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Cruise ship drinks packages: A line-by-line guide

Oct. 14, 2022
14 min read
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It's easy to run up a monster bill ordering wine, beer and mixed drinks by the glass on a cruise ship. The cost of alcoholic drinks on cruise vessels — particularly cocktails — can be pricey. But for those who regularly order several alcoholic drinks a day when cruising, there's a way to save: a flat-fee drinks package.

All the major mass-market cruise lines offer flat-fee drinks packages that, in some cases, can save you money when cruising.

What's included in a cruise line drinks package and how do they work? And, perhaps more to the point, how much do cruise line drinks packages cost? Read on for the answers in this ultimate guide to cruise line drinks packages.

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For a line-by-line guide to drinks package costs, inclusions, limitations and fine print, scroll to the second half of the guide.

What is a drinks package on a cruise ship?

Cruise line drinks packages let you order as many drinks as you want while on a cruise for one flat fee. This takes the place of paying for drinks one at a time.

At some lines, there are several tiers of drinks packages. Basic tiers often just include sodas and bottled water. More elaborate (and expensive) tiers will add alcoholic and nonalcoholic cocktails, wine, beer and specialty coffee drinks. In some cases, there will be more than one tier of such all-encompassing plans. Some lines also offer coffee cards that let you get a fixed number of fancy coffee drinks at a shipboard coffee bar for a discounted price. And some also offer wine-specific packages.

How much do alcoholic drinks packages cost on cruise ships?

The cost of cruise line drinks packages varies widely by line. At several of the biggest cruise brands, including Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America, the main drinks packages that include all types of drinks cost about $60 per person, per day. Other brands, such as Norwegian Cruise Line, charge as much as $138 per person, per day for a top-tier package.

Drink packages that don't include alcoholic drinks, such as soda packages, typically cost far less. Soda packages often are under $10 per person, per day. Note that some cruise lines discount drinks packages if you buy them online in advance of sailing, and some lines offer periodic sales on their drinks packages online.

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Related: How to get free or cheap drinks on a cruise

Can you buy drinks on a cruise without a drinks package?

Carnival's Blue Iguana Tequila Bar. CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE

Yes. All major cruise lines will let you buy drinks on an a la carte basis when cruising. You don't need a drinks package to be able to drink alcoholic beverages or any other type of beverage on a ship.

Can you share a drinks package on a cruise ship?

In many cases, no. Several of the biggest cruise lines, including Carnival, Holland America and MSC Cruises, have a rule that if one adult in a cabin orders a drinks package, all adults in the cabin must order the package. This is to prevent two or more people in a cabin from sharing a single drinks package.

Two lines that notably don't have such a rule are Princess Cruises and Windstar Cruises. Technically, you are not supposed to use your package to buy drinks for other people.

Are drinks packages on cruise ships really unlimited?

It depends. Some cruise lines, such as Carnival, limit the number of alcoholic drinks that any one person can order using a drinks package to 15 in a day. That is, of course, an enormous number — more than most people will ever want to order.

Related: The 8 best drinks to order with a cruise ship beverage package

Where can you use a cruise line drinks package?

Cruise line drinks packages generally are honored anywhere you can order a drink on a ship — think bars, lounges and eateries. However, you usually can't use them when ordering room service to your room. They also generally don't apply to drinks taken out of cabin minibars. Be sure to check the fine print in your particular line's drinks package before placing an order for a drink to your room. Some cruise lines also let you use your packages when visiting their private islands.

A line-by-line guide to cruise drinks packages

Sunset Bar on Celebrity Beyond. CELEBRITY CRUISES

Below is a line-by-line look at available drinks packages at the major lines that offer them. Note that the pricing listed is per person, per day. In cases where a line offers more than one drinks package, we’ve highlighted the most inclusive package in detail while also noting other packages cruisers can consider.

Carnival Cruise Line

Package name: Cheers! Beverage Program

Cost per day: $64.95 when purchased on board, not including an 18% automatic gratuity charge; $59.95 plus the gratuity charge when purchased in advance of sailing.

Available on: All ships except those sailing in Europe or Australia.

What it includes: Beer, wine by the glass, mixed drinks, specialty cocktails, soda, juices, nonalcoholic cocktails, energy drinks, specialty coffees, teas and most bottled water. The package also features a 25% discount on wine bottle purchases.

Limitations related to drink cost: Cannot be used for drinks priced over $20.

