Why You Should Buy a Beverage Package on a Cruise (2024)

We weigh in on one of the most discussed cruise topics with our 10 reasons to buy a cruise ship drink package.

buy a cruise ship drink package

One of the most frequently asked questions from cruisers is “Should I Buy a Beverage Package on a Cruise?”. Whether or not you should purchase one for your next vacation is an individual decision that depends on several factors. We have sailed on a number of cruises with various cruise lines and weigh in on this highly discussed topic with our 10 reasons to buy a cruise ship drink package.

The Basics of a Cruise Ship Drink Package

A cruise ship drink package is often referred to as an unlimited beverage package. Packages are priced as per person, per day. When electing to purchase a drink package, you have to pay for the entire length of the cruise — not just select days. The only exception to this is that sometimes you are still able to purchase the drink package on the second day of the voyage, meaning you didn’t have to pay for the first day.

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When getting an beverage package, each adult in the room is required to get one. If you’re getting an alcoholic drink package, most cruise lines also require that any kids in the same cabin get the nonalcoholic beverage package (usually a soda package). As you would expect, there is no sharing of the package or using your package to order drinks for other people.

With that said, many cruisers still find value and convenience in these drink packages.

10 Reasons to Buy a Cruise Ship Drink Package

Everything Else is Basically Included

For one set fare, a cruise vacation enables travelers to see multiple destinations while enjoying most of the onboard amenities. What is included in each cruise line’s standard price can fluctuate. However, your accommodations for the week as well as most food, entertainment, and onboard activities are typically part of your cruise fare.

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Unless you are on a luxury cruise line, the one item that is NOT covered is alcoholic beverages. If you are looking for a more all-inclusive experience, then you should consider purchasing a cruise ship drink package.

Cruise Ship Drink Packages Work at Most Venues

On most cruise lines, your beverage package can be used at all bars, lounges, and restaurants on the ship. This includes the main dining room, the theater, the pool bar, and more.

Of course, some exclusions do apply. With a cruise line beverage package, guests are entitled to purchase beer, wine, and champagne by the glass, as well as cocktails and spirits up to a certain dollar amount in all venues around the ship. This dollar amount does vary by cruise line but usually includes all the standard cruise drinks. If you enjoy a certain brand of wine or a high-end spirit, you should check the inclusions of the package before purchasing.

Further, drinks in souvenir glasses and bottles of alcohol are not included — though drink packages often include a percentage off of bottles of wine and champagne.

10 Reasons to Buy a Cruise Ship Drink Package

Cruise Beverage Packages Work While at Sea or Docked at Port

It doesn’t matter whether your cruise ship is in port or out to sea, as your drink package is always active. (An exception to this is if your cruise ship is sailing from Galveston, Texas and has not departed yet; Texas alcohol laws mean that most cruise lines do not activate their drink packages until the ship is out at sea.) Wherever there is an open bar, your drink package can be used to grab a cocktail. Whether you want a morning mimosa, a piña colada while lounging poolside, or a nightcap, you are covered.

You do need to be aware that there may be an additional local tax applied to your purchase while docked in some ports of call. These charges would be incurred whether you have a package or are paying a la carte. So this shouldn’t impact your decision to purchase a cruise ship drink package.

Beverage Packages Can Work on Land Too

While you already know that you can use your beverage package on the ship, you might not know that you can often use it at the cruise lines’ private islands as well. So, whether you are spending the day at Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay or Norwegian Cruise Line’s Great Stirrup Cay, beverage packages cover drinks purchased at all the bars on the island.

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This is not true for all private islands however. Carnival Cruise Line’s Beverage Packages do not work at the private destinations of Half Moon Cay or Princess Cays in the Bahamas.

You Can Prepay For All Your Drinks

No one likes getting a bar tab at the end of the night, nevermind getting a bar tab after seven nights at your favorite watering hole. You can avoid sticker shock by purchasing a cruise ship drink package.

