Worth It? Everything About Cruise Line Drink Packages (2020)

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.

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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?

Alcohol bottles in a cruise bar

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
Carnival offers the CHEERS! Package, which covers nearly every beverage — alcoholic or non-alcoholic — on the ship, up to $20 per drink. 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 an 18% gratuity tacked on. The final price is $61.30 and $67.20, depending on when you purchase.

See our complete guide to the Carnival CHEERS! Drink Package here.

Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean’s Deluxe Beverage Package covers pretty much any beverage on the ship, up to a $12 per drink limit. Prices vary for this package, depending on your cruise and the ship that you sail.

For 2019-2020 sailings, the package costs between $63-$89 per day, plus and 18% service charge. That comes out to a total of $74-$105 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.  For example, during a recent cruise we saw an offer of 20% off the drink package if bought beforehand.

See our complete guide to the Royal Caribbean Beverage Package here.

(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. Norwegian often offers “free” drink packages as a perk on some sailings, but you have to still pay the gratuity.

The cruise line also has a higher-end beverage package called the Premium Plus Beverage Package. It runs $128 per person, per day. With the 20% gratuity, that comes to $153.60 each day.

See our guide to Norwegian’s drink packages here.

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 $70.79 with the required 18% service charge.

Celebrity Cruises
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 starts $69 per night, with an additional 18% service charge, for a total of $81.42.

There is also the Classic Package, which offers fewer options and drinks by the glass up to $9 each. It starts at $59 per night. Including gratuity you will pay $69.62.

Lineup of drinks on Norwegian

What Is Included in the Drink Package?

To start, you should know that each drink package on each cruise line is a little different. There will be slight variations on what all they include.

But in general, if you get a drink package then you’ll get alcoholic drinks, including beer, wine, and cocktails up to a certain dollar limit per drink. This limit is normally around $15, depending on the cruise line.

Most drink packages also include a number of non-alcoholic drinks including soda, bottled water, and juices.

What Is Not Included?

Even if you have the drink package, that doesn’t mean everything on the ship is available to you. While rules will vary among cruise lines, usually all the following are excluded from drink packages:

  • Drinks in souvenir glasses
  • Alcohol by the bottle (except beer)
  • Drinks offered at the gangway (welcome beverages)
  • Room service alcohol or mini-bar drinks
  • Shareable drinks like buckets or pitchers

Most drink packages also have limits on the cost of the drink they will cover.

So if there is a $15 per drink limit, it will cover drinks up to that amount. If you want a beverage that’s more than $15 per glass, then you’ll pay extra for the amount over $15.

Are There Limits in How Many Drinks I Can Get?

The only cruise line we know to have any limits on the number of drinks you can order is Carnival and Princess (which is owned by Carnival). They have a 15-drink limit on alcoholic beverages during the 24-hour period that runs from 6 a.m. to 6 a.m. Non-alcoholic drinks aren’t included in the 15-drink total.

While other cruise lines may not set explicit limits, if you are obviously intoxicated then don’t be surprised if you are cut off from ordering any more drinks.

Do I Have to Buy Beverage Packages For 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.

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?

Bacardi bottles

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.

Do Cruise Line Drink Packages Work in Port?

In most cases, the drink package only works on the ship. That’s because most ports of call aren’t affiliated with the cruise line. So when you port in Cozumel, you are headed into Mexico — not an extension of the cruise ship.

That said, drink packages work in some ports of call that are run by the cruise line. For instance, CocoCay — Royal Caribbean’s private island — allows you to use the package while in port.

This isn’t the case everywhere, however. Notably, Harvest Caye — operated by Norwegian — doesn’t offer the use of drink packages.

Bottom line: Your drink package won’t work in ports of call, but there is a possibility if you are visiting a port run by a cruise line.

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.
  • You can only get one drink at a time with most drink packages. There is often a short waiting period in between drinks.

Are Cruise Drink Packages 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 $6-8, including gratuity. For a drink package running $60, you’d have to drink about 8-10 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 $12 cocktail means you’d have to drink about 5-7 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.

