by Dan Askin, News Editor