When Is the Best Time to Buy a Royal Caribbean Drink Package?

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A cruise vacation is an opportunity to unwind, relax, and indulge. With that said, cruises can get fairly pricey if you don’t know how to get the best deal. Knowing when to book your trip and how to save money while you are on board can greatly reduce your overall cost. 

We will take an in-depth look at one of the most frequently purchased packaged deals on Royal Caribbean cruise ships – drink packages. Drink packages help passengers maximize their onboard experience while simultaneously staying within their vacation budget. 

To help you, we’ll dive into the intricacies of Royal Caribbean drink packages, offering insights into the different types of packages that are available, when to purchase them to get the best deal, and how they can be such a savvy financial choice for cruisers who are planning to indulge. 

Now that’s something worth raising a glass to!

The Best Time to Buy a Royal Caribbean Drink Package 

Before we jump into the different drink packages Royal Caribbean offers, let’s determine when you can land the lowest prices. While it may surprise you, the best time to buy a Royal Caribbean drink package is right now. 

This is due to the simple fact that you can cancel any package without penalty and repurchase it if the price goes down. While it’s true that Royal Caribbean offers sales and discounts throughout the year, these offers are never guaranteed. If a blowout deal is announced, just cancel your current package, then buy one offered through the sale. 

Essentially, as long as you have purchased your drink package before boarding the ship, you will almost certainly end up saving money. Just keep an eye on price drops leading up to your cruise; this way, you can guarantee that you have got the best deal possible.

Sales on Drink Packages 

With Royal Caribbean, drink packages tend to go on temporary sale through the Cruise Planner portal every few weeks. This is why it is so important to keep an eye on prices in the buildup to your trip.

Typically, discounts amount to 10, 20, or 30% off the regular price of the package, with particularly good sales emerging close to major shopping weekends, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

Drinks Bar on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship
Drinks Bar on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Jeff Whyte / Shutterstock)

Different Drink Packages Available on Royal Caribbean Cruises

Like other cruise lines, Royal Caribbean offers several drink packages tailored to various preferences and budgets. Some packages cover non-alcoholic drinks alone and packages that include alcoholic beverages. 

When you purchase one of their three drink packages, you get the benefits at every single restaurant and bar while you are on board the ship. The only exception is that some licensed Starbucks stands do not recognize drink packages; however, some restaurants serve Starbucks coffee, which would be covered by your drinks package. 

The three main drinks packages Royal Caribbean offers are as follows: 

Drinks & Items IncludedClassic Soda Package ($12.99 per person per day)Refreshment Package ($38.00 per person per day)Deluxe Beverage Package ($56 to $105 per person per day)
Coca-Cola Freestyle BeveragesIncludedIncludedIncluded
Fountain Sodas & RefillsIncludedIncludedIncluded
Reusable Coca-Cola Souvenir CupIncludedIncludedIncluded
Premium Coffees and TeasNot IncludedIncludedIncluded
Fresh Squeezed JuicesNot IncludedIncludedIncluded
Bottled Still & Sparkling WaterNot IncludedIncludedIncluded
Non-Alcoholic Cocktails / MocktailNot IncludedIncludedIncluded
MilkshakesNot IncludedIncludedIncluded
Alcoholic Cocktails, Spirits, Liqueurs, & BeerNot IncludedNot IncludedIncluded
Wine by the GlassNot IncludedNot IncludedIncluded

Additional Bundles

In addition to the three main Royal Caribbean Beverage Packages, you can upgrade your cruise experience in a few other ways. These packages allow you to customize your experience, as they bundle drinks with other upgrades, like Wi-Fi Internet access and bottled water that will be your cabin or suite. 

Café Select Coffee Card

Designed for coffee lovers, passengers can buy this card to get their choice of 15 different espresso-based drinks anywhere onboard the ship. Plus, cardholders get a 50% discount on all specialty coffees not covered under the 15 drinks the card entitles them to.

Evian Bottled Water Package

This package ensures that Evian bottled water will be waiting for you in your stateroom when you board. You choose whether you want 12 or 24 one-liter bottles. If you want to enjoy a bottle of water in your cabin, these are well worth the upgrade.

Classic Soda + VOOM Single Device Package

Combine the benefits of the Classic Soda Package with unlimited VOOM high-speed Internet while you are on the ship. This package only covers one device.

Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Single Device Package

Get unlimited cocktails, domestic and imported beers, and a wide selection of wine, plus unlimited high-speed Internet on a single device. 

Real-Time Drink Package Prices

Since prices vary according to when your cruise sets sail and whether or not Royal Caribbean is having a sale or promotions event, it’s essential to check real-time prices. Luckily, Royal Caribbean is fairly transparent with pricing for their drink packages.

