Comparing Cruise Line Beverage Programs: A Timeless Guide

There are a number of ways to examine the topic of cruise line beverage programs.  On one extreme, we have luxury cruise lines that include all beverages all the time as part of the deal.  Forget about them for now, those cruise lines are not what this is about. At the other extreme we have cruise lines that charge for nearly all liquids consumed.  That’s the topic at hand and the real reason you are reading this right now.  Some cruise lines present a variety of packages, hoping one will come close to matching what an individual cruise traveler is looking for.  Sold as a convenient way to customize our travel experience, these are really nothing more than the cruise line indirectly guaranteeing our onboard spending.

Regardless of how you go about it, here are factors to consider:

Sunshine- Alchemy Bar - 01

Have a favorite drinking place on a particular cruise line? Be sure it’s covered by your plan


You Will Not Come Out Ahead By Much
On a recent sailing of a big ship cruise line, we tested pay-by-the-drink vs. all-you-can-drink.  At the end of the seven day sailing, we would indeed have come out ahead buying the unlimited Cheers Beverage Package from Carnival Cruise Line, but not by much.  $8.05 to be exact. How each individual will come out on each cruise line’s beverage program obviously depends on how closely the program matches what that individual is likely to consume. Someone who exclusively drinks rum and Coke will not gain much from a package that includes coffee drinks, beer and/or wine.


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If wine is your pleasure, focus on plans that do not include other beverages of little interest


Consumption Estimated From Your Living Room Will Probably Not Match Actual Consumption
When we imagine our consumption of beverages on a cruise from home or work it is natural to leave out one important factor:  You won’t be at home or at work when consuming those beverages. While we may be experienced/insightful/addicted cruise travelers, the actual hoopla of being on board can be difficult to replicate on the sofa or at our desk while the boss isn’t looking and we browse the internet.


Usually not included in basic beverage programs- popular craft beers

Absolutely A Great Budgeting Topic
Fans of adding prepaid gratuities, just to get that out of the way in advance of sailing might like to add a beverage program for the same reason.  Those cruise travelers not 100% sure about what their actual consumption will be can accomplish much of the same by adding onboard credit.   All major cruise lines allow it.  This popular option is also good for gamblers who want to be sure there is a limit on what they can possibly lose.  Obviously, the success of this option depends on the individual’s resolve not to go over budget.

The natural tendency when addressing the topic of cruise line beverage programs is a comparative one.  We might compare different levels of beverage programs on each cruise line, pit one cruise line vs another or calculate how many drinks one might need to consume to come out ahead.  Instead, we trust you to investigate each of the cruise line beverage programs, if the value is a deal breaker on which line to choose.  Loyal fans of a given line need look no further than the cruise line’s website.

See more factors to consider about cruise line beverage programs at