How Much Drinks Cost on a Cruise

If you’re thinking of taking a cruise, then you’re likely picturing yourself poolside, a beer or cocktail in hand, getting some sun, and having fun.

Fancy cocktails on a cruise ship
Drinks from soda to high-end cocktails are plentiful on a cruise. So how much will they cost you?

Truth is, that’s actually a pretty accurate representation of a cruise — especially the part about having a drink in your hand.

Drinks, whether alcoholic or not, are a major part of cruising. Whether it’s sitting poolside, eating dinner, playing in the casino, or watching a show, so many activities on the ship lend themselves to having something to sip.

But drinks aren’t free, and in fact, they can cost a considerable amount. Here’s what you can expect to pay onboard the ship.

Two Notes About Drink Pricing

While we have general pricing below, it’s not as simple as saying a certain drink costs a certain amount.

That’s because just like on land, different drinks and brands cost different amounts. Meanwhile, a modern cruise ship may have a dozen bars and each one will have a different menu that highlights different drinks (even if it’s not on the menu, you can usually order whatever you want.)

This can make it tough to say exactly what you’ll pay for your specific beverage.

Second, the menu price is not all you pay. Bar items (including non-alcoholic beverages), are charged a gratuity. For most lines this is 18%, but it will range from 15-20%, depending on who you cruise. That means a $10 cocktail will actually cost $11.80 with 18% gratuity. You’ll want to keep the gratuity charge in mind when considering the final cost you’ll pay.

The Cost of Beer on a Cruise ($7-10)

A simple beer menu aboard Carnival. There is a lot of variety of beers onboard, including more than what’s usually shown on the menu.

Spending $42 on a six pack of beer? It seems outlandish, but that’s actually less than the price you’ll pay on most ships when you factor in gratuity.

Menu prices of beers typically start at $7, with maybe a few that are slightly less. Beer normally keeps a narrow range of prices with the most you’ll see at around $10 for some specialty brews. Remember, however, that you want to tack on gratuity on top of those prices.

Beer selection on a cruise is solid with most ships offering a wide variety. Some ships even have dedicated beer bars with even more selection. If you like any major brand, it will almost surely be there and some popular regional brands are also available if sailing from that area. (For instance, you might find Shiner Bock if sailing from Texas.)

The Cost of Cocktails/Mixed Drinks on a Cruise ($10-$20)

Bar menu for Royal Caribbean
This Royal Caribbean menu shows $14 for its cocktails. (Click to enlarge)

When it comes to cocktails, there can be a wide range of prices that you’ll want to be prepared for. On the low end we’ve seen basic cocktails at a price as little as $8-9, but in general you’re looking at a cost of at least $10 before gratuity.

The “sweet spot” for the cost of a cocktail or mixed drink is between $12-$14 for most mixed drinks and cocktails on a cruise ship. This is where you’ll find the most options. Prices can still be considerably higher in some special cases such as high-end cruise lines. For instance, we’ve seen cocktails for as much as $20 per glass on Celebrity Cruises.

Above is a sample menu from Royal Caribbean to give you the idea of the pricing.

The Cost of Wine on a Cruise ($10-15)

Glasses of wine
There’s a nice variety of wine on cruise ships, especially in high-end restaurants. Expect to pay about $10-$15 per glass.

Wine is perhaps the hardest beverage to price on a cruise as there can be such a variance in cost from bottle to bottle. Still, wine often comes in between $10-$15 per glass on the cruise ship, with some slightly outside that range. Bottles often range from between $30-$60. If you like higher-end wines, look around. Many cruise ships have spots like the more expensive specialty restaurants that may have more options for you.

Note that you will pay a significant markup compared to what you pay in a liquor store on land. One cruise line we priced checked showed a bottle of Robert Mondavi Private Selection Merlot for $45 before gratuity. An online search found the same bottle selling online for about $10.

That’s why if you are a wine drinker, it’s smart to pack on one bottle of wine per adult when you board. Cruise lines typically allow a passenger to bring on one bottle of wine or champagne for the cruise. (More details below.)

The Cost of Soda, Water, Coffee & Other Non-Alcoholic Drinks on a Cruise

Sodas, water, energy drinks, and more are also available on the ship. Prices start around $3 a drink.

Interested not in alcohol but the cost of your morning coffee on the ship? You should know that basic beverages such as water, tea, and coffee are available at no charge. However, sodas, bottles of water, specialty coffees (many ships have Starbucks) and pretty much any bottled drink (ranging from energy drinks to sparkling water) will come with a charge.

For things like water or soda, you can expect a price of around $3-$4 each, plus gratuity. That’s why it’s a good idea to bring on a small quantity with you when you embark if your cruise line allows it. That way you can save a decent chunk of change over the course of your trip.

Specialty coffees, energy drinks and other beverages will often see a slightly higher price — usually around $3-$6.

If ordering non-alcoholic cocktails at a bar, expect to see a price of around $6-$8.

How to Save Money on Beverages

If you’re thinking that drinks are expensive on a cruise, you aren’t alone. The menu prices alone can be hefty, and then adding on gratuity only increases the price. The good news is that there are some ways you can save.

Drink Packages: You’ve likely heard about drink packages. You pay one set price per day and then get whatever you want from the bar without worrying about the cost. If you’re the sort of person that always likes to have a drink in your hand, then these can save you significant money. If you’re only an occasional drinker, then they are harder to get your money’s worth.

Before you buy there is a lot of fine print you should know about to decide if it’s worth it for you. You can read our full write-up on drink packages here.

Bring Your Own: The smartest way to save on the cruise ship prices? Buy fewer drinks. Thankfully, most (not all) cruise lines allow you an allowance that you can bring from home. For instance, Carnival and Royal Caribbean allow you to bring on a dozen non-alcoholic drinks per person. That saves you from having to buy water or soda on the ship.

Just about every line allows adults to bring on a bottle of wine or champagne. Considering that a single glass of wine can run $10-$15, that can save you a ton of money. Take advantage.

Drink in Port: Finally, while much of your time will be spent on the ship, that’s not the entire cruise. If you’re an occasional drinker, then try waiting until you get off the ship. Ports will have drinks that will be less expensive (especially Caribbean/Bahamian ports of call). So you can get off the ship, drink your fill, and spend considerably less.

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