Best Time to Buy a Royal Caribbean Drink Package
Drinks on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Solarisys / Shutterstock)

Pre-cruise deals and live prices on drink packages can be found by signing into the My Royal Cruise Page on the Royal Caribbean website or by downloading and signing into the Royal Caribbean App

Remember, even if you have already purchased a drink package, it’s important to continuously check package prices in your cruise buildup. This is the only way to secure the best deal on your preferred package. If you find a lower price, you can cancel your existing package and then purchase the same package at a lower price through the website or app. 

How to Use the Royal Caribbean Cruise Planner 

Royal Caribbean Cruise Planner is where you can book various add-ons, including drink packages and shore excursions. It is worth familiarizing yourself with how it works if you are looking to get the most out of your trip and maximize what you can get out of your budget.

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas (Photo Copyright: Melissa Mayntz / Shutterstock)

To start, go to the Royal Caribbean Home Page and create an account. From there, click “Sign In” in the screen’s top right-hand corner. Once you have signed in, you can see the details of your upcoming cruise. From there, click “Plan My Cruise,” which will open various options you can click, including adding drink packages. 

You’ll also be able to add other packages and credits, like pre-paid arcade tokens, VIP seating for events, spa treatments, and shore excursions. Browse around regularly in the buildup to your cruise, as prices can change, which will help you get the best deals. 

When to Avoid Buying Your Drink Package

Waiting until the last minute to purchase your drink package is never a good idea, as you have far less flexibility. There isn’t enough time for the prices to go down, and most cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, do not offer last-minute deals.

Sky Bar on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas
Sky Bar on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas (Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock)

You should also avoid buying a drink package while on the ship to avoid inflated prices. Buying ahead of time will almost always result in savings. Again, the best time to purchase a drink package is as soon as possible.

Royal Caribbean allows passengers to cancel and rebook drink packages before boarding without penalty, so buying early gives you the best possible chances of securing a good deal, especially if the cruise line decides to hike its prices before you sail!

Drink Prices Without a Drink Package

To illustrate the value of purchasing a drink package ahead of time, let’s look at typical prices for individual drinks on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. 

It’s important to remember that drinks can be even more expensive in certain venues, and the following prices are listed before gratuity: 

Type of DrinkTypical Price
Beer$7.49 (Domestic), $7.99 (Premium / Import)
Glass of Wine$9.00 – $25.00 (Depending on Type of Wine)
Bottled Water$2.25
Mixed Drink / Cocktail$10.00 – $15.00
Hard Cider$7.25 – $8.50
Soda or Lemonade$3.50
Specialty Coffee (Latte, Cappuccino, etc.)$4.25 – $6.00
Fresh Squeezed Juice$5.25

While these prices might not seem too bad in isolation, it is essential to remember that you will be on the ship for multiple days. In most cases, cruise passengers enjoy week-long trips, so drink prices can quickly add up. 

If you remember, we discussed the prices of Royal Caribbean’s three main drink packages and the types of drinks each package covers. Even if you go with the most expensive option, the Deluxe Beverage Package, which can be as little as $56 per person, you can see how it wouldn’t take long to come out ahead financially.

Read Also: Drinking Ages on Cruise Ships – The Rules

For example, let’s say you are enjoying a specialty coffee, a glass of freshly squeezed juice, and a bottle of water with breakfast; you will have racked up $13.50 in drink charges before you start your day. Add in drinks at lunch and dinner, poolside refreshments, or even a night out at one of your ship’s many bars, and the total price can easily exceed the cost of your drinks package. 

Remember, all three main drink packages are accepted at every restaurant and bar on the ship. Beyond the financial savings, think how liberating it would be not to worry about costs. Instead, you could order exactly what you want when you want it. Your cruise budget would stay the same. 

Rules for Bringing Your Own Alcohol on a Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship 

Across all Royal Caribbean vessels, guests are prohibited from bringing beer, hard liquor, or any other type of alcohol onboard for personal consumption. 

Any alcoholic beverages seized on embarkation day will be returned at the end of the trip if they were unopened. Security can even inspect non-alcoholic containers to check if they contain alcohol.

Gangway for Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship in Port
Gangway for Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship in Port (Photo Credit: Felipe Sanchez / Shutterstock)

If you have purchased alcohol for souvenir purposes while visiting a port of call, you can voluntarily turn it in to be stored until the end of your journey. If guests are found hiding alcohol they purchased in port for personal consumption, they will have violated Royal Caribbean’s Guest Conduct Policy, meaning they could be at risk of being denied the ability to board the ship. This would be at the guest’s expense, so it is not worth the risk! 

For the Water Drinkers

You can buy bottled water just about anywhere on the ship, but an easy way to save money is to get free glasses of water at buffets and dining rooms. Savvy cruisers can order this free water and then use it to fill personal reusable water bottles. You can also have bottles of water delivered to your stateroom or suite at a fee. 

Tips for Saving Money on Drinking 

Beyond weighing up whether or not a drink package makes financial sense and making sure that you purchase one before boarding if you plan on buying one, there are a few other tricks you can use to save money on drinks. 

