Hate paying individually for drinks on a mainstream cruise ship -- or perhaps you've been known to run up a huge bar tab onboard? You might be the ideal candidate for an alcohol-inclusive drinks package, offered by the majority of mainstream cruise lines.
Found somewhere between the ubiquitous soda packages and the included-in-your-fare booze of most luxury lines, these programs let cruisers pay one base price that covers most -- if not all -- of their nonalcoholic and alcoholic drinks onboard. Of course, while high prices and annoying fine print may persuade some travelers to go it a la carte, for others, the freedom to sample brightly colored cocktails and wines of unknown provenance can be too appealing to ignore.
See below for a line-by-line guide to available drink packages, followed by some Cruise Critic reader reactions to the programs.
Ships: Azamara Journey, Azamara Quest and Azamara Pursuit
Package Details: Although Azamara includes select standard spirits, beers and a changing daily selection of red and white wines by the glass in its cruise fares, the line also has nine for-fee all-inclusive beverage packages. Options include the Premium Water Package ($8.95 per person, per day), Beer Package (26 brands, $14.95 per person, per day), Premium Liquor Package (90 brands, $15.95 per person, per day), Top Shelf Liquor Package (120 brands, $18.95 per person, per day) and Ultimate Liquor Package (140 brands, $21.95 per person, per day). Beer and liquor packages also include a 25 percent savings on premium wines by the glass, as well as all the beer selections that come with the beer package. There are also three wine packages: Wine by the Glass (13 wines, $29.95 per person, per day), Wine Lover Package (all bottles of wine valued at $50 or less, $180 to $350 for five-, seven-, 10- and 12-bottle packages) and Wine Connoisseur Package (all bottles of wine valued at $51 to $75, $315 to $630 for five-, seven-, 10- and 12-bottle packages). All packages feature more choices and more premium brands than the complimentary offerings.
Fine Print: Packages can be pre-purchased (through Azamara or your travel agent) or bought onboard throughout the length of your cruise. Charges begin the day you purchase the package. Packages are not refundable once purchased and cannot be downgraded to a lower-tier package. You can only order one drink at a time. You can order drinks through room service as part of your package.
Ships: All ships, except Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend
Package Details: The Cheers! program has been rolled out to all ships in the Carnival Cruise Line fleet, with the exception of those sailing in Australia. The cost for the program is $49.95, per person, per day, if purchased in advance and $54.95 per person, per day, if purchased once onboard. The package allows cruisers to select from mixed drinks, beer, wine and spirits valued at $50 or less each, up to a 15-drink maximum per day. Additionally, the package includes soda, non-alcoholic cocktails, energy drinks, specialty coffees and teas, most bottled water, PowerAde, Vitamin Water, coconut water and Honest Tea. The program also includes a 25 percent discount on bottles of wine and Champagne, beverage classes and seminars, and cocktails that cost more than $50.
Fine Print: If one adult in a cabin purchases the package, all adults over 21 years old in that cabin must also purchase it. Participants can order only one drink at a time, there is a five-minute wait time required between drink purchases, and all bottles and cans are served opened. The package does not apply to drinks in souvenir glasses. A 15-percent gratuity is added to the cost of the package, and due to state laws, the package is not available until the second day of all sailings leaving from ports in New York, Alabama and Texas. Cheers! applies to onboard beverages only; it cannot be used on Carnival's private island, Half Moon Cay. The package is not available on two-night sailings or chartered sailings, and it must be booked for the entire duration of the voyage.
Ships: All ships except for Celebrity Xpedition, Celebrity Flora
Package Details: Celebrity Cruises moved to an all-inclusive offering in 2020, with its "Always Included" promise which includes classic cocktails, wines by the glass, beer, sodas, specialty coffees and teas, juices and bottled water, as well as Wi-Fi and gratuities). There is also an option to upgrade to "Elevate" which includes premium drinks.
