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Drinks Packages Aren’t Worth it For Me – Here’s How I Decide (Price Lists & More)

If you are taking a cruise you might be wondering if it’s worth buying a drinks package, I usually don’t and in this article, I will explain why.

I rarely buy a drinks package when I cruise. I will on occasion buy a soda package if it’s available – but for me an alcoholic package doesn’t make sense.

emma cruises on msc world europa speciality restaurant los lobos tacos

Package Costs

Cruise ships offer several drinks packages, with different drinks included. Typically, you will be able to choose a :

  • Soda package
  • Soft drinks package
  • Classic drinks package
  • Premium/Deluxe Drinks package

A soda-only package on Royal Caribbean costs £13.95/$17.50 a day. A Deluxe drinks package costs around £83/$105.

On Norwegian Cruise Line, a soda-only package is around £8/$10 and a Premium drinks package is £108/$138 – that can add up to a lot of money very quickly!

A soda package onboard the British Cruiseline P&O costs around £10/$12.50. The Deluxe drinks package onboard is a far more reasonable but still expensive £50/$63 a day.

Cruise Lines change prices and offer discounts regularly, so the above amounts – although correct at the time of writing – will only offer a guide.

Package Costs vs Individual Prices

Are you going to get good value buying a drinks package?

Work out how many drinks you are likely to consume in a day, and then you will know whether it is cheaper to buy the drinks individually as you want them or go for a drinks package.

Royal Caribbean$3.50$8.25$9 – 15+$14
Norwegian Cruise LIne$3.50$7$9- $13+$10-15+
P&O£2.60£5£6 -£9+£8
Norwegian Prima Metropolitan Sustainable Cocktails
Norwegian Prima Metropolitan “Sustainable Cocktails”

Estimate How Many Drinks You Will Have In A Day

There are a few things to think about when considering whether to buy a drinks package. These Include:

  • How many sea days, and how many port days does your itinerary have?
    • If your cruise is heavily port intensive, you won’t be on board every day to get the most out of your drinks package. On the other hand, if you have many sea days on your cruise, a drinks package might be more worthwhile.
  • The duration of your cruise can make a difference to your decision.
    • If you are going on a cruise for a week, you might want to relax and have a few drinks whilst you cruise.
    • If you are taking a world cruise, you are unlikely to want to drink heavily for three to four months. The cost of having a premium drinks package for months at a time will cost many thousands of pounds/dollars.
  • Are you taking a River Cruise?
    • If so, remember that most river cruises include drinks with meals, meaning you will have to spend far less on drinks than usual.
Drinking Coke on Arvia
You can only order one drink at a time if you have a drinks package. (The others belonged to other family members!) Onboard P&O’s Arvia

Drinks Package Promotions

Sometimes cruise lines will offer a free drinks package in the fare when you book your cruise.

This is to encourage you to book. If I see an offer like that, I will often take it.

I took a cruise on MSC’s Seaview, and a classic drinks package was included in my cruise fare. This saved me a lot of money, as I didn’t have to buy drinks onboard.

That cruise was incredibly good value for money, find out all about that here:

Sometimes cruise lines offer you a discount on drinks packages if you buy them in advance.

That is worth doing if you know you want a drinks package, I have never seen a drinks package onboard cheaper than the pre-cruise price.

*Top Tip – if you buy a drinks package in advance and then find the price has gone down, you can normally get a refund on the website – and then rebuy it at the newer, discounted price.

Using Onboard Credit for Drinks Packages

If I am given onboard credit when I book my cruise, I will often keep that and buy a drinks package once onboard. You often can’t use onboard credit to buy the package before the cruise so have to do it onboard.

When I took are really cheap cruise onboard the mega ship, Costa Smeralda, the first thing I did was buy a soft drinks package. I had some onboard credit.

Find out about that bargain cruise below. Costa certainly isn’t for everyone, but we had a wonderful time onboard.

Bring On Your Own Drinks

Some cruise lines let you bring onboard a certain number of drinks for consumption in your own cabin.

If you bring a bottle onboard to enjoy in the restaurants, they will charge you a “Corkage Fee” and it might not be worth your time doing it.