Fine print: More expensive drinks are available at a 25% discount. If one adult in a cabin purchases the package, all adults in the same cabin also must purchase it. There’s a limit of 15 alcoholic drinks per person in a 24-hour period.

Celebrity Cruises

Package name: Premium Drink Package.

Cost per day: $84, not including a 20% automatic gratuity charge, for passengers who have purchased a cruise-only rate. Passengers staying in the premium Retreat areas on Celebrity ships receive the Premium Drink Package for free.

Available on: All ships except those in the Galapagos (where drinks are included in the fare).

What it includes: A large selection of beers including craft beers, wine by the glass, mixed drinks, specialty cocktails, Coca-Cola products, juices, nonalcoholic cocktails, energy drinks, specialty coffees, teas and premium bottled water. The package also brings a 20% discount on wine bottle purchases.

Limitations related to drink cost: Cannot be used for drinks priced over $15.

Other packages: Celebrity also offers a less inclusive “classic” drinks package that now is included in the fare for its sailings as part of its new Always Included fare structure.

Fine print: Packages do not include drinks from in-room minibars or shipboard wine-dispensing machines. Drinks ordered through room service also aren’t included.

Related: These 15 cruise ship bars are not to be missed when cruising

Holland America

Package name: Elite Beverage Package.

Cost per day: $59.99, including an 18% gratuity charge.

Available on: All ships.

What it includes: Beer, wine by the glass, mixed drinks, specialty cocktails, soda, juices, nonalcoholic cocktails, energy drinks, specialty coffees, teas and bottled water.

Limitations related to drink cost: Cannot be used for drinks priced over $15.

Other packages: The slightly less expensive Signature Beverage Package only includes drinks costing up to $11. It costs $54.95 per day.

Fine print: If one adult in a cabin purchases a package, all adults in the same cabin also must purchase it. Packages do not include drinks from in-room minibars or ordered through room service. The package is not valid on Holland America’s private island, Half Moon Cay.

Related: How to plan a cruise with points and miles

MSC Cruises

ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Package name: Premium Extra Package.

Cost per day: $69, not including a 15% service charge when booked on board. The 15% service charge is waived when pre-booking the package.

Available on: All ships.

What it includes: Drinks by the glass including draught, craft and bottled beer; a selection of wine and Champagne by the glass; premium-brand spirits, liqueurs and cordials; a variety of frozen and classic cocktails; soda; juices; nonalcoholic cocktails; energy drinks; hot chocolate drinks; specialty coffees; teas and bottled water. The package also brings a 25% discount on wine and Champagne bottle purchases.

Limitations related to drink cost: Cannot be used for drinks priced over $15.

Other packages: The less expensive Easy Plus package only includes drinks costing up to $9. It costs $49 per day when sailing in North America (pricing will rise to $51 per day in October). The even less pricey Easy package only includes a limited number of drinks and is not valid in extra-charge specialty restaurants. It costs $38 per day.

Fine print: If one person in a cabin purchases a package, all people in the same cabin or traveling group also must purchase a package (children in cabins will be charged for a less-expensive, nonalcoholic package). Packages are not available on sailings shorter than three nights with the exception of South America sailings. Note that the package is valid on Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, MSC Cruises’ private island in the Bahamas.

Related: Can I bring my own alcohol onto a cruise ship?

Norwegian Cruise Line

Package name: Premium Plus Beverage Package.

Cost per day: $128, not including a 20% gratuity charge (effective Jan. 1, 2023, pricing will rise to $138).

Available on: All ships except Pride of America.

What it includes: All beverages by the glass (top-shelf spirits, cocktails, beer and wine) and select premium bottles of Champagne and wine. Also includes unlimited Starbucks coffee and specialty drinks, bottled water, soda, juices and energy drinks. There’s a 40% discount on other bottles of wine as well.

Limitations related to drink cost: None.

Other packages: Norwegian has two less-inclusive, less expensive alcoholic beverage packages. The Corks and Caps Wine and Beer Package, priced at $65 per day, includes beer, wines by the glass priced up to $15, soda and juices. The Unlimited Open Bar Beverage Package, priced at $99 per day, adds spirits and cocktails priced up to $15 (effective Jan. 1, 2023, pricing will go up to $109). This is the drinks package that many travelers get comped as part of Norwegian's Free at Sea promotion (though you still have to pay 20% of the package price for gratuities). Hawaii-based Pride of America has a single drinks package that costs $99 per day (effective Jan. 1, 2023, prices will increase to $109).

