You can order drinks from waiters in cruise ship restaurants, at bars and in the theaters before onboard shows. At the buffet, you can find drink-dispensing machines for milk, juice, water (cold and hot) and coffee; there's usually a bar in or near the buffet for other drinks, or you can order from a waiter.
In your cabin, you can get drinks delivered via room service, and you'll find a limited selection inside in-cabin mini-bars. In general, passengers are permitted to drink pretty much anywhere and can take drinks from a bar and walk with them to their cabins or other onboard locations.
Luxury cruise lines, river cruise lines and some premium lines offer some or all drinks free of charge. Viking Ocean ships, for example, include sodas at lunch and dinner, stock complimentary sodas and water in cabins and include all specialty coffees in the cruise fare. Luxury lines Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas and Crystal are among those with all-inclusive beverage service, so any available non-alcoholic drink would be included in the cruise fare.
On most mainstream cruise lines, however, only certain beverages are included in the fares. Complimentary drinks typically include tap water, basic coffee, tea (iced or hot), hot chocolate (from a packet or machine), milk and a selection of juices with meals. Soda, sparkling water, other juices (including freshly squeezed orange juice), smoothies, brand-name coffee and specialty coffees (lattes, cappuccinos, etc.) tend to cost extra.
Disney is one exception; it includes sodas during meals, in the teen-only lounge and from select beverage stations. Sodas do cost extra at bars and lounges on Disney ships.
Bottled water can range from $1.25 to $4.25, depending on bottle size and whether you buy a case pack or an individual bottle. Soda starts around $2.50, specialty waters like coconut water or vitamin water can be as high as $5, while energy drinks start at $5. Mocktails (virgin cocktails), non-alcoholic beer and smoothies can run around $5 to $7. Coffee drinks will be $2 to $9, depending on type and size.
Of course, prices vary by cruise line and can change at any time. Cruise lines will also tack on an automatic 15 to 20 percent gratuity to the price of each drink.
Mainstream cruise lines usually offer soda packages, some with souvenir cups. Prices run from $8.50 to $15 per person, per day, and certain lines will have separate prices for adults and kids. Some lines might also offer bottled water packages or broader nonalcoholic drink packages that include specialty coffees and smoothies. You can learn more about them in our story on all-you-can-drink packages.
Some cruise lines also offer a nonalcoholic drink special of the day. Look for information on discounted drink prices in your ship's daily newsletter.
It depends on the cruise line. Norwegian and MSC prohibit all drinks in checked and carry-on luggage. In other cases, you can bring "reasonable quantities" of soda, juice, bottled water, iced tea or other sealed soft drinks onboard at embarkation. Check with your line to find out what amounts they deem reasonable. The range stretches from a 12-pack per person to cases.
Additional restrictions may also apply. Carnival, for example prohibits any drinks packaged in bottles, including water and sodas. All cruise lines allow or provide water that is to be used in a medical device or with infant formula. Also, if your line allows drinks to be brought on, double check whether you must carry it on yourself or if you're able to check it in with luggage handlers.
All cruise lines prohibit passengers from bringing their own small coffeemakers onboard. If you must have your own coffee, consider packing a small French press and your own ground coffee and requesting hot water from room service or your cabin attendant.
The What to Expect on a Cruise series, written by Cruise Critic's editorial staff, is a resource guide, where we answer the most common questions about cruise ship life -- including cruise food, cabins, drinks and onboard fun -- as well as money matters before and during your cruise and visiting ports of call on your cruise.