If you’re about to set sail on a Royal Caribbean ship, you likely have pictured yourself on the ship — hanging out poolside, drink in hand, soaking up the sun.
Or maybe you’re thinking about dinner in the dining room, eating a fabulous meal while enjoying a tasty glass of wine. Or you could be thinking about playing the slot machines in the ship’s casino while enjoying a cocktail.
Are you starting to see a theme? Drinking on a cruise ship — alcoholic or otherwise — is a favorite pastime. Bars are everywhere on cruise ships. It’s common to have a dozen or more across a modern cruise ship.
Of course, those drinks can add up quickly. For instance, a beer on a Royal Caribbean ship can run around $6-8. A cocktail can be $10-12. Have a few of those each day and you can easily be hit with an eye-raising bill for hundreds of dollars at the end of your cruise.
That’s where drink packages can help. The concept on the surface is simple. Pay one set daily rate and you can drink pretty much whatever you want on the cruise ship. However, the fine print and rules surrounding the packages can get confusing.
Below, we explain everything you need to about Royal Caribbean’s drink packages, including the most important question: Are they worth the money?
What Drink Packages Does Royal Caribbean Offer?
Thirsty? On a cruise ship we all are, and Royal Caribbean has a drink package to help.
There are three packages currently offered, but only one alcoholic drink package. While we explain all three packages here, we’ll focus mainly on the alcoholic package in this article.
Deluxe Beverage Package: Royal Caribbean’s main drink package is the Deluxe Beverage Package. Pretty much if it’s on the ship and can be drunk in a glass, then it’s included in the package. This includes cocktails, beers, wine, coffees, teas, juices, bottled water, and sodas. You’ll even get a souvenir Coca-Cola cup with the package.
Now, the package doesn’t include room service or mini-bar items. One other quirk is that drinks above $12 per glass (before gratuity) aren’t included. If you want one of these, you’ll need to pay the difference between the cost and the $12 per glass allowance.
Refreshment Package: If you want beverages but aren’t interested in alcohol, then the Refreshment Package may be for you. This package offers everything in the Deluxe Beverage Package, except for the alcoholic drinks. So you can get your waters, soda, juices, coffees and teas, and even mocktails. As a result, the package is much less than the Deluxe Beverage Package.
Classic Soda Package: The least expensive package that’s offered from the cruise line is the Classic Soda Package. As you might guess, it gets you unlimited soda during your cruise. Things like bottled water, juices, and alcoholic drinks aren’t included. Royal Caribbean serves Coca-Cola products on board its ships.
How Much Do They Cost?
We mentioned earlier that while drink packages are simple to understand, the fine print behind them can get confusing. Case in point is the price of the drink packages. Instead of just having one set price, each drink package offers different prices, depending on your ship and the trip.
Here are the latest prices from Royal Caribbean:
- Deluxe Beverage Package: $63-89 per person, per day
- Refreshment Package: $29-38 per person, per day
- Classic Soda Package: $12.99-$15 per person, per day
Obviously there are some large price ranges, especially for the alcoholic drink package. After you book, you can login to your account on RoyalCaribbean.com to book activities and packages for your cruise. Here you can find the cost of the drink package for your particular cruise.
What’s Not Included?
Obviously each package has different features and what’s included. For the wide view, the Deluxe Beverage Package focuses on alcoholic beverages, providing nearly all drinks except for a few cases. The Refreshment Package offers the same drinks as the alcohol package, but without the beer, wine, and liquor. Meanwhile, the Classic Soda Package only includes soda.
As for exclusions, the following are the special exceptions that aren’t included in the alcoholic drink package. (This also means they aren’t included in other packages as well.):
- Drinks from Starbucks stores on ship
- Room service beverages
- Mini-bar items
- Specialty beers
- Beverages more than $12 per glass
- Duty-Free Shops
What If I Order a Drink Over $12?
The bad news is that Royal Caribbean limits the beverage package to those drinks with a menu price (before gratuity) of $12 or less. So what if you order a more expensive drink? If you have the drink package, you’ll get $12 off the price. For example, a $15 drink will see a $3 charge to your onboard account if you have the beverage package.
What About Gratuity on Drink Packages?
If you go and order a drink from the bar normally, you’ll get a receipt for the drink, and see an additional 18% gratuity tacked on. So a $10 cocktail actually costs you $11.80. This gratuity is automatic and can’t be avoided.
It’s similar with the Royal Caribbean beverage package. In addition to the daily fee that’s charged (between $63-89, depending on your cruise), there is an 18% gratuity that’s also charged. So if your drink package is $63 per day, you’ll actually be charged $74.34. A drink package costing $89 would total $105.02.
Note that gratuity is charged on all the packages, even if you are getting one without alcoholic drinks included.
The good news is that when you buy a drink from the bar, you don’t have to worry about the gratuity being tacked on again. With the 18% charge on the drink package, it’s already included.