Worth It? Everything About Cruise Line Drink Packages (2020)

34 COMMENTS

  1. While you can certainly make do without a drink package (and we did when we first started cruising), we have found the convenience of the “all-in” premium packages worthwhile for us. First, because you aren’t running between decks to the buffet to get free soda or iced tea all day. Remember that the cruise lines charge for premium waters (Smart Water, Perrier, etc as well as soda at the bars, and for Cappuccino and Expresso at the buffet, and straight fruit juice at the bars). So, for example, a cappuccino or two at breakfast, 3 or 4 Smart Waters before lunch if its hot on deck another 2 or 3 in the afternoon and maybe a latte around 4pm, a cocktail before a late dinner, a glass of wine or two with dinner and maybe an aperitif with a latte and a late night cocktail or two during the entertainment or at the dance clubs and the packages start to make a lot of economic sense. Also, the drink packages cover your drinks at the cruise ship’s “private port” beaches. Finally, we find with the drink packages, you consume what you want, rather than feeling like you must finish every drink because they are so expensive. I guess our view is that this is ‘vacation’ — which is why we opt for balcony rather than interior rooms although the later is always cheaper. We factor the drink package into our mental cost estimate for the trip…no surprises on the cruise bill when checking out.

    Keep an eye out for deals on drink packages ‘included’ in the fare in some specials…and recently it seems they have been offering pre-purchase or “welcome aboard” discounts on the premium package if you buy them before they leave port.

  2. “Do I Have to Buy Beverage Packages Every Day of the Cruise?”

    On Royal Caribbean you can purchase on board as long as there are 3 days of the cruise left.
    I did this when I needed to join the ship at the first port rather than the destination.

    This could be a good option if the last 3 days are at sea, as it makes it worthwhile as you are not paying for the package on port days. Or if you just want to dedicate the last 3 days to partying 🙂

  3. Cruised with Celebrity recently. Have cruised with them before and loved it. This time, we were approached preboarding to enroll in a Free non-alcoholic package as we were frequent return travellers and consierge. We were told we could obtain theses drinks in one certain bar for free. We had during our entire stay 3 bottles of water and 2 steamed milk and latte. To our shock, our final statement had a charge to another bar of over$500 CND. We have been contesting this charge for nearly 3 mos and are also informing VISA for charges for which we had no service. The push to sell booze is all too obvious now…buyer BEWARE

  4. Love Carnival’s Cheers package. I always buy it, since I travel with my teenage son, I only have to buy for me. One advantage to Carnival’s program, is each drink can cost up to $50, so it’s high end all the way.

  5. What this article doesn’t factor are your non alcoholic drinks like coffee, tea, water and smoothies as an example. Two cocktails, a glass or wine, water and a couple coffees and your over!

  6. So we just returned from cruising on the Carnival Vista. I am a hardcore beer drinker and bought the Cheers package. I hit my 15 drink limit everyday, but one thing I did not know is that once you hit it…….you are CUT OFF!!! That’s crazy! The other thing is that we qualified for free drinks in the casino, but because we had Cheers, we were not given free drinks in the casino unless they counted against our Cheers package……

  7. So Ill be on Holland America in February and there prices are similar to Celebrity or Princess.. the deal of $442 for seven day premium or $361 for signature seems expensive. I am trying to see if it is worth it..I imagine my desire to drink water would be about three times a day, at least 2 cups of coffee a day, not big drinkers but we are on vacation so I imagine a couple of drinks and maybe 2 can of soda..would you encourage buying the package or pay separately?

    • Expect bottled water to be about $2-3. Coffee at $3-4. Cocktails will run about $10-12 and sodas $2-3. Keep in mind that water and coffee can be free in the dining room/buffet. From what you’ve described, you’d spend about $50 a day on drinks — or about $350 over a seven day cruise. You can try our drink package calculator here (https://www.cruzely.com/cruise-line-drink-package-calculator/) although we don’t yet have Holland America. You can still estimate how much you’ll drink.

  8. I am not much of a drinker of adult beverages, but hubby likes to partake while on vacation, when we first started cruising, I used to cringe every time he bought a drink, to the point of limiting myself because I was afraid of the final bill. Once we discovered the drink packages and did the math for us, there has been no turning back…..I can relax and know it was already paid for up front. I drink lots of bottled water, and always took 4 or more off the ship on port days. I enjoy specialty coffee, a few fru fru adult drinks a day, or a cold beer once in a while, that along with virgin drinks and juices, the package paid for itself for me too.

