21/12/2010...2:27 pm

Does the price of booze affect your choice of cruise?

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In an attempt to prove what great value it offers, P&O Cruises has issued a statement listing the many things included in its holidays.

TV's Olly Smith has drawn attention to P&O Cruises' wine offering

One of the items is ‘pub-priced drinks’.  If you enjoy a pint, this does sound appealing, although I wonder, if you board a ship and drinks are expensive, do you consciously consume less, or just say ‘to hell with it’ and enjoy the same amount as usual?

Anyway, in the name of research, I’ve checked out some drink prices to see if P&O Cruises’ claim really does stack up, and how it compares to drinks on other lines targeting the British cruiser.


According to www.pintprice.com, the UK average for a pint of lager is £2.80, rising to a rip-off £3.20 if you happen to be in London. P&O’s price is £2.95, so the line’s claim to ‘pub prices’ is looking good there. Mind you, 500ml (just under a pint) of John Smiths bitter on Cruise & Maritime Voyages costs just £2.55, while a pint of Stella on Fred. Olsen is £2.70, so both of these lines are clearly offering sub-pub prices, too.


A glass of chardonnay on a P&O ship costs £2.85, while in my local (London) pub, it’s a whopping £4.30, so as a wine drinker, I could be onto a winner on a P&O cruise. The line has promoted its wines by the glass extensively this year with the launch of wine expert Olly Smith’s Glass House on Azura, a wine bar that has received rave reviews.

Fred. Olsen, meanwhile, charges £3.75 for a 150ml glass of chardonnay, and Cruise & Maritime £4.20 for house white – but for a huge 250ml glass.

Gin and Tonic

On Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, which sails year-round from Southampton and is targeted at Brits (with dollar pricing on board), drinkers do pay more for wine and beer, although Royal Caribbean has never claimed to be in competition with pubs. You’re better off on the G&Ts here – at $5.50 for the house brand (£3.64), it’s still more than P&O’s price of £3.15, but with a double measure. You do have to pay 15% service on Royal Caribbean’s ships, though.

Cruise & Maritime charges £3.40 for a gin and tonic, with a 40ml measure (a British pub measure is 25ml), while Fred. Olsen, in comparison, comes in at £3.10 for a 30ml measure. My pub research has come up with anything from £2.95 to £3.50 for a standard pub measure, making P&O’s claim to offer pub prices, again, pretty accurate.

What is really comes down to, I suppose, is the question, does the price of drinks affect your choice of ship? Thomson Cruises clearly thinks so. It’s offering an upgrade to all-inclusive drinks for just £49 instead of the usual £189, on cruises out of Palma on Thomson Dream or Thomson Destiny if you book before January 31, 2011. That works out at £7 a day on booze, which would be hard to beat by anybody’s standards.



  • It’s certainly a factor, but not the only one. We’ve cruised several times with both P&O and Celebrity, and we do enjoy the lower prices of drinks on P&O. We found drinks prices on Celebrity quite high, especially for wine – there weren’t many bottle of wine for less than $30, and it was very easy to pay $40 or more. Then you add the 15%….

    The other thing that bothers us is that on the Celebrity ships (and probably other American ships), you don’t know how much you’re getting. What you’re buying is ‘a pour’, and how big that is, is up to the waiter – they don’t use lined wine glasses. In the UK and on P&O we’ve become very used to buying a stated quantity, e.g. 175ml or 250ml, and then having it served in a lined glass that tells us that we’ve got what we asked for.

    So yes, on reflection I would have to say that the combination of drinks prices, the 15% gratuity, and uncertain measures are among the things that have lead us to cruising predominantly in the last few years with ‘British’ cruise lines.

    • If you are a wine drinker, definitely cruise with Azamara…wine is included with lunch and dinner AND they are very generous about pouring all you want!!

    • cruisecriticuk

      You’re right about the measures on non-UK ships. Often it depends on the mood of the barman. On Star Clippers recently we had a G&T before dinner most nights and I’m sure it was thanks to ongoing banter with the bartender that we ended up with triples. And I thought it was the ship swaying…

  • My June cruise on the all-inclusive Bleu de France from Marseilles (try any Pullmantur ship, they’re all all-inclusive) saved me hundreds on that end of cruise bar bill.

    And yes Judy, I agree that Azamara is a good bet too, I saved a few more hundreds on them in October and their wines are great!

    I hate ships (and I won’t name them) that ask you if you want the “wine of the day” and then charge $10 instead of the $7.50 wine you could have had.

    Then there is another line where you can knock 25% off the price of a dry martini by ordering it differently!

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