How to Decide if Cruise Drink Packages Are Worth the Money

Jennifer MeyerTravel Tips2 Comments

Drink by the Water - Caribbean

Welcome to Chapter #4 of The Complete Guide to Cruises!

If you have already booked a cruise, I’m sure that you were made well aware of the drink package that most cruises offer. Even on the off chance you weren’t told about it, you will definitely get the sales pitch when you board the ship. That’s just how it goes.

Now, drink packages can be incredibly expensive, and depending how much you spent on your boarding pass and room, you may not be inclined to drop such a large some of money…especially on drinks. Still, you have nagging questions in the back of your mind: what if it’s a better deal? What if not purchasing it is a mistake?

So today, we are going to discuss whether or not you should purchase the drink package.

We are going to look at the drink packages offered on 3 major cruise lines to help you discover if a drink package is right for you!

Guide Contents:

Chapter #1: Introduction

Chapter #2: How to Pick the Perfect Cruise

Chapter #3: Best Money-Saving Deals on Cruises

Chapter #4: Are Beverage Packages Worth the Money?

Chapter #5: Perfect Packing List for Your Cruise

Chapter #6: 5 Mistakes to Avoid Making on Your Cruise

What Is a Drink Package?

A drink package is when you pay a daily rate for an “unlimited” amount of drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). You can purchase drink passes for only non-alcoholic beverages, but for those of us 21 years of age and older, that may not be the most economical choice.

Above, I put the word unlimited in quotations because one of the cruises we’ll talk about today puts a limit on the number of alcoholic drink they can serve you in a single day. It could be for your safety or it could be to keep them from losing money. However, responsible bartenders will eventually cut you off if they deem it necessary. Either way, a limit sometimes does exist, which we’ll talk about more later.

Drink packages can be a fantastic investment if you plan on drinking a lot of beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic).

Please do keep in mind that when you purchase a drink package, you have to pay for every single day that you’re on the cruise.

When I was on my Royal Caribbean cruise just last month, had we wanted the drink package, we would have had to pay for the day we boarded through the day we got off. The problem with paying for the day you get off is that you don’t have a lot of opportunity to use your pass.

Still, depending on how heavily you plan on drinking during your cruise, the drink package might be worth it. For my family on our most recent cruise, it wasn’t worth it.

So, let’s go ahead an break everything down.

Let’s see how much you would have to drink to make the package worth it for you.

Carnival Cruise Line

Cost

Carnival Cruises charges $51.95 per day (plus 15% gratuity) for drink packages if you purchase them in advanced. Please note that this price may vary.

If you take a 3-day cruise (you will most likely be charged for the departure day as well, meaning you will pay for 4 days), it will cost you $238.97 without any applicable taxes but including the 15% gratuity.

This is a good chunk of change for sure…

Drink prices on board vary. According to Carnival, beers are about $5-$8 and cocktails are about $8-$13. (You can see Carnival’s exact drink prices here.)

Getting Your Money’s Worth

So if you drink the most expensive beer on the ship, you would have to drink about 30 beers during your entire trip to break even. This means you would have to drink about 10 beers per day (over 3 days), which might not be too difficult depending on how early you start and your usual drinking habits.

Now, if you are more into mixed drinks and you order a $12 mixed drink every time (which is ridiculously easy to do), you would need to drink about 20 to break even. This means that you would need to drink about 6-7 per day (over 3 days) in order to break even.

Of course none of this sounds too difficult right now. It actually probably sounds amazing.

Remember that, unless you’re planning on staying on the boat for the entire cruise, you’re going to be on excursions or on your own exploring exciting destinations.

The short of it is that you cannot use your drink packages off the boat. Not even on the semi-private island that your Carnival Cruise might take you to (Half Moon Cay and Princess Cay). Just so you know, I call these two islands semi-private because they aren’t inhabited, but Carnival uses them along with at least one other cruise line.

Keep in mind, you only break even after drinking 30 beers or 20 mixed drinks.

Fortunately, the drink package allows you to drink sodas, energy drinks, smoothies, and bottled water for free as well, which helps a bit.

Fine Print

I have compiled a list of the most pertinent fine print, which was retrieved from directly from Carnival’s website; you can read all of the fine print here.

  • There is no sharing drinks ordered with a drink package.
  • You cannot use your drink package to order drinks for anyone else.
  • You may only order one drink at a time.
  • Between drinks, there is a 5 minute waiting period, meaning that when you order a drink, you must wait at least 5 minutes before ordering another.
  • Some additional taxes may apply when purchasing drinks in US waters.
  • If one person in a stateroom purchases a drink package, anyone else in the same room who is 21 needs to purchase one as well.
  • Guests will only be served 15 alcoholic drinks in a 24 hour period.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Cost

Norwegian charges $89 (plus 20% gratuity) per day per person for drink packages, if you purchase them in advance. Please note that this price may vary.

This package covers drinks up to $15.

For a 3-day cruise, you will spend $427.20, which includes the 20% gratuity but no taxes. The number is so high because, like before, you will most likely be charged for the departure day as well, which means you will have to pay $89 for 4 days instead of 3.

Getting Your Money’s Worth

Okay, let’s get down to business.

If you only purchase the most expensive drinks you can ($15), you would need to drink a total of about 28 drinks to get your moneys worth.

Which means you would have to drink 9-10 drinks per day (over 3 days) in order to break even.

Now, if you only spend about $12 on each drink, you would need to drink about 36 drinks to break even.

This means that you would need to drink 12 drinks per day (over 3 days).

That’s a lot of drinks!

