“Is the drink package worth it on a cruise?” is one of the most common questions we receive.
At first glance, purchasing a drink package seems like a no-brainer. You’re on vacation after all, and what’s not to like about an all-inclusive beverage package?
But once you dive into the package details, there are many reasons why cruise line drink packages are not worth the cost for most passengers.
It’s easy to see why many passengers consider purchasing a beverage package. The “all you can drink” packages offer convenience and easier budgeting than running up a bar tab.
But, before you purchase a drink package on your next cruise, there are some things you need to know. We’ve put together this post to help you decide if a drink package is right for you.
Cruise Line Beverage Packages
Although convenient, cruise line beverage packages are a significant investment for your vacation. Although packages and prices vary from cruise line to cruise line, some of these packages can cost more than your actual cruise fare!
Below, we’ve listed the cost of drink packages for some of the mainstream cruise lines to give you an idea of what you can expect to pay.
Please note: We are looking at packages that include both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Some cruise lines offer a classic soda package or non-alcoholic drink package, which we won’t cover in this article.
Carnival Cruise Line Drink Package
Carnival’s CHEERS! drink package is one of the most inclusive packages on our list.
CHEERS! includes nearly all of the beverages onboard Carnival cruise ships. The price limit of $20 per drink is the highest among cruise lines.
The cost of the beverage package varies depending on the length of your cruise. If you’re looking to save money, it’s best to purchase the drink package before you set sail. That’s because the package price is $3 cheaper per person per day if purchased before embarkation day.
If you wait until you’re on the ship to purchase the package, be prepared to pay full price.
In addition to its inclusivity, CHEERS! is one of the lowest-priced drink packages of the mainstream cruise lines.
Passengers who purchase the drink package should be aware that there is a limit to the number of drinks you can order in a 24-hour time span. Carnival has a 15-drink limit on alcoholic beverages purchased between 6 am, and 6 am. We don’t think the limit will be a problem for most cruise passengers.
The limit only applies to alcoholic beverages, so feel free to order unlimited soda, juice, and specialty coffee.
Note: Final prices will add an 18% service charge to the cost of the package.
Royal Caribbean Drink Packages
Royal Caribbean’s Deluxe Beverage Package is their highest-tier beverage package.
The package covers nearly every beverage on the ship up to $13 per drink. Additionally, package holders receive a 40% discount on wines priced up to $100 and a 20% discount on wines priced above $100.
Unlike most cruise lines, the price of Royal Caribbean’s beverage package varies depending on the individual itinerary. We usually find the package priced between $65 per person per day and $99 per person per day on most sailings.
As with the other cruise lines on the list, you will usually get a better deal if you purchase the drink package before you set sail rather than on the ship.
Note: Final prices will add an 18% gratuity to the cost of the package.
Princess Cruises Drink Package
Princess Cruises Premier Beverage Package is their top beverage package which covers a wide variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Included with the package, guests have access to wines by the glass, beer, spirits, cocktails, bottled water (500 ml only), fresh juices, fountain sodas, specialty coffees and teas, Red Bull energy drinks, and milkshakes up to $12 per drink.
Guests can purchase the Premier Beverage Package for $59.99 per person per day.
As a bonus, guests can take advantage of the Princess Cruises’ Princess Plus fare, which includes the Premier Beverage Package, unlimited WiFi for one device, and daily gratuities. If you’re planning on purchasing the drink package, the Princess Plus fare is an excellent way to save money.
Note: Final prices will add an 18% gratuity to the cost of the package.
Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Packages
Norwegian Cruise Line offers its Premium and Premium Plus beverage packages for $99 per person per day and $128 per person per day.
The Premium Beverage Package covers nearly every onboard drink up to $15 per drink, while the Premium Plus Beverage Package covers all drinks served by the glass, with no limit on the drink price.
Passengers can receive the Premium Beverage Package for free through Norwegian’s Free at Sea promotion. While marketed as a limited-time promotion, we often find the promotion available more often than not.
Through the promotion, guests can receive a “free” beverage package. You’ll just have to pay the gratuities.
Note: Final prices will add a 20% gratuity to the cost of the package.
Celebrity Cruises Drink Packages
As part of Celebrity’s Always Included fare, passengers receive the Classic Package with the standard cruise fare. The package has limited options compared to the Premium package and only covers drinks served by the glass, up to $9 per drink.
