Are drink packages really worth it?

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Are you toying with the idea of adding a drinks package to your upcoming cruise? We’re here to tell you: it depends because there are several aspects you’ll need to consider. Fortunately, our parent company, Dreamlines have done the hard work for you, and have calculated whether a drinks package would really make economic sense on the specific cruise you’re travelling on.

Before we kick things off, there are a couple of questions you’ll need to consider:

Do I have to buy a drinks package for every day of the cruise?

Sadly it’s not possible to buy packages for specific sea days as a drinks package can only be purchased for the entire duration of your cruise. If your cruise itinerary is planning a lot of time docked and you’ll be off exploring the wonders ashore, then a drinks package may not be worth investing in. If you return on board at 5 pm, and then you have dinner and then time to enjoy your drinks, you have to account for how much you drink. If you can drink enough during this limited period to reach breakeven, then maybe it’s worth the investment.

Can you share a drinks package?

The same drinks package must be purchased for all travellers in the same cabin. The only exceptions are children under the age of 3 (who don’t need to purchase any package) and passengers between the ages of 3 and 17 years old – who in that case, must acquire the non-alcoholic drink package. With that being said, you need to calculate how many drinks your whole cabin will approximately consume for the duration of the cruise. If you’re travelling with your husband, who, for example, doesn’t drink that much, you’ll not be able to buy an alcoholic package for you and a non-alcoholic for him. In this instance, both passengers would have to purchase the same alcoholic package individually.

I know what you’re thinking – ‘can’t I just share a drinks package with people from another cabin?’ Unfortunately not – this is strictly prohibited and enforced by all cruise lines. Some cruise lines even go so far to limit the amount of drinks orders to two drinks per order only. There goes your round at the bar.

Can I board with my own beverage?

It’s strictly forbidden to board with beverages (on embarkation day or any other day). Not even water is allowed. Exceptions can be made by contacting the cruise line prior to embarkation regarding specific dietary conditions or baby special needs.

However, if you have a special bottle of wine you would like to open to celebrate a special occasion during your trip, most cruise lines do grant an exception. On boarding day, guests may bring onboard up to two bottles of personal wine or champagne per stateroom (maximum 750ml each) in their carry-on luggage. These bottles may be consumed during the cruise, but in case you want to enjoy them in one of the ship restaurants or bars, a cork fee will be applied (which usually costs around US$ 15 per bottle). Otherwise, you can drink them inside your stateroom without fees. Important: this allowance applies to wine and champagne only and cannot be substituted by hard liquor or beer! 

If you’re visiting the amazing rum distilleries in the Caribbean or you can’t miss the opportunity to take home some bottles of Mediterranean wine – don’t worry. You can always buy alcoholic beverages ashore, but once you’ve returned on board, they’ll be stored by the ship and delivered to your stateroom on your last day as these drinks cannot be consumed onboard.

What should I consider when I estimate my own drink consumption?

  • Estimate how many drinks you will probably have during sea days (which tends to be a lot more than land days).
  • Remember you might probably spend some time at the pool, have 2 proper meals, join group activities and take part in entertainment shows – which are always accompanied well with a drink.
  • If you’re visiting private islands like Royal Caribbean’s Coco Cay or MSC’s Ocean Cay, then count them as a sea day, because you will be able to use your drink package on those islands. There are some exceptions though, like Harvest Cay from NCL, where you can NOT use the drink package as if you were on board.
  • The last day of the cruise counts as a “day” for the drinks package, but you’ll disembark early in the morning (usually before 10 am), which makes it unlikely to find time to consume any alcoholic drinks that day!
  • If you’re a wine enthusiast, who is not planning to drink cocktails or liqueur during your cruise, most cruise lines offer wine packages where you can purchase four, five or six wine bottles for the duration of your cruise. The more bottles you purchase, the wines will work out better in value. Wine can be consumed during meals at any restaurant or at any time of the day in the bars. If you don’t finish the full bottle, the waiter will store it and you can order the rest of the bottle at another time. Bottles that have not been open can also be taken home.
  • Please note that the drinks packages only offer wine per glass, not per bottle and are limited to only a few varieties and brands. So if you are a wine drinker, a specific wine package might be a better option for you.  

