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Royal Caribbean to lower drinking age on ships overseas

In a nod to its increasingly international clientele, Royal Caribbean plans to lower the drinking age on cruise ships sailing outside of North America.

The line says that effective in spring 2012 the minimum age for passengers to be served alcohol on vessels sailing from ports in Europe, South America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand will drop to 18 from 21.

The change is designed “to better accommodate the cultural norms in the regions of the world where Royal Caribbean International sails,” the line says in a statement sent to USA TODAY.

The legal drinking age in many countries around the world is lower than it is in the United States, often significantly so. In Italy, for instance, the drinking age is 16. In France, it is 18.

Until now, Royal Caribbean only has allows passengers under the age of 21 on its overseas ships to order alcoholic drinks after a parent or guardian signs a waiver. Passengers had to be at least 18 to receive such a waiver.

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Royal Caribbean has been growing rapidly overseas and, as of this year, is drawing more than half of its customers from outside of North America. Read more about Royal Caribbean’s growth overseas.

The line says the minimum drinking age for ships sailing from North American ports will remain 21.

“As a global cruise company, Royal Caribbean International is committed to providing an enjoyable vacation environment that respects the cultures around the world from where we source our guests,” the line says in its statement. “Guests who choose to consume alcohol must do so responsibly.”

Royal Caribbean isn’t the first North America-based line to lower its drinking age on overseas sailings. Norwegian Cruise Line already allows passengers ages 18 and older to order alcohol on European itineraries (in North America, the line’s cut-off remains 21). Other lines such as Carnival and Holland America maintain a 21-and-over drinking policy on all itineraries.

Cruise Loggers, what do you think the cut-off should be for drinking on cruise ships? Take our quick poll below and then share your thoughts in the comment area.

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