The Classic Package has a value of $70.80 per person per day, including the service charge.
If the Classic Beverage Package isn’t enough, passengers can upgrade to the Premium Drinks Package at an additional cost of $12 per person per day. The premium package covers nearly every drink served by the glass for up to $15 per drink.
Alternatively, passengers can choose the Elevate cruise fare, which includes the Premium Beverage Package and a shore excursion credit for $20 per person per day.
Note: Final prices will add a 20% gratuity to the cost of the package.
Virgin Voyages Drink Package
Unlike the majority of cruise lines, Virgin Voyages doesn’t offer a traditional drink package.
Instead, guests can pre-purchase Virgin Voyages Bar Tab. The bar tab functions as a pre-paid onboard credit, which guests can use to purchase drinks on the ship or at the cruise line’s private island Beach Club at Bimini.
Virgin Voyages will top up the amount when guests pre-purchase the Bar Tab before sailing. At the time of writing, the cruise line is offering a $50 top-up when guests add $300 to their tab. We’ve seen similar promotions offering a $100 top-up.
MSC Cruises Drink Packages
In 2021, MSC Cruises updated its drink package offerings, giving passengers a choice between 3 new packages.
- Easy Package – $38 per person per day with select drinks
- Easy Plus – $49 per person per day with a $9 per drink limit
- Premium Extra – $69 per person per day with a $15 per drink limit
Note: Final prices will add a 15% gratuity to the cost of the package.
Costa Cruises Drink Packages
Costa Cruises offers two drink packages, My Drinks, and My Drinks Plus.
The My Drinks package is included in the All Inclusive Rate and includes soft drinks, Draught Heineken, classic cocktails, soda, liquors, and spirits. The beverage package includes a selection of hot drinks such as Vergnano coffee, cappuccino, herbal teas, and hot chocolate.
With the My Drinks Plus package, guests receive premium cocktails, mini bar purchases, prestigious liquor brands, and bottled Corona and Becks. The Plus package is included when passengers book suite accommodations.
Note: Final prices will add a gratuity to the cost of the package.
How Much Do Drinks Cost on a Cruise Ship?
Before deciding to purchase a drink package, we recommend doing a little math to find out if it will save money or be an unnecessary expense.
For a simple estimation, figure out what drinks you will consume (beer, wine, soda, whiskey) and how many drinks you will consume daily. As a rough estimate, cocktails and wine cost about $10-12 each, beer costs approximately $6-8 each, and sodas, bottled water, energy drinks, and specialty coffees and teas are between $3-6 each.
When doing the calculations, don’t forget to factor in port days.
If you plan to spend the day in port, you won’t be consuming as many beverages as you would on sea days. But, you’ll still be paying full price for the beverage package.
Make sure you consider the reduced consumption during port days to estimate your drink expenses better.
Once you’ve done the calculation, it’s time to decide whether or not the drink package is worth the investment.
If you would spend more money purchasing individual drinks than the cost of the package, then the drink package is worth it for you.
If the drink package costs more than the amount you’d spend on individual drink purchases, then the drink package may cost you more.
Finally, many cruise lines have a rule that if one person purchases the drink package, everyone sharing the cabin must also buy the drink package.
When Should You Get The Drink Package On a Cruise?
Although cruise line drink packages are expensive, there are some reasons you should consider purchasing one before your next cruise. Here are some reasons why a beverage package might be a good idea:
You Want More than Just Water, Coffee, and Tea
If you are new to cruising, you may think that the cruise ship’s food and drinks are all-inclusive.
Many first-time cruisers are shocked to find that nearly every other beverage must be paid at an extra cost besides basic tea, coffee, and tap water. If you like a glass of fresh juice with your breakfast or a can of pop at lunchtime, you may benefit from buying the beverage packages.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking beverage packages are only for alcoholic drinks. Cruise ship drink packages cover sodas, juice, and non-alcoholic beverages.
And if you are in a warm climate, such as the Mediterranean, Australia, or the Caribbean, you may want to bring water with you as you explore the ports of call. The beverage package also covers bottled water, so you can grab a bottle on your way off the ship and not worry about finding a local convenience store.
You Like Knowing Your Bill Ahead of Time
Between your cruise fare, shore excursions, flights, hotel, and the drink package, it can be painful to spend thousands of dollars before stepping on the cruise ship. But once you are on board, the luxury of ordering drinks and restaurants without worrying about the final bar bill can be worth the price of the package.