  9. I am a normal person that wants to remember my vaca, so I’m not going to drink like a fish ‘because I’m on vacation.’ Notice the stats above say that only 20% of people drink enough alcohol to actually warrant the price of the drink package, which is in line with the hard sell. That leaves 80% of the rest of us that don’t need it. The general rule of sales is that hard sells are for products that don’t sell. Anything requiring that hard a sell isn’t worth buying. I got the drink package and regretted it. I paid a premium price for goods I didn’t receive.

    Good luck actually getting that bottled water if you ask for it. I had to bully the staff to even get one bottled water with my ‘unlimited’ bottled water package. Its not worth it. I originally bought the package on sale so I didn’t have to deal with the harassment of ‘you can’t have one unless you have a card” but that happened anyway. If I had no card they could’ve just charged my account for that one drink, its the same level of harassment but waaay cheaper.

    I had a total of one drink per day at dinner. All other liquids I ingested were free, either tap water or flavored water juices (lots of different flavors of punch) at the buffet. I don’t generally like soda, but I indulged in a total of 3 sodas during my 7 day cruise. If I had no drink package I would have bought a grand total of 8 frozen drinks and 3 sodas; everything else was free. That didn’t come close to the $235 price tag for the package. Save your money, put that amount as a credit on the account, then the $ are returned to you if you don’t use it, (or, more likely, you can apply the remainder as a tip, or pay down the ‘gratuities’ added to the account).

  10. FYI, I saw a deal on NCL for upgrading our stateroom on a 13 day cruise, and get the premium drink package for 150.00. Sounded like a deal until we learned that you have to pay the gratuities on the retain price if 99.99/person, per day. So add to that 150.00, 20.00 per day multiplied by 13 days. This totals 407.00 for the 13 day cruise! Ouch!

    • Yes, in fact, you have to pay gratuities of 20% on the free drink package in the “Free at Sea” offer. So your free package ends up costing a bundle anyway!

  11. Can any one tell me the drink packages on the celebrity silhouette, do these packages include wine to your room?

    • Wine is included in drink package, but it’s not delivered to your room. You’ll need to go to a bar to order.

  12. Your comment is awaiting moderation
    What if I only use 10 of the 15 drinks do the other 5 roll over or is it a use it or lose it type of deal?

  13. First time cruising in August in Alaska.
    On Celebrity ship at restaurant and buffet, are the soda fountain and regular coffee included or not?
    Don’t drink alcohol. Do I need to take a package to have 2-3 soda, 2 bottle water, orange juice in the morning and regular coffee?

    • Generally coffee will be included, but specialty coffee will not. Soda is normally not included. If you are sticking to sodas and waters (no alcohol) then the soda package is likely a good deal for you. It’s $18 per day and includes all the items you mentioned.

  14. I am bringing my 13 year old granddaughter on a cruise next year, can she fill up her own water bottle with water/soda at the buffet and bring it with her? Likewise myself with tea?

  15. Hi will be cruising for the first time in October onboard Carnival. Considering the drink package and saw nothing about shots …. are these included?

  16. hi… we’re going on a princess cruise, and its looking like for one drinks package this is going to cost 700 dollars.. which makes me gulp .. Any suggestions? I m unlikely to need it, but my partner likes a drink.. and having looked at the comments, it sounds like not having a package can be a pain..

    • Not having the package isn’t a pain at all. In fact, it’s the same exact process for getting a drink — you just have a bill at the end of the cruise and need to watch your spending. We always suggest doing the math on the packages. Figure out how much you’ll drink and then see how much that would cost without the package. Cocktails cost about $10-12 each. Beer costs $6-8 each.

  17. Hi! I am a solo traveler on Emerald Princess February 2020. I am trying to decide on the drink package. I have called Princess trying to get the prices of individual drinks. They say they have nothing. I have ‘googled’ Princess drink prices but they are ‘fuzzy’ and not all drinks are listed. Does a scotch and soda count as two: 1 for the scotch and 1 for the soda water? Also, can I order a double, realizing that I would be charged twice? Thanks.

    • As a rule of thumb, we say figure about $10-12 for a cocktail. Maybe a little more. A scotch and soda would just be one drink, not two. You can order a double. You’ll likely only be charged for the extra shot, not for two separate drinks. With the drink package you may not be able to order a double.

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