Is it worthwhile to spend upwards of $50/day per person on cruise line drink packages? As my father likes to say, “it depends.” Each line has their own pricing and rules as to what is included in the packages. I’ve pulled together a brief overview to help navigate the murky waters. (As these things are always changing, I will try to update this post periodically.)
If you are sailing on a luxury line like Seabourn, Silversea or Regent, feel free to skip this post, as drinks are included on those lines. But, if you are sailing a mass market ship, it helps to know what you are getting for your money. If you are being offered a free drink package as part of a perk, it also helps to know what you get, and if you should take it or grab another offer instead.
Before we get to the meat of the packages, consider your itinerary. Are you on a port intensive cruise where you will be touring every day? Or, does your itinerary have a lot of sea days, leaving you more time on the ship? A typical day might look include a cappuccino ($5) in the morning, along with a bottle of water ($3), then a glass of wine with lunch ($10). If you are sitting by the pool, you may indulge in a frozen daiquiri ($8). At dinner, two more glasses of wine ($20) and a bottle of water ($3). After dinner martini or cognac will be an additional cost ($10). So, you can see, without drinking excessively, it is very easy for beverages to add up to well over $50 or $60 per day. And this example excludes soda and juices, which are also usually an additional charge, as well as that second or third cup of cappuccino in the morning.
There are many different package options for cruise lines, but this is focused on the most inclusive one available for each line.
NCL: Ultimate Beverage Package is $54/person per day in advance of the cruise, plus gratuity ($59/day once onboard). Includes all alcoholic drinks, wines by the glass, some sodas and juices, and beer. All must be $10 or under per glass to qualify. They have been offering packages as an incentive to book lately, so be on the lookout.
Celebrity: Ultimate Beverage Package is $65/person per day plus gratuity. It includes virtually everything up to $13/glass, even premium waters, coffees and energy drinks. They also have the Classic package ($55/day) that includes wine up to $9 and other drinks up to $8 but does not include premium waters or energy drinks. This is the package that is often included as a perk.
Royal Caribbean: Plans are similar in price and inclusions to Celebrity, but they also offer a $40/day beer and wine, plus fountain soda package.
Carnival: $49.50/person per day plus gratuity includes alcoholic beverages up to $10 per glass, but does not include coffee of bottled water. There is a maximum of 15 drinks per person per day with this package.
Princess: $49/person per day includes coffees, tea and drinks up to $10 per serving.
Are these drink packages cumbersome and difficult to navigate? Sometimes. I am happy to help. I book clients on fabulous cruises (and other vacations) and help them get the best bang for their vacation buck. After all, that is what a travel professional does. If I can help with your next trip, just let me know!
I will be off on the Celebrity Solstice next week in Alaska, so if you have any Celebrity-specific questions, just ask.