December 1, 2011
Oceania will offer two different options. The first, at a charge of $29.95 per person, per day, includes house wine and beer with dinner and lunch. (Interestingly, it's available when ordering room service, but it does not cover mini-bar drinks.) The second package is pricier -- $49.95 per person, per day -- and includes beer and premium house wine (from a selection of red and white vintages that change daily), all beverages on the bar menu (except Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac) and room service beverages (but not mini-bar selections).
This new concept is clearly aimed at competing with other upmarket cruise lines, such as the aforementioned Celebrity, as well as Viking River. Azamara already includes house beer and wine in its cruise fares (but offers no additional packages). By the way, the cruise lines see these drink packages as offering value and convenience, not debauchery. Celebrity's Scott Steenrod, asssociate vice president, food + beverage operations, told Cruise Critic in an email, "Whether guests prefer an option such as our premium non-alcoholic package ... or a package that includes cocktails, they can enjoy a stress-free vacation experience by avoiding the need to keep track of each beverage purchase. Our bar staff is thoroughly trained in the responsible service of alcoholic beverages, and we do not condone overconsumption."
Oceania already includes in cruise fares items like soft drinks, bottled water and specialty coffees and teas for which most lines charge extra.
As always, there's fine print, though nothing unreasonable. Package prices include gratuities and can be pre-booked online or through a reservations representative. They can also be purchased onboard at any time during the cruise (with prices prorated for days remaining). You can upgrade from Package A to B during the voyage, but you cannot downgrade. And beware: Refunds aren't allowed.
Is this ever-burgeoning all-you-can-drink trend a good thing for cruising?
--by Erica Silverstein, Features Editor