Drink packages on cruise ship; is it worth it?

May 22, 2023

While working on a cruise ship as a bartender, I often asked myself, "Is there a real value in buying the drink package for the ship passengers? 

Indeed, if we ask 100 different people this question, the tendency is that we could get 100 different answers. It comes down to passengers drinking preferences, habits, and expectations. In the next few days, we will examine whether spending money on a drink package is a good idea when planning your cruise.

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether or not the drink package is worth it on your cruise. Some factors to consider are the drink plan's price, your cabin mate’s drinking habits, the cost of individual drinks, and what drinks the cruise fare includes.

While working on the cruise ship, my general impression was that only a few passengers could get real value from their drink package. There are several reasons why that I will explain later on. Let's say that when you make your "drinking" plans for your upcoming cruise, it could be a little different when you plan at home and when you come on the cruise ship. Most cruise lines will force you to buy a drink package for every day of the cruise ship journey, meaning that you can't just decide on the third day of the cruise that you want to buy one. Another essential thing to consider is your drinking habits. Can you realistically drink day by day for 7 straight days at sea? You might feel that you want to spare yourself from drinking for some days in between due to heavy weather, rocky seas, or simply because of some big hangover you will surely have. During those days, you are still paying for the package daily, meaning that the cruise line always wins.

On the days you decide to drink alcohol, you will still be fully charged for your drink purchase. Passengers who only decide to purchase the drinks on board individually the ship would have an advantage because they can decide how to allocate their drinking package more efficiently and decide the right time to have a drink on the ship(not forcing themself to drink all the time, just because they pre-paid for drink package) Keep this in mind before you decided to purchase your drink package. In my experience as a bartender on a cruise ship, the drink package could be worth only if you can have 10 or 11 drinks daily for the duration of your cruise itinerary. But realistically, how many percent of passengers can have that many drinks every single day? Only 15 to 20 percent of all passengers could do that. That leads us to how cruise liners make millions of dollars on drink packages. Most people buy drink packages just for status, so they can feel important and have a drink any time they want. Cruise line companies are using that psychological deciding factor for passengers purchasing the drink package. In reality, 80 percent of the passengers on board would never get the real value of the drinks packages. That's why those packages were created at first, so they can ensure bombastic revenues for the cruise ship companies. 

Most individual drink prices covered by the beverage package vary between $5 to $15 per day. Depending on the cost of the package, you and your cabinmates will need to drink between 5-10 beverages per day each.

And that's only to break even.

Of course, the price may become more justifiable if you plan on drinking soda, juice, and bottled water throughout the day. But remember, you will have to purchase the package for every adult in the cabin, even if they don't plan on drinking.

While you might be able to consume enough drinks on sea days to make the package worth the price, you'll have to consider the days that you will spend in port. That's because while shopping or participating in an exciting shore excursion, you won't be using the beverage package.

But you'll still be paying for it.

You'll need to consume much more on sea days to compensate for the lack of drink purchases while at the port to break even.

Finally, cruise lines such as Celebrity Cruises, Viking Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea Cruises, and Princess Cruises Princess Plus already include a beverage package with your cruise fare. An upgrade beverage package is rarely needed if you sail with any of these cruise lines.

For the above reasons, we don't think drink package purchases make sense for most cruisers.

But, there is one scenario where you may want to purchase a package even if you won't be saving money.

Some people love knowing exactly how much they will spend with the package before stepping on board. For these passengers, the uncertainty of the running bar tab creates too much stress when you should be relaxing.

With the drink package, you won't need to track your spending and won't be surprised by an unexpected bill at the end of your cruise. Knowing the total cost of the cruise vacation before you set sail is a smart budgeting trick so that you won't be surprised when you receive the bill at the end of your sailing.

Cruise line drink packages are a big deal. That's because people like to have a good time when it comes to taking a cruise. And that good time usually involves alcohol flowing freely. No wonder there are so many bars on a modern cruise ship.

That's why many people are interested in the "all you can drink" packages that cruise lines offer. The appeal of these packages is easy to see. You pay one set amount, and then you don't have to worry about running up a huge bar tab.

Whatever your drinking preference, keep in mind that you have to think smart when choosing your drink package for the cruise. For some people, it could simply work; for many others, it won't. Whatever your drinking habits are, it's important to make a suitable decision that will positively affect your cruising experience on board the ship.