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Are Cruise Ship Drink Packages a Good Deal?

Written by Samantha Kroll
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If getting a great deal on drinks – alcoholic or nonalcoholic - is important to you when vacationing on a cruise, read carefully. 

Drink packages can either be a great deal, or not worth your time depending on what you choose. The outcome is going to depend on the activities and meals you intend to participate in during your trip. On most cruise lines, non-bottled water, juice, milk, tea, and coffee are available for free at the buffets, restaurants and dining rooms.  However on the majority of cruise lines, all other beverages come at an additional cost. Read this simple guide on different packages offered by cruise lines for some money saving tips and ways to find your perfect drink package.

Cruisers that consume one to four drinks per day while on board will do best to stay away from the package deals. Sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages will range anywhere from $2 to $6 per drink. The specialty drinks of the day will attract the most cruisers who just want one or two alcoholic drinks because not only do you pay for the drink one by one, sometimes you even get to keep the glass as a souvenir.

Important Tips:
  • Look for happy hour specials & wine tastings.  Many cruise lines offer happy hour specials and wine tastings at select bars.
  • Get some free champagne.  Art auctions usually come with a complimentary flute of champagne.
  • Waste not, want not.  If you purchase a bottle of wine at dinner, but aren’t able to finish it—fear not!  You can take that bottle of wine back to your stateroom so you can enjoy it later.

If you intend to have a few drinks with each meal, there is no doubt that the prepaid feature will give you a sense of freedom and ease for your entire vacation. By purchasing a package you will find that you’ll never be worried about how much each glass of soda, wine, or beer costs you. Our expert travel agents recommend that if you enjoy between five to ten drinks per day, you should consider a beverage package.  

It’s important to be honest about how much you really plan to drink, because these packages could lead to you overspending, or feeling the need to overindulge just to get a value from your package. Conversely, if you do enjoy a few drinks while on vacation, you’ll no doubt understand how paying ‘a la carte’ can get expensive. 

Prices and accommodations for packages vary for each cruise line, but here are some examples to give you an idea of costs.  Norwegian Cruise Line offers a package for about $50 per day for all you can drink soda, wine, spirits, and beer. If you drink ten drinks per day, that’s $5 per drink, which is a pretty good deal and lower than what you would pay without a package.  Celebrity is also known for their various drink packages, offering something for everyone.  With the right mixture of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, the Classic Package from Celebrity offers all of the benefits of their non-alcoholic package, as well as beers, spirits, cocktails, frozen drinks and wines. If you consume two sodas, a bottle of water, three glasses of wine, and one frozen drink by the pool, you would normally pay about $47 for your day, but with the purchase of this package, you would only pay $44 per night, for a savings of $3 each day. You can also receive discounts on purchases on bottles of wine with this package. 

Important Tips: 
  • Top shelf, not included.  Basic packages generally do not include top shelf liquors, premium beers or specialty coffees. This is distinguished by the price of the drink. When ordering a premium drink that is more expensive than what your package includes, you will need to pay the price difference.
  • Read the fine print.  Some packages may have drink limits, where you may only order up to 15 drinks for the day.  This is common on most cruise lines, so be sure to read the fine print.  If you don’t expect to drink more than 10 or 15 drinks, a basic package is your best option because these packages are cheaper than the all-inclusive packages. 

Experienced cruisers may notice that they’ve paid extra for drinks even when they bought a drink package. You may want to consider an all-inclusive package on your next cruise. These packages will benefit those who thoroughly enjoy top shelf liquors and specialty beers. Generally, cruisers will find these packages on the luxury cruise lines like Azamara and Celebrity.  These luxury lines often offer packages that combine your drink package with dining perks, select shore excursions, and other luxury services. 

Important Tips: 
  • Read the fine print (again!).  No matter what package or which cruise line you choose, make sure to read what is included in your package and the cruise line’s alcohol and drink policies. For example, some cruise lines will require that you and your cabin mate each need to buy your own drink package. With so many variations, beverage packages can save or cost you a lot of money depending on your taste, and what you choose! 
In addition to the tips in this article, be sure to speak with your travel agent to determine the best package deal for you and your travel companions.  This way, you’ll get the best value out of your vacation cruise!

Samantha Kroll works at The Cruise Web. The Cruise Web is a travel agency that specializes in cruising. The expert cruise consultants focus on providing travelers with the best value for their time and money in finding and booking a cruise vacation! 

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