Can I Get the Package for Cheaper?
Oftentimes you can get deals on the packages. The key is to book them online, ahead of your cruise. We’ve seen heavy discounts, such as buy one, get the second drink package 50% off.
If you know that you’re going to buy the package, definitely buy it online ahead of time for the biggest discounts.
One other tip — if you know you plan to drink but may not get your money’s worth for the entire package, then keep an eye out for the 10-drink cards. These cards are like a discount card for beverages. You pay one price and get 10 drinks of any type that you want (alcoholic or otherwise). The price per drink comes out to about $8 each, saving you some cash if you use the card to purchase cocktails. You can get all the details here.
Do All Adults Have to Buy the Drink Package If One Does?
So what if one person traveling wants the drink package but the other doesn’t? Royal Caribbean requires all adults in a stateroom to purchase the Deluxe Beverage Package (which includes alcoholic drinks) if one person does.
We think this rule is in place to prevent sharing between people staying in a room. For instance, a husband might get the drink package and provide his wife with “free” drinks during the cruise.
But it does bring up a good question for many people. What if one person doesn’t drink? In most cases, you’ll still need to buy two alcohol packages (assuming two adults in a room) if one person buys it. You’ll want to factor this into your budget.
In our opinion it’s still worth a call to the cruise line if you really don’t want two packages. There is a chance they can be lenient on the policy, especially if there is a strong reason why one person doesn’t want the package, such as a wife that’s pregnant, or someone who isn’t allowed alcohol due to health issues.
How Do I Buy the Drink Package?
Royal Caribbean makes it easy to buy the drink packages. You can purchase it one of three ways:
- Call the cruise line and have it added to your trip
- Manage your account online and buy the package
- Wait until you board and visit one of the tables signing up passengers for packages
We suggest buying online ahead of time as there are often discounts for doing so.
Can I Buy the Royal Caribbean Drink Package for Individual Days?
No. Part of the rules of the drink packages is that you must purchase them for the entire trip. Keep this in mind when you’re deciding if it’s worth it for you to buy. If there are days that you’re in port or simply days where you don’t feel like having drinks, then you are still charged for the drink package.
Can I Share Drinks?
No. One of the big rules of the drink package is that you aren’t allowed to share your drinks with someone else. We’re not saying you can’t give someone a sip, but it’s against the rules to order a drink and then pass it off to someone else.
How will the cruise line know? To be honest, it’s tough to enforce unless you are glaringly obvious. Even so, you’re most likely to share with someone that’s in your cabin. In that case, they will have already bought the drink package as well as Royal Caribbean requires all adults in the cabin to buy the package if one person does.
How Many Drinks Can I Buy With the Package?
While some cruise lines put a limit on the number of drinks you can get with the package (Carnival has an alcoholic beverage limit of 15 per day), Royal Caribbean has no such limit at this time. Have a screwdriver with breakfast, enjoy drinks by the pool, and have a margarita as a nightcap. It’s all included.
Does the Drink Package Work on CocoCay?
Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay has been a huge hit since the cruise line revamped the island. One of the great perks is that the drink package, which normally only works on the ship, also works on the island. You can use it there just as you would on board. That really helps you get your money’s worth as most ports don’t honor the drink package on land. The package also works on Labadee, another Royal Caribbean port.
Is Royal Caribbean’s Drink Package Worth It?
Before you ever buy an alcoholic drink package — from Royal Caribbean or any cruise line — we always suggest that you run the numbers behind buying the package. Truth is, for some people the packages are well worth it. For others, they end up paying more than they would if they just bought individual drinks.
We’ve put together a Drink Package Calculator here than can help you do the math and see if the package is a smart buy for you. Simply enter the number and type of beverages you think you’ll drink each day, and you can compare that amount to the cost of the drink package offered on your cruise.
When you do run the numbers, we suggest you factor in a couple of things to see if the package is worth it.
First, you need to think about how you will drink while on vacation. For some people, they have no problem drinking every day of a vacation. Others may have a couple of nights where they let loose, but enjoy having breaks in between. With the drink packages, you’re paying for the package every day of the cruise — even when in port or on days where you don’t get drinks at all.
For people who plan to spend a lot of time in port or simply don’t drink every day, it can be difficult to get the value from the package. But if you’re someone who likes to have drinks each night, then you’ll often find it can work in your favor.
Second, remember the rule that all adults have to purchase the drink package if one adult in the cabin does so. If your traveling partner doesn’t drink that much, then you’re essentially paying for two drink packages for only one person. In this case, it’s going to be hard to get your money’s worth out of the package.
Bottom line: Drink packages can be completely worth it for some passengers. For others, they aren’t such a great deal. That said, it’s easy to do the math (check out our Drink Package Calculator here) and make the right choice.