• Cruise Critic's Ultimate Guide to Drinking at Sea

    (Updated, August 31, 8:05 a.m. EDT) -- Carnival has expanded the "My Awesome Bar Program" to Carnival Splendor.

    (August 20, 3:00 p.m. EDT) -- Will Carnival become the latest cruise line to jump on the all-you-can-drink, alcohol-included beverage package bandwagon -- joining lines like Celebrity, Oceania and MSC? Perhaps so. If the trial run of the “My Awesome Bar Program," which is currently underway aboard Carnival Victory, is a success, the beverage package could be rolled out to the entire fleet.

    Cruise Critic first heard of the test program from member sooner33, who posted information about it on Saturday. In an e-mail to Cruise Critic, Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen confirmed that the trial has been ongoing since Victory's August 5 departure.

    The per-cruise cost for the My Awesome Bar Program is $42.95 per person per day, plus a 15 percent gratuity. Purchasers can partake of a wide variety of wine, beer and spirits, as well as sodas, bottled water and non-alcoholic frozen cocktails throughout their cruise. (Specialty coffee is not part of the program.) However, all included beverages, including wines by the glass, beers and individual cocktails, must be less than $10 to qualify for inclusion. Program participants who want to purchase bottles of wine and Champagne, as well as more expensive wines by the glass and cocktails will receive a 25 percent discount.

    Gulliksen tells Cruise Critic that participants can order one drink at a time.

    Passengers can sign up for My Awesome Bar Program at Carnival Victory's atrium and casino bars, as well as at the main pool bar.

    There is a catch: if one passenger wants to purchase the beverage package, then all passengers ages 21 years and up in the same cabin must also purchase the package. Though Carnival would not comment on the reasons behind this requirement, it does make the possible issue of two people in one cabin “sharing” a plan moot.

    Gulliksen touted convenience and value as reasons the line is exploring all-inclusive beverage options. At press time, the length of the test period had not yet been determined.

    Other cruise lines that offer similar types of unlimited beverage packages are Celebrity, MSC and Oceania. Of these three, only MSC also requires all passengers in the same cabin to purchase the package, making the Carnival and MSC options the most expensive per cabin of all the programs (even if some individual packages are higher priced). Royal Caribbean also offers an unlimited beverage package, though only on three of its most international ships.

    Royal Caribbean and Holland America both offer discounts on pre-purchased wine bundles.

    --by Dori Saltzman, News Editor