Find out more about bringing alcohol onboard cruise ships in the article below:

Can You Bring Alcohol on a Cruise? – Searchable Cruise Line Table

Some Cruise Lines Include Drinks as Standard

A few cruise lines include some drinks as standard, but you can pay extra and upgrade if there are certain premium drinks that you like.

Some, like river cruise lines, include drinks with meals. It is worth checking what is included before you buy a drinks package.

Mainstream Cruise lines that include some complimentary drinks include:

  • Marella
  • Tui River Cruises
  • Azamara
  • Emerald
  • Saga
  • Uniworld River Cruises
  • Viking Ocean and River Cruises

Expect luxury cruise lines like Regent Seven Seas, Oceania and Seabourn to include drinks within their cruise fares.

azamara onward poolside grill
Wonderful food – and cans of Coke all included on Azamara Onward

Drinks Packages – Things to be Aware Of

You Must Buy a Drinks Package For Everyday of Your Cruise

You can’t pick and choose – and say you only want to have a drinks package on sea days, for example.

If you want a drinks package, you must buy it for all of the trip.

Everybody in the Cabin Must Purchase the Same Package

If your cabin mate drinks alcohol, and you don’t, this could be a problem. Both of you would have to buy the alcoholic drinks package, even if you aren’t going to use it.

If there is some medical reason why you can’t drink alcohol, contact the cruise line. Proving this might take some doing. If you are successful in this situation you could save yourself a lot of money – so keep at it!

You can’t share a drinks package between you. Find out more about that here:

You Can’t Share a Drinks Package on a Cruise – Here’s Why

There is a Limit to How Many Drinks You Can Have…

Some cruise lines put limits on the number of alcoholic drinks you can have in a day, even if you have a drinks package.

You are usually only allowed to get one drink per person at a time, you can’t line up multiple drinks to save you going back to the bar.

Some cruise lines have rules that say you can only get a drink once every fifteen minutes.

There Are Some Free Drinks Available Onboard

You don’t have to pay for EVERY drink you consume. You are likely to find:

  • Free Tea and Coffee in the buffet
  • Fruit juice in the buffet and main dining room at breakfast
  • Free water in the buffet, and in the dining rooms – except on Costa Cruises
  • Some cruise lines, particularly British cruise lines (and MSC when sailing from the UK) have tea and coffee-making facilities in their cabins.
p&o iona kettle in cabin mugs glasses biscuits and tea bags
Tea, Coffee – and biscuits – In the cabin of P&O’s Arvia

Service Charges / Gratuities on Drinks

Be aware that on many American cruise lines, like Celebrity they will add a service charge – either when you buy the drinks package, or add it to the cost of every single drink you buy.

This is in addition to the daily gratuities you will be paying anyway.

Celebrity charges an additional 20%, Norwegian charges 20%, Royal Caribbean charges 18% – this is something you are unlikely to see on a British Cruise line (apart from Cunard, which is part of the Carnival Corporation.)

It is important to check the policy of the cruise line you are travelling with, to avoid any nasty surprises when you settle your onboard account at the end of the cruise.

cash card payment

For Me – A Soda Package or Possibly Soft Drinks Is What I Might Buy

  • My ideal is a soda package with a self-serve cup. Usually, I only have to drink 3 drinks a day to make the money back – it’s easy.
  • Non-alcoholic packages can sometimes cost up to £23/$30 – and can include things like speciality coffees, which I don’t drink. I will buy this package if the cruise line doesn’t have a soda package enough. Not all do.
  • I rarely drink alcohol, so it’s not worth it for me to buy a drinks package unless its included in a promotion.

Don’t let the cruise line convince you that you NEED to buy a drinks package. Buying drinks as and when you want them works out far cheaper for many.

That said knowing you won’t have a bill at the end of the cruise is reason enough for many to buy a drinks package.

Before You Go

Find out about the types of drinks included when you sail with Marella here:

Marella Cruises All Inclusive Drinks List (and Menus)

To compare drinks prices between cruise lines, read this article next:

How Much Do Drinks Cost on Cruise Ships? Menus and Comparisons

Taking a Cruise: Recommendations and Resources

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