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Cruising to the tropics on a big ship? You may want to consider an alcoholic beverage package.

Philippe Giraud / iconvalley.com - CTIG

Cruising to the tropics on a big ship? You may want to consider an alcoholic beverage package.

Complete guide to cruise ship drink packages

Roundup of alcoholic beverage packages that let you pay one flat fee

Have you gotten to the end of your cruise and dreaded receiving that final bar bill? Well, you can avoid the sticker shock on your next sailing by considering a beverage package. Many mainstream cruise lines now offer alcoholic beverage packages that allow travelers to pay one flat fee for access to most drinks onboard.

 
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To help you sift through some of the confusion around the various programs and options, we've put together this complete guide to cruise ship drink packages. Note that drinks are included on all-inclusive luxury cruise lines.

Colorful cocktails served in the Explorers' Lounge on Viking Star.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableColorful cocktails served in the Explorers' Lounge on Viking Star.

Cruise ship drink package basics

While each cruise line’s alcoholic beverage package is slightly different, they almost all have certain inclusions and restrictions that you should know before buying one of the packages.

  • Most drink packages are priced per person, with a flat fee per day.
  • You need to purchase the drink package for the entire cruise, not just select days.
  • An additional service charge (of either 15% or 18%) is added to the total purchase price of a drink package at checkout.
Most drink packages do not cover bottles of wine or liquor, mini-bar items or room service purchases
  • Once the cruise has begun, beverage packages are non-refundable and non-transferable.
  • Many cruise lines require all individuals in a stateroom to purchase a beverage package.
  • Beverage packages are usually not offered on chartered sailings or on cruises two nights or shorter.
  • Most packages cover beverages purchased in onboard restaurants (including specialty restaurants), lounges, bars, at poolside and at outside venues, and they usually work on the cruise lines’ private islands. 
  • Cruise drink packages often cover drinks up to a certain dollar amount, with cruisers needing to pay the difference for any drinks that are above this maximum allotment. Sorry, no $1,200 bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild!
  • Indeed, most drink packages do not cover bottles of wine or bottles of liquor, nor are mini-bar items, souvenir cup/specialty promotions or room service purchases usually covered.
  • Cruisers are entitled to one drink at a time, whether it is alcoholic or non-alcoholic, and the drink package does not cover onboard specials like “buckets of beer” (thank goodness).
  • Drink packages are for your own personal consumption, meaning no sharing of drinks with other cruisers who don't have a package.
  • Most cruise line packages are “unlimited” for the duration of the cruise. Do the math and decide if you'll save money by springing for a drink package. 
  • Make sure you consume responsibly as cruise lines reserve the right to deny service to individuals who are intoxicated.

Here's our rundown of cruise line beverage package options: 

Relax with a margarita — a Grand Sabor or Jalapeño Cucumber — at Sabor on Harmony of the Seas.
Don and Heidi Bucolo / Special to CruiseableRelax with a margarita — a Grand Sabor or Jalapeño Cucumber — at Sabor on Harmony of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean International

  • The Deluxe Beverage Package – Starting at $55 a day (plus 18% service charge), the Deluxe Beverage package covers all beers, wines by the glass and cocktails priced up to $12 ($13 on Oasis-class ships). The package also includes 500-milliliter bottled still water, specialty coffees at onboard coffee shops (Starbucks on Oasis-class ships is not included), as well as soda and juices. Some cruise lines require all individuals in a stateroom to purchase the plan, but Royal Caribbean does not. And if you are booked on a Royal caribbean cruise, you can often score a 20% (or greater) discount on the package by purchasing early in your Cruise Planner.

 

The BlueIguana Tequila Bar on Carnival Vista is the perfect spot to chill and enjoy a slushy tequila drink or an ice-cold Mexican cerveza.
Rick Diaz / Courtesy of Carnival Cruise LineThe BlueIguana Tequila Bar on Carnival Vista is a great spot to chill and enjoy a slushy tequila drink or an ice-cold Mexican cerveza.

