Many things are included in the price of a cruise holiday:
- Meals and snacks;
- Classes and seminars;
- The use of pools, hot tubs and gym facilities;
- Kids’ clubs
Some cruise lines even include shuttle buses in each port and gratuities (tips). However, one thing which isn’t included, unless you travel with one of the ultra-luxury cruise lines, is drinks.
That said, the majority of cruise lines offer drinks packages and purchasing one of these can upgrade your holiday from ‘full-board’ to ‘all-inclusive’.
Drinks packages usually involve paying a set fee per day, which then entitles you to free drinks throughout your cruise. There are also some packages which give you a set number of drinks, such as six bottles of wine, which gives you a discount on the price of buying them individually.
How much are drinks on cruise ships?
The price of drinks on cruise ships can vary. Some cruise lines pride themselves on offering drinks for the same price as your local pub, which could be around £4 for a pint of beer or glass of wine.
However, other cruise lines can be a bit more expensive, particularly if you get your hands on the cocktail menu! So before you decide on a drinks package, it’s wise to think about how much you might spend on drinks if you didn’t have one.
How much are cruise ship drinks packages?
The cost of a drinks package can vary hugely. For example, the all-inclusive drinks package on-board Fred.Olsen’s fleet of ships costs just £10 per person, per day, which is amazing value.
Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line’s top package costs a whopping $79 per person per day, plus an 18% gratuity.
However, what’s included in these drinks packages can also vary. A drinks package costing £10 per day isn’t going to include £12-a-pop cocktails such as a more expensive one would. To further confuse matters, each cruise line may have several different drinks packages available, with different prices and different inclusions.
What types of drinks packages are available?
So if you’re left wondering what type of drinks packages there are available and which is best for you, here’s a guide to some of the drinks packages you may find on cruise ships.
You won’t find all of these available on your cruise, so it’s best to look up what’s available with the cruise line you choose before you sail. Your Cruise118.com Concierge will be happy to advise you on drinks packages when you call to inquire about booking a cruise, or at any point before you sail. You can reach them on 0808 1234 118 for expert advice.
Some cruises offer a package which includes unlimited premium bottles of water to enjoy on-board, from your mini-bar or to take with you each time you leave the ship.
It’s worth noting that the ship’s water is perfectly safe to drink, and that water fountains will be available, as well as free water with meals.
Soft drinks packages
Great for kids and tee-totallers alike, unlimited soft drinks packages give you access to unlimited fizzy drinks.
On-board Royal Caribbean ships you get a free souvenir cup so that you can serve yourself at the drinks fountains. On other cruise ships, such as P&O Cruises fleet, the soft drinks package covers a set number of refills and gives just a 10% saving versus purchasing soft drinks individually.
A little fancier than a soft-drinks package, refreshment packages also include mocktails, smoothies, freshly squeezed fruit juices and premium coffees and teas as well as the usual fizzy drinks.
Hot drinks packages
Royal Caribbean does a ‘Café Select Coffee Card’ which gives you 15 speciality hot drinks such as premium teas, espresso coffees and hot chocolates. However, standard teas and coffees are free of charge, so this is worth bearing in mind before purchasing.
Wine and beer with lunch and dinner
MSC Cruises do a ‘Cheers package’ which offers unlimited wine, beer and soft drinks during lunch and dinner in the main dining rooms and self-service buffets. If you mainly drink wine or beer with meals, this can be a cheaper way to enjoy a drinks package, but it doesn’t include drinks in any speciality restaurants.
Some cruise lines such as P&O Cruises offer set prices for 6 or 12 bottles of wine. This can give you a saving of 10-20% versus purchasing bottles of wine individually.
Classic beverage packages
This is the most popular choice. What’s included will vary slightly by the cruise line, but in general, you can expect a good range of beers, wines, spirits, cocktails and soft drinks.
Deluxe beverage packages
With these top-of-the-range drinks packages, you can choose from a huge range of drinks, which may include spirits, wines, beers, Champagne, frozen and premium cocktails and energy drinks as well as soft drinks, freshly squeezed fruit juices, teas, coffees and bottled water. Drinks from your mini bar may also be included free of charge, depending on the cruise line.
On-board your ship you’ll find that there are some drinks available which are free of charge, whether you have a drinks package or not. What’s included as complimentary depends on your cruise line.
Water is always available, and you may also enjoy tea, coffee, flavoured water and perhaps fruit juices at breakfast time.
Things to think about before buying a drinks package
So you’re thinking of buying a drinks package with your cruise? Here are some tips to make sure you get your money’s worth.
Limits on the value of individual drinks
There is likely a limit on the price of drinks included in your package. For example, Royal Caribbean’s deluxe package includes drinks up to the value of $12 each. This will cover most drinks, but if you prefer to drink expensive wines or speciality spirits, these may not be included.
Limits on the number of drinks per day
Likewise, there is often a limit on the number of drinks that will be served to each passenger per day to ensure guests drink responsibly.
Bringing your own alcohol on-board
This is sometimes permitted, although the rules vary depending on the cruise line. For example, P&O Cruises allow you to bring 1 litre of alcohol on-board per passenger as well as unlimited soft drinks to drink in your stateroom. This is a great way to enjoy a drink on your balcony without the expense or purchasing drinks.
Drinking your own wine in restaurants
Drinking your own wine is possible when dining on-board, but it is likely subject to hefty corkage fees of around £20 per bottle, which doesn’t make it any cheaper than buying wine on-board.
Purchase drinks packages in advance for the best deals
If you purchase a drinks package on-board, you may pay more than if you buy it online before you set sail. Plus, on some ships, you only have the first day of your cruise in which to purchase it, as drinks packages aren’t available mid-way through the cruise.
Don’t book your drinks package on the day you book your cruise
Here’s a sneaky tip for you… If you book a cruise without a drinks package, you might find that you get an email from your cruise line a few days later offering you a drinks package at a special rate! This isn’t guaranteed, but in our experience, it’s worth waiting a while after you book to see if you’re offered a discounted deal.
Everyone in the cabin must purchase the drinks package
There’s no way you can get away with sharing a drinks package between the two of you, as most cruise lines require that everyone in the cabin must purchase one. So if only one of you drinks alcohol, you’re likely better off without a package. There may be exceptions in certain circumstances, such as if one of the passengers is pregnant, although proof would be needed.
Travelling with kids
Letting your kids drink fizzy pop all day every day on holiday is unhealthy both for their teeth and your bank balance. Some cruisers opt to take on small bottles of highly concentrated cordial on-board, along with a sports bottle. Adding a squirt of this to the tap water makes it both safe to drink and free of charge!
Want to get ship faced? You might find that shots of alcohol are excluded from drinks packages, and in some cases not served at all. After all, it’s in the cruise lines best interests to avoid drunken behaviour on-board.
Check the exchange rate
Your drinks package will be priced in the ship’s currency, which may be pounds, dollars or euros, so it’s worth checking the exchange rate to make sure you’re getting a good price.
Do you have any other tips for cruisers looking to buy a drinks package? Let us know in the comments below.
If you have any questions, you can ask in the comments, or give our Cruise Concierge team a call on 0808 1234 118 for expert advice and award-winning customer service.