Pay one price and drink all you want – it sounds like a great deal for your cruise vacation bar bill, but is it really? Cruise line drinks packages can vary significantly and it is important to do your research before deciding if a package is right for you.
What You Need to Know About Drinks Packages – Before You Buy!
Before saying yes or no to a drinks package, it is important to learn the details of the packages offered by the specific cruise line, ship and itinerary you are sailing. Exact packages can vary considerably at different times, and asking these basic questions can help you decide if it is a good deal for you.
What drinks are included?
Not all packages include all drinks in the deal. Are bottled water, milkshakes and soda included as well as alcoholic beverages, and are top shelf drinks also part of the deal, or is the selection more limited? What about energy drinks, specialty coffees or drink-of-the-day specials? Souvenir glasses are often excluded, as well as bucket-of-beer offers or bottles of wine or champagne. Some packages also have price caps on covered beverages, and more expensive cocktails or wine vintages are not included.
Is there a limit on the number of drinks covered?
To avoid drink sharing and discourage severe overindulgence, some cruise line drinks packages limit the number of drinks that are covered each day. There may also be ordering restrictions, such as only permitting one drink per passenger at a time or enforcing a no-sale time period between drink orders.
Who needs to purchase the package?
Some cruise lines require all passengers in the same cabin or traveling under the same booking reservation to purchase the drinks package if even one person in the party opts in, which can dramatically increase the cost if not everyone drinks the same amount. This can even apply to children who may be required to purchase non-alcoholic packages if their parents have bought the full drinks package.
How can drinks be ordered, and are any locations excluded?
Certain bars or events during the cruise may be excluded from drinks packages. For example, a drinks package will not typically cover a special mixology event or other unique tasting opportunity, and visits to private islands or drinks in a stateroom’s minibar may not be covered under the package fee. Room service drinks might also be different than packages.
Are additional discounts offered with the package?
There may be additional discounts included in the drinks package, even if certain drinks aren’t covered under the umbrella pricing. Pre-purchasing the package may lead to a slightly lower rate for per-day pricing, and there is often a discount for purchasing bottles of wine or champagne. Additional discounts may apply to onboard purchases in the liquor shop or any other non-included drinks.
Are gratuities already included or will they be added?
Not all cruise line drinks packages include gratuities with the package price, and it can be an unpleasant surprise to have tips of 10-18 percent added to every drink order. Even though the drinks aren’t charged, those extra tips can add up significantly. Some cruise lines, however, only charge gratuities on the package price at the time it is purchased.
Can packages be prorated or refunded?
If you don’t prefer not to drink on embarkation day or the last night of the cruise before traveling home, it isn’t always possible to get a prorated fee or refund for unused days. At the beginning of the cruise you may be able to delay your purchase and only be charged for the remaining days of the cruise, but some cruise lines do require the packages to be purchased on the first day.
Benefits of Buying a Cruise Line Drinks Package
There can be many benefits to indulging in a cruise line drinks package. If you drink a lot (responsibly, of course!) or if you prefer more expensive drinks, the package price could be a significant savings. Using the package can also be a great way to try different drinks you might not normally order, but you can sample them without fear of wasting the cost of a drink if you don’t like it. Does your frozen drink melt out on the hot pool deck before you have the chance to finish it? No problem if you have a drinks package – just order another for a fresh chill.
Problems With Buying a Cruise Line Drinks Package
For many cruise passengers, the high cost of drinks packages is the biggest problem with these plans, especially if tips are not included, some favorite drinks aren’t covered under the package or multiple people must buy the plan but won’t drink as much. Furthermore, since drinks in ports of call are not typically included, a cruise itinerary with many ports of call may make it even more difficult to make the most of a drinks package. Those high costs can make you feel obligated to overindulge in order to make the price more acceptable, but that can lead to poor behavior, illness and other problems associated with excessive drinking.
The Choice Is Yours!
Ultimately, only you can decide if a cruise line drinks package is a good investment for your vacation fun, but knowing all your options and the details of the available plans can help you make the right choice for you. Whether you opt for a package or decide to purchase drinks individually, always drink responsibly and say Cheers! for a great cruise getaway.