Hate paying individually for drinks on a mainstream cruise ship -- or perhaps you've been known to run up a huge bar tab onboard? You might be the ideal candidate for an alcohol-inclusive drinks package, offered by the majority of mainstream cruise lines.
Found somewhere between the ubiquitous soda packages and the included-in-your-fare booze of most luxury lines, these programs let cruisers pay one base price that covers most -- if not all -- of their nonalcoholic and alcoholic drinks onboard. Of course, while high prices and annoying fine print may persuade some travelers to go it a la carte, for others, the freedom to sample brightly colored cocktails and wines of unknown provenance can be too appealing to ignore.
See below for a line-by-line guide to available drink packages, followed by some Cruise Critic reader reactions to the programs.
Package Details: Although Azamara Club Cruises includes most nonalcoholic beverages along with select standard spirits, beers and a changing daily selection of red and white wines by the glass in its cruise fares, the line also has four for-fee beverage and wine packages.
Options include the Premium Package (featuring 24 types of beer and dozens of liquors and liqueurs; $15.95 per person, per day), and the Ultimate Liquor Package, which builds upon the Premium Package with more offerings for liquors and liqueurs, along with select wines by the glass, Nespresso coffees and premium waters ($21.95 per person, per day).
There are also two wine packages: the Wine Lover Package (choose from more than 80 bottles of wine valued at $50 or less; $180 to $350 for five-, seven-, 10- and 12-bottle packages) and the Wine Connoisseur Package (more than 50 bottles of wine valued at $51 to $75; $315 to $630 for five-, seven-, 10- and 12-bottle packages). All packages feature more choices and more premium brands than the complimentary offerings.
Fine Print: Packages can be pre-purchased (through Azamara Club Cruises or your travel agent) or bought onboard throughout the length of your cruise. Charges begin on day one or the day you purchase the package. Packages are not refundable once purchased and cannot be downgraded to a lower-tier package. You can only order one drink at a time. Drinks through room service are also permitted, during hours in which shipboard bars are open.
Carnival Cruise Line
Ships: The Cheers! beverage program is available on all ships in the Carnival Cruise Line fleet, with the exception of Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend when they sail Australia
Package Details: The cost for the program is $51.95, per person, per day, if purchased in advance, and $56.95 per person, per day, if purchased once onboard (plus a 15 percent gratuity). The package allows cruisers to select from mixed drinks, beer (including Carnival's own line of specialty craft beer), wine and spirits valued at $50 or less each, up to a 15-drink maximum per day.
Additionally, the package includes soda, juices, nonalcoholic cocktails, energy drinks, specialty coffees and teas, most bottled water, milkshakes (where available), Powerade, Vitaminwater, coconut water and Honest Tea. The program also includes a 25 percent discount on bottles of wine and Champagne, select water bottles, beverage classes and seminars, and cocktails, spirits or wines by the glass that cost more than $50.
Fine Print: Packages can be purchased in advance online or by phone, until the evening prior to the cruise departure, or at bars once onboard. If one adult in a cabin purchases the Cheers! package, all adults over 21 years old in that cabin must also purchase it. Participants can order only one drink at a time, there is a five-minute wait time required between drink purchases, and all bottles and cans are served opened; there is a limit of 15 alcoholic drinks per person within any 24-hour period. The package does not apply to drinks in souvenir glasses or via room service.
Due to state laws, the Cheers! package is not available until the second day of all sailings leaving from ports in New York and Texas. Cheers! applies to onboard beverages only; it cannot be used at two private ports of call in the Bahamas: Half Moon Cay or Princess Cays. The package must be booked for the entire duration of the voyage.
Ships: All ships except for the line's Galapagos-exclusive fleet (Celebrity Xpedition, Celebrity Xperience, Celebrity Xploration)
Package Details: Celebrity Cruises offers three alcohol-inclusive drink packages. The Standard Beverage Package ($45 per person, per day) includes select drinks (beer, wine, cocktails) up to $6 per serving. This includes soda and bottled water. Additionally, the package includes a 10 percent discount on wines purchased by the bottle.
The Classic Beverage Package, priced at $55 per person, per day, upgrades the Standard Package to include spirits, cocktails, frozen drinks, beer and wine by the glass valued at up to $9 each. Plus, soda, fresh-squeezed and bottled juices, premium coffees and teas and non-premium bottled water are bundled in. The package also includes a 15 percent discount on wines by the bottle.
The Premium Beverage Package, priced at $65 per person, per day, includes all of the above along with premium bottled water, specialty coffees and teas, Red Bull and spirits, cocktails, beers, Champagne and wine by the glass up to $13 per serving. The package also includes a 20 percent discount on wines by the bottle.
