How to Control Your Bar Bill at Sea

(Story by Bryce Sanders) …

Do you go into sticker shock when your account statement arrives at your cabin on the final night? Wow! Did I spend that much on booze? How can you keep your bar bill under control when life at sea is one endless party?

We all know cruise ships have multiple profit centers.  Drink sales is a big one.  According to a 2016 blog post, the average passenger consumes 33 drinks a week or 4.7 per day.  That’s about eight times the average American’s weekly consumption stateside! (1)  If you are paying an average of $10.00 including gratuities, that’s $330.00.  Assuming you are sharing your cabin with your significant other, that number doubles to $ 660.00.  We haven’t added extra expenses like shopping, port excursions and the end of cruise tipping.  No wonder it’s easy to pass the $1,000.00 mark!

Here are ways to keep having a good time while keeping expenses in check:

  1. Study the cocktail menu. This is a lazy afternoon project early in the voyage.  Does liquor come in two sized pours?  Is the tonic for a G&T a premium brand like Fever Tree, served alongside as a separate item?  Tonic also comes out of a fountain gun, just like at your neighborhood bar.  What are the liquor brands they serve?  Instead of getting a double pour of a premium gin and the premium tonic alongside, settle on a single pour of a reasonably priced gin you like topped up with tonic from the fountain gun.  It should be a lot cheaper.  Order Scotch on the ricks with water on the side.  It lets you stretch out that drink.
  2. Save that wine. You are having dinner in the dining room.  That bottle of wine is only half finished.  Your wine steward will likely ask if you want it saved.  If not, ask.   They will write your table number and seating on the bottle.  At lunch the next day, ask the steward (probably a different person) to find your bottle.  Finish the second half over lunch instead of ordering wine by the glass.
  3. Cabin cocktails. Your chosen line likely has specific rules about liquor in cabins.  See if you can bring a bottle of rum aboard when you stop at an island in the Caribbean.  Maybe they allow you to buy one bottle from their duty-free shop for onboard consumption.  Enjoy it in your cabin or balcony during the week.  Don’t attempt to bring your own booze into public areas.
  4. Free booze. Your ship likely has a Captain’s welcome aboard reception.  Wine is usually free.  You might have other choices too.  The art gallery might do a champagne reception.  It might not be your brand of choice, but no one is asking for your ship’s card to charge it to your cabin.
  5. Let’s assume you are enjoying a drink will watching a show.  Wine might be a five-ounce pour.  Liquor, a two-ounce pour.  Beer comes in a 16 oz. pint glass.  Assuming they all cost the same, which will last the longest?
  6. Drinks packages. Ships often offer various hard and soft drink packages, priced by the day.  This might be a good option.  Check the prices, do the math.  Determine if it’s right for you.
  7. Free drinks. We are talking soft drinks.  Check out the self-serve restaurant area.  There’s probably tea and coffee always available.  Ditto ice water, lemonade and maybe juice.  Find a seat with a good view.  Read your book.  Enjoy the free stuff midafternoon.
  8. Afternoon tea. If your ship does it on a grand scale, like Cunard, it’s another daily activity where you are sipping without spending.  You must like tea, of course.
  9. House wine. In the bars, check out their selections of house wines.  The premium cabernets might be great, but they are called premium for a reason.  The house wine might be fine, especially if your life doesn’t revolve around wine.
  10. Bin ends. The ship’s dining room changes its wine list periodically.  They have leftovers, called “bin ends.”  Ask your wine steward if they have a bin end list.  You might find some good deals.

You are on vacation.  You want to have a good time.  Putting a little thought into how you order drinks can help prevent a shocking experience when you get your final bill.

(Story by Bryce Sanders)

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