Cruise Ship Drink Packages Are a Waste of Money: Here’s Why!

While there are many benefits of buying a beverage package, there are also many reasons why cruise ship drink packages are a waste of money.

Cruise Ship Drink Packages Are a Waste of Money: Here's Why!

One of the most frequently asked questions from cruisers is “Are cruise ship drink packages worth it?”. Whether or not you should purchase one for your next vacation is an individual decision that depends on several factors. While there are many benefits of buying a beverage package on a cruise, there are also many reasons why cruise ship drink packages can be a waste of money. In this post, we play the devil’s advocate and explain why buying a beverage package might not be the right choice for your next cruise.

10 Reasons Cruise Ship Drink Packages Are a Waste of Money

1. They Are Expensive

Cruise ship drink packages are quite an investment. One of these packages could cost you almost as much as your actual cruise fare! The prices for beverage packages do vary by cruise line. The good news is, you can sometimes purchase one pre-cruise for a reduced cost.

Carnival Cruise Line Beverage Packages - Cruise Ship Drink Packages are a Waste of Money

Carnival Cruise Line offers one of the cheapest alcoholic beverage packages, and it will still run you $59.95 per day if purchased pre-cruise. Norwegian Cruise Line has one of the most expensive drink packages. The Unlimited Open Bar package will run you $109 per day, while the Premium Plus is $138 per day. These prices do not even include the additional 18-20 percent gratuity that is added at the time of purchase!

2. Everyone in Your Stateroom Needs to Purchase One

Beverage packages are for individual consumption only. There is no sharing of the package or using your package to order drinks for other cruisers. Further, guests can only order one beverage at a time. This means that every adult in the stateroom will need to purchase the same beverage package. Princess Cruises is an exception to this rule. On many cruise lines, guests who are under the age of 21 must purchase the soda package/another non-alcoholic drink package as a substitute.

If not all guests in your stateroom like to enjoy some alcoholic beverages, then cruise ship drink packages are probably a waste of money for you. You will likely save money overall by purchasing your drinks a la carte.

Cruise Ship Drink Packages are a Waste of Money

3. You Need to Purchase One for the Full Duration of Your Cruise

For all cruise lines, you must purchase drink packages for the entire length of your cruise. This means if you are taking a typical seven-day cruise, your drink package cost will be the per-day amount x seven days for each adult in your stateroom. Plus, don’t forget the additional drink package gratuity.

Sure, it might be fun to drink it up the first few days of the cruise, but will you sustain that amount of drinking over the duration of your trip? We have taken many cruises of various lengths ranging from three days to 10 days. We have found that we generally realize the most cost savings on three-day cruises. Yet, we might not even reach the break-even point on longer cruises.

4. You Might Not Drink Enough on Certain Cruises

Besides the duration of your cruise, you also need to consider the itinerary of your trip when deciding if cruise ship drink packages are a waste of money for you. On port-intensive cruises, like in the Mediterranean, you might find yourself spending long days ashore. This means less time on the ship to take advantage of that drink package.

Top Cruise Destinations -cruise ship drink packages are a waste of money

Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries naturally lend themselves to lounging poolside in the sun with fruity drinks in hand, however other regions might not. Alaska cruises often have early morning ports of call, so you might find yourself going to bed earlier instead of enjoying the nightlife on the ship.

Or, other itineraries like Bermuda or Northern Europe might have overnight stays in ports of call where you will be spending extended periods of time off the ship.

5. There are Other Ways to Save Money on Cruise Drinks

Since beverage packages are quite expensive, you might be better suited to find other ways to save money on cruise drinks. For instance, most cruise lines allow guests to bring two bottles of wine per stateroom onto the ship. These bottles of wine can be consumed at dinner (corkage fees may apply) or in your stateroom.

cruise ship drink packages are a waste of money

Also, cruise lines will usually run drink specials throughout the cruise. These can include a discounted “drink of the day,” happy hour specials with buy one get one 50% off, or buckets of beer.

6. You Can Sometimes Even Get Free Drinks

While getting drinks at a discounted price is good, getting them for FREE is even better! There are also several ways that you can score free drinks on a cruise. Sometimes, it pays to stay loyal to a brand, as there will be Welcome Back parties you’re invited to attend (with free drinks). Other cruise lines like Royal Caribbean offer drink vouchers where guests of certain loyalty status can indulge in beer, wine, or cocktails courtesy of the cruise line.

cruise ship drink packages are a waste of money

Some cruise lines will also offer guests free Welcome Aboard drinks or free cocktails at events like the Captain’s Reception or tastings.