With a beverage package, you will know exactly how much all your alcoholic beverages will cost ahead of time. Believe us, your wallet will thank you. Be aware that the stated prices don’t include the 18-20 percent service charge (automatic gratuity) which is added at the time of purchase.

Get Further Discounts When You Buy a Cruise Beverage Package Pre-Cruise

You can save anywhere from 10 to 30 percent off the onboard rates of these packages when you get a drink package pre-cruise. For instance, Carnival always offers 10 percent off onboard prices when you pre-purchase the Cheers package. Other cruise lines often run sales and promotions on cruise planner items like drink packages.

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Once you have a cruise booked, you should keep an eye on the cruise planner and your email for special promotions or discounts. If you see one, don’t pass up the savings.

Sometimes You Can Get a Drink Package for “Free”

If you time the purchase of your cruise right, you might score a cruise ship drink package for free. Cruise lines often give incentives to purchase certain room categories or run promotions that include free beverage packages as a perk for booking. Some travel agents also provide similar offers.

Norwegian Cruise Line is known for its ongoing Free at Sea Promotion. This promotion entitles cruisers to five free perks (sometimes six) when booking. Depending on your drinking habits, the open bar perk is usually the best value. Again, do note that even though the perk is “free,” you will still need to pay the 20 percent service charge for the package when booking your cruise.

Cruise Beverage Packages Include More Than Just Alcohol

Depending on the cruise line and beverage package you purchase, drink packages can also include bottled water, specialty coffees like lattes and cappuccinos, soda, energy drinks, and other non-alcoholic beverages. These beverages are in addition to your adult beverages. Because sometimes you need to take a break or just rehydrate!

10 Reasons to Buy a Cruise Ship Drink Package

The standard alcohol packages on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, and Carnival Cruise Line do include these offerings, while Norwegian Cruise Line’s Premium Beverage package does not include most of it (except for soda and juice). If you want these additional inclusions with NCL, you will have to upgrade to the line’s Premium Plus package.

You Can Try New Things

Given that these cruise ship drink packages are unlimited with most brands, you can feel free to try new things without worrying about the costs. If a drink on the bar menu sounds appealing but you’re not sure if you’ll like it, order it anyway. If you end up not liking the drink, you can simply order another one at no additional cost.

On Carnival Cruise Line, alcoholic beverages are limited to 15 drinks per 24 hour period. Further, you are allowed only one drink at a time with a 5 minute wait time between orders. However, most cruise lines do not have a limit (though most cruisers probably wouldn’t reach it anyway).

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You Will Save Money with a Drink Package

On our cruises, we always complete an analysis to determine if the cruise ship drink package was worth it. We track all of our beverages consumed over the course of the week, including all of the non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks. Then, we take the average prices for each drink category to determine how much we would have spent on drinks if we paid a la carte for each item. 

While we never over-indulge in alcoholic beverages, we still usually realize a cost savings with a drink package. This savings usually comes from our consumption of the “additional” items like bottled water, lattes, and Vitamin water. While we do save some money with a drink package, we typically purchase one for the convenience alone.


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

Don Bucolo, or “DB”, loves everything about cruising- the ocean, the food, and the atmosphere. While he may be obsessed with doing extensive amounts of research on ships and all elements of a cruise, Don enjoys sharing his new found knowledge with fellow cruisers. When he is not sailing the high seas, he does whatever his wife tells him to do-it only took 10 years to realize this.
Don Bucolo
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  1. Going on Island Princess to Alaska for cruisetour pkg.What about excursions and private tours etc. I hear they are cheaper. First time on Princess Cruiseline we have a mini suite. Have you been to Alaska on Princess ? What did you love and what to forget . Thanks for all the great info !

      I’m not clear on what we can drink if we don’t buy a package. For instance if we don’t drink alcohol or fancy bottled water, or sodas, other than coffee or tea with meals, how do we stay hydrated?

    Going on the Nowegian Sky with the ‘open bar’ program. Do you have to pay the gratuity for each drink on this program?

    Please advise Brand name and recommended tasting comments on the wines within the “Plus” and “Premium” Princess Wine Packages
    Thank you.