Our 7 ways to get “free” drinks at sea post really had you opening up, so much so that we knew there’d be another round. This one’s on you, though. We’ve compiled nine great reader tips and tricks for scoring free or discounted pours on cruise ships.
One quick caveat:
With one or two justified exceptions, the following tips do not include wine. Policies vary, but most mainstream lines allow passengers to bring vino onboard in some fashion, though you’ll likely have to pay a corkage fee to drink it in a restaurant. Check out our full rundown of cruise line alcohol policies for more information.
Opt for in-cabin bottle service. “Some of the lines offer bottles of liquor via room service,” writes Scott. “So we often will order a bottle of vodka, and a six pack of seven up or sprite, and mix our own vodka-seven cocktails. It actually can save a lot of money, and you can have a cocktail in your room instead of having to go find a bar and wait in line.” Not all lines offer this bottle service option, but those that do include Oceania and Princess. Prices do vary by line, and so, too, will savings. Here’s a look at Princess Cruises’ liquor bottle price list.
Make nice with the bartender. “My husband and I have always found that if we frequent the same bar staff during the majority of the cruise, and be sure to tip generously, we get excellent service,” writes Linda. “May not always be free, but the bar staff tend to be more generous.” Linda also recommends asking your favorite barkeep where he or she is going to be when. Tim agrees. “They will treat you right with strong pours and drinks that never find their way to your tab,” he says.
Liquid courage? While we can’t condone alcohol smuggling — mainstream mega-ships are nearly unanimous in their restrictive policies (save for the aforementioned wine) — many of you offered various means of subterfuge. But be warned: “I just got of a Carnival cruise in MIA,” says Heidi. “I normally hide my rum in an ice tea bottle, but this year I put vodka in my water bottles. The port security got smart and took the bottles out of the plastic wrap from the store and shook each one to check out the bubbles. They snagged the only four bottles I put vodka in and let me go with the rest of the water.”
More loyalty perks. In our first boozeworthy piece, 7 ways to get free drinks at sea, we mentioned the free-flowing past-passenger perks offered by Royal Caribbean and Holland America. Many of you wanted to toast the loyalty programs of other lines. “As Elite loyalty members with Princess, we receive a free mini-bar selection on embarkation day,” says Jenny. “Too bad we don’t drink alcohol at all, but we can usually find someone who does!” Adds Anne: “We are on the Celebrity‘s ‘Select’ tier, one of the perks is a free wine tasting seminar. It was interesting and there were six wine ‘tasters’ — great if you enjoy wine!” See our story on cruise line past-passenger programs for more info.
Buy yourself the gift of liquor. “On Princess, we always buy ourselves a ‘Bon Voyage’ gift or two,” writes Kim, referring to the pre-cruise order options, which can be delivered to your cabin. “Liquor is a particularly good deal. Extra bonus — when the gift is set up in your room, it includes a nice set of glasses to use during the cruise. You are not supposed to take these drinks out of the cabin, but we have never been questioned when doing so.” Here’s an example of Princess’ prices. Carnival’s list is even better. “Saves tons of money rather than buying drinks at the bars,” writes Samantha. Cruise Critic called the line’s Bon Voyage department (800-522-7648), and a friendly lady told us the prices for liter bottles of Absolut ($60), Beefeater ($50), Jim Beam ($55) and Jamison ($60). You can certainly do much better at your local liquor store (as in 1/2 the price or better), but it’s still an decent savings over the onboard prices.
Cocktail soup and drunken desserts? “On Princess they served a ‘Pina Colada Soup’ with some dinners,” says Art. “This ‘soup’ is remarkably cold and full of alcohol. For those who still haven’t caught on, IT’S A FREAKIN’ FREE PINA COLADA!” Deidra K. offered a similarly boozy tip. “On HAL‘s Zaandam, we were delighted to find the ice cream dessert bar at the buffet was doling out (you need to request it) large, overflowing tablespoons of delicious liqueurs on top of the vanilla ice cream — Wowza! They even offered coconut rum as well — Gratis!”
Use a travel agent who loves you. There are few better ways of saying “thanks for your business” than finding the gift of vino in your cabin. “Our travel agent buys us a bottle of wine for every cruise we book through her,” writes Gloria.
A river of beer and wine. “Take a river cruise,” suggests Drew G.. “We are taking a Viking cruise in Europe, and were told we could bring anything we wanted onboard. Booze. Beer. Wine. They volunteered the information. Plus, wine and beer are complimentary at night.” Indeed, most river cruise lines include wine and beer, often locally sourced, with your evening meal — and most are liberal about passengers taking on local ales or vintages. River cruise fares are certainly more expensive than those found on a mainstream mega-ship line, but the inclusivity and hassle-free attitude is a welcome touch.
Consider an all-you-can drink package. “Celebrity has sauce packages that are bottomless and worth it,” writes Mike B. “If you drink, get one and save. Added benefit: You know how much you’re going to spend. Also, I’ve found that waitstaff prefers cash tips. It’s a pain to carry extra cabbage, but worth it.” Many other readers proclaimed the merits of beverage packages, which are offered by Celebrity and Oceania, as well as a few Royal Caribbean ships. Still, they’ve been controversial. Some readers firmly believe that “all-you-can-drink” could contribute to creating a frat house vibe. Learn more about the packages here.
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