When Should You Skip The Drink Package On a Cruise?
You Prefer a Bottle of Wine at Dinner
Your beverage package will cover a glass of wine as long as it is below the maximum price per drink. While it is excellent for most people, wine connoisseurs won’t be satisfied by the limited selection and beverages by the glass.
If you prefer to order a bottle of wine at dinner or want to choose from a selection of high-end wine, they aren’t included in your drink package.
Some cruise lines will provide discounts on bottles of wine when you purchase a beverage package, but it is best to check with your cruise line as not every package provides discounts on bottles of wine.
Your Cabin Mate Has Different Drinking Habits Than You
Most cruise lines require every adult in a cabin to purchase the same drink package. If you plan on drinking lots of pop or alcohol, but your cabinmate is fine with tap water, you’ll be better off skipping the beverage package and buying drinks at the bar.
Remember that bartenders and servers will only serve you one drink at a time. And if you are traveling with a group, don’t even consider using your beverage package on friends in other cabins. If you get caught sneaking a drink to a travel companion, you will have your drink package privileges revoked.
Trust us; you don’t want to spend all that money on a beverage package to have it taken away.
You Just Don’t Drink Much
The best way to determine if a drink package is right for you is to calculate how much you would be spending on drinks. When calculating, don’t forget to factor in port days, where you won’t be on the cruise ship for the whole day.
As a simple rule, if you plan on having 6-8 drinks per day throughout your cruise, the package is worth considering.
Is the Drink Package Worth it on a Cruise?
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether or not the drink package is worth it on your cruise. Some factors to consider are the price of the drink plan, your drinking habits, your cabinmate’s drinking habits, the cost of individual drinks, and what drinks the cruise fare includes.
For most cruisers, the drink package is simply not worth the price.
Most individual drink prices covered by the beverage package vary between $5 to $15 per day. Depending on the cost of the package, you and your cabinmates will need to drink between 5-10 beverages per day each.
And that’s only to break even.
Of course, the price may become more justifiable if you plan on drinking soda, juice, and bottled water throughout the day. But remember, you will have to purchase the package for every adult in the cabin, even if they don’t plan on drinking.
While you might be able to consume enough drinks on sea days to make the package worth the price, you’ll have to consider the days that you will spend in port. That’s because while you’re shopping or taking part in an exciting shore excursion, you won’t be using the beverage package.
But you’ll still be paying for it.
You’ll need to consume much more on sea days to compensate for the lack of drink purchases while at the port to break even.
Finally, cruise lines such as Celebrity Cruises, Viking Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea Cruises, and Princess Cruises Princess Plus already include a beverage package with your cruise fare. An upgrade beverage package is rarely needed if you sail with any of these cruise lines.
For the above reasons, we don’t think drink package purchases make sense for most cruisers.
But, there is one scenario where you may want to purchase a package even if you won’t be saving money.
Some people love knowing exactly how much they will spend with the package before stepping on board. For these passengers, the uncertainty of the running bar tab creates too much stress when you should be relaxing.
With the drink package, you won’t need to track your spending, and you won’t be surprised by an unexpected bill at the end of your cruise. Knowing the total cost of the cruise vacation before you set sail is a smart budgeting trick so that you won’t be surprised when you receive the bill at the end of your sailing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Have to Buy a Drink Package on a Cruise?
Absolutely not! Drink packages are entirely optional and usually not needed for most cruisers. If you forgo the beverage package, you can simply pay for each drink.
When you pay-as-you-go, you will get the final bill at the end of your cruise. It is a good idea to keep track of your spending because all those drinks can and will add up.
And don’t forget, there is a gratuity; typically, 15%-18% is automatically charged to every drink purchase.
What is Included With a Cruise Ship Drink Package?
The drink packages offered by every cruise line are a bit different.
There will be differences in what they include, but you’ll generally get wine, beer, and cocktails up to a specific dollar limit. The limit varies for each cruise line, but it is typically around $15 per drink.
The package will also cover soda, bottled water, and juices with usually no price restrictions.
What is Not Included With a Cruise Ship Drink Package?
Many cruisers are surprised to learn that the drink packages aren’t all-inclusive. The exclusions list will vary among cruise lines, just like what is included with your drink package.
