9 Ways to Get Free Drinks (or Free Drink Packages) on Cruises

If you're looking to stretch your dollar a bit further, we have our top ways to score free drinks and free drink packages on cruises.

9 Ways to Get Free Drinks (or Free Drink Packages) on Cruises

We all know that some afternoon beers by the pool, glasses of wine at dinner, and evening cocktails can add up — especially while on vacation! Chances are, you’ve heard of the various drink packages that cruise lines offer and how they work.

But if you’re looking to stretch your dollars even further (in this economy? yes, please!) you may be looking for other ways to get free drink packages on cruises or discounted beverages throughout the sailing. If that’s you, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got nine ways to get free drinks on cruises.

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How to Get Free (Or Discounted) Drinks on Cruises

1. Stay loyal.

Being loyal to a cruise line has its perks; with some, those perks include opportunities for free drinks on each sailing at parties and cocktail hours just for those at certain loyalty levels. For example, those who are part of Celebrity’s Elite tier and above can order unlimited free drinks from an exclusive Captain’s Club menu daily from 5 to 7 pm at most bars. After sailing with Holland America once, you get a free cocktail voucher every cruise to use sometime during your sailing.

Platinum members on Carnival get invitations to the VIFP party on voyages five nights or longer, which includes free alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. In Royal Caribbean’s Diamond Lounge (for those who are Diamond level and above), members can sit down for complimentary cocktails during Happy Hour. They also receive a set number of free drink vouchers per day (number depends on the status) that can be used any time of day at most bars and lounges on the ship.

On Virgin Voyages, Sailing Club members are invited to a cocktail party complete with free drinks at some point during the cruise.

In addition, moving up the ranks in a cruise line’s loyalty program can provide discounts on drink packages and bottles of wine. For example, once you take your first cruise on Celebrity, you receive 10 percent off bottles of wine and 10 percent off drink packages for every subsequent cruise.

Royal Caribbean offers discounts on glasses of wine, beer, and soda starting with its lowest loyalty level, and discounts on its Deluxe Beverage Package starting with the Diamond Plus status. Holland America offers a free cocktail starting with its lowest loyalty tier, and offers additional drink discounts starting with its 4-star Mariner status.

2. Attend the captain’s reception.

Many cruise lines host a captain’s reception — usually on a formal night — and some lines include free drinks as a perk for attending. For example, Disney Cruise Line throws a Captain’s Reception in the grand atrium area on formal night, where beer, wine, mixed drinks, and non-alcoholic beverages are served complimentary to anyone who wants to attend.

Princess Cruises offers free champagne at the Captain’s Welcome and Captain’s Farewell parties, and Oceania Cruises offers free alcoholic drinks at its Captain’s Welcome Reception.

3. Look for the ‘Drink of the Day’ or Happy Hour specials.

You won’t get the Drink of the Day for free, but you can buy cocktails at a discount if you look for the daily specials throughout your cruise. Most cruise lines offer a Drink of the Day in some capacity; in one bar or several. Royal Caribbean’s are usually around $7 to $8 each, and Disney’s are around $6 each. Cruise lines including Holland America, Oceania, and Princess often offer BOGO specials at various times in select bars.

4. Play table games in the casino.

Being a regular in the casino has its perks, even if you wind up heading back to your cabin with less money than you started with. Some cruise lines have clubs that you can join if you plan to spend lots of time in the casino, which offer free drinks at certain levels.

Carnival’s Players Club offers a free Drinks on Us card to casino players after they’ve earned 1,000 points on voyages shorter than five nights, and 1,500 points on cruises five days or longer. Royal Caribbean has the Club Royale program, which offers free drinks once you hit 2,500 points. Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania, and Regent Seven Seas feature the Casinos at Sea Players Club, which includes free house drinks once you receive 5,000 points on NCL and 35,000 on the other two lines.

Additionally, the pit bosses on each ship have lots of freedom when it comes to handing out perks to keep guests playing in the casino. Even if you don’t have status in a given cruise line’s players club, they might offer you some complimentary drinks if you come in on a regular basis.

