A few years ago, when Celebrity Cruises came out with a rather revolutionary “all you can drink” package for cocktails, wine and beer, I was a bit skeptical. Is it smart (or responsible) to give cruise passengers, many of whom already indulge excessively, a limitless scenario? Would such packages result in unnecessary binging?
Celebrity’s plan offers two versions. For $44 per day per person, you can drink all the beer (up to $5), vodka, wine and pina coladas (spirits, vino up to $8) that you want. If you’re picky, add $10 a day for a top-shelf option, which includes the entire selection of beers as well as spirits, cocktails and wines by the glass up to $12 per serving. (For its part, sister line Royal Caribbean began offering a similar deal earlier this year, but it’s limited to three internationally based ships.)
Here’s the rub: If you’re paying $308 (or more, plus gratuity) over a week for all-you-can-drink cruise libations, wouldn’t you want to make sure you got your money’s worth — or better? And might that lead to binging or waste?
Onboard Celebrity Eclipse on a Caribbean cruise, my husband and I tested the concept. I booked the package. He bought his drinks a’ la carte. Here’s what we found:
Biggest benefit: The package was liberating. I didn’t have to think about the cost of anything – very much like being on most luxury cruises, where specialty drinks and cocktails are fare-inclusive.
Most surprising discovery: Since the up-front fee included non-alcoholic beverages as well, I never worried about hauling my own six packs of Diet Coke onboard, drank more sparkling water than usual, tested out coffee drinks, and discovered the most delicious fresh-squeezed orange juice (in the buffet’s bar). None of these cost an extra cent.
Most bizarre moment: Celebrity does not permit you to “buy” drinks for others or order more than one at a time, which I get. But there was an odd moment one afternoon at lunch in the main dining room. I’d ordered a glass of Chardonnay to accompany my starter, and it took a long time to arrive. So, in preparation for the entrée, and with the first glass about a quarter full, I asked for another. The wine steward, who could perhaps use a lesson in exercising good judgment, refused to take the order until I’d drained the glass.
The real test: Did I get my money’s worth? Yes. My husband’s onboard bill, for pretty much the same stuff from coffees to cocktails, was $50 more than the package.
Don’t want to take my word for it? Check out this boards posting by Cruise Critic member boyerd, who broke down what he typically spent on cruise booze in a single day (from a latte with Bailey’s at 8:30 a.m. to his midnight nightcap) and how it compared with the drink package. It’s illuminating, to say the least.
Get all you need to know on cruise booze in our Guide to Drinking at Sea, including Seven Ways to Score Free Drinks at Sea.
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