Is the Drink Package Worth it on a Cruise? Probably Not

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Cute Young Couple On Cruise ship with drinks

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“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?

In our experience, the drink package on a cruise ship is not worth it unless you purchase more than six alcoholic beverages per day.

With the high price of the package and price restrictions on included beverages, you’ll need to purchase 6-8 alcoholic drinks every day to break even.

If you still need to be convinced, here’s everything you need to know to help you decide if the drink package is worth it on a cruise.

Is the Drink Package Worth it on a Cruise?

Colorful Holiday Cocktails On Cruise ShipPin

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether or not the drink package is worth it. You should consider the price of the drink plan, your drinking habits, your cabinmate’s drinking habits, the cost of drinks, and what drinks the cruise fare includes.

In my experience, over more than a dozen cruises, cruise line drink packages are not worth it for most passengers because you’ll need to drink 5 to 8 alcoholic beverages per day.

And that’s only to break even.

Of course, the price is more justifiable if you drink 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.

And don’t forget about port days.

Even if you can consume enough drinks on sea days to make the package worth the price, you’ll have to consider port days. That’s because you can’t use your beverage package in most ports of call.

If you get off the ship during port days, 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, luxury 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.

For the above reasons, purchasing a drink package doesn’t make sense for most cruisers.

But, there is one scenario where purchasing a drink package makes sense even if you won’t save 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 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 you won’t be surprised when you receive the bill at the end of your sailing.

Cruise Line Beverage Packages

Although packages and prices vary from cruise line to cruise line, some 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 including 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 Magic docked at a Caribbean port in crystal blue waterPin
(Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line)

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, purchasing the drink package before you set sail is best. That’s because the package price is $5 cheaper per person per day if purchased before embarkation day.

If you wait until you’re on the ship to purchase the package, prepare 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 24 hours. Carnival has a 15-drink limit on alcoholic beverages purchased between 6 a.m. and 6 a.m. The limit isn’t 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 package cost.

Royal Caribbean Drink Packages

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Royal Caribbean’s Deluxe Beverage Package is their highest-tier beverage package.

The deluxe drink 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

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Princess Cruises Premier Beverage Package is their top beverage package, which covers various 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 plan 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 Prima sailing to Amsterdam for christening ceremonyPin
(Photo Credit: Norwegian Cruise Line)

Norwegian Cruise Line offers 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

Celebrity Apex sailing during duskPin
(Photo Credit: Celebrity Cruises)

Celebrity Cruises offers its Classic and Premium Package.

As part of Celebrity’s Always Included fare, passengers receive the Classic Package with the standard cruise fare. Celebrity Cruises’ Classic Beverage 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 is $70.80 per person daily, including the service charge.

If the Classic Beverage Package isn’t enough, you 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

Virgin Voyages cruise ship Scarlet Lady leaves the Port of Miami at sunset for a cruise out on the Atlantic Ocean under a blue sky with a few cloudsPin

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 tops 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 providing a $100 top-up.

We bought the Bar Tab on our Scarlet Lady Bahamas cruise and highly recommend the purchase. In fact, it’s the only drink package we recommend for cruisers.

That’s because you get you’re money’s worth as long as you spend your $300, an amount most people easily spend on drinks. And you get a $50 free credit for additional beverages.

MSC Cruises Drink Packages

MSC Cruise Ship floating in crystal blue waterPin

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

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Photo Credit (Costa Cruises)

Costa Cruises offers two drink packages, My Drinks, and My Drinks Plus.

Costa’s All Inclusive Rate already includes the My Drinks package, which covers soft drinks, Draught Heineken, classic cocktails, soda, liquors, and spirits. The package also includes a selection of hot beverages such as Vergnano coffee, cappuccino, herbal teas, and hot chocolate.

With the My Drinks Plus package, you’ll receive premium cocktails, mini bar purchases, prestigious liquor brands, and bottled Corona and Becks. Suite guests receive the My Drinks Plus plan complimentary with their accommodations.

Note: Final prices will add a gratuity to the package cost.

How Much Do Drinks Cost on a Cruise Ship?

Cocktails On A Cruise Ship In The SummerPin

Before purchasing a drink package, we recommend doing some math to determine if it will save money or be unnecessary.