The pros of booking a drinks package:

  • Drink packages are easy to use: just order your drink, swipe your card and cheers! No signatures, no waiting and no worries.
  • It’s stress-free, you don’t have to debate whether you have money for another drink or not.
  • It also makes checking the bill at the end of the trip really simple, since there aren’t many drink transactions on there for you to check.
  • Paying in advance breaks apart your cruise cost. Don’t forget: you may also have expenses ashore, buy souvenirs, casino bills, speciality restaurants… and nobody wants to end their holiday with a large bill to pay!
  • Some cruise lines, like MSC or Costa, won’t charge you the mandatory service charge of 15% if you book your drink package prior to boarding. If you decide to buy your drinks package onboard, you have to pay a fee.
  • Drinks packages purchased on board must be paid in the ship’s official currency (US Dollar or Euro, depending on the destination). If you buy your package in advance, you can pay in your own currency.

Drink prices per cruise line:

NB: Please be aware that prices reflect the time of writing (18.10.2019)

To calculate the break-even point for the drinks packages, we’ve analysed the prices for each individual drink you’ll find on each cruise line. The prices shown below do not include the mandatory gratuity established by each cruise line, though. Prices may vary per ship, destination, length of the cruise and – most importantly – they are subject to increases each season. Therefore, these prices represent only an estimation of what you can expect on your cruise.

  MSC Costa Royal
Caribbean
NCL
Free
drinks
• Water available in the buffet
• Milk, coffee and juices at breakfast
• Water available in the buffet
• Milk, coffee and juices at breakfast
• Tap water
• Milk
• Regular and decaf coffee
• Tea and Iced Tea
• Flavored waters
• Lemonade
• Juices at breakfast
• Tap water
• Milk, coffee and juices at breakfast
• Iced tea  
Bottle of beer US$ 4.10 – US$ 5.50 US$ 5.00 – US$ 6.50 US$ 6.95 – US$ 7.99 US$ 6.95  
Glass of wine US$ 3.40 – US$ 14.40 US$ 7.00   US$ 9.00 – US$ 25.00 US$ 7.95 – US$ 17.95
Special coffee US$ 6.30 US$ 6.00 US$ 4.25 US$ 9.95
Soft drink US$ 2.70 US$ 3.50 US$ 3.25 US$ 3.45
Bottle of water (500ml) US$ 2.10 US$ 3.00 US$ 2.25 US$ 3.25
Mocktails US$ 5.00 US$ 7.00 – US$ 7.50 US$ 7.00 US$ 8.00
Cocktails US$ 7.10 – US$ 12 US$ 7.50 – US$ 14 US$ 10.00 – US$ 13.00 US$ 10.95 – US$ 13.95
Liquor,
spirits & distilled drinks
US$ 6.10 – US$ 18   US$ 7.50 – US$ 15.50 US$ 7.00 – US$ 9.00 US$ 8.95 – US$ 19.95

MSC Drink Packages

If you haven’t booked the Aurea Experience or an MSC Yacht Club stateroom, you might consider one the of MSC drinks packages. Prices vary according to the departure port, which means you’ll pay for your drinks package in the ship currency. However, if you book it together with your cabin or any time prior to boarding, you will be charged in your own currency without the incurring a service fee.

Drinks packages, as well as every individual drink purchased on board, are all subject to a 15% service fee. This fee does not apply if you buy your package prior to boarding.

Non-alcoholic

Soft drinks, mocktails, bottled water and premium coffees have unlimited consumption with this package, except in the speciality restaurants. You also get access to soft ice cream, which is usually a highlight for children. Prices for this package differ per age, so it gets more expensive if you are over 18 years old, but the drinks included remain the same.

Easy

The most basic alcoholic package offered by MSC. Including 1 brand of beer (Skol, Miller Lite or Heineken, depending on the itinerary), house wines by the glass, soft drinks, bottled water, classic hot drinks (cappuccino, café latte, hot chocolate, etc) and a selection of basic cocktails (Caipirinha, Whisky & Cola, Gin Tonic, etc). You can enjoy these in all bars and dining rooms, except in the speciality restaurants.   

Premium

This package includes premium drinks priced up to US$12, such as cocktails, spirits, liqueurs and aperitifs that are not included in the Easy Package. It also offers a wider range of wines by the glass, all brands of bottled and draft beer, energy drinks and premium coffees. These drinks can also be enjoyed in the speciality restaurants, as well as anywhere else on the ship.

Premium Plus

Allowing access to unlimited fine premium drinks to be consumed everywhere on board, including drinks with prices over US$ 12 and from themed bars. This also includes drinks and food from the minibar and the room service menu. You also get a 30% discount in case you want to buy wine by the bottle. 

