Cruise Line Drink Package: Worth the Money?

Written by Joel
Posted in: Cruise | FAQ

Cruising is a fantastic way to see the world. What other type of vacation allows you to unpack once, visit multiple destinations, and provide entertainment options for every interest? None that I’m aware of. I love cruising for all those reasons and because of the price and value of cruises. That said, WiFi, gratuities, specialty dining, and drink packages aren’t always included in the base cost of the cruise.

I am notoriously cheap on a cruise but one extra I usually pay for is the cruise line drink package. It’s worth it to me, not just financially, although I do like my vacation cocktails. Since the biggest question most people have about drink packages is whether it’s worthwhile financially, lets unpack the specifics of how some of the more popular cruise lines handle their drink packages.

Royal Caribbean Drink Package: Deluxe Beverage Package

Let’s start the conversation about Royal’s Deluxe Beverage Package with what’s not included. Bottles of wine (although there is a 40% discount on bottles up to $100 and 20% off any over $100), and Starbucks coffee. It’s a short list. The list of what’s included is much longer:

  • Freestyle Soda (self serve from machines around the ship)
  • Fountain soda
  • Premium coffee and tea (not Starbucks)
  • Fresh squeezed juices
  • Bottled water (still and sparkling)
  • Non-alcoholic cocktails
  • Milkshakes at Johnny Rockets
  • Cocktails, liqueurs, spirits, and beer (up to $14)
  • Wines by the glass

You can see, the package covers nearly everything onboard, in any quantity. It’s truly unlimited. At, on average $85 per person per day, it’s not cheap, but it is a great value. When you add up the cost of cocktails (between $10-14), beer ($8), bottled water ($2.50) a glass of wine ($10-14) it doesn’t take much to get to $85.

Shop: Find the best deal on your next Royal Caribbean cruise

Two martinis on Carnival Celebration
Two martinis enter a bar Photo Joel

What I hear the most often is, “I’m not a big drinker, I don’t think I’ll drink enough to make it worthwhile.” That may be true, but I encourage you to think it through carefully. A mimosa for breakfast, two bottles of water, a frozen cocktail by the pool, soda with lunch, a glass or two of wine with dinner, soda (or a cocktail) at the evening show… You’re dangerously close to $85. And don’t forget, most people drink a little more than they expect to on vacation.

Fine print for deluxe beverage package isn’t too complicated. We’ve already covered the limitations. Let’s quickly cover some other questions I’m asked.

  • Can one person in the room get the drink package?
  • Can I get the drink package per day or for part of the cruise?
  • What happens if I’m traveling with my child who is under 21?
  • Can I buy the drink package for my 18-20 year old child?
  • Can I get more than one drink at a time?
  • Does the deluxe beverage package count off the ship?

With some exceptions, if one person in the room gets the deluxe drink package, anyone 21 and older in the same room has to purchase the drink package. Exceptions to the rule include recovering alcoholics and anyone who can’t drink due to medical reasons. Technically, those are the only exceptions. However, I have called customer service multiple times to request an exception for my spouse who doesn’t drink alcohol and have never been denied. In the case of an exception to their rule, anyone who is eligible for the deluxe beverage package must purchase a Refreshment (non-alcoholic) drink package.

Even though drink packages are priced “per person, per day,” it is not possible to get them for certain days. You’ll get the best price is prior to getting onboard the ship (especially if you catch a sale in your portal). I’ve seen some people buy the drink package a day or two after they get onboard (on longer sailings this is an option) and pay for the days remaining, but they’re not saving much (if anything) because the price onboard is higher than pre-purchasing.

It’s not unusual for a parent or grandparent to be cruising with someone under 21. In this case, it is not possible to purchase an alcoholic drink package for the person who is under 21, even if they’re going to turn 21 while on the cruise. There is no requirement to purchase a non-alcoholic drink package, either. Somewhat unrelated, there are stories all over the internet about cruise lines selling drinks one at a time to young adults 18-20. What happens on the ship varies (apparently) but the policy is no alcoholic drinks for people under 21.

