Are Drink Packages Worth the Money?

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Editor’s note: This blog post was last updated on by

If you have ever considered purchasing a drink package for your next cruise holiday, here are some things to think about before you book. To make it easier for you to calculate whether it would make sense for you to book a beverage package, Cruise1st’s team of cruise experts has gathered all the information you need to know.

Before you even begin to weigh your favourite cruise line’s drink package options, you probably also have some general questions about beverage packages. If you already know what you’re looking for, use the links below to navigate to a specific section and find your answer more quickly.

  1. Do I need to buy a beverage package for every day of my cruise?
  2. Will I be allowed to share my drink package during my cruise?
  3. Can I bring my own alcoholic beverages aboard?
  4. What should I consider when estimating my own alcohol consumption?
  5. What are the advantages of booking a drink package?
  6. Price of a drink per cruise line
  7. MSC Cruises’ Drink Packages
  8. Costa Cruises’ Drink Packages
  9. Royal Caribbean International’s Drink Packages
  10. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Drink Packages

Do I need to buy a beverage package for every day of my cruise?

Because you can only purchase a drink package for the entire duration of the cruise, it is impossible to book a package just for specific sea days. If your cruise’s itinerary is packed with days on shore and you plan on getting off the ship to explore the ports of call, then a drink package might not be the best idea because you will have very little time to enjoy it. If you return from your shore excursion at 5 pm every day, you will only have dinnertime and a few hours afterwards to enjoy your drink package. Do the maths and calculate whether you can drink your money’s worth during this short time frame.

two friends drinking mimosas on sun deck

Will I be allowed to share my drink package during my cruise?

All passengers booked in the same stateroom must purchase the same drink package. The only exceptions apply to children under 3 years of age who are not required to purchase any package and passengers between 3 and 17 years of age who must book a non-alcoholic drink package. You will need to calculate approximately how many beverages – alcoholic or not – everyone in your stateroom will drink over the course of your cruise.

If you’re setting sail with your parent, who is not that much of a drinker, you are not allowed to purchase an alcoholic drink package for yourself and a non-alcoholic one for them. In this case, both adult passengers will need to book the same alcoholic package. If you are a heavy drinker travelling with an elderly relative, who can’t even finish a glass of wine during dinner, an alcoholic drink package for the entire stateroom may not be worth it.

Even though you may want to shout some drinks for your new cruise friends, it is forbidden to share your drink package with passengers in another stateroom. All cruise lines strictly enforce this rule to prevent too many passengers from taking advantage of just a few beverage packages. Some cruise lines even enforce a two-drink-per-order limit, so walking away from the bar with a dozen margaritas will be out of the question.

Can I bring my own alcoholic beverages aboard?

Boarding with alcoholic beverages – whether on embarkation day or any other day – is strictly forbidden. Not even bottles of water are allowed. If you contact the cruise line prior to embarkation, exceptions regarding specific dietary restrictions and special infant needs can be accommodated.

Most cruise lines do grant exceptions if you want to bring a certain bottle of wine on board for a special occasion during your journey. On boarding day, passengers may bring up to two personal bottles of wine or Champagne (maximum 750 millilitres each) per stateroom in their carry-on luggage. You are free to enjoy these bottles during your cruise, but if you want to drink them in one of the onboard restaurants or bars, you will have to pay a cork fee (approximately US $15 per bottle). Otherwise, you can imbibe in your stateroom without incurring fees. Please note: This two-bottle limit only applies to wine and Champagne and cannot be substituted with beer or hard liquor.

If you’re visiting the rum distilleries in the Caribbean or touring the vineyards of the Mediterranean, don’t worry: You’ll be able to take a bottle or two home with you. Any alcoholic beverages purchased on shore will be stored by the crew and delivered to your stateroom on the last day of your cruise. These bottles cannot be consumed on board.

woman drinking cocktail on balcony

What should I consider when estimating my own alcohol consumption?