Package Details: Costa Cruises' All-Inclusive Beverages package includes a selection of alcoholic beverages (including beer and wine), soft drinks by the glass and coffee. The cost is 24.99 euros per person, per day, including service charges, and is available to adults 18+. A youth version of the package (for ages 4 to 17 years -- see the fine print) costs 15.99 euros per day, including service charges, and includes soft drinks by the glass. It must be booked in combination with the All-Inclusive adult package.
Fine Print: Mini-bar products and premium brands are excluded from the package. All passengers, even kids (ages 4 and up), traveling together with the same booking number or who choose to dine together, must purchase the package.
Package Details: Cunard offers a soft drinks package, including Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, lemonade, soda water, tonic water (from the soda gun only) and fruit juices (orange, apple, grapefruit, pineapple, tomato and cranberry) for $10 per person per day, which can be purchased onboard. The line’s Speciality Hot Drinks package is also $10 per person per day and includes Godiva hot chocolate on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, speciality teas and Illy coffee. The $29 per person per day Non-Alcoholic Option includes extras such as non-alcoholic cocktails, plus all that is included in the soft drinks and hot drinks packages and a 20 percent discount bottled water, smoothies and mini bar drinks.
The line’s Beers, Wines, & Spirits Option is $69 per person per day and includes drinks up to value of $12, including draught beer, and wine (served in 150ml measures), spirits and liqueurs (served in 1oz measures) and cocktails by the glass. This package also includes all beverages available in the Premium Non-Alcoholic package.
Passengers can also choose from the line’s two sommelier-selected Wine Collections -- Commodore’s Collection and Captain’s Collection -- to create a tailormade selection of six or 12 bottles, from $299.
Fine Print: Up to 15 alcoholic drinks can be ordered per day, excluding room service and mini-bar beverages. Packages can be purchased on sailings of five nights or more and they can be used in all restaurants, bars and cafes onboard. Packages should also be purchased in the first two days of sailing. Included in the package terms, passengers are only allowed to order one drink at a time, with a minimum of 10 minutes between orders. A 15 percent gratuity charge is also included. Drinks packages should be purchased during the first two days of the cruise.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Package Details: Providing passengers book their all-inclusive package in advance, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines' offering is £10 per person per night, which jumps to £20 per person per night if it's booked while onboard. On Fred's Festive, Specialty and Mini-Cruise sailings, the all-inclusive package increases to £29 per person per night if booked in advance or £39 per person per night if booked while onboard.
The package includes selected branded beers in cans or on draught; house red and house white wines by the glass; house spirits including white rum, gin, vodka, whisky and brandy; and soft drinks by the glass, including Pepsi, lemonade, tonic water, juices and mineral and spring water in the bars. In the restaurants and buffet areas, all-inclusive passengers are offered a selection of soft drinks, mineral and spring water and juices by the glass; selected red and white house wines by the glass; selected branded canned beer and regular tea and coffee.
All-inclusive passengers also get premium drinks and cocktails at half price, although this excludes sparkling wine and champagne.
Fine Print: To qualify for the reduced price packages, passengers must book at least seven days in advance of their sailing. Gratuities are not added to drinks. Packages exclude Bookmark Cafe beverages, such as specialty coffees, mini bar drinks and drinks ordered from room service (other than those listed in the room). Drinks inclusive packages must be purchased for the full duration of the cruise, by all guests sharing a room. Packages are not available on cruises over 35 nights.
Holland America Line
Package Details: For $44.95 per day, Holland America's Signature Beverage package allows cruisers to indulge in up to 15 beverages a day -- choosing from a variety of wine, beer, spirits, cocktails (including non-alcoholic), sodas and coffee for an entire sailing. Each drink must cost less than $8. If one passenger in a cabin opts for the package, anyone who is 21-plus years old in the same cabin is required to purchase it as well. Items from the mini-bar, in-room dining and beverages on Half Moon Cay are excluded from the package.
Fine Print: An additional 15-percent service charge is not included in the base price.
