When it comes to taking a cruise, people like to have a good time. And that good time usually involves alcohol flowing freely. No wonder there are so many bars on a modern cruise ship.
In fact, more than 20% of cruisers report spending more than $200 on alcohol on their trip.
That’s why many people are interested in “all you can drink” packages that cruise lines now offer. The appeal of these packages is easy to see. You pay one set amount and then you don’t have to worry about running up a huge bar tab. Instead, you simply head to the bar, order whatever you want, and get back to the fun. Want a beer? A glass of wine? A cocktail (or three)? You only need to flash your room key and you’ll get it.
But before you rush out and buy the drink package, there are some things you should know. We’ve rounded up some of the biggest questions — and answers — about the cruise line beverage packages to help you get a better idea of if it’s the right thing for your next cruise.
How Much Do Beverage Packages Cost?
You would think that the cost of the beverage packages would be straightforward. Unfortunately, the cruise lines like to give people a lot of different options, which make things a little more complicated. Below, we’ve listed the recent prices of specific packages to give you an idea of what you’d pay.
Carnival offers the CHEERS! Package, which covers nearly every beverage — alcoholic or non-alcoholic — on the ship. The price is $51.95 per person, per day if bought prior to your cruise or $56.95 per person, per day if bought on the ship. Note that both prices will have a 15% gratuity tacked on. The final price is $59.74 and $65.49, depending on when you purchase.
Royal Caribbean’s Deluxe Beverage Package covers pretty much any beverage on the ship, up to a $13 per drink limit. Prices vary for this package. In 2019 the cruise line plans to increase the cost to between $63 and $70 per day depending on the ship you sail, plus and 18% service charge. That comes out to a total of $74-$83 per day. One thing to note is that once you book your cruise, Royal Caribbean will often have large discount offers if you pre-book the drink package, which brings the cost down considerably. (Royal Caribbean also offers a “10 Drink Card” for those looking to drink a little less.)
Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian offers The Ultimate Beverage Package, which covers just about any drink up to $15. The cost is $99 per person, per day, plus an additional 20% gratuity for a total of $118.80. Sailing aboard Norwegian Sky have this package included for free in your sailing. Norwegian often offers “free” drink packages as a perk on some sailings, but you have to still pay the gratuity.
Princess Cruise Lines
Princess offers its All-Inclusive Beverage Package covers any available beverage up to $12 per drink. The package costs $59.99 per person, per day or $68.99 with the required 15% service charge.
Celebrity offers several different drink packages, billed as the standard, classic, and premium packages. Prices and what’s included will vary depending on which package you purchase. The highest-end offering is the premium package, which gives you practically any drink you could want up to $15 per glass. The price is $69 per night, with an additional 18% service charge, for a total of $81.42.
Do I Have to Buy Beverage Packages Every Day of the Cruise?
Yes. You can’t simply decide you are going to go wild one day and buy the package for that single day. Nor can you pick and choose the days you want to buy it. If you purchase the package, it is charged for every day you are on the ship. It doesn’t matter if you are in port for a day, you are still charged. This is one of the main drawbacks of the beverage package.
Does Everyone in the Cabin Have to Purchase the Beverage Package?
It depends on the cruise line you are sailing.
Carnival requires that each adult in a stateroom purchase a drink package if one person does. So if a husband purchases the package but the wife doesn’t drink, she must still purchase the drink package as well.
Royal Caribbean requires adult passengers in a cabin to all purchase the package if one person does. This is a new policy as of 2018.
Norwegian Cruise Lines requires each adult in the stateroom (and additional staterooms if you are traveling with a larger group) to purchase the same drink package.
Princess does not specifically say that all passengers in a cabin have to purchase the drink package. Other sources confirm that other adults don’t have to buy the drink package.
Celebrity Cruises spells out detailed terms of their drink package, including age restrictions, and that packages may not be shared. However, it does not state that all adults in the cabin have to purchase the package. A phone call to the cruise line confirmed that you do not have to purchase for everyone in the cabin.
Can You Share Drink Packages on a Cruise?
It’s tempting with unlimited drinks to do what we’ve all thought — one person buys the package and just gives a drink to the person they are traveling with.
Every cruise line has rules against this. If you are caught, you could lose your drink privilege.
That said, unless you are blatantly ordering drinks and then handing off to other people, it’s almost impossible for you to be caught sharing drinks. If you are discreet, the chances of your being caught are minimal.
One thing to note is that some cruise lines have limits on how many drinks you can get. Carnival, for example, allows a person to get 15 drinks per 24-hour period. So if you are sharing drinks, then you may not reach your fill, depending on how much you consume.
How Do I Buy Drink Packages?
If you want to purchase one of the drink packages for your cruise, the best way is to either call your cruise line or go online to book through your reservation.
It’s usually better to book online ahead of time because there are often discounts for early purchases. For instance, we’ve seen discounts of 30-40% on some drink packages for booking early.
If you want the best rate, definitely do not wait to book once you are on the ship. Rates are often highest when purchasing on board.
Other Things to Know Before Purchasing
Before you pull the trigger on buying the drink package, you should know that just because you purchase the unlimited beverage package on your cruise doesn’t mean you can drink anything in sight.
- Most packages have limits on what’s available, excluding drinks that are above a certain price limit (usually $12-15). If you are the sort of person that only drinks the highest end beverages, then you might want to check and make sure your particular drink is included in the package. If you go over that amount, the per-drink limit will be deducted from the cost and you will need to pay the difference.
- If you are a wine drinker, you can’t have whole bottles of wine with the packages, although you can get wine by the glass. If you want to purchase the whole bottle, having the drink package usually entitles you to a significant discount (20-40%) off the purchase price.
- You can’t use the drink packages to buy whole bottles of liquor in the ship’s duty-free shops.
- Drink packages don’t apply to drinks from your in-room mini bar. You’ll be charged full price for those beverages.
Are They Worth It?
Whether or not a drink package is worth it depends on how much you drink. We would guess that for most people, the cost don’t justify purchasing an all you can drink package. You can use our drink package calculator to see if it’s worth it for you.
Consider that a beer on the ship costs between $6-7, including gratuity. For a drink package running $60, you’d have to drink about 10 beers each and every day — including on days when you are in port — to get your money’s worth.
If you like more expensive drinks like cocktails, the math works a little more in your favor. A $10 cocktail means you’d have to drink about 6-7 drinks every day to make it worth your while.
Have you purchased a drink package before? Was it worth it? Let us know in the comments below.