However, like the other drink packages discussed today, it includes more than just alcohol. You can order most any other drink as long as it’s under $15 (some exclusions may apply).

Don’t forget that you cannot use your drink packages while you’re off the ship (unless you in Great Stirrup Cay, in which case your drink package will work)!

Fine Print

I pulled the most important details from the fine print; if you’d like, you can read the entire document here.

  • You are not allowed to share package beverages with others.
  • You cannot purchase drinks with your package for others.
  • You may order no more than 2 drinks at a time.
  • If you order a drink over $15, it will be discounted $15. The guest will be charged the difference.
  • If one person in a stateroom purchases a drink package, anyone else in the same room who is 21 needs to purchase one as well.

It looks as though some features of the drink package could be available to guest for free on some Norwegian cruises. Before you make any purchases, you should contact Norwegian to make sure you know what is included in the price of your cruise. If you want to read the terms surrounding this, you can find them here.

Royal Caribbean

Cost

Royal Caribbean is not as forth-coming with the price of their beverage packages. I would actually need to have a cruise booked in order to get the exact price.

Fortunately, I was just on one, and I remember that it cost about $54 per day plus 15% gratuity. Please note that the price may vary.

So, for a 3 day cruise, it would cost you about $248.40 for your entire cruise (without any taxes). Royal Caribbean definitely charges you for your departure day, which is why the total cost of the drink package looks so high.

Getting Your Money’s Worth

Beer costs about $8 per bottle and mixed drinks cost between $8-$12. You could order more expensive drinks if you asked for top shelf liquor, but even the decent liquor was typically no more than $12 per drink.

So, if you were to drink only beer, you would need to drink about 31 beers in order to break even.

This means you would have to drink 10-11 beers per day (over 3 days).

If you’re more into $12 mixed drinks, you would need to drink about 21 drinks in order to break even.

So, you would need to drink about 7 mixed drinks per day (over 3 days).

The best part about Royal Caribbean’s drink package is that you can use it on their private island, CocoCay, and on their private beach, Labadee!

This means that you can order as many Coco Locos as you want, and trust me, you’ll want a bunch of them. The Coco Loco was the best drink I had on my vacation!

This beverage package does include coffee, bottled water, fountain sodas, a souvenir Coke-a-cola cup, and more. So, you don’t have to drink alcohol all the time.

Just remember that whatever time you spend on an island (except CocoCay and Labadee in this case) is time that you won’t be able to use your drink package!

Fine Print

Royal Caribbean doesn’t have a page devoted to the terms and conditions of their

  • Package covers drinks $12 and under.
  • If you purchase a drink over $12, a $12 discount will be applied.
  • If one person purchases a drink package, the any other people in the stateroom (21 or older) must also purchase one.

Conclusion

Before you make a decision, I need to ask you a couple of questions.

1. Do you really want to feel obligated to drink alcoholic beverages in order to get your money’s worth?

If you spend upwards of $200 on a drink package, you’re likely going to feel obligated to drink even when you may not want to.

You’ll desperately be trying to get every drink you paid for and then some!

2. How intoxicated do you actually want to be on your cruise?

If you keep drinking just to get your money’s worth, you might end up having a little too much.

You are going to be seeing new places and having fun new experiences. Do you really want to be hungover?

On my cruise, I saw a lot of drunk 20-somethings. They may have gotten on the ship to get totally plastered in one long party, which is fine if that’s what they want to do. However, personally, I wanted to remember the entirety of my cruise. But, again, that’s my personal choice.

If you think that you will probably end up drinking at least as many beverages as it would take you to break even on the package without feeling terrible (unless that’s your goal, of course), you should definitely get the drink package.

If you answered no…

If you answered no to either of the above question, you might want to consider passing on the drink packages.

You’re supposed to enjoy yourself on vacation, which means you shouldn’t feel obligated to drink and you definitely shouldn’t be hungover!

If you just want a few drinks each day, don’t worry about getting the drink package.

You’ll be better off purchasing them as you want them!

If neither of the questions above deterred you…

I think you have your answer.

If you want to drink all day on your cruise, you should drink all darn day! I’m just saying.

It’s your vacation, it should be everything you want it to be!

Guide Contents:

You should move on to Chapter #5!

Chapter #1: Introduction

Chapter #2: How to Pick the Perfect Cruise

Chapter #3: Best Money-Saving Deals on Cruises

Chapter #4: Are Beverage Packages Worth the Money?

Chapter #5: Perfect Packing List for Your Cruise

Chapter #6: 5 Mistakes to Avoid Making on Your Cruise

Wondering if you should spend the money on a beverage package on your next cruise? I'll walk you through how to determine if it will save you money or cost more in the long run.

I hope that this helped you guys decide if the drink package is right for you!

If you found this post helpful, please share it on Pinterest or your favorite social media site! 🙂

Are you going on a cruise soon? Where will you be stopping? Let me know in the comments below!

If you liked this post, you might also like Everything You Need to Pack for the Perfect Caribbean Cruise!

Until next time,

Jennifer 

2 Comments on “How to Decide if Cruise Drink Packages Are Worth the Money”

  1. Hi Jennifer, Just booked a 7 day cruise through Royal Caribbean for April 2018 The drink package is $42 a day plus 18% gratuity. Did the same cruise two years ago, my wife probably broke even with the drink package. I’m a light drinker so I know it wasn’t worth it for myself, however it is really nice never having to think about seeing a bar bill when the trip is over.

    1. Yeah, absolutely! I actually hadn’t thought about the benefit of not needing to worry about the bill at the end. It would definitely be nice! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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