Ships: All ships sailing in the Mediterranean and Caribbean
Package Details: MSC Cruises offers four beverage packages, including one for kids:
Easy: This includes unlimited drinks up to six euros: Draught beer (Heineken); Selection of house wines by the glass; Selection of spirits and cocktails; Aperitifs; Alcohol-free cocktails; Soft drinks and fruit juices by the glass; Energy drinks; Bottled mineral water (1L/50 cl); Classic hot drinks (espresso, cappuccino, caffe latte, hot tea) and coffee and chocolate delights (hot and cold).
Premium There are two premium packages -- Premium and Premium Plus. Premium includes everything in the Easy package and unlimited consumption of drinks up to 10 euros as well as draught and bottled beers; a wider selection of wines by the glass (sparkling, white-red-rosè); a wider selection of cocktails; all aperitifs (bitters and liqueurs); all Standard and Premium spirits; Fresh fruit & vegetables cocktails and premium mineral water (75cl).
Premium Plus includes unlimited consumption of drinks with no price limit, everything in the Premium package and: all wines and champagne by the glas; Connoisseurs' selection of spirits; all cocktails and Champagne cocktails; Minibar; Drinks and Food from room service menu; Drinks from theme bar menus; 30 percent discount on bottles of wine and champagne from MSC's wine lists.
Non-alcoholic: Includes Alcohol-free cocktails; sodas; Energy drinks; Flavoured water; Fruit juices; Bottled and Premium mineral water (1L/50cl/75cl); Classic hot drinks (espresso, cappuccino, caffe latte, hot tea); Coffee and chocolate delights (hot and cold); Soft ice cream.
Non-alcoholic child: Same as above, but at a reduced price.
Fine Print: If one person in a cabin purchases a package, all others in the cabin must purchase a package. If 21 or older (18 or older on cruises not departing from the United States), an alcohol package must be purchased; for passengers younger than 21 (younger than 18 on non-U.S.-based sailings), the equivalent children's package must be purchased. Packages must be purchased for the entire duration of each voyage. Advance package purchases must be completed no later than seven days prior to sailing; packages can also be purchased onboard on the first and second days of each voyage. There is no per-day limit to the number of drinks a package-holder can order.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Editor's note: Drinks are included in the "Premium All-Inclusive" offer on all ships sailing in Europe
Ships: All ships except for Pride of America. Norwegian Sky includes a free Ultimate Beverage Package for all passengers.
Package Details: Norwegian has three beverage packages, available on all ships: The "Corks and Caps Package" costs $65 per person, per day, (plus a 20-percent gratuity) and includes a selection of fountain soda and juices, beer and wines by the glass ($15 or less). Open Bar (formerly known as the "Ultimate Beverage Package") costs $99 per person, per day, (plus a 20-percent gratuity) and includes everything in the "Corks and Caps Package" plus liquor and cocktails (all drinks $15 or less). Premium Plus costs $128 per person per day (plus 20 percent service charge) and includes the widest selection of beverages by the glass, such as Veuve Clicquot, Patrón Añejo, The Macallan Quest as well as unlimited soft drinks, beers, spirits, cocktails, wines by the glass and select bottles of wine with dinner, plus, still and sparkling water, energy drinks, and speciality coffee. You can use your beverage package at all onboard bars, lounges and restaurants, and on the line's private island.
Fine Print: The Open Bar package is only available for purchase ahead of time on sailings of five days or more, and for purchase onboard for sailings of three or four days; the package is not available for sailings of two days or less. A 20-percent gratuity is added to your package price. Only one drink is allowed per passenger per order. All passengers sharing a cabin or using the same payment method (i.e., kids you stuck in the inside cabin across the hall) must purchase the beverage package. For kids two and up, that means buying the soda package instead. The package does not include room service, buckets of beer, super and ultra premium brands, wine or liquor by the bottle, mini-bar purchases, freshly squeezed juice, canned soda or energy drinks, specialty coffee or bottled water. Passengers looking to purchase this package onboard during the dates of March 1 through April 15 will only be able to purchase on embarkation day.