Typically, beverage packages won’t include mini bar purchases, room service, bottles of wine or liquor, pitchers, buckets, sharable drinks, or drinks served in a souvenir cup.
Further, most drink packages have a price limit for drinks. If you purchase a drink that costs more than the limit, most cruise lines will only have you pay the difference and the gratuity on the difference.
As always, checking with your cruise line to understand what is included and excluded in their drink package is best.
Does Everyone in the Cabin Have to Purchase the Drink Package?
Most cruise lines require all guests sharing a cabin to purchase the same beverage plan.
Rules vary among cruise lines, but generally, if one adult purchases the drink package, all adults sharing the cabin also need to purchase it.
Princess Cruises is the only cruise line we know of that doesn’t require all passengers sharing a cabin to purchase the drink package.
Do I Have to Buy a Drink Package for Every Day of the Cruise?
Yes! If you decide to purchase a drink package on your cruise, you will have to purchase it for every day of the vacation. You can’t purchase the drink package for individual days or portions of the cruise.
This is a significant consideration for whether the beverage package is worth it to you. If you purchase the drink package, you will be charged for every day you are on vacation, even when you spend the day in port. So keep this in mind when you make your decision.
Is There a Limit to How Many Drinks I Can Get?
Most cruise lines will not limit the number of drinks you can get when you have a drink package. So get ready to drink to your heart’s content… just don’t go overboard on the alcohol (pun intended).
The two major exceptions are Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruises. Both cruise lines have a 15-drink limit per 24 hours on alcoholic beverages. The 24-hour period runs from 6 am-6 am. Although you need to be aware of the limit, we don’t think most passengers will reach it.
Although most cruise lines don’t have a specified drink limit, bartenders will cut you off from ordering more drinks if you’re obviously intoxicated.
Can I Purchase Multiple Drinks at a Time?
Most cruise lines have a waiting period of five minutes between drink purchases.
This rule is most likely to reduce the number of passengers who use their drink package to purchase drinks on behalf of other guests – which is not allowed.
Can You Share Drink Packages on a Cruise?
We’ve all had that thought. And if you are traveling as a group, having one cabin buy the beverage package and share it with everyone can be tempting.
But…Do not share drink packages on a cruise!
Every cruise line has rules forbidding the sharing of drinks while onboard. And if you get caught, you can lose your beverage package without a refund. Of course, if you are discreet and don’t try ordering multiple drinks simultaneously, the chances of getting caught are minimal. But we still don’t recommend trying it.
Are Gratuities Included in the Drink Package?
The cost of a cruise ship drink package does not include gratuities.
At checkout, you will be charged gratuities on the drink package, which are usually between 15-20%.
You won’t be charged an additional gratuity when you use the beverage package at the bar or dining room because it is already paid for when you purchase your package.
Can I Use my Drink Package in Port?
You can’t use the drink package in most ports. That’s because most cruise ship ports are independent of the cruise line. So if you feel like purchasing drinks off of the ship, you will have to pay for them.
That said, many cruise lines will allow you to use the drink package on their private islands. Check your cruise itinerary to see if you are visiting any private islands or resorts. If so, you may be able to use your beverage package off of the ship.
Some cruise lines have private islands or resorts owned and/or operated by the cruise line. For example, Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay island and MSC’s Ocean Cay allow you to use your beverage package for drinks on land.
This is a bonus for passengers as it essentially provides an additional day to get your money’s worth from the beverage package.
Unfortunately, Norwegian’s Harvest Caye, Carnival’s Half Moon Cay, and Princess Cays don’t allow the use of your drink package in port.
Where Can I Purchase the Drink Package?
You could purchase the drink package through your travel agent, by calling the cruise line directly, or through your online account if you booked through the cruise line’s website.
If you decide to purchase the beverage package, booking online ahead of time is better. Cruise lines will often offer discounts if you buy the drink package before you sail. We’ve even seen discounts of up to 40% off!
Once you are on board, you will often purchase the drink package during the first two days of sailing. Remember that once you are on board, the price tends to be pretty expensive. And if you wait until the second day, you will still be paying for the first two days of sailing, even though you didn’t use the package.
Can you Take a Bottle of Alcohol on a Cruise?
Yes. Most cruise lines allow guests to bring one or two bottles of wine or champagne on the cruise ship. Checking the cruise line’s alcohol policy is best because rules vary between cruise lines.