“Should I get the beverage package?”
I see this question asked in cruise-related Facebook groups all. the. time. Cruise beverage packages cause so much confusion among passengers, and it’s easy to understand why. We all want to get the most bang for our vacation buck, especially those of us who are on a budget. So if we can save money by grabbing an all-inclusive drink deal, we should totally do it, right?
Thing is, you might not save money with a beverage package. There’s really no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Which is frustrating, I know.
So I’m going to try to walk you through the decision-making process so you can determine whether the unlimited drink package is right for you.
You’ll just have to answer a few questions.
How Much Do Cruise Beverage Packages Cost?
The first thing you’ll need to consider is the cost of the unlimited beverage package on your particular sailing. This varies from cruise line to cruise line, and even from ship to ship. You might even be able to score discounts on special sale days; Black Friday is always a good time to check on the price of the beverage package for your sailing.
In general, you will pay a fixed amount per day for the privilege of indulging in as many drinks as you want for the duration of the cruise.
Packages labeled “deluxe” or “premium” will often include wine, beer, cocktails, soft drinks, bottled water, and specialty coffee drinks.
If you don’t drink alcohol, you’ll likely have an option to purchase a package that includes unlimited soft drinks, bottled water, specialty coffee drinks, or some combination of them. Check on your cruise line’s website for the options available on your specific sailing.
How Much Do Drinks Cost on Your Cruise Ship?
Once you’ve figured out the daily cost for a beverage package, it’s time to find out how much drinks will cost on your cruise. This will probably take a little detective work. If you have access to bar menus on your cruise line’s app, you should be able to load that up and look around at how much drinks cost there.
Since I just sailed on Royal Caribbean, I’m familiar with their drink menu. So here’s a ballpark figure of what you can expect to pay for different kinds of drinks (all prices are in U.S. dollars):
- Cocktails: $13
- Wine (by the glass): $8 – $14
- Beer or Hard Seltzer: $8
- Latte: $5
- Soft Drink: $4
- Bottled Water: $3
You can generally expect to pay more or less the same amount on other cruise lines. (The exception is Virgin Voyages, who have a lower per-beverage cost but don’t offer unlimited drink packages.)
The important thing to note is there are many beverages available on the ship that are included with your cruise fare. So it isn’t necessary to spend a single extra dime on beverages if you don’t want to.
Generally, included drinks are:
- Drip coffee
- Unsweetened iced tea
- Orange juice and apple juice
- Water (not bottled, but highly filtered)
How Much Do You Plan to Drink on Your Cruise?
So, now’s the big question: How much are you planning on drinking? Be honest with yourself. Ask questions like:
- Are you going to have a glass or two of wine with dinner every night?
- Is your morning chai latte non-negotiable?
- Do you plan on laying by the pool with a Goombay Smash in your hand all day?
Take a moment to think about what your ideal cruise day will look like, and what kinds of drinks will be involved. Maybe even make a sample schedule.
Keep in mind there will be days where you’ll be spending a lot of time off the ship, exploring the port. In which case, you won’t be able to take full advantage of your beverage package.
Should You Get the Cruise Beverage Package?
Okay, those were a lot of questions. But now you’re armed with the information you need to make the right decision. And that decision will involve a little math:
- Add up the cost of your estimated daily drinks.
- If it’s greater than the daily cost of the beverage package, then buy it.
- If it’s less than the daily cost of the beverage package, don’t buy it.
Not mathematically inclined? Not a problem. The cruise blog Cruise Spotlight has this handy-dandy drink package calculator. It’s not perfect because it doesn’t let you customize your actual drink package cost or the prices of each individual drink, so it’s always better to do these calculations yourself. But it’s certainly better than guessing blindly and wasting your money.
As for me? I’ve cruised once with a beverage package and found it wasn’t worth it for me. Worse, I found myself trying to drink more than I wanted (or needed) simply to “get my money’s worth,” which is unhealthy for a number of reasons. Since then, I buy my drinks as I go.
Cruise Beverage Packages: Yay or Nay?
What do you think: Are cruise beverage packages the right move for you? Or are you an à la carte drinker like me? Let me know in the comments below.