Or, choose from three wines-by-the-bottle Taste of the Vineyard packages: the Classic Wine Package (from $109 for three, five or seven bottles), the Premium Wine Package (from $149 for three, five or seven bottles) or the Build Your Own Wine Package (select three bottles priced at $75 or more and get a 15 percent discount).
Note that Celebrity's trio of ships that exclusively sail to the Galapagos -- Celebrity Xpedition, Celebrity Xperience and Celebrity Xploration -- operate on an all-inclusive basis, with all beer, wine and spirits served onboard free of charge.
Fine Print: An 18 percent service charge is added to package prices. Packages must be bought for the entire sailing and refunds are not allowed; however, packages can be purchased onboard up until two days are left in the cruise, at prorated prices. Packages do not include drinks purchased from the mini-bar, via room service or from Enomatic wine dispensing machines. Preordered packages can be modified up to four days prior to the sailing date.
Package Details: With its standard cruise fares, Costa Cruises offers a variety of supplementary beverage packages. The Pranzo & Cena package ($25 per person, per day) includes a selection of unlimited wines, beers and soft drinks by the glass when served with lunch and dinner. Two kids-geared variations of this package are available: Pranzo & Cena Giovani ($9 per child, per day), which offers soft drinks and mineral water during meals, and Giovani ($25 per child, per day), which covers soft drinks, smoothies and hot chocolate throughout the day.
Other adult-oriented drinks packages include the Brindiamo ($41 per person, per day), with a selection of wine, beer, spirits, soft drinks and specialty coffees available throughout the day; Piu Gusto ($45 per person, per day), which offers the same as Brindiamo, along with an expanded selection of cocktails and frozen drinks; and Intenditore ($59 per person, per day), which features unlimited drinks by the glass priced up to 9 euros, as well as drinks via room service and from the mini-bar.
Costa also offers the option to book more premium, inclusive cruise packages, including the Total Comfort and Deluxe options, which bundle beverage packages into the fare. Note, however, that upgrades on beverage packages are not allowed for the drinks-inclusive fare levels; if you want a more inclusive package, you'll need to book the corresponding cruise fare.
Fine Print: Package prices are inclusive of a 15 percent service charge. Mini-bar products and premium brands are excluded from packages apart from Intenditore. Adults' packages are for passengers ages 18 and older, while kids' packages are for children ages 4 to 17. All passengers, even kids (ages 4 and up), traveling together with the same booking number or who choose to dine together, must purchase a drinks package, or travel on a premium fare that's inclusive of one.
Holland America Line
Package Details: For $51.69 per person, per day, with advance purchase, or $57.44 when you purchase onboard, Holland America's Signature Beverage Package allows cruisers to indulge in a variety of wine, beer, spirits, cocktails (including nonalcoholic), sodas and coffee for an entire sailing. Each drink must cost no more than $9.
The Elite Beverage Package will buy you premium spirits, cocktails, wines, beers, coffees, nonalcoholic beverages, bottled water and sodas, up to a value of $15 each. On Koningsdam, this also includes the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines, which offer more than 100 flavors. The price for the Elite Beverage Package is $63.19 per person, per day if purchased in advance or onboard.
The line also offers a Cellar Master Package, which includes a choice of five wine bottles, a standard and a premium wine-tasting, one Pinnacle Grill dinner, a wine accessory gift set and a Holland America Line commemorative bottle of wine, starting at $252 per person.
Fine Print: Prices reflect an included 15 percent service charge. Packages are only available to purchase onboard during the first 48 hours of the cruise. If one passenger in a cabin opts for a Signature or Elite drinks package, anyone who is 21-plus years old in the same cabin is required to purchase it as well. Items from the mini-bar, in-room dining and beverages on Half Moon Cay are excluded from packages.
Package Details: MSC Cruises offers multiple beverage packages, includingthe All-Inclusive Deluxe Drinks Package (four- to eight-night sailings, $55 per person, per day; nine-plus nights, $44 per person, per day), which includes all beers, wines by the glass, premium spirits and cocktails (including nonalcoholic cocktails), mineral water, energy drinks, soft drinks, tea and coffee, as well as drinks from the mini-bar and from the room service menu.
This package is valid in all onboard bars, lounges and restaurants (including specialty restaurants). It also gets you a 30 percent discount on bottles of wine and Champagne. Children's packages are priced at $23 and $18.50 per person, per day, respectively, and they include all nonalcoholic beverages -- including milkshakes, smoothies and mocktails.
Available on MSC Seaside and MSC Divina in the Caribbean is the All-Inclusive Classic Drink Package (four- to eight-night Caribbean sailings, $47 per person, per day; nine-plus night Caribbean sailings, $38 per person, per day) or in all other destinations as the All-Inclusive Restaurant & Bar Package ($23 to $29 per person, per day).
