If you’re taking a cruise you may be wondering if you can drink the tap water on board. Many people when traveling are nervous about drinking tap water so in this article we will discuss the safety, taste, and alternatives to onboard tap water. I’ve been on several cruises and have tried all types mentioned in this post.
Can You Drink Tap Water on a Cruise?
Tap water on cruise ships is safe to drink. Guests can drink tap water either from the tap in their cabin bathroom or at dinner when it is offered. The water has been through a purification system and though it may not taste the best on all cruise ships, it’s safe to drink.
If there was ever a reason why the tap water on board wasn’t drinkable, for example, a problem with the filtration system, this would be clearly communicated to guests several times so ensure that everybody knew about the problem.
There are also tap water alternatives if tap water isn’t your thing.
Where Can You Find Tap Water on a Cruise?
You’ll Find Tap Water in Your Cabin Bathroom
The most accessible place to find tap water is in your cabin bathroom. The water in the tap here is perfectly safe to drink but on some ships, it may not taste the best.
I have to admit, I’ll drink almost any water and don’t have a problem with the taste but if you are somebody who has more delicate tastes you may not like the taste of the tap water in your cabin bathroom.
Another issue with the tap water in the cabin bathroom is that it may not always be cold, on some ships the coldest setting is often still lukewarm and I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy drinking lukewarm water.
On the newer ships, this is usually much less of a problem but if you are cruising on a ship which is 20 or 30 years old you may find this. I tend to drink the water from the cabin bathroom if I just quickly need a drink to swallow a tablet or clear my throat.
You’ll Find Tap Water in The Main Dining Room
On almost all cruise lines you’ll find tap water offered to you free of charge in the main dining room. If you want to stick with the tap water and not order any drinks from the bar this is completely fine, I often do this and the waiters will not mind.
In fact, it’s a lot easier for them to keep you topped up with water than to keep running off to get you drinks from the bar.
It is often the job of one person to make sure that the water glasses in the restaurant are kept topped up so on most cruise lines it’s almost impossible to finish your glass of water without it being refilled. Of course, you can say no if you don’t want a refill but I like to use dinner time as an opportunity to hydrate as much as I can, especially if I’m cruising to somewhere hot.
The exception to this rule is Costa Cruises where tap water isn’t free in the main dining room. On SOME MSC cruises, tap water may also not be free. More about that here: Do MSC Cruises Include Meals? Your Guide To What’s Included
Some people say that they prefer the taste of the water in the main dining room than the cabin but in theory, this should be exactly the same. It may be more to do with the temperature of the water than the actual taste.
How Clean is The Tap Water?
The tap water on cruise ships undergoes various tests and has to meet standards of the world health organization and other US/EU bodies depending on the location of the cruise line and cruise.
Most cruise ship water is desalinated sea water. The process usually involves steam evaporation — essentially turning saltwater into distilled water. That water is then mineralized for flavor and chlorinated for extra safety. Other ships are fitted with a reverse-osmosis system for filtering and/or desalination. These are similar to home drinking water filtration systems, but on a much larger scale. – Source
The standard of the water onboard is incredibly high, it has to be.
Tap Water Alternatives
An alternative to drinking the lukewarm water from the tap is to use the ice which you can have bought to your room.
On most cruise lines the cabin steward will be able to bring you ice so either ask them when you see them or leave them a polite little note. I quite like leaving little notes for the cabin stewards as sometimes you getting little replies back, just make sure that you’re polite!
The water in the ice bucket will of course melt over time so you can either pour yourself a glass of water from the ice that has already melted or put some ice into your glass and wait for it to melt, both work! It’s a good idea to put a cup of ice by your bed when you go to sleep, if you wake up and need a drink, you’ve got the perfect chilled water.
In the buffet, you will find free water at any time that the buffet is open. On some cruise lines, the buffet is open 24 hours a day whereas on some other lines you’ll only find the buffet open for meals. In addition to free water, you’ll usually find free tea, coffee, and on occasion fruit juices.
To find out more about what’s included on a cruise, including how to make the most out of what is included, check out this post:
Can You Refill a Reusable Water Bottle on a Cruise?
For hygiene purposes, guests aren’t able to refill a reusable water bottle directly from the water machines in the buffet. To do this you must pour the water into a clean glass and then pour it into your water bottle.
The same principle applies to refilling a glass, you must get a clean glass each time to avoid you touching the machine with your used glass and spreading germs.
Guests are able to use their cabin bathrooms to refill reusable bottles, this isn’t a problem. If you can fit the bottle in the sink that is!
Can You Buy Bottled Water on a Cruise?
Like everything on a cruise, there is a paid water option if you’d like to pay more for a premium product. Bottles of water are available in all bars, lounges, and restaurants onboard and you will be charged accordingly for these drinks.
Onboard bottles of water usually come in 500ml bottles however it’s also often possible to purchase bigger bottles such as 2liter bottles at dinner or to be sent to your cabin.
If you are cruising on a more premium cruise line bottled water may be included but the majority do exclude it. Cruise lines are also increasingly moving towards the elimination of bottled water in favor of reusable bottles.
If you are a lover of bottled water it is usually worth having a look to see if the cruise line offers a water drinks package. Many will offer packages where you pay a certain amount and you then are able to have a set number of bottles of water.
This is what we did on our Costa cruise because buying the package saved us a few euros on each bottle, over the course of a week this saving adds up.
Drinks packages are usually available for purchase pre-cruise online or by phoning the cruise line. If you don’t pre-book this isn’t a problem, the staff on board will be more than happy to sell you a package.
Bringing Water Onboard
On a number of cruise lines, guests are able to bring bottles of water on board. I personally wouldn’t do this as the idea of carrying bottles of water to the cruise port with me seems like more trouble than it’s worth but if you are a big fan of bottled water this could be a good idea.
On a lot of cruise lines, you’re not allowed to check in the water so you would have to carry it yourself on board and to your cabin. On embarkation day you may be able to board hours before your cabin is ready so this means that you would be waiting around the ship with bottles of water. Not my idea of fun!
Many cruise lines will also allow guests to bring on soda and alcoholic drinks, for the full list of which cruise lines allow which drinks, check out this post:
On a Cruise Can I Bring Distilled Water or Water For Baby Formula?
Even if the cruise line that you’re cruising with doesn’t allow water to be bought on board the majority will allow you to do it if it for the purpose of making baby formula or for medical reasons.
Many cruise lines will offer you distilled water for a price which can be a good option if you do need it.
Usually, when you book a cruise you’ll be asked to fill out a form if you have any special needs such as bringing a walker or needing a service animal, as long as you let the cruise line know as soon as possible you shouldn’t have any problems bringing onboard distilled water or water for baby formula.
You can, of course, use the onboard tap water for baby formula but as it may be slightly different to what your baby is used to at home it may cause an upset stomach or an unhappy baby!
To learn more about how water is used on cruise ships, check out this post about cruise line toilets:
The drinking of tap was on a cruise is safe and easy. Tap water is available in the buffet, main dining room, or the taps of your cabin bathroom. Alternatives include paid for drinks packages or purchasing bottles of water on a pay as you go basis. I personally do drink water from the bathroom taps on occasion but prefer to drink iced water from ice provided in my cabin or in the main dining rooms.