Carnival Cruise Line

  • The Cheers Program – One of the best mainstream cruise line packages, the $54.95 per day (plus 15% service charge) Cheers program on Carnival cruise ships covers quite a lot. All cocktails, beers and wines by the glass up to $50 are covered on the package. The line reasonably limits the number of alcoholic beverages consumed by an individual to 15 drinks during a 24-hour period. A variety of additional non-alcoholic beverages are unlimited, including soft drinks, zero-proof cocktails, energy drinks, 500ml bottled water, premium bottled water at dinner and specialty coffees and teas. Plus, if you book before the cruise begins, you get a 10% discount. All individuals over 21 in a cabin must purchase the plan for the entire duration of the cruise.

 

Sip at Sugarcane Mojito Bar, one of 21 bars and lounges on board Norwegian Escape.
Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise LineSip away at Sugarcane Mojito Bar, one of 21 bars and lounges on board Norwegian Escape.

Norwegian Cruise Line

  • The Ultimate Beverage Package – Starting at the startling price of $79 (plus 18% service charge), Norwegian’s Ultimate Beverage Package includes any wines, beers or cocktails priced at $15 or less per glass. The package also covers soda and juices at all bars but no other non-alcoholic beverages. While the package works on the cruise line’s private island of Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas, it does not include drinks at the line’s newest destination Harvest Caye in Belize. All adults in a stateroom/same reservation are required to get the beverage package.
  • The Corks and Caps Package – With a daily charge of $59 (plus 18% gratuity), the Corks and Caps Package covers beers and wines by the glass up to $15, along with soft drinks and juices at the bars and lounges on the ship. The program has similar restrictions as the Ultimate Beverage Package; the main difference is that this package does not include any liquor-based cocktails.

 

Lucia, one of the servers on Ruby Princess, en route to bringing drinks to guests.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableLucia, one of the servers on Ruby Princess, en route to bringing drinks to guests.

Princess Cruises

  • All Inclusive Beverage Package – With a per day price of $57.45 (including service charge), the All Inclusive Beverage Package on Princess Cruises covers all beverages, including soda, water, specialty coffees, as well as beers, wines and cocktails up to $10 a glass. Depending on the region/ship, Princess Cruises may not offer the package for certain sailings, and the prices and coverage are different for Australian cruises. Still, the package covers the vast majority of drinks offered at onboard bars and restaurants. Plus, the cruise line does not require all individuals in a cabin to purchase the package.

 

Relax and chat up some new friends at the Panorama Bar on ms Koningsdam.
Courtesy of Holland America LineRelax and chat up some new friends at the Panorama Bar on ms Koningsdam.

Holland America Line

  • Signature Beverage Package – While appealing to a more refined crowd, Holland America does offer a Signature Beverage Package. For a daily charge of $44.95 (plus 15% gratuity), the package covers beers, wines and cocktails priced up to $8. While a rather low allotment, you will be pleasantly surprised at the number of drinks that are included in the package. The package also includes bottled water, soda and other mocktails. Holland America caps the total number of drinks to 15 a day, and this total includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Also, any drink not covered in the plan needs to be paid 100 percent out of pocket, and passengers are also charged full price for any additional drinks consumed over the daily maximum of 15 beverages.

 

The Martini Bar aboard your Celebrity Cruises Solstice class ship is a great venue for socializing with colleagues or new friends.
Courtesy of Celebrity CruisesThe Martini Bar aboard Celebrity Solstice is a great venue for mingling and socializing.

Celebrity Cruise Line

  • Premium Package – At a per day cost of $65 a night (plus 18% gratuity), the Premium Package on Celebrity Cruises includes all beer, wine and cocktails priced at $13 a glass or less. A wide range of premium options are covered in the package, including craft cocktails and specialty beers and wines. Along with premium coffee and soft drinks, this package also includes bottled and freshly squeezed juices, purified bottled water as well as Vitamin Water and Red Bull. All cruisers in a cabin are not required to purchase a beverage package.
  • Classic Package – At a cost of $55 a day (plus 18% gratuity), this package includes a more limited selection than the Premium Package: beers up to $6, cocktails and liqueurs up to $8 a glass and wines up to $9 a glass. Many liquor brands will be included, but signature cocktails will be additional. Premium coffees and “non-premium” bottled water, along with juices and soft drinks, are also part of this package. For a complete comparison of brands covered on the Classic and Premium package refer to Celebrity Cruises’ website.
  • Standard Package – A relatively new offering, the $45 a day (plus 18% gratuity) Standard Package covers select beers, wines, spirits and cocktails priced at $6 or less. These mostly entail well brand spirits, as well as non-premium bottled water and soft drinks.
A cool blue drink served in the Explorer's Lounge on Viking Star.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableA cool blue drink served in the Explorer's Lounge on Viking Star.