  • Estimate how many drinks you will have on sea days. This tends to be a lot more than on days in port. Remember: You might spend some time at the pool, eat two proper meals, join group activities, and take part in entertainment shows, which are perfect times for a drink.
  • If you’re visiting private islands like Royal Caribbean International’s CocoCay or MSC Cruises’ Ocean Cay, then count them as sea days because you will be able to take advantage of your drink package on those islands. There are some exceptions though, like Norwegian Cruise Line’s Harvest Caye, where you cannot use your drink package as you would on board.
  • Remember that the last day of your cruise counts as a “day” for your drink package. Because you disembark early in the morning (normally before 10 am), it is unlikely you will have time for a drink that day.
  • Most cruise lines offer wine packages for wine lovers who don’t plan on drinking cocktails or liquor during their cruise. For example, you can purchase four to six bottles of wine for the duration of your cruise, and the more bottles you add to the package, the better price you get. You can drink your wine during meals at any restaurant or at any time of the day at the bars. In case you don’t finish a bottle, your waiter will store it for you, and you will be able to order the rest of the bottle at another time. Unopened bottles can also be taken home.
  • Please note: Drink packages only offer glasses of wine, not bottles. Furthermore, the glasses of wine are limited to a few varieties and brands. If you’re a wine lover, then a specific wine package would be your best bet.

What are the advantages of booking a drink package?

  • Beverage packages are easy to use: Order your drink, swipe your card, and raise your glass! No signatures, no waits, no worries.
  • Drink packages are stress-free: You don’t have to debate whether you have the money for another round.
  • Settling your account at the end of the cruise will be a breeze because you won’t have to check a long list of drink transactions.
  • Paying in advance gives you transparency. You may also have onshore expenses, including specialty restaurants, casino bills, and souvenirs), and no one wants to conclude their holidays with a large debt.
  • Some cruise lines, like MSC Cruises or Costa Cruises, won’t charge you the mandatory 15% service charge if you book your drink package prior to boarding. If you decide to purchase your beverage package on board, you must pay the fee.
  • Drink packages booked on board must be paid in the cruise ship’s official currency (US dollar or euro, depending on the destination). If you buy your package in advance, you can pay in your own currency.

couple on cruise with cocktails

Price of a drink per cruise line

To help you calculate the break-even point for drink packages, we have analysed the prices for each drink on several cruise lines. The prices shown below do not include the mandatory gratuity charged by each cruise line. Prices may vary by ship, destination, and cruise duration, and, most importantly, they are subject to price hikes each season. Therefore, these prices represent an estimation of what you can expect on board.

MSC Cruises

Costa Cruises Royal Caribbean International

Norwegian Cruise Line

Free drinks

• Water at the buffet
• Milk, coffee, and juices at breakfast
• Water at the buffet
• Milk, coffee, and juices at breakfast
• Tap water
• Milk
• Regular and decaf coffee
• Tea and iced tea
• Flavoured waters
• Lemonade
• Juices at breakfast

• Tap water
• Milk, coffee, and juices at breakfast
• Iced tea

Bottle of beer

US $4.10 – US $5.50 US $5 – US $6.50 US $6.95 – US $7.99

US $6.95

Glass of wine

US $3.40 – US $14.40 US $7 US $9 – US $25

US $7.95 – US $17.95

Special coffee

US $6.30 US $6 US $4.25

US $9.95

Soft drink

US $2.70 US $3.50 US $3.25

US $3.45

Bottle of water (500ml)

US $2.10 US $3 US $2.25

US $3.25

Mocktail

US $5 US $7 – US $7.50 US $7

US $8

Cocktail

US $7.10 – US $12 US $7.50 – US $14 US $10 – US $13

US $10.95 – US $13.95

Liquor, spirits, and distilled drinks

US $6.10 – US $18 US $7.50 – US $15.50 US $7 – US $9

US $8.95 – US $19.95

 

couple drinking wine on sun deck of MSC Cruises ship

MSC Cruises’ Drink Packages

If you haven’t booked the Aurea Experience or an MSC Yacht Club stateroom, consider purchasing one of MSC Cruises’ beverage packages. Prices vary according to the departure port, which means you will pay for your drink package in the ship’s currency. However, if you book it with your stateroom or any time prior to boarding, you will be charged in your own currency without incurring the service fee.

Drink packages, as well as each drink ordered on board, are subject to a 15% service fee. MSC Cruises waives this fee if you purchase your package prior to boarding.

Non-alcoholic

With this package, you can enjoy unlimited soft drinks, mocktails, bottled water, and premium coffees, except in specialty restaurants. You also have access to soft ice cream, which is a highlight for children. Prices for this package differ per age, so it gets more expensive if you are over 18, but the included drinks stay the same.

Easy

MSC Cruises’ most basic alcoholic package includes one brand of beer depending on the itinerary (Skol, Miller Lite, or Heineken), house wines by the glass, soft drinks, bottled water, classic hot drinks (cappuccino, café latte, hot chocolate, etc.), and a selection of basic cocktails (caipirinha, whiskey & cola, gin & tonic, etc.). You can use your drink package in all bars and dining rooms, except for the specialty restaurants.