  Prices per day (departures from South America) Prices per day (departures from USA) Prices per day (departures from Europe, Emirates and Grand Voyages) Break-even point (it’s worth if you drink a minimum of…)
Non-alcoholic package (3 to 17 years old) R$ 53   US$ 17   14 € The child drinks 7 soft drinks per day
Non-alcoholic package (adult) R$ 80   US$ 29   19 €   2 mocktails, 2 premium coffees and 3 soft drinks per day
Easy R$ 120 US$ 35 29 € 2 basic cocktails, 2 basic beers, 2 soft drinks and 2 glasses of basic wine per day
Premium R$ 179 US$ 62 39 € 2 premium cocktails, 2 premium beers, 2 soft drinks and 2 premium glasses of wine per day
Premium Plus R$ 209 US$ 79 55 € 2 premium cocktails, 2 premium beers, 2 soft drinks, 2 premium glasses of wine plus 1 premium liquor/spirit  from the Connoisseur’s Selection Menu per day

Costa Drinks Packages

Even the most basic drinks package offered by Costa comes complete with a good variety of beverages. They also have a great option for those who intend to spend a lot of time ashore and only want to have unlimited drinks during meals.

Drinks packages, as well as every individual drink purchased onboard, are subject to a 15% service fee. This fee does not apply if the package is purchased before boarding.

Pranzo & Cena

Dedicated to those who want to have unlimited beverages only during meals. Have as many glasses of wine during dinner as you’d like, a cold beer at lunch, as well as soft drinks and bottled water at any restaurant.

Brindiamo

This is the most basic drinks package offered by Costa which includes a wide range of liqueurs, such as gin, rum, vodka, tequila, grappa, whisky, brandy, cognacs and bourbon, as well as aperitifs like Aperol, Campari and Martinis. The selection of cocktails includes gin tonic, whisky cola, vodka tonic, vodka lemon, Bacardi Breezer and Cuba Libre. Cruises in South America offer Brahma and Skol as beer options.

Piú Gusto

If you’re a cocktail lover – this package is for you! Offering a wider range of options: Frozen Margarita, Aperol Spritz, Piña Colada, Daiquiris, Caipirinha, Mai Tai, Bahama Mama and all the classic cocktails you can think of. Regarding other types of drinks, this offer doesn’t differ much from the Brindiamo package.

Interditore

The most complete drinks package, including all premium cocktails, served on the ship including the molecular and solid cocktails. All brands of beer are available, including imported brands like Corona, Estrella Damm, Nastro Azurro, Carlsberg and wheat beers. This package also offers more brands when it comes to liqueurs and aperitifs.  

  Prices per day (South America) Prices per day (Europe) Prices per day (Caribbean and USA)   Break-even point (it’s worth if you drink a minimum of…)
Pranzo & Cena R$ 93.50 € 16.99 US$ 16.99 1 glass of wine at lunch and 2 during dinner each day
Brindiamo R$ 151.50 € 25.50 US$ 25.50 2 beers, 1 basic cocktail, 1 soft drink and 1 glass of basic wine per day
Piu Gusto R$ 168.50 € 28.50 US$ 28.50 3 cocktails per day at US$ 9.50 each per day
Interditore R$ 243.50 € 45.99 US$ 45.99 2 molecular cocktails, 1 premium mixed drink and 2 premium beers per day

Royal Caribbean Drinks Packages

The cost of packages varies according to the class of the ship, destination and date of departure. It’s not possible to buy a drink package in conjunction with making your cabin booking – which can only be added afterwards when you manage your booking. This means that the exact price of your sailing can only be determined post-booking.

A service charge of 18% will also be added to your drink package (whether you book it in advance or on board) that will cover gratuity on all drinks ordered with the drink package. 

Classic Soda Package

Each person receives a Coca-Cola souvenir cup and can use it to refill their cup at any venue around the ship. Including all Coca-Cola soda brands, unlimited. This package is available for passengers of all ages.

Refreshment Package

Includes all non-alcoholic beverages around the ship:

  • All benefits included in the Classic Soda Package
  • Non-alcoholic cocktails (mocktails)
  • Bottled still and sparkling water
  • Premium coffees and teas
  • Fresh-squeezed juices

This package is available for passengers of all ages.

