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What are cruise drinks packages and are they worth it?

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When you are in the middle of the ocean and in search of some liquid refreshment, your hands are somewhat tied to what is available on the cruise ship. Often, indulging in a few drinks can run up something of a hefty bar bill, but it isn’t always the case that purchasing an all-you-can-drink package will be a more cost-effective option. 

If you have been wondering about what a cruise drinks package includes and whether they are worth it, then read on as we ask cruise experts at to give us the benefit of their experience. 

What is a cruise drink package?

Most cruise companies offer what are called “drinks packages” to passengers at a fixed daily price. This means that they can enjoy drinks from an “unlimited” selection of wines, beers, spirits, and of course soft drinks without worrying about how much money they have actually spent. The cost of these types of drinks packages can vary dramatically from one cruise line to another with the average cost of a package coming in at between £25 to £86 per person per day. Whilst the lower end of the scale might be worth it, unless you drink like a fish you are unlikely to really get your money’s worth when you buy the drinks package, particularly if you go ashore for much of the day on excursions. 

The big thing that you need to remember with these packages is that there is usually a list of exclusions, and this long list will include premium drinks, and dry companions, so you won’t be able to “get your money’s worth” by drinking these. 

To put these costs into real terms, on an average package you would need to drink at least 10 beers or eight glasses of wine per day in order to make savings with a drinks package. And don’t forget that with some cruise lines, there may also be a gratuity to pay on top of this which will bump the cost of your drinks package up even further. If you are looking at a drinks package, then check if you will need to add this gratuity to get the true cost. 

Check the small print

If you are considering a drinks package read the small print because sharing is not allowed. Many cruise lines insist that all passengers from the same cabin must buy the package, and this will need to be for every day at sea. Should you change your mind or decide to stop drinking alcohol part way through the cruise, there is no refund. This means that you could be looking at a considerable amount on your bill on top of the cost of the cruise.

Different cruise companies have different price and ordering restrictions so you should look out for these to check that you won’t be disadvantaged. For example, some companies exclude bottled and canned soft drinks, smoothies, and fresh juices from their packages.

If you enjoy a nice glass of wine don’t think you will be able to get around onboard prices by buying from the duty-free shop on board and consuming that. Most cruise lines place this alcohol off-limits and your purchases are held until you disembark.

Take a look online

As well as reading the small print to see what restrictions are in place you will find that many cruise lines list their bar prices online. We have also gathered all the information per cruise line to give you an estimation for your calculations. This means you can do some maths to see exactly how much you would be likely to spend if you didn’t have a drinks package. Again, remember to add service charges. 

Some cruise ships do allow you to bring a small, limited, amount of alcohol onboard – but only on embarkation, they will charge you a hefty corkage fee though in their bars and restaurants, so this may not be cost-effective.

Buying before you set sail is usually cheaper than if you purchase a drinks package onboard, with even better prices being offered with early bookings. 

One final note, remember to check the cancellation policy in case you change your mind!

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