Premium

This package includes premium drinks priced up to US $12, such as cocktails, spirits, liquors, and aperitifs that are not included in the Easy Package. It also offers a wider range of wines by the glass, all brands of bottled and draft beer, energy drinks, and premium coffees. You can also enjoy these drinks throughout the ship as well as in the specialty restaurants.

Premium Plus

Enjoy unlimited access to premium drinks throughout the ship, including those priced above US $12 and those from the themed bars. That also includes drinks and food from the minibar and the room service menu. You also get a 30% discount if you want to buy a bottle of wine.

Prices per day (departures from South America)

Prices per day (departures from US) Prices per day (departures from Europe, Emirates and Grand Voyages)

It’s worth it if you drink at least…

Non-alcoholic package (up to 17 years old)

US $13 US $17 US $16

seven soft drinks per day.

Non-alcoholic package (adult)

US $20 US $29 US $21

two mocktails, two premium coffees, and three soft drinks per day.

Easy

US $29 US $35 US $32

two basic cocktails, two basic beers, two soft drinks, and two glasses of basic wine per day.

Premium

US $43 US $62 US $43

two premium cocktails, two premium beers, two soft drinks, and two premium glasses of wine per day.

Premium Plus

US $50 US $79 US $61

two premium cocktails, two premium beers, two soft drinks, two premium glasses of wine plus one premium liquor/spirit from the Connoisseur’s Selection Menu per day.

 

Aperol Spritz bar on Costa Cruises ship

Costa Cruises’ Drink Packages

Even Costa Cruises’ most basic drink package offers a good selection of beverages for your cruise. Costa Cruises also has a great option for those intending to spend a lot of time on shore and who want to enjoy unlimited drinks during meals.

Both individual drinks and beverage packages purchased on board are subject to a 15% service fee. Costa Cruises will waive this fee if you buy your package prior to boarding.

Pranzo & Cena

Dedicated to those who only want to have unlimited beverages during mealtimes. What’s better than having as many glasses of wine during dinner as you wish, an ice-cold beer at lunch, or soft drinks and bottled water at any restaurant?

Brindiamo

Costa Cruises’ most basic drink package includes a wide range of liquors, such as gin, rum, vodka, tequila, grappa, whisky, brandy, cognacs, and bourbon, as well as aperitifs like Aperol, Campari, and martinis. The selection of cocktails includes gin & tonic, whiskey & cola, vodka tonic, vodka lemon, Bacardi Breezer, and rum & coke. South America cruises offer Brahma and Skol as beer options.

Piú Gusto

If you love cocktails, this drink package offers a wider range of options: frozen margaritas, Aperol spritzes, piña coladas, daiquiris, caipirinhas, Mai Tais, Bahama Mamas, and all the classic cocktails you can think of. Regarding other drinks, the offer doesn’t differ much from the Brindiamo drink package.

Interditore

Costa Cruises’ most complete drink package gives you access to all premium cocktails served on the ship, including the molecular and solid cocktails. All brands of beer are available, including imported brands like Corona, Estrella Damm, Nastro Azzurro, Carlsberg, and wheat beers. This package also offers more brands when it comes to liquors and aperitifs.

Price per day (South America) Price per day (Europe) Price per day (Caribbean and USA) It’s worth it if you drink at least…

Pranzo & Cena

US $23 US $19 US $16.99

one glass of wine at lunch and two during dinner each day.

Brindiamo

US $37 US $28 US $25.50

two beers, one basic cocktail, one soft drink, and one glass of basic wine per day.

Piu Gusto

US $41 US $31.50 US $28.50

three cocktails per day at US $9.50 each per day.

Interditore

US $59

US $50.50

US $45.99

two molecular cocktails, one premium mixed drink, and two premium beers per day.

 

Bionic Bar on Royal Caribbean International cruise ship

Royal Caribbean International’s Drink Packages

The cost of packages varies according to the class of the ship, destination, and departure date. It’s not possible to purchase a drink package when you’re booking your stateroom; they can only be added afterwards upon managing your booking. That means the exact price for your sailing can only be determined after you’ve booked your cruise.

Whether you book it in advance or on board, an 18% service charge will be added to your drink package. This service charge will be used to cover gratuity on all drinks ordered through the drink package.

Classic Soda Package

Each passenger receives a souvenir Coca-Cola cup they can refill with any Coca-Cola soft drink brands at all venues on the ship, unlimited. This package is available for passengers of all ages.