Package Details: Oceania Cruises offers two all-inclusive beverage package options. House Select, which costs $39.95 per person, per day, includes unlimited Champagne, house wine and beer with dinner and lunch. (Interestingly, it's available when ordering room service, but it does not cover mini-bar drinks.) The second package, Prestige Select, is pricier -- $59.95 per person, per day -- and includes beer and premium house wine (from a selection of red and white vintages that change daily), most beverages on the bar menu and room service beverages during regular operating bar hours. Mini-bar selections are not included. Oceania already includes in cruise fares items like soft drinks, bottled water and specialty coffees.
Fine Print: Package prices include gratuities and can be pre-booked online or through a reservations representative. They can also be purchased onboard at any time during the cruise (with prices prorated for days remaining). You can upgrade from Package A to B during the voyage, but you can't downgrade. Refunds aren't allowed.
Package Details: P&O Cruises has four different drinks packages (prices are per day):
The "Ultimate Drinks Package" costs £39.95 and includes a large choice of beers, spirits, cocktails, liqueurs and wines by the glass. Bottled water; draught soft drinks; long life juices; Costa Coffee; teas; hot chocolates and non-alcoholic cocktails are also part of the offer. Items exceeding £6.95, such as bottles of wine are excluded but benefit from a 20 percent discount.
A non-alcoholic drinks package, priced at £19.95 per person per day, includes an unlimited array of non-alcoholic drinks is included with a choice of bottled water; draught soft drinks; long life juices; Costa coffees; teas; hot chocolates and non-alcoholic cocktails.
Hot drinks packages are available for £10.95 a day which entitle passengers to unlimited Costa coffees, hot chocolate and teapigs teas.
Children’s drinks package, includes draught soft drinks (Pepsi, lemonade, tonic and soda); selected long life juices; hot chocolate and fruit squash/cordial by the glass. The children’s package costs £7.95 per day and is available to any child aged 16 and under.
Fine Print: Passengers taking a cruise of five nights or more will be able to purchase the packages, which can be used in all restaurants, bars and cafes onboard. The Children's Package is included for those who are travelling in the same cabin as adults purchasing the ‘Ultimate Drinks Package’.
Ships: UK-based ships
Package Details: Princess Cruises' Premier Beverage Package costs $59.99 per person, per day, plus an 18 percent gratuity, and includes all cocktails, spirits, beer and glasses of wine, valued at up to $12. Bottled water, juice, fountain soda, energy drinks, specialty coffee and tea, smoothies and milkshakes are also included. Each purchaser of the package also receives a 25 percent discount on all bottled wine.
But you would be better off purchasing "Princess Plus" for £35 per person per day, which includes the Premier Drinks Package and Wi-Fi and gratuities (this must be purchased before the cruise).
Additionally, Princess offers beer packages, by brand, which include five bottles for the price of four: Dos Equis ($25.30), Heineken ($25.30), Budweiser ($28.75) and Bud Light ($26.45). The price includes the service charge. Beer packages are not available on voyages when itineraries begin/end in Australia or New Zealand.
Fine Print: Princess cruisers may purchase the package on three-night or longer cruises (seven nights for Australian itineraries). The packages are available on an individual basis, meaning passengers traveling in the same stateroom do not have to purchase it if one person does. Package must be purchased for the entire cruise duration; prorated/partial packages are not available.
For advance bookings, the window closes three days ahead of the sailing; once onboard, it is only available on embarkation day and is nonrefundable. Only one drink may be ordered at a time and a limit of 15 alcoholic beverages per person, per day, applies to the Premier Beverage Package.
Ships: All ships with three-night or longer itineraries offer the all-inclusive packages.
Package Details: Royal Caribbean has three alcohol-inclusive beverage packages on offer. The Select Beverage Package costs $39 per passenger, per day and features beer, wine by the glass (up to an $8 value for Caribbean and Alaska sailings and up to a $9 value for Europe, South America and Australia sailings), fountain sodas with a souvenir Coca-Cola cup and a 20-percent discount on wine bottle purchases. The Premium Package, at $49 per person, per day, includes house and premium cocktails (up to $12 value), frozen cocktails, beers, premium wine by the glass (up to $12 value), non-alcoholic cocktails, bottled still water, fountain sodas with a souvenir Coca-Cola cup and a 20-percent discount on wine bottle purchases. The $59 per person, per day Ultimate Package includes premium coffee and tea, bottled still and sparkling water, fresh-squeezed orange juice, house and premium cocktails (up to $12 value), frozen cocktails, beers, premium wine by the glass (up to $12 value), non-alcoholic cocktails, fountain sodas with a souvenir Coca-Cola cup and a 20-percent discount on wine bottle purchases.