7. Some Drinks Might Not Be Covered

Cruise ship drink packages do include most alcoholic beverages up to a certain dollar amount. However, this dollar amount does vary by cruise line as do the inclusions. If you enjoy a certain brand of wine or high-end spirit, you should check to see if it is covered in the package before purchasing. Further, drinks in souvenir glasses and bottles of alcohol are not included. However, many drink packages do include percentages off the price of bottles of wine and champagne.

While pretty much all alcoholic beverage packages do include select non-alcoholic drinks as well, such as soda, juice, specialty coffees, and bottled water, just as with alcohol the exact inclusions vary by cruise line. So, be sure to factor in whether the non-alcoholic beverages you want most are included when considering whether a drink package is worth it for you.

8. Cruise Drink Packages Only Work on SOME Private Islands

One of the perks of cruise ship drink packages is that they often work on the cruise lines’ private islands. However, that is not always the case. Drinks at Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee are covered in the Deluxe beverage package. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Great Stirrup Cay is included in its drink package, though drinks at Harvest Caye are not included. MSC’s island Ocean Cay is included in its drink package as well.

Perfect Day at CocoCay

Sadly, Carnival Cruise Line’s Cheers Package does not include beverage purchases made at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas or Amber Cove, DR.

9. You Might Drink Too Much

While Carnival Cruise Line’s Cheers Program has a limit of 15 alcoholic drinks a day, some cruise lines do not impose such caps. While we certainly could not drink that many alcoholic beverages in one day, a cruise ship drink package could lead to drinking too much. If you aren’t worried about your bar tab, it’s that much easier to order just one more drink.

If you have been out in the sun all day or haven’t been consuming enough water, you could make yourself sick. Or you could end up with a nasty hangover the next day.

Keep in mind the cruise lines do reserve the right to stop serving any guests that appear intoxicated regardless of whether or not you have a beverage package.

10. You Feel the Need to Get Your Money’s Worth

It’s easy to go overboard if you are trying to get your money’s worth from the cruise ship drink package. Doing the math, you will likely need to drink around five to six alcoholic beverages a day to cover the cost of the package (this varies depending on the cruise line though). However, you shouldn’t feel like you need to order that extra drink just to “break even” for the day.

cruise ship drink packages are a waste of money

Truthfully, we do typically purchase a beverage package on a cruise because we like the convenience of them. However, we often see the value of a drink package in the bottled water and specialty coffee (if they are included), not just in the alcoholic beverages.

In conclusion, there are many pros and cons to purchasing a beverage package on a cruise. Knowing the facts, you will be better informed to make the decision on whether a cruise ship drink package is worth it for you (if any).


Do you usually buy a cruise ship drink package? What are your pros and cons for purchasing a beverage package when on vacation? Drop us an anchor below to tell us about your experiences with these different packages.

Heidi is a physical therapist by profession, cruise enthusiast at heart, and Princess all the time! She is a self-confessed thrill seeker, obsessive planner, and over-packer. She is always looking for the latest and greatest adventures onboard and ashore, enjoys researching top things to do in ports of call, and loves dressing up for formal nights.
Heidi Bucolo
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  1. I always get the drink package because quite honestly I enjoy it and know how much I will spend for drinks. Do I drink too much with a drink package? Sure I do but I enjoy it and I’ve done it so many times I know when to stop. Don’t forget with a drink package, you also have to pay the gratuity which is around 20% with the package. So even though it is free, you pay more than the posted price. I don’t like norwegian because you don’t get specialty coffees or bottled water but they do include a drink package with a basic type room that has a cost a bit more than the normal basic room.

    We tend to book cruises when the drink package is included. We upgrade once we are on board so we can get the premium brands and not have to worry about maximum drink prices. We take full advantage of beverages which includes specialty coffee, smoothies and bottled water. We are on vacation. We might as well get the best of it!

      We try to do the same as some brands, like NCL and Celebrity, often sales and packages that include beverage packages.


    It depends won what you like to drink. If you mostly drink beer and soda, then the drinks package is probably not worth it. If you drink wine and coffees, then it is. On Holland America (my preferred line), a 12 oz can of beer is $7-$7.50. Soda is $2.50. Wine on HAL starts at $9 for a 5 oz pour of very basic wine (Robert Mondavi) and goes up from there. I also am a serious Starbucks drinker on dry land and don’t like the coffee and tea available in the buffet. One glass of wine for lunch and two for dinner (3x$14), one caffe latte in the morning (1×4.50), one earl gray tea in the afternoon (1×3.50), one double espresso after dinner (1x$3.50), two glasses of orange juice during the day to keep from getting sick (2x$2.50) and a bottle of San Pellegrino to take back to the room (1×5.50) . That brings me to $64 from a package that costs $59.95. Most of it non-alcoholic.

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