Refreshment Package

Includes all non-alcoholic beverages throughout the ship:

  • All benefits of the Classic Soda Package
  • Mocktails (non-alcoholic cocktails)
  • Bottled water, still and sparkling
  • Premium coffees and teas
  • Fresh-squeezed juices

This package is available for passengers of all ages.

Deluxe Beverage Package

  • All benefit of the Refreshment Package
  • Vodka, rum, gin, tequila/mezcal, whiskey, bourbon, cognac
  • Beer, domestic, imported, and craft
  • Wines by the glass (most iconic varietals)

This drink package excludes premium cocktails priced above US $12. Plus, receive a 40% discount on bottles of wines priced up to US $100 and a 20% discount on bottles priced above US $100. Only passengers over 18 (21 on cruises departing from North America) can book this package.

Price per day (varies per ship, itinerary) It’s worth it if you drink at least…
Classic Soda US $12.99 – US $15 four to five soft drinks per day.
Refreshment US $29 – US $38 four to five soft drinks plus two to three mocktails per day.
Deluxe US $63 – US $89 three to four premium cocktails, two to three glasses of wine, and one beer per day.

 

Mojito Bar on Norwegian Cruise Line cruise ship

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Drink Packages

Norwegian Cruise Line has some of the most expensive drink packages in the cruise industry. However, with their Free at Sea offer on most of their cruises, you can select the Premium Beverage Package as one of your free perks for your cruise. Another thing to consider: If you pick this drink package as part of the Free at Sea offer, you will still have to pay 20% gratuity.

Prices of Norwegian Cruise Line’s drink packages are standard across ships and destinations with one exception. Pride of America sails exclusively around the Hawaiian Islands and offers its own beverage package.

Soda package

Free refills on all Pepsi soft drink brands. This package costs slightly less for children under 12 years old.

Corks and Caps

A great package for those who don’t usually drink cocktails or liquor but couldn’t imagine a cruise without beer and wine. This special package includes all bottled and draft beers on board, as well as all wines by the glass up to US $15. It also guarantees a discount of 20% on bottles of wine purchased on board.

Premium Beverage Package

With such a high price for the most basic package, it, of course, covers a wide variety of beverages, which includes all drinks up to US $15. If you want to order a drink above that price, you will only have to pay the difference.

  • 18 brands of bottled beers and ciders, including four brands on draft
  • 33 brands of whiskey, brandy, and other spirits
  • 16 brands of rum
  • 24 brands of liquors, including Frangelico, Jägermeister, Kahlua, Cointreau, Licor 43, and Campari
  • 16 brands of gin and vodka, including Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, Grey Goose, Tanqueray, and Absolut
  • More than 20 wines by the glass
  • Hundreds of cocktails up to US $15
  • Soft drinks, tonics, and juices

Premium Plus Beverage Package

This package includes all beverages by the glass available on the ship. The biggest advantage of the Premium Plus Beverage Package is something that other cruise lines don’t tend to offer: You are spoilt with 18 bottles of wine to choose from during dinnertime. Plus, a 40% discount on all wine tastings and bottles of wine purchased on board. Unless you value the experience of drinking wine by the bottle, the less expensive package should cover almost everything you might want to drink during your cruise.

Hawaii Beverage Package

Due to specific state laws in Hawaii, this drink package’s offer is slightly more restricted in terms of brands than those covered by the Premium Beverage Package. However, it pretty much works the same way, as it includes all drinks up to US $15.

Price per day (not including Hawaii)

It’s worth it if you drink at least…

Non-alcoholic (child)

US $5.95

two soft drinks per day.

Non-alcoholic (adult)

US $7.95

three soft drinks per day.

Corks and Caps Wine and Beer Package

US $65

four glasses of premium wine at US $15 plus one bottle of beer per day.

Premium Beverage Package

US $99

three premium cocktails, three glasses of premium wine, and two bottles of beer per day.

Premium Plus Beverage Package

US $128

five premium cocktails or liquor, two bottles of beer, and one bottle of wine per day.

Hawaii Beverage Package (Pride of America only)

US $99

three premium cocktails, three glasses of premium wine, and two bottles of beer per day.

 

We hope we’ve given you some insight into drink packages and what’s included across various cruise lines, like MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, and Norwegian Cruise Line. If you have any questions, feel free to ring our Australia-based cruise experts on 1300 857 345. In the meantime, check out our top deals for 2020!

Browse our 2020 cruise deals

 

About Author

Josh Kongmany

Josh is a content manager and blogger at Cruise1st. His love of travel has driven him to share his expertise in the cruise industry. When he's not writing, you can catch him playing a game of foosball, sticking his nose in a book, or experimenting in the kitchen.

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