Cruise Beverage Packages: Not All Are Equal


Not all that long ago, All You Can Drink alcoholic cruise beverage packages were available only to those sailing with a group cruise and only if everyone in the group paid the price.  Even then, when doing the math, those getting a good value had to drink a lot, every day to come out ahead vs paying per drink.  But over time, most cruise lines have rolled out these programs in one form or another, figured out how to make them work and have some viable options for most cruise travelers.

In All You Can Drink Packages: By Cruise Line, we touched on the topic earlier this year.  Noted as a qualifier for most plans, everyone in the stateroom originally had to get the package or none could.  That was great for a couple that both enjoyed a hefty number of alcoholic beverages every day, not so good for those where one did and the other did not.  That caused two couples traveling together to swap partners, putting drinkers in one stateroom and non-drinkers in another, just for booking purposes. One might call that move the modern-day equivalent of filling a water bottle with vodka for smuggling on to the ship, something cruise lines have been wise to for quite some time now.

That has changed on some of the major cruise lines that readers ask about frequently.

Everyone Must Still Buy It
Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines, MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises require that if one gets their alcoholic cruise beverage package, all must get it.

Not Everyone Must Buy It
Princess Cruises allows just one passenger to buy an alcoholic cruise beverage package while others in a stateroom do not,  as does Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.  Unique to the Azamara Club Cruises plan: it works for beverage orders via room service. Most frequently asked about here: Royal Caribbean’s plan.

Royal Caribbean International offers four all-inclusive beverage package options,  now sold on an individual basis, and guests booked in the same stateroom are no longer required to purchase a package if they so choose. There are still restrictions, like multiple beverages may not be ordered at the same time and packages may not be shared or transferred to another guest.  Still, these packages offer good value, a number of ways:

The Royal Replenish Package, at $20 per guest each day, includes:

  • Premium coffee
  • Premium tea
  • Bottled water
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Non-alcoholic cocktails (includes frozen varieties)
  • Fountain soda with souvenir Coca-Cola cup

The Select Package, at $40 per guest each day, includes:

  • Beer
  • Wine by the glass (up to $8 value)
  • Non-alcoholic cocktails (includes frozen varieties)
  • Fountain soda with souvenir Coca-Cola cup
  • 20% discount on purchases of bottles of wine

The Premium Package, at $55 per guest each day, includes:

  • Call and premium cocktails (up to $10 value)
  • Frozen cocktails
  • Beers
  • Premium wine by the glass (up to $12 value)
  • Non-alcoholic cocktails (includes frozen varieties)
  • Still bottled water (500ml)
  • Fountain soda with souvenir Coca-Cola cup
  • 20% discount on purchases of bottles of wine

The Ultimate Package, at $65 per guest each day, includes:

  • Premium coffee
  • Premium tea
  • Bottled water
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Call and premium cocktails (up to $10 value)
  • Frozen cocktails
  • Beers
  • Premium wine by the glass (up to $12 value)
  • Non-alcoholic cocktails (includes frozen varieties)
  • Fountain soda with souvenir Coca-Cola cup
  • 20% discount on purchases of bottles of wine

These all-inclusive packages are available for purchase onboard throughout the voyage when there are at least four days remaining. They must be purchased for the duration of the cruise, and the price is prorated based on the date of purchase. Package prices are subject to change without notice and include a 15% gratuity.

Why We Like And Recommend Beverage Packages + A Wish
We like beverage packages for one big reason.  As a good way to help budget for a cruise, travelers know exactly how much they will spend on board for beverages right up front.  That’s a huge break for those who were surprised with a $700+ bill for beverages at the end of the cruise.

We only wish that major ocean cruise lines could figure out how to make it easier for passengers who still have to provide their onboard charge card for a beverage each time they get one.On Viking River Cruises, for example, their Silver Spirits plan gives passengers unlimited beverages all the time by just mentioning that they have the plan; something they can do on a ship with just 190 people that appears impossible on a ship with thousands.

See More On Beverage Packages
A great, detailed breakdown of all the plans can be found at CruiseCritic.  Click here to see and check back there just before sailing. They do a good job keeping the information updated.

Beverage packages continue to evolve over time with today’s options allowing more flexibility for all, no partner-swapping needed.