Cheers-Free Cruise? Royal Caribbean's All-You-Can-Drink Packages Suffer Temporary Hiccup

April 7, 2011
(1:30 p.m. EDT) -- Was the hangover that bad? Royal Caribbean has confirmed to Cruise Critic that its new all-inclusive drinks packages, which debuted in March on three ships, have been suspended for one sailing on Independence of the Seas.

In a statement, the mega-ship line noted that the package was shelved on Indy's 5 April sailing (an 11-night Canary Islands voyage) "in order to make some changes based on guest feedback." The package has been discontinued for the current sailing only "whilst both the IT system and product offering are being adjusted," noted spokeswoman Sarah Rathbone. It will be reinstated (bottoms ups!) for the 16 April cruise.

Intriguingly, the all-you-can-drink plan remains available on the two other ships where it originally debuted: Grandeur of the Seas and Legend of the Seas. Grandeur divides its time between South America (cruises from Colon, Panama, and Cartagena, Columbia) and the Mediterranean (from Palma De Mallorca, Spain). Legend is Royal Caribbean's year-round Asia-based vessel. The line would not clarify why issues solely on Independence, which is based year-round in Southampton, prompted the temporary corking.

So what changes are in store? RCI is still finalizing the tweaks, but Rathbone noted that the line may require all passengers of legal drinking age staying in the same cabin to purchase the package. (A sober-minded reader might assume from this that program-paying passengers were being a little too generous with their non-paying friends; the line would not confirm or deny this.) We're awaiting word on whether the proposed changes will take effect on all three ships.

The content -- i.e. the strong stuff -- of each package remains the same: For $29 per day, the beer and wine package includes all brews, house wine by the glass and a 25 percent discount on other liquors and wines. The "classic," which costs $39, expands on that to include all cocktails and premium and specialty liquor. And for connoisseurs, the $49 Premium Package builds on the classic, but also offers wines by the glass up to $10 and more premium liquors.

Reports of trouble in boozeville first surfaced on Wednesday on Cruise Critic's Forums, and readers have been speculating about reasons for the suspension. "I think the main issue for RCI with this package is that they don't control it," wrote stuartgrn, who debarked Independence on Tuesday. "The possibility of using one package between two people is really easy -- just go to one bar, get a beer then hop over to another bar and get another." "I certainly hope it's not due to anti-social behaviour!" added mzk90. --by Dan Askin, News Editor

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