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 $10-15 each, beer costs approximately $7-10 each, and sodas, bottled water, energy drinks, and specialty coffees and teas are between $3-6 each.

When doing the calculations, remember to factor in port days.

If you plan to spend the day in port, you will consume fewer beverages than on sea days, but you’ll still be paying full price for the beverage package.

Once you’ve done the calculation, it’s time to decide whether or not the drink package is worth the investment.

If you 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.

So make sure you do the calculations for everyone sharing a cabin. If one person in the stateroom doesn’t drink, the package might not be worth it for everyone else.

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 the cruise ship’s food and drinks are all-inclusive.

Many first-time cruisers are shocked that cruises aren’t all-inclusive. If you like a glass of fresh juice with your breakfast or a can of pop at lunchtime, you’ll 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, bringing water with you as you explore the ports of call is a good idea. 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, spending thousands of dollars before stepping on the cruise ship can be painful. 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.

Other Reasons To Not Get a Drink Package

A orange cocktail ordered at a bar on the cruise ship Celebrity EclipsePin

You Prefer a Bottle of Wine at Dinner

Your beverage package will cover a glass of wine if 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 of wine by the glass.

Cruise lines offer higher-end bottles of wine, but your drink package doesn’t cover bottles of wine.

Some cruise lines provide discounts of 10-30% on bottles of wine when you purchase a beverage package.

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. The cruise line will revoke your drink package if you get caught sneaking a drink to a travel companion.

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 spend on drinks. When calculating, remember to factor in port days, where you won’t be on the cruise ship for the whole day.

As a simple rule, the package is worth considering if you plan on having 6-8 alcoholic drinks per day throughout your cruise.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Have to Buy The Drink Package?

Absolutely not! Drink packages are entirely optional. You can pay for each drink if you forgo the beverage package.

When you pay-as-you-go, you will get the final bill at the end of your cruise. Keeping track of your spending is a good idea because all those drinks can and will add up.

Is the Drink Package All-Inclusive?

Cruise ship drink packages are not all-inclusive. The exclusions list will vary among cruise lines but typically doesn’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, you only have to pay the difference and the gratuity on the difference.

Can You Share The Beverage Package?

No, you cannot share the drink package on a cruise.

Most cruise lines require all guests sharing a cabin to purchase the same beverage plan to prevent sharing between friends and family.

Princess Cruises is the only cruise line that doesn’t require cabinmates to purchase the drink package.

Do You Have to Purchase the Drink Package for the Entire Cruise?

Yes! If you decide to purchase a drink package on your cruise, you must buy it every day of the vacation. You can’t purchase the drink package for individual days or portions of the cruise.

If you purchase the drink package, you must pay 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 the Number of Drinks You Can Buy?

Most cruise lines will not limit the 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 a.m. to 6 a.m. Although you must be aware of the limit, we don’t think most passengers will reach it.

Most cruise lines don’t have a specified drink limit, but bartenders will cut you off from ordering more drinks if you’re intoxicated.

Does the Drink Package Include Gratuities?

The cost of a cruise ship drink package does not include gratuities. You will be charged gratuities at checkout on the drink package, usually between 15% and 20%.

Can You Use the 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 the ship, you must pay for them out of pocket.

Many cruise lines will allow you to use the drink package on their private islands. Check your cruise itinerary to see if your itinerary includes calls at any private islands or resorts.

Some cruise lines have private islands or resorts owned and/or operated by the cruise line. For example, Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay island, MSC’s Ocean Cay, and Virgin Voyages Beach Club at Bimini allow you to use your beverage package for drinks on land.

Unfortunately, Norwegian’s Harvest Caye, Carnival’s Half Moon Cay, and Princess Cays don’t allow using your drink package in port. Drink purchases are charged to your onboard spending account instead.

How Do I Purchase A Drink Package For My Cruise?

You could purchase the drink package through your travel agent, by calling the cruise line directly, or through the cruise line’s website.

If you decide to purchase the beverage package, booking online ahead of time is better. Cruise lines often offer discounts if you buy the drink package before sailing. We’ve even seen discounts of up to 40% off!

Once 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 I Bring Alcohol on a Cruise Ship?

Yes. Most cruise lines allow guests to bring alcohol on the cruise ship – one or two bottles of wine or champagne.

Article by

Marcello De Lio

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