All prices include an 18-percent gratuity.
Fine Print: The drinks packages are available on all three-night or longer sailings and must be purchased a minimum of four days before the cruise ends. Only passengers who intend to use a package need to buy it. Package users may only order one item at a time for individual consumption. There is no daily limit on how many items a person may order.
Ships: Spirit of Discovery, Spirit of Adventure
Package Details: Saga Cruises are all-inclusive.
Fine Print: All gratuities are included in the price of a Saga Holidays' cruise, including drinks purchases.
Package Details: Windstar's package is only sold by the cabin and costs $116 per cabin, per day, plus a 15-percent gratuity. The price includes taxes. The package entitles passengers to unlimited cocktails (including some top-shelf brands), regular and sparkling wines by the glass (priced at $12 or less), beer, mini-bar selections and room service drink orders. (Windstar includes non-alcoholic beverages, such as coffee drinks and soda, for everyone in its cruise fares.) Bottles of wine and Champagne are not included.
Fine Print: The package is valid for all passengers sharing a cabin or suite. It must be purchased in advance or on the first day of the cruise, for the entire length of the sailing. Package holders are entitled to purchase certain ultra-premium liquor brands for $1.15 per cocktail.
Are drink packages a good addition to cruising or a bad one? Cruise Critic readers -- not surprisingly -- have a wide range of opinions on the subject. Proponents are all about the value proposition these packages offer, especially for people who buy a lot of beverages onboard. Says Docalbe, "I try to cruise once a year and bar tab is always over $1,500. $50 is ok with me ($450).... Not that I'm a lush...." And disan points out that "the main thing is it just makes the experience a little more mindless and isn't that what a cruise is all about? More fun and less to think about."
Opponents either don't see the value or worry about the consequences of unlimited booze. Judi Stein O'Brien posted this Facebook comment: "I can't see how that's worth it...we must be cheap drunks! This past cruise we drank and partied pretty hard, rented a tux, paid for a specialty restaurant for 2, various small souvenirs, internet, etc., and our total bill for 2 people for 7 days was less than what this package would cost us." Others take a more extreme view, like Fred Couch, who says on Facebook, "Some people will drink themselves silly just to get their money's worth. Just a terrible idea."
Reader Paula Winchester rebuts that argument. "Those of you saying it would cause too many drunks? Really? Those people are already drinking on the ship with or without the package."
Still others are on the fence, acknowledging that whether the packages are a good deal have much to do with your ordering habits and the cruise itself. Kathy says, "I do like the idea…and yes on days at sea a great idea…but on port days…could be a waste. I would definitely do this if it could be done on a day by day basis." Member chillyw concurs, "There's just no way I'm going to drink 8-9 drinks EVERY DAY." (Unfortunately for them, a daily package isn't on offer. Yet.)
And several readers have had some enlightening comments about how to get the most out of the packages.
"Not only did we get our money's worth and more, there were other perks that we didn't anticipate," posts boyerd about Celebrity's package. "Aside from no slips to sign etc., often around the pool when a frozen drink started melting the staff would ask if they could just make a new one. We tried many different types of drinks esp. martinis that we might not have bought otherwise. If we tried a new drink and didn't like it, it was replaced with another drink of our choice without question…. We told our assistant waiter the first night about the specialty coffee and we had it served with our dessert every night...no hassles. It really added to the vacation atmosphere that we enjoy!"
Cadburysmom had a strategic plan for her Celebrity drinks package. "I waited until halfway through my Eclipse Baltic cruise to get the package," she reveals. "More sea days towards the end and the Solstice-class ships offer a much more interesting variety to taste with the Martini and Molecular bars as well as the coffee/tea bar."