There are cruise lines who do things differently, like Virgin Voyages, but Royal Caribbean does not let passengers purchase more than one alcoholic drink at a time. In fact, if you want to grab a drink for your cabin-mate, you’ll need to present their card proving they have the drink package, and I’m sure, keep their accounting and data accurate.

Royal Caribbean has made their private islands, Perfect Day CocoCay and Labadee, more than a filler port of call. These islands have great beaches and activities that rival any port. You’ll be happy to know that your drink package follows you onto these islands so there’s no need to carry anything other than your SeaPass card. That isn’t the case at other ports. Other than those two islands, once you’re off the ship you’ll have to pay out of pocket for any drinks.

Martini flight on a Celebrity Cruise
Martini flight on a Celebrity cruise Photo Joel

Carnival Drink Package: Cheers!

Carnival is all about the fun and their drink package fits right in. Like everything else Carnival does, Cheers! powers the fun and is a great value for passengers.

Shop: Find the best deal on your next Carnival cruise

CHEERS! INCLUDES:

  • All spirits (including cocktails), as well as beer and wine by the glass with a $20.00 or lower menu price 
  • Sodas, Zero-Proof frozen cocktails, energy drinks, specialty coffee, hot tea, 500ml bottled water and other non-alcoholic bottled beverages
  • Packaged water in the Dining Room and Specialty Restaurants
  • 25% discount off the menu price for any spirit or wine by the glass above $20.00
  • 25% discount off the menu price for wine and champagne by the bottle
  • 25% discount off beverage seminars and classes

WHAT CHEERS! DOESN’T INCLUDE:

  • Beverages promoted and sold in souvenir glasses
  • Bottles of liquor
  • Beverages offered at gangway
  • Beverages offered through room service, mini bars and/or in-stateroom beverage programs
  • Sharing cocktails, floaters, pitchers, tubes and buckets
  • Beverages offered at private parties and/or events
  • All other beverage-related programs including merchandise

Cheers! has a lot of restrictions and fine print. Some are obvious (have to be 21 years old) and some that may be considered frustrating. Here they are:

  • Guests must be 21 years or older to purchase and agree not to give to minors
  • Each adult assigned to the same stateroom must purchase the program
  • CHEERS! is non-transferable
    • You can’t buy it and give it to someone in a different room. For example, if you’re traveling with friends and one adult in each room drinks but the other does not, you won’t be able to have one room get Cheers! and the other buy Bottomless Bubbles to save money.
  • Guests must purchase the program for the entire cruise; this program is not offered on a per day basis
  • If the program is purchased prior to the cruise, it is refundable up to 9:00pm ET, the evening prior to the cruise departure.  Otherwise, CHEERS! is non-refundable
  • Only one drink at a time may be ordered, there is a 5 minute wait time between orders and sharing is not permitted. No double shots as that is considered ordering two drinks at once
  • Guests may purchase a round of drinks for themselves and friends. One drink will count towards the CHEERS! program and the remaining drinks will be charged to a guest’s Sail and Sign® account
  • Program allows for up to 15 alcoholic drinks, per 24-hour period (6:00am – 6:00am). Once the limit is reached, the guest will not be served ANY additional alcoholic drinks
    • If you’re wondering whether this is enforced, the answer is yes. The bartenders will stop serving you once you reach this limit. The claim to stop serving guests who appear to be obviously intoxicated even if the 15 drink limit hasn’t been reached. I’ve been on a number of Carnival cruises and question whether anyone gets cut off before the 15 drink limit. 
  • Program only applies to onboard purchases
    • When you’re off the ship in ports, you’ll have to pay for drinks out of pocket.
  • All bottles and cans will be served opened
  • Carnival reserves the right to refuse service for any reason
  • Program is inclusive of VAT, if and as applicable.
  • Applicable state and local taxes will be charged to a guest folio when this program is used within US waters. The tax is based on the state’s tax structure and the cost of the individual drink purchased (not the daily program rate). For example: if the drink price is $5.00 USD and the tax is 10%, the  guest’s Sail & Sign® card will be charged $0.50 USD for tax. This applies to all US ports (embarkation home ports and ports-of-call)

Once you book your Carnival cruise, you’ll have access to the FunShop where you can purchase your Cheers! drink package. You’ll save a significant amount of money by getting it pre-cruise. If you buy before the cruise you’ll You’ll pay about $60 per person per day for cruises 6 or more days (about $70 per person per day for 5 or fewer days). If you decide to purchase the drink package onboard the ship, you’ll pay about $65 per person per day for 6+ days and $75 per person per day for 5 or fewer.