Fine print: If one passenger in a cabin purchases a package, everyone in the same cabin as well as other cabins tied to the same method of payment must purchase the package, too. Children are charged for a less expensive, nonalcoholic package. Packages do not include drinks from in-room minibars or ordered through room service. Note that the beverage packages can be used not just on Norwegian ships but at Norwegian's private island in the Bahamas, Great Stirrup Cay.

Related: $12 for a drink made with leftover banana peels? My strange night out at Norwegian's new 'zero waste' cruise ship bar

Oceania Cruises

Package name: Prestige Select Beverage Package.

Cost per day: $59.95, including gratuities.

Available on: All ships.

What it includes: Beer, wine by the glass, mixed drinks and cocktails. Soda, bottled water and specialty coffees already are included in the fare on Oceania sailings. The package also brings a 20% discount to wine-pairing dinners on Oceania’s Marina and Riviera.

Limitations related to drink cost: None.

Other packages: Oceania offers a less expensive House Select package that includes wine and beer with lunch and dinner. It costs $39.95 per day. A wine bottle package also is available.

Fine print: None.

Princess Cruises

A bar on a Princess Cruises ship. (Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises)
A bar on a Princess Cruises ship. PRINCESS CRUISES

Package name: Premier Beverage Package.

Cost per day: $79.99, not including an 18% gratuity charge. On Australia cruises, the package costs 113.99 Australian dollars ($76.03) per day. There is no service charge on the Australian package.

Available on: All ships.

What it includes: Beer, wine by the glass, mixed drinks, specialty cocktails, soda, juices, nonalcoholic cocktails, energy drinks, smoothies, milkshakes, specialty coffees, teas and bottled water. The package also brings a 25% discount on wine bottle purchases.

Limitations related to drink cost: Cannot be used for drinks priced over $18.

Other packages: Princess also offers a less pricey Plus Beverage package that can be used for drinks priced up to $12.

Fine print: There’s a limit of 15 alcoholic drinks per day. The package is not available for Australia-based itineraries shorter than seven nights or voyages shorter than two nights in all other regions.

Royal Caribbean

Package name: Deluxe Beverage Package.

Cost per day: $63 to $89, not including an 18% gratuity charge (pricing varies by ship and itinerary).

Available on: All Royal Caribbean ships.

What it includes: Beer, wine by the glass, spirits, mixed drinks, cocktails, soda, juices, nonalcoholic cocktails, energy drinks, specialty coffees, teas and premium bottled water. The package also brings a 20% discount on wine bottle purchases for bottles priced up to $100. More expensive bottles come with a 20% discount.

Limitations related to drink cost: Cannot be used for drinks priced over $13.

Fine print: If one adult of legal drinking age in a cabin or traveling under the same booking number purchases a package, all adults of legal drinking age in the same cabin also must purchase it. Packages do not include drinks from in-room minibars or those ordered through room service. Drinks served in souvenir glassware and specialty beers are not covered by the package, nor are beverages served inside licensed Starbucks stores on ships.

Viking

Package name: Silver Spirits Beverage Package.

Cost per day: $19.95, including gratuities.

Available on: All ships including river and expeditions ships.

What it includes: Beer, wine by the glass, mixed drinks and cocktails (soda, beer and house wines by the glass ordered at lunch and dinner already are included in the fare at Viking; so are specialty coffees and teas at all hours). The package also brings a 15% discount on wine bottles and premium beverages costing more than $15 that aren’t included in the package.

Limitations related to drink cost: Cannot be used for drinks priced over $15.

Fine print: None.

Windstar Cruises

Package name: Captain’s Exclusive Beverage Package.

Cost per day: $59, not including a 15% gratuity charge. Windstar also has begun offering optional All-Inclusive Pricing rates for cruises that include unlimited drinks at no extra charge.

Available on: All ships.

What it includes: Beer, wine by the glass, spirits and cocktails. Soda, specialty coffees and other nonalcoholic beverages already are included in the fare on Windstar sailings. The package also brings a 30% discount on wine bottle purchases for bottles costing up to $100.

Limitations related to drink cost: None.

Other packages: The less costly Topmast Discoveries Beer and Wine Package, at $49 per day, includes a choice of beers and premium wines but not spirits and cocktails.

Fine print: None.

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Featured image by MARK KATZMAN/ PRINCESS CRUISES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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