5. Attend an art auction.

Whether or not you plan on purchasing any pieces of artwork, check out the art auction on your ship if you want a glass of free sparkling wine or champagne. It won’t be fancy, it won’t be expensive, but it will get the job done if you’re looking for a drink you won’t have to pay for.

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How to Get Free Drink Packages on Cruises

1. Book a Norwegian cruise through the Free at Sea promotion.

When booking a cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line through its Free at Sea promotion, you’ll have the choice of getting the Premium Beverage Package as one of your perks. Pretty much every way you could book a cruise on NCL includes this promotion in the cost of the cruise fare unless you’re booking a guarantee cabin, which means you choose the category but not your specific stateroom — which the cruise line later assigns to you.

The only catch with choosing the beverage package as one of your Free at Sea perks is that you still have to pay a 20 percent gratuity on the full value of the package. That comes out to $21.80 per person, per day. But when you think about how much a glass of beer, wine, or a cocktail costs, paying just over $20 a day is a great deal for unlimited alcoholic beverages.

2. Upgrade your cruise experience.

On some cruise lines, you can upgrade your base cruise fare with a higher per-day price to obtain extra perks that include an alcoholic beverage package. For the drink package alone, these upgrades wouldn’t be a discount vs. buying the drink package on its own. But they include other perks such as wifi, specialty dining, and gratuities, which — combined with the included drink package — can make them well worth the cost.

For example, when booking a Princess Cruises sailing, you can upgrade your experience with a Princess Plus package, which includes the line’s Plus Beverage Package — this includes all beverages that cost $15 or less. The more expensive Princess Premier package offers Princess’ Premier Beverage Package, which includes all beverages that cost $20 and under.

Cruise Vs. All-Inclusive Resort

Celebrity Cruises’ All Included upgrade package includes the Classic Drinks Package, which includes drinks worth up to $10 each. Oceania Cruises’ OLife Choice package includes free wifi plus guests’ choice of one of three additional extras, one of which is the House Select Beverage Package — which means that wine and beer is included at lunch and dinner.

3. Book a suite.

If you’re considering a suite and are still in the ‘which cruise line do I go with?’ stage, look into the perks that are associated with booking a suite on a given line or ship. On many cruises, the perks of staying in a suite don’t end with extra square footage and storage solutions; they can come with other perks too — including free drinks.

On Disney Cruise Line, for example, staying in a Concierge-Level stateroom comes with access to the Concierge Lounge, which includes complimentary alcoholic beverages in the evening. Guests 21 and older who are staying in Royal Caribbean’s Star Class suites get a free Deluxe Beverage Package. Those staying in Celebrity’s suites get two free bottles of liquor (guest’s choice) and a stocked minibar, while Viking’s top suites also include complimentary stocked minibars. In MSC Cruises’ Yacht Club suite complex, guests enjoy a free unlimited open bar.

4. Sail a luxury cruise line.

This isn’t really a way to get a free drink “package” as much as it is a way to just get beverages included in your cruise fare — book a voyage on a luxury cruise line. This does, of course, come with a higher price tag, but depending on your budget and preferences, luxury cruises can be worth the price tag for the elevated service and extra perks that they include. On a luxury ship, you won’t be swiping your cruise card nearly as often — or at all — to enjoy what the ship has to offer.

Luxury lines that bundle most alcoholic and specialty non-alcoholic beverages into the cruise fare include Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea Cruises, and MSC Group’s new small-ship line Explora Journeys. Azamara includes some beers, wines, and select spirits, while Viking includes beer and wine with lunch and dinner.

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What are your top tricks for getting free drinks or free drink packages on cruises? Do you take advantage of any of these ways to score free beverages. Drop us an anchor below to share your tips and tricks.

Sarah has been writing about the cruise industry since 2015, and in that time has taken a dozen cruises and counting. Her favorite onboard activities include trying the casual dining options, spending time in the spa’s thermal suite, and attending the love & marriage show. You can keep up with her on Instagram at @IAmSarahJaneB.
Sarah Bretz, Contributor
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9 Ways to Get Free Drinks (or Free Drink Packages) on Cruises

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