  • Due to state laws, we cannot sell CHEERS! until the second day of the cruise (starting at 6:00am) for voyages departing from our Texas and New York home ports. Drinks purchased on the first day of the cruise will be charged to the guest’s Sail & Sign® card in the usual manner. When purchased on the second day of the cruise, guests are charged for the remaining days only (cruise duration less one day)
  • For guests who pre-purchase CHEERS!, it will be activated upon boarding the ship (except for ships sailing from Texas and New York – activation will occur at 6:00am on the second day of the cruise). Guests are instructed to proceed to the bar, once on board, to receive a sticker which will be placed on their Sail & Sign® cards
  • Group bookings (consisting of a minimum of 16 adults) can purchase CHEERS! prior to the cruise by contacting Group Event Planning (all adult guests in the group must purchase the program; all minors in the group must purchase Bottomless Bubbles program)
  • For pre-purchase orders, a message card will be placed in guest’s stateroom on embarkation day referring the guests to the Casino Bar to activate the program
  • CHEERS! is not offered on 2-day cruises, charter cruises and beverage purchases made at Celebration Key, Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays in The Bahamas

Celebrity Drink Packages: Classic and Premium

Celebrity does drink packages a little differently than other cruise lines. When you choose a Celebrity cruise you have some options. At the time of your booking you can choose “cruise only” or “all included” rate which includes the Classic drink package (read more about the all included prices). After booking you have the option to upgrade to the Premium drink package. No matter which option you choose, everyone 21 and older in the same stateroom have to purchase the same package. It’s possible to substitute a non-alcoholic drink package if one of the adults on the reservation doesn’t drink alcohol.

Shop: Find your next Celebrity Cruise

The Classic drink package includes bottled water, premium coffees and teas, and a wide variety of beers, spirits, cocktails, liqueurs, frozen drinks and wines by the glass that cost up to $10 per serving. Wines by the bottle are discounted by 15%. When you upgrade to Premium, you can choose drinks up to $17 each and bottles of wine are discounted 20%.

In my experience, upgrading to the premium drink package is well worth the cost. Most of the “signature drinks” on the menus of the bars, lounges, and restaurants are not included in the classic drink package. As with most “add on” purchases, buying the upgrade before getting onboard the ship will save you money.

Cruise Drink Packages: Final Thoughts

Cost is the primary consideration when deciding whether or not to purchase a drink package. I’d encourage you to think about it from a different perspective. Unless you’re not going to have any drinks, you are almost certainly going to have more than you expect, and even though I just asked you to consider something other than price, the cost will add up quicker than you expect. More important than that, is remembering why you’re going on vacation. It may be to learn the history of a destination or to engage with a different culture, it may be just to get away, but do you really want to count the number of drinks, keep a running total in your head of how much extra you’ve spent, and be stuck with a bill at the end of your vacation?

Lets start planning your next vacation. Click here to schedule your free vacation planning call.

You May Also Like…

MSC Meraviglia: What You Should Know

MSC Meraviglia: What You Should Know

My first cruise with MSC was on MSC Meravigila out of Brooklyn, NY in December 2023 and since I’m familiar with the brand and it’s ships, and you very likely aren't, there are some things you should know about MSC Meraviglia before you get onboard. Jump...

It’s Time To Plan Your Next Getaway

Limited Time Offer:

Download A Free Copy

Prices so low even the cruise lines can't match them!

Our roster of exclusive cruise savings has over 1,700 cruises sailing in 2024.

Grab your copy today and save on your next cruise!

Check Your E-mail For Your Download Link