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The Best Cruise Line Drink Packages for Every Budget

Food + Drink Cruises
by Kristine Hansen Mar 16, 2022

It can be a total buzzkill to constantly pull out your wallet on vacation. If you’re planning a trip on a vacation this spring, one way around that is to take advantage of cruise line drink packages.  Cruise lines’ all-inclusive drinks packages mean you pay a flat daily fee up front—and never again—for all the wine, beer, soda, coffee, tea and cocktails you can possibly drink. This per-person fee provides flexibility in a group if some people want to drink more than others.

Particularly when cruising during spring break, cruise line drink packages are a way to take financial worries out of the equation and simply kick back and relax. And there’s no denying that drinking is a big part of vacationing on a cruise line, especially since you don’t have to worry about finding a designated driver. Cruise lines put as much attention on their bars and lounges as they do restaurants, with many organized by theme – such as a nightclub, piano bar, wine bar or romantic lounge. Bar-hopping on-board is as much an activity as a shore excursion off the ship. So if you enjoy letting loose on a cruise ship, you might want to seriously consider looking into the cruise line drink packages on the ship of your choice.

These drink packages are not just about alcohol and sodas: some provide unlimited specialty coffee and espresso drinks, a big plus if you’re a java addict, as well as non-pressed juices. Some include gratuities while others do not. It’s worth checking when pricing these out.

The reasons why someone might spring for a drinks package and not balk at the total price (between $9 and $128 per day, although mostly in the $50-$60 range per day) comes down to convenience and budget. Now you know exactly how much you’ll be paying for drinks—and not a penny more.

In planning a cruise vacation, so much is decided weeks before you hop on board, including the cabin category and shore excursions. Why not remove one more decision and start focusing on what to pack instead? Here is your complete guide to cruise line drink packages, and all the information you need to decide which one is right for you.

Virgin Voyages

Richard Branson’s new cruise line—its first ship sailed last August—offers Essential Drinks on Us for free on every sailing. This includes filtered still and sparkling waters, non-pressed juices, sodas, teas and coffee. There isn’t a drink package per-se like other cruise lines with daily fees but you can drop $300 on a pre-paid tab—which gets you an extra $50.

Pros: Virgin Voyages hired top-notch mixologists (like James Beard Award winner Charles Joly, the Academy Awards’ official bartender) to develop a drinks menu. Also, you can use this pre-paid bar tab for others in your party.

Cons: With drink prices fairly low—$5-$6 for beer, $9 for cocktails and 42 percent of wines under $10 a glass, plus tips included—you may not need that extra $50 bonus if you pre-pay $300.

Carnival Cruises

There are two options for drinks packages available on Carnival Cruises: Bottomless Bubbles (soft drinks and juices only, $5.95 child and $8.50 adult, per day) and Cheers! (like the name implies, this one offers wine, beer and cocktails—in addition to soft drinks, juices, teas and coffee, $51.95 per day).

Pros: While wine-by-the-glass and cocktails (under $20 on the menu) are included in the Cheers! package, you also get 25 percent off a bottle of wine or Champagne, and glasses on the menu over $20, in case you want to splurge a night or two.

Cons: Carnival Cruises’ cocktail and beer lists are more in-depth than its wine selections. If you’re more of a wine drinker, looking for higher-end labels, this might not be too enticing.

MSC Cruises

Two of MSC Cruises’ five drink packages (Alcohol-Free Package and Minors Package) cater to dry sailors, too with mocktails, sodas, energy drinks, mineral and flavored waters, fruit juices, coffee drinks, hot chocolate and tea. For the Easy Package (covers drinks priced up to $6 on the menu at $38 per day), Easy Plus Package (covers drinks up to $9 at $49 per day) and Premium Extra Package (covers drinks up to $15 at $69 per day), you get all that plus the alcohol.

Pros: Just like kids sail free on many MSC Cruises sailings, two drinks packages (Minors and Alcohol-Free) cater to little ones, too.

Cons: Only two beer brands are covered in the Easy Package – Heineken and Miller Lite – and no frozen classic cocktails.

Celebrity Cruises

There are two alcohol packages on Celebrity Cruises: Classic (covers drinks up to $9, for $59 per day) and Premium (covers drinks up to $15 for $69 per day), and three non-alcoholic options, too.

Pros: The Premium Non-Alcoholic package expands beyond soda, coffee and teas. Coconut water, normally a costly choice, is also unlimited. There’s also a Wines by the Bottle option, sold in three, five or seven bottles in each package – perfect if you’re traveling in a group.

Cons: In some of the spirits categories, there are twice as many options with the Premium package, which is more expensive.

Princess Cruises

Among the most simplest of the cruise lines’ drink packages (in terms of deciphering all the options), Princess Cruises offers only four options: Premier Beverage Package (covers non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks up to $12 on the menu, for $59.99 per day), Premier Coffee and Soda Package (coffee and teas, hot chocolate, sodas, mocktails, energy drinks, smoothies and milkshakes, for $19.99 per day) and Classic Soda Package (sodas, fruit juices, mocktails and smoothies, for $9.99 per day).

Pros: Got a sweet tooth? Milkshakes and coffee frappes are covered in the Premier Beverage Package. You also get 25 percent off bottles of wine with that package. Another add-on value is with the Premier Coffee & Soda Package: a 25 percent discount on bottles of water and cans of soda or juice (otherwise they are fountain drinks).

Cons: Even with the drinks package, wine-by-the-glass selections are limited if you’re not in a specialty-dining restaurant, so plan your meals accordingly.

Holland America Line

This cruise line’s Signature Beverage Package ($54.95 per day) includes drinks priced at $11 or lower, such as alcohol (wine, beer, spirits and cocktails) and non-alcoholic beverages (sodas and specialty coffees).

Pros: Fold the Signature Beverage Package into Holland America Line’s Have It All Cruise Package (which also includes – for a week or less sail – one shore excursion, one specialty-dining experience and Wi-Fi throughout, $60-$100 per day) and it’s even more of a tempting deal.

Cons: There’s only one drinks package so if you really want the premium tiers of drinks you may have to pay a la carte for those.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Five drinks packages are offered by Norwegian Cruise Line, two of which are non-alcoholic (Adult & Teen Soda Program, at $7.95 per day; and Children’s Soda Program, at $5.95 per day). Then, for alcoholic options, there’s the Premium Beverage Package (covers up $15 drinks for coffee, wine, beer, spirits, fountain sodas, coffee and teas for $99 per day) and the Premium Plus Beverage Package ($128 per day). The differences between the two come down to lower-end and higher-end wine and spirits.

Pros: Although the lower-priced of the two, there’s nothing left to be desired with the Premium Beverage Package, including 20 wines by the glass and hundreds of spirits and cocktails options.

Cons: For some, sipping a flute of Veuve Clicquot makes or breaks the sailing. If that’s you, then get the Premium Plus Beverage Package.

Royal Caribbean

From the Classic Soda Package (from $12.99 to $15 per day) to the Deluxe Beverage Package (includes alcohol and non-alcohol drinks, from $63 to $89 per day), everyone’s palate is covered in the cruise line’s four different drinks packages, including one where Evian water can be bought by the case and brought to the room.

Pros: Wine drinkers love the 40 percent discount on bottles with the Deluxe Beverage Package.

Cons: A lot of cruise lines include coffee and soda in the same drinks package, but not here. For specialty coffee in your package you’ll need to upgrade from the Classic Soda Package to the Refreshment Package (from $29 to $38 per day).

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