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Beverage Packages

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Take The "Beverage Package" Challenge!

I've looked at the beverage packages on a few popular cruise lines (as of August 2019) such as Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and Princess. The cost of the beverage packages on each of these cruise lines is similar. On more upscale cruise lines the beverage packages tend to be more expensive. On a few very high end (expensive) cruise brands drinks are sometimes included with no extra fee. On the ones that I examined the alcohol drinks packages tend to run from about $56.95 to $82.50 per person per day plus 18% to 20% automatic mandatory gratuity plus taxes and must be purchased for every adult in your cabin. For a cabin with two people that ends up costing after added gratuity (but not taxes) $134.40 to $198.00 per day. That comes to between $940.81 and $1386.00 per each week of your cruise for a cabin with two people. If you are on a 2 week cruise, that would be a total of $1,881.63 to $2,772.00 for two people in one cabin.

You can often get a sale price if you purchase a beverage package before the start of your cruise and sometimes even on the first day of your cruise. For example, Carnival is running a sale right now of 10% off the retail price. That would reduce the total cost for a 2 week cruise for 2 people from $1,881.63 down to $1,716.43. That is still a lot of money.

Also, none of these figures include any additional tip that you provide to your bar tenders and servers. Many, if not most, passengers give an additional tip to bartenders and servers of at least $1 in cash each time they are brought a drink. If you and your cabin mate each order up to the maximum 15 drinks per day, that could add up to another $30 per day for drinks, or another $420 for a 2 week cruise for 2 people. There are strong reasons to believe that the automatic mandatory 18% to 20% gratuity added to the drinks package does not go to the bar tenders and servers as a "tip" but rather are used as the funds to cover the base pay of these staff members. Thus, the only tip they may be getting is the cash that you give to them when they serve you your drinks. Many sources also say that the bar tenders and bar servers also do not share in the 18% to 20% gratuities fee that is automatically added to your cruise fare. But, that is a topic for another section.

So are you ready to take the "Beverage Package" Challenge? This is how it works. DO NOT BUY the Beverage Package. Instead, keep your receipts for every drink you order. Write on your receipt the amount of tip you gave to your server in cash so that you will know the exact total that you paid for each drink including the automatic 18% to 20% gratuity, cash tip, and tax. Drink reasonably but don't deprive yourself to keep your spending down. However, you might find that you aren't pushing yourself to drink as much as you might have in trying to get your money's worth out of an expensive Beverage Package.

At the end of your cruise, compare the total amount that you spent on drinks to what you would have paid for the Beverage Package. Did you and your cabin mate spend more than $858.21 to $1,386.00 for a one week cruise, or more than $1,716.43 to $2,772.00 for a 2 week cruise? If not, then congratulations! You saved money by NOT buying a Beverage Package. If you went over those amounts, by how much did you go over? Did you go over by more than the amount you left in cash tips? If so, then maybe the Beverage Package would be a good cash saving deal for you.

For my wife and myself, we've never ever come anywhere close to justifying the cost of a Beverage Package on any cruise we have ever taken! Are we tea totalers? Not by a long shot! When on a cruise my wife and I usually split a bottle of wine every day, sometimes two bottles of wine. In the evening we'll attend live music events both in the main theater and in various lounges, often until after midnight. At those performances we'll usually order another 2, and sometimes 3, cocktails each. Plus, we also tend to go to many of the wine, beer or spirit tasting events. All that drinking has always ended up costing us way less than any Beverage Package offered on any of our cruises.

There is another problem with the Beverage Package for us. As mentioned above, we like attending the wine, beer, and spirits tasting events. The Beverage Package only allows a 15% to 25% discount on these events depending on the cruise line. Since a Beverage Package includes more "free" alcohol per day than we could ever hope to drink, I feel ripped off if I have to pay anything additional on the cruise for alcohol and thus avoid these events that I normally enjoy. On some cruise lines, such as Carnival, their wines by the glass are not very good. They have better wines on their bottle list and thus I like to order wine by the bottle rather than by the glass. But only drinks by the glass are included on Carnival and the Beverage Package only gives 25% off the purchase of wines by the bottle. Thus, again with a Beverage Package, I'd feel ripped off if I had to pay anything for wines by the bottle when I can get more wine than I can drink for "free" by the glass, even if those wines aren't that good. Fortunately NCL has acceptable wines by the glass so I don't feel as restricted with a Beverage Package on NCL.

But What If I Get The Beverage Package As A "FREE" Benefit?

Actually, the only time my wife and I ever had a Beverage Package on a cruise is when it was included as a "FREE" benefit with a cruise that we booked on NCL. We still had to pay the 20% automatic mandatory gratuity on the "FREE" Beverage Package which came to a total of $356.40 for the 2 of us. We definitely did not come close to spending the $1,782.00 retail value of this package, but I'm sure we would have spent more than $356.40 if we had to pay for our drinks. This is especially true because we had 3 adults in our cabin and the NCL staff was not very strict about us ordering drinks for all 3 of us without additional charge. NCL has a policy that each person with a Beverage Package can order 2 drinks at a time. So, we were able to order 3 drinks, one for each of us, each time we placed a "free" drink order. If we didn't have this "FREE" Beverage Package benefit, we would have had to pay the full retail price of the Beverage Package for all 3 of us which would have come to $2,673. Our total spending on alcohol did not come anywhere near a fraction of this during the 9 day cruise. So, for us, the "FREE" Beverage Package benefit was worth it even with paying for the gratuities and taxes plus giving cash tips on the delivery of each drink.

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