One strategy a lot of seasoned cruisers will use is to make sure that they enjoy alcoholic beverages while they are in port. Prices are almost always cheaper for drinks in port than they will be on the ship, especially if you visit countries with lower GDPs, like many of the Caribbean island nations.

Bar on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas
Bar on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas (Photo Credit: Solarisys / Shutterstock)

Royal Caribbean also allows two standard-sized bottles of wine or champagne per stateroom to be brought onboard. This is a one-time strategy when you board the ship; however, unlike many other cruise lines, like Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International does not charge a corkage fee for these two bottles. Since you can easily purchase bottles of wine for less onshore than you can onboard, you should take advantage of this.

Worth Reading: Can I Take a Wine Opener on a Cruise?

Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean does not offer “Happy Hour” discounts on alcoholic beverages, which is a common way to save money on alcohol while traveling with other cruise lines. 

Drink Gratuities on Royal Caribbean 

Gratuities of 18% and other service charges are automatically applied to drink packages during the final checkout stage. While you can always choose to pay additional gratuities while you are onboard, this is not necessary.

Pool Bar on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas
Pool Bar on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas (Photo Credit: Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock)

For those not choosing to purchase a drinks package, an automatic service gratuity of $18.00 per person per day is charged in non-suite staterooms or a $20.50 charge for those staying in suites. This helps reward the staff, and the funds are shared equally. 

Special Memberships for Free Drinks 

Like other cruise lines, Royal Caribbean rewards guests with certain memberships. For example, Crown and Anchor Society Members will get vouchers for free drinks. By joining these membership programs, frequent cruisers can enjoy other perks and savings opportunities during their onboard experience. 

Diamond, Diamond Plus, and Pinnacle guests also receive vouchers for complimentary drinks each day of their trip, with guests receiving four, five, and six drinks per day, respectively.

Alcoholic vs. Non-Alcoholic Drink Prices

As you would expect, alcoholic beverages are almost always priced higher than non-alcoholic drinks. While prices will vary from drink to drink, you can count on spending more money on alcoholic beverages than non-alcoholic ones.

For example, a frozen cocktail made with alcohol costs between $10 and $15, while a non-alcoholic “mocktail” version of the same frozen drink would cost $6 to $8.

Sports Bar on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas (Photo Credit: Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock)
Sports Bar on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas

For those looking to indulge in alcoholic drinks regularly during their cruise, it is a good idea to purchase a drink package that covers alcoholic beverages, as you will almost certainly save money.

Read Also: What If You Get Caught Sneaking Alcohol on a Cruise?

Pros and Cons of Purchasing a Drink Package 

Whether or not you choose to purchase a drink package will depend upon your personal budget and how much you plan on drinking while you are on board the ship; however, there are some basic pros and cons that can help make the decision easier: 

Advantages of Drink Package

  • Potential Financial Savings: Most people save money on drinks by purchasing a drinks package.
  • Convenience and Ease of Budgeting: Not having to worry about mounting costs or adding up the price of each drink can enable a more carefree and convenient cruise experience.
  • Opportunity to Indulge: When you know the drinks are already paid for, you will be more inclined to indulge and make the most of your trip. Try different drinks and leave your financial worries behind you. 

Disadvantages of a Drink Package

  • Risk of Overindulging: If you don’t want to over-consume alcohol, purchasing a drink package that covers alcoholic beverages might not be a good decision
  • Waste of Money if You Don’t Drink Enough: If you don’t drink enough, you may have spent more on your package than it would cost to purchase the drinks separately. 

The pros outweigh the cons for most people, so drink packages are very popular on cruise ships. Weigh them up for yourself, and if you decide that purchasing one makes sense for your needs and budget, buy one as soon as possible! 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can you get a Royal Caribbean drink package at a lower price? 

Purchase your preferred package beforehand, then watch promotions and sales events for a cheaper price. If you find one, cancel your existing package and repurchase it at a reduced price. 

Is it cheaper to buy a drinks package on board? 

No, drink packages are rarely cheaper onboard the ship. Buying in advance is the most affordable way to get a drinks package. 

What is the 3-1-1 Rule on Royal Caribbean? 

You are allowed to bring a quart-size clear zip-lock bag of liquids and gels as carry-on items. These combined items need to be less than 3 ounces in total. The TSA introduced the 3-1-1 Rule, so it is not unique to Royal Caribbean ships.

Emrys Thakkar
Emrys Thakkar
The founder of Cruise Hive which was established in 2008 as one of the earliest cruise blogs in the industry. Emrys has been reporting on the latest cruise industry news since the site first launched. Expert insights and tips featured on a number of publications including The Express, Business Insider, and more. Worked for Carnival Cruise Line for 8 years and is well and truly dedicated to cruising! Has also been on a number of cruises so can offer an insight into the industry that many will not be able to do. What's even more impressive is that Emrys has traveled the world by visiting more than 34 countries, lived in China for 8 years, and cruised the Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean, Asia, and Europe. Find out more about us here.

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