Should You Buy the Drinks Package on Your Cruise?

Many cruise lines offer drinks packages. Instead of paying for beer, wine and liquor as you go, it’s all wrapped up in an inclusive price. Is this a good idea?

What’s a Drinks Package?

There are lots of offers aboard ship. There’s a soft drink option. A specialty coffee option. The most interesting is likely the alcohol option. Pay about $70/day and you can (almost) drink as much as you want.

Let’s make some assumptions. You are not 22 years old. The ship is not going to Acapulco or Cancun. It’s not a bachelor or bachelorette party. You are a normal adult couple, fitting cruise line demographics, sailing somewhere on a seven-night voyage.

We’ve sailed on Cunard. Other lines likely have similar programs. The following rules apply:

  • Maximum 15 drinks per day.
  • Order one at a time.
  • Minimum 10-minute interval between drinks.
  • Covers drinks $12.00 and under.

There are a few other rules I’m a little vague on. These include both occupants in the stateroom must take the package. You must buy for the duration of the cruise (there are no “day passes.”) Nonalcoholic drinks in the other packages are included.

The Pros – Why the Drinks Package Makes Sense

You drink a lot more on vacation than you do at home. According to cruisemarketwatch.com, in 2018, cruise passengers spent $62.16 in onboard spending every day. Liquor likely plays a large part.

  • Breakeven is six drinks per day. That’s a glass of wine at lunch, two drinks in the sun on deck, two before dinner and wine with dinner. Everything beyond that is gravy.
  • Study your last statement. You cruise a lot. Looking over your past cabin account statement, you realize you each spend $70 or more on alcohol.
  • You don’t want to worry about money. Your drinks package means there should be no surprises at the end of the voyage.
  • You have a large statement credit. You got a great deal when booking. You have an onboard money to spend. As they say, “You can’t take it with you.”
  • You have a specific drink you really like a lot. It’s martinis before dinner. Long Island Iced Teas at the pool. They are fully priced drinks.

The Cons – Why You Want to Pay as You Go

Look at the simple math: 15 drinks max times $12.00 max = $180.00. You pay about $70. Sounds like a good deal. But here are the cons:

  • 15 drinks is a lot of drinks. That sounds positive but it can be a negative. Can you consume 15 drinks a day? You are an adult. You aren’t doing tequila shots at the bar.
  • Conventional bar rules still apply. Its highly likely bartenders aren’t allowed to serve a visibly intoxicated person.
  • How will you plan 15 drinks a day? Two glasses of wine at lunch? Three cocktails around the pool? Two drinks before dinner? Two glasses of wine at dinner? Three drinks after dinner during the show? That’s still only 12.
  • You like beer. How much can you hold? Not 15 pints.
  • All day, every day. You need to commit for several days, you can’t pick and choose.
  • What about hangovers? You made your 15, but between the motion of the seas and your hangover, you aren’t ready to do it all again the next day.
  • Port visits. You are missing out on valuable drinking time.
  • Can your spouse keep up? This is important if both cabinmates need to buy the package.

Like roulette and other casino games, winning looks easy, but the odds are in the house’s favor. Personally, I’m OK with buying cocktails one at a time and buying wine by the bottle of wine at dinner vs. glasses of the house wine. We each have our preferences.

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