Viking Ocean Cruises

  • Viking, which will have four ocean-faring ships by the end of this year, has just reduced the cost of its drinks package from $30 to $19.95 per day for its ocean ships, with no restrictions, apart from champagne. The package can be booked in advance or purchased on board. Chris Cruises has an excellent summary of the Silver Spirits plan for Viking's river ships, which cost $300 per couple for a 7-night cruise. 

 

With a décor both exotic and whimsical, the Savannah Bar brings a touch of Africa to MSC Orchestra.
Courtesy of MSC CruisesWith a décor both exotic and whimsical, the Savannah Bar brings a touch of Africa to MSC Orchestra.

MSC Cruises

  • All Inclusive Deluxe Package – With a daily charge of $61 (plus 15% gratuity), the impressive All Inclusive Deluxe Package on MSC Cruises covers quite a bit. According to the cruise line, this package includes the “entire bar list,” meaning virtually all cocktails and premium mixed drinks as well as top-shelf liquors are included. A “wide selection” of wines by the glass, as well as beers, soft drinks, bottled water and specialty coffees can also be consumed at all bars, restaurants and specialty dining venues. The package also includes beverages from stateroom mini-bars, room service and food items from the Pastry Shop and onboard Ice Cream Shops. All guests staying in a room must buy the package.
  • All Inclusive Classic Package – For the per day cost of $45 (plus 15% gratuity), cruisers will be able to consume all brand spirits and cocktails from the bar list, along with a selection of beer and wine from all bars, lounges and restaurants. Non-alcoholic drinks covered include bottled water, specialty coffees, fruit juices and soft drinks. While dollar amounts are not specified, the range of covered drinks is sure to be more selective than the Deluxe Package.
  • Cheers Adult Package – With prices starting at $20 a day (plus 15% gratuity), guests have the option of purchasing this “mealtime” drink package. With a selection of house wines and draft beer, soda, bottled water and fruit juices, guests can consume unlimited quantities of included beverages during lunch and dinner. The package works only in the complimentary restaurants or buffet area for select hours during the afternoon and evening and will not cover any beverages consumed at bars, lounges or specialty dining restaurants.

 

Choose from a wide assortment of brews on tap at the Golden Lion Pub aboard Queen Mary 2.
Courtesy of Cunard LineYou can choose from a wide assortment of brews on tap at the Golden Lion Pub aboard Queen Mary 2 — just don't look for a drink package on Cunard.

Cunard Line

Disney Cruise Line

  • Disney Cruise Line does not offer a traditional alcoholic beverage package for its four family-friendly ships. It does offer a wine and dine program, where cruisers can save by pre-purchasing select bottles of wine for a discounted price.

 

Costa Fascinosa hosts 13 bars and lounges.
Courtesy of Costa CruisesCosta Fascinosa hosts 13 bars and lounges.

Costa Cruises

  • Connoisseur – We can't specify a cost for Costa's drink packages because prices vary by the sailing. The most encompassing package offered by Costa Cruises includes unlimited selection of cocktails, liquors, beers and wines priced up to €9 ($9.60 US) at all bars and onboard restaurants. Minibar drinks and drinks served in cabins are also part of the package. All individuals in a room must purchase the package, and the total costs include a 15% gratuity.
  • More Taste Package – This package covers a variety of beer, wines and more than 30 alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails from the bar menus (premium beverages not included). The beverages can be consumed throughout the day at the bars and restaurants on the ship. Also included are specialty coffees and bottled water.
  • Toast Package – This package includes a selection of wines, beers and some liquor along with bottled water, specialty coffees, and soft drinks. The package can be used at onboard restaurants as well as lounges and bars.

How about you? Have you purchased a drink package, and was it worth it? Let me know in the comments below.

In our series: Cruise Food & Drink

DB & the Princess
Along with my wife, I'm the co-editor of EatSleepCruise.com, helping you sea the world, one port at a time!

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