Deluxe Beverage Package

  • All drinks from the Refreshment Package
  • Vodka, Rum, Gin, Tequila/Mezcal, Whiskey, Bourbon, Cognac
  • Domestic, imported and craft beers
  • Wines by glass (most iconic varietals)

The package excludes super-premium category cocktails over US$ 12. Receive a 40% discount on bottled wines up to $100, and a 20% discount is applied to wines priced $100 and above. This package can be booked by passengers aged 18 or older (or 21 years old on cruises departing from North America).

  Prices per day (varies per ship/itinerary) Break-even point (it’s worth if you drink a minimum of…)
Classic Soda US$12.99 – US$15.00 4 – 5 soft drinks per day
Refreshment US$29.00 – US$38.00 4 – 5 soft drinks plus 2 – 3 mocktails per day
Deluxe US$63.00 – US$89.00 3 – 4 premium cocktails, 2 – 3 glasses of wine and 1 beer per day

NCL Drink Packages

Norwegian Cruise Line has one of the highest-priced drinks packages in the cruise industry. But they also have the ‘Free at Sea’ offer for most of their sails. This basically allows you to pick perks for your cruise, one of them being the Premium Beverage Package. If you choose this package as part of the Free at Sea offer, you are still subject to a 20% gratuity charge – so that’s also something to consider.

Prices for the NCL packages don’t vary according to ship or destination, except for the Pride of America that sails exclusively in Hawaii – this has its own package.

Soda package

Free refill for all sodas from the Pepsi brand. Prices for this package are slightly cheaper for children under 12 years old. 

Corks and Caps

A great package for those who don’t usually drink cocktails or liqueurs but couldn’t imagine a cruise without beer and wine. This special package includes all bottled and draft beers on board, as well as all wines by the glass up to US$ 15. It also guarantees a discount of 20% on bottles of wine purchased on board.

Premium Beverage Package

With such an expensive price for the most basic package, it’s natural that it covers a huge variety of beverages, that includes all drinks up to US$ 15. In case you want to have drinks above that price, you only have to pay the difference.  

  • 18 brands of bottled beers and ciders, including 4 brands on draft
  • 33 brands of whiskey, brandy and other spirits
  • 16 brands of rum
  • 24 brands of liqueurs, including Frangelico, Jägermeister, Kahlua, Cointreau, Licor 43 and Campari   
  • 16 brands of gin and vodka, including Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, Grey Goose, Tanqueray and Absolut
  • Over 20 wines by the glass
  • Hundreds of cocktails up to US$ 15
  • Sodas, tonics and juices

Premium Plus Beverage Package

Including all beverages by the glass. The biggest advantage of the Premium Plus is not usually offered by other cruise lines drink package: you have 18 wine options to drink by the bottle during dinner. Plus, a discount of 40% in all wine tastings and wine bottles purchased on board. Unless you value the experience of drinking wine by the bottle, the cheaper package should cover almost everything you might want to drink during your trip, though.  

Hawaii Beverage Package

Because of specific state laws in Hawaii, the range of brands offered in this package is different and slightly smaller than the ones covered by the Premium Beverage Package. But the premise is still pretty much the same, as it includes all drinks up to US$ 15.

  Prices per day (available for all destinations except Hawaii) Break-even point (it’s worth if you drink a minimum of…)
Non-alcoholic (child) US$ 5.95 2 soft drinks per day
Non-alcoholic (adult) US$ 7.95 3 soft drinks per day
Corks and Caps Wine and Beer Package US$ 65 4 glasses of premium wine at US$ 15 plus 1 bottle of beer per day
Premium Beverage Package US$ 99 3 premium cocktails, 3 glasses of premium wine and 2 bottles of beer per day
Premium Plus Beverage Package US$ 128 5 premium cocktails or liquor, 2 bottles of beer and 1 bottle of wine per day
     
Hawaii Beverage Package (Pride of America only) US$ 99 3 premium cocktails, 3 glasses of premium wine and 2 bottles of beer per day

To conclude…

So there you have it; the full list of what to expect on the most popular cruise lines when it comes to drinks packages. The value of these add ons all come down to how often, how much and what you drink. Only you can realistically decide if they’re worth the investment.

If you have any enquires or would like to book a cruise today, please give us a call on 0808 115 6963 to speak to one of our friendly salespeople! 

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About Author

Darcy Alexander

Darcy is a writer and blogger, with a passion for travel. When she's not exploring somewhere new, or writing about her experiences, you'll most likely find her on the field-hockey pitch, or indulging in a good book!

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