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Are cruise drink packages worth it?


Should you buy a drink package on your upcoming cruise? The answer depends.

While there's a lot included in your cruise fare, alcoholic beverages usually will cost you extra, especially if you are sailing on a mainstream cruise line. Most cruise lines offer drink packages that allow you to drink a fixed number or unlimited beverages each day of your vacation without worrying about paying for each one individually. 

Cruise drink packages aren't a cheap investment. Depending on how much you paid for your fare, you could pay close to the same amount for a drink package! This, of course, varies on factors like sail date, cabin category, etc. Either way, it's not uncommon to hear of people paying $500+ on a drink package for a 7-night cruise. 

In this guide, we break down specific considerations that go into whether or not you should purchase one, including itinerary, drinking habits, and more. 

What are cruise drink packages?


Cruise drink packages essentially allow you to prepay for the beverages that you'll consume onboard. When you purchase a package, you'll pay a fixed amount that'll cover all of your drinks during your cruise. For heavy drinkers, it can be a smart investment, especially with some lines charging upwards of $16.00 for a drink, after gratuities

The price — and benefits — vary greatly based on your cruise line and specified package. Carnival, for instance, charges $74.95 per day on sailings that are 5 nights or fewer nights for up to 15 alcoholic drinks per day, whereas the cost of Royal Caribbean's drink package is dynamically priced, meaning that the cost will vary based on the ship, itinerary, etc.; however, you get unlimited daily drinks. 

If you choose to forego a drink package, you'll have to keep an eye on your onboard statement, as it's easier than you may think to rack up a large tab.

Here's when cruise drink packages are worth it

You plan on drinking a considerable amount onboard

Carnival cruise beer

There's no denying that cruise lines love to push alcohol sales. For some, it can be a nuisance, especially if you aren't a big drinker or partier. Others, however, may enjoy indulging in a few more drinks than usual while at sea. If the latter sounds like you, perhaps you should consider a drink package. 

One of the biggest considerations when debating a package is whether or not you think you'll break even. Let's assume you're going on a 5-night Carnival cruise. In total, a drink package would cost you roughly $442, after gratuities. Throughout the cruise, you'd have to drink about 30 cocktails per day to spend the same amount. That number seems like a lot at first; however, it translates to 6 per day. 

Read more: 6 reasons why you should get a Carnival drink package

You're someone who values peace of mind

alchemy bar onboard carnival celebration

I've been on plenty of cruises with and without drink packages, and, personally, I prefer having one. On vacation, I hate having to feel as though I have to constantly tally up how much I'm spending on drinks, whereas with a drink package, that money has already come out of my bank account before stepping foot on the ship. 

This helps me accurately budget for my cruises. If, for instance, I know I spent $450 on a drink package, I can calculate how much I have left to spend on other add-ons, such as shore excursions. Waiting until the end of the cruise to receive the bills makes doing this much harder.  

Having a drink package makes me feel like I have more freedom to indulge on vacation, and that's the whole point, right?

Non-alcoholic drinks are usually included, too


Drink packages enable you to drink more than what's included in your base fare, including non-alcoholic options! 

Sometimes, you just don't want to start the day with a spiked coffee, but that does not mean that specialty options are off the table. Similarly, perhaps you want to take a bottle of water or electrolyte beverage with you ashore since you have a long day planned. 

Just because it's called an alcoholic package doesn't mean that you are limited to just that. Carnival CHEERS! Package, for example, also includes sodas, mocktails, energy drinks, specialty coffee, hot tea, 500ml bottled water, and other non-alcoholic bottled beverages. In essence, if you take advantage of the non-alcoholic options, your daily number of alcoholic drinks to break even lowers. 

Drink packages allow you to step outside of your comfort zone

Carnival bar

At home, my finacée and I drink wine 95% of the time. On vacation, however, we like to switch it up and try new things. 

Drink packages allow me to try cruise line-specific beverages that I might otherwise skip out of fear of disliking them. Sometimes, I'll even ask a bartender to surprise me with their favorite beverage. If I am not a fan, I can simply order something else!

While there's nothing wrong with ordering your tried-and-true beer, cocktail, or glass of wine, try stepping outside of your comfort zone while onboard your next cruise! 

You don't want to limit yourself to lower-quality alcohol


Drink packages will often cap the value of each drink you can order. Carnival's, for instance, limits you to drinks $20.00 and below, whereas Royal Caribbean's cap is $14.00. 

If you prefer liquors like Patrón Añejo, Grey Goose, Blanton's Burton, etc., a drink package will have you save money, as you won't be paying for the more expensive options individually. 

You'll (most likely) get more use out of drink packages if you have a few days at sea

Woman in dress on cruise ship

While there are some exceptions, you won't have any use for a drink package on port days. Most lines don't even allow guests to use drink packages on their private islands. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are exceptions, as they allow passengers to use their packages while at Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee, Haiti. 

More days at sea simply means that you'll have more opportunities to drink onboard the ship, and, therefore, get your money's worth! It might not matter as much if you stay up a little later, either, as you won't have to worry about making an early shore excursion. 

Here's when cruise drink packages aren't worth it

Most cruise lines allow you to bring on a limited amount of alcohol on embarkation day


Did you know that if you're sailing on Royal Caribbean or Carnival, you can bring one 750ml bottle of wine per person (over the legal drinking age) onboard with you? 

Whenever I'm cruising without a drink package, this is a must for me, as I can bring an entire bottle onboard for around $15, whereas most glasses cost an average of $11-$14. 

If you're someone who does not drink a lot, one bottle could last you a few days during, if not the entire, cruise! 

You booked a port-intensive itinerary


As mentioned earlier, the less time you are onboard, the fewer opportunities you will have to make the most of your drink package. While a 7-night Caribbean cruise with three days at sea might lend itself to being the perfect cruise for a drink package, a 7-night European cruise with only one day at sea might not. 

On the days you're ashore, you won't use your package, other than perhaps a coffee in the morning, a bottle of water to take with you, and a drink or two in the evenings. Of course, you know your habits more. There's a chance you'll still break even on port days, but it is less likely than if you were to be spending all day on the ship. 

You're cruising with people who don't drink a lot and/or do not want a drink package


Most cruise lines require that if one adult purchases a package, then the remaining adults in the cabin must get one, too. If you're a heavy drinker but your partner (or friend, family member, etc.) isn't, then you'll have to forgo a drink package. 

Cruise lines, however, will sometimes make exceptions, such as for a pregnancy or recovering alcoholic. In this case, you'll have to contact the line directly and sometimes provide proof. Even then, the second individual will most likely be forced to purchase the non-alcoholic package. 

It would be difficult to maintain the break-even threshold during a longer cruise


Drinking 6+ cocktails per day can get tiresome, especially on longer sailings. Plus, the longer the cruise, the more expensive the drink package will be. You must evaluate whether you'll be able to drink enough to break even each day. Otherwise, you'll find yourself in a position where you're losing money. 

Note that if you're drinking something like beer, you will have to consume more than 6 drinks per day. With the average beer costing around $7.50 on most lines, you can estimate at least 10 daily. 

On a 4-night cruise, this may seem feasible; however, could you keep that up for 7, 8, or 9 nights? If you don't think so, you are better off paying for your drinks individually. 

You get free drinks (i.e., when playing in the casino or because of your loyalty status)


Did you know that once you become a Diamond Crown & Anchor member within Royal Caribbean's loyalty program you will get four complimentary drinks per day? Diamond+ cruisers get five, while Pinnacle get six. 

For some, this may be more than enough daily drinks! Even if you need a few more to keep the fun going, buying