This option offers spirits and cocktails (excluding premium brands), a selection of wine by the glass, all beers, soft drinks, mineral water, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and ice cream (cone or cup). The package is valid in all onboard bars, lounges and restaurants. These packages do not include premium liquors and cocktails, or mini-bar or room service items.
Corresponding kids' package details in the Caribbean are the same as for the All-Inclusive Deluxe Drinks Package; in other destinations, the accompanying kids' packages ($10.50 to $13.50 per child, per day) include soft drinks, mineral water, mocktails, smoothies, hot drinks and ice cream in a cone or cup.
Or, offered on all sailings outside of the Caribbean, the Mealtime Restaurant Drink Packages for adults ($14.50 to $18.50 per person, per day) and kids ($8 to $10 per person, per day) allow for unlimited beverages during lunch and dinner in the main dining rooms and self-serve buffets. Featured items for adults are house wine selections, draft beer, mineral water and soft drinks. The children's version includes soft drinks and mineral water. These packages are not valid for drinks or discounts on drinks in alternative restaurants.
Note that these drink packages are purchased as an optional add-on for MSC cruise fare tiers that include the Bella, Fantastica and Wellness Experience. The Aurea Experience and MSC Yacht Club fares are both inclusive of either a Classic or Deluxe drinks packages (dependent upon the specific sailing).
Fine Print: If one person in a cabin purchases a package, all others in the cabin must purchase a package; same goes for family or friends traveling together and wishing to share a dinner table. Passengers 21 or older (18 or older on cruises not departing from the United States) can only select an alcohol package; passengers older than 3 but younger than 21 (younger than 18 on non-U.S.-based sailings) can choose between the equivalent children's package or a soda package. Packages must be purchased for the entire duration of each voyage.
Only one drink may be ordered at a time. The above listed packages do not include drinks in souvenir glasses. All-inclusive drink packages are not available on shorter one- to three-night sailings.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Ships: All ships, but note that Pride of America has its own package. Norwegian Sky includes a free Premium Beverage Package for all passengers.
Package Details: Norwegian has three beverage packages available on all ships, except for Pride of America. The Corks and Caps Package costs $65 per person, per day (plus 20 percent gratuity), and includes a selection of fountain soda and juices, beer (draft and bottles) and wines by the glass ($15 or less). A 20 percent discount applies toward the purchase of any bottle of wine.
The Premium Beverage Package costs $99 per person, per day (plus a 20 percent gratuity), and includes everything in the Corks and Caps Package, plus liquor and cocktails (all drinks $15 or less). You can use your beverage package at all onboard bars, lounges and restaurants, and on the line's private Bahamian island, Great Stirrup Cay.
The Premium Plus Beverage Package costs $128 per person, per day (plus a 20 percent gratuity), and it covers all drinks by the glass, with no price cap; still and sparkling bottled water; specialty coffee; energy drinks; select wines by the bottle at restaurants; and 40 percent off all other bottles of wine, flights, tastings and other experiences.
Passengers sailing on Pride of America have the choice of only one exclusive beverage package, the Hawaii Beverage Package. For $99 per person, per day (plus a 20 percent gratuity), the package covers alcoholic beverages (up to $15), soda, freshly squeezed juice, still and sparkling bottled water, nonalcoholic beer and specialty coffee in the ship's dining venues.
Fine Print: Two drinks are allowed per passenger, per order. All passengers sharing a cabin or using the same payment method (i.e., kids you stuck in the inside cabin across the hall) must purchase the beverage package. (For kids 3 and older, that means buying the soda package instead.) The exception is the Hawaii package, which applies only to the first two passengers on the reservation.
Packages do not include room service, buckets of beer, "super premium" brands of liquor, wine by the bottle, wine stations, mini-bar purchases, freshly squeezed juice, energy drinks, select specialty coffees or bottled water (except where specifically indicated). For any beverage purchase over $15, passengers with a drink package (other than Corks and Caps) will pay the full drink price minus $15.
Drink packages are not valid at the Harvest Caye port in Belize or on sailings of one or two days. Passengers may only purchase packages onboard on embarkation day for sailings between March 1 and April 15.
Package Details: Oceania Cruises offers two beverage package options. House Select, which costs $39.95 per person, per day, includes unlimited Champagne, wine and beer with dinner and lunch. The second package, Prestige Select, is pricier -- $59.95 per person, per day -- and includes spirits, beer, wine and Champagne in bars and restaurants. Either package entitles the purchaser to 20 percent off wine-pairing dinners at La Reserve (aboard Marina and Riviera).
The line also has a Wine by the Bottle package of seven bottles (selections can be made from a set list, which varies by ship and voyage), with each bottle priced at $47.50, including gratuity -- a good savings, considering most bottles retail in the $60 to $100 range. Oceania already includes in cruise fares items like soft drinks, bottled water and specialty coffees. Note that passengers booking the line's ongoing OLife Choice promotional fares can choose a complimentary House Select beverage package as part of the deal.
Fine Print: 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 the House Select to Prestige Select during the voyage, but you can't downgrade. Refunds aren't allowed.
Package Details: Princess Cruises' Premier Beverage Package costs $59.99 per person, per day, plus a 15 percent gratuity, and includes all cocktails, spirits, beer and glasses of wine, valued at up to $12. Bottled water, juice, fountain soda, energy drinks, specialty coffee and tea, smoothies and milkshakes are also included. Each purchaser of the package also receives a 25 percent discount on all bottled wine.
Additionally, Princess offers beer packages, by brand, which include five bottles for the price of four: Dos Equis ($25.30), Heineken ($25.30), Budweiser ($28.75) and Bud Light ($26.45). The price includes the service charge. Beer packages are not available on voyages when itineraries begin/end in Australia or New Zealand.
Fine Print: Princess cruisers may purchase the package on three-night or longer cruises (seven nights for Australian itineraries). The packages are available on an individual basis, meaning passengers traveling in the same stateroom do not have to purchase it if one person does. Package must be purchased for the entire cruise duration; prorated/partial packages are not available.
For advance bookings, the window closes three days ahead of the sailing; once onboard, it is only available on embarkation day and is nonrefundable. Only one drink may be ordered at a time and a limit of 15 alcoholic beverages per person, per day, applies to the Premier Beverage Package.
Royal Caribbean International
Package Details: Royal Caribbean has one alcohol-inclusive beverage package on offer. The $55 per person, per day, Deluxe Beverage Package includes cocktails, spirits, beer, wine by the glass, mocktails, premium coffee and tea, bottled still and sparkling water, fresh-squeezed juices, fountain sodas with a souvenir Coca-Cola cup, a 40 percent discount on wine bottle purchases up to $100 and a 20 percent discount on wine bottle purchases more than $100.
Drinks must not exceed $12 in value. Gratuities are included in the package price, charged in a lump sum of 18 percent at the time of purchase.
Fine Print: Package does not include mini-bar items, room service, drinks in souvenir glassware or specialty beers. The drinks package must be purchased on embarkation day or a minimum of four days before the cruise ends (prorated prices are available). If one person in a cabin purchases a package, all others in the cabin aged 21 and over must purchase a package. Packages may also be purchased online up to 72 hours prior to embarkation. Package users may only order one item at a time for individual consumption.
Package Details: A sailing on any Viking Ocean Cruises ship includes soft drinks, beer and a rotating selection of house wines by the glass at lunch and dinner, plus specialty coffees and teas around the clock. Spirits, cocktails and premium wines cost extra.
Enter the Silver Spirits Package; it covers drinks up to $15 each anywhere on the ship. It also covers mini-bar replenishment and premium wines for The Chef's Table pairing, as well as 15 percent off premium beverages costing more than $15, an extensive collection of Armagnac and bottles of wine more than $50. Packages start at $139 per person for a seven-night sailing; the line charges for drink packages by the voyage duration, rather than by the day, so you'll need to check prices for your particular length of cruise.
Fine Print: Packages can be pre-purchased or bought onboard during the first day of the cruise and must be purchased for the entire duration of the sailing by all parties sharing a stateroom. Gratuities are included in the pricing.
Package Details: Windstar offers three separate drinks packages. The Voyager's Adventure Wine Package ($32 per person, per day) allows passengers to choose from a list of 20 fine wines (priced up to $8.50 per glass). The Topmast Discoveries Wine Package ($42 per person, per day) allows a choice from 33 premium wines (up to $11.50 per glass).
Finally, the Captain's Exclusive Beverage Package ($52 per person, per day) entitles passengers to unlimited cocktails, spirits, beer and wines priced up to $11.50 per glass; this includes mini-bar items. (Windstar includes nonalcoholic beverages, such as coffee and soda, for everyone in its cruise fares.)
Bottles of wine and Champagne are not included; however, package holders will get 30 percent off the cost of wine bottles (up to a retail value of $100) and will not be charged a corkage fee for any wine brought onboard themselves in port.
Fine Print: If one traveler in a cabin buys a package, the other is not required to purchase one, as well. Beverage packages must be purchased within the first two days of the cruise and prices will be prorated if bought on the second day. An additional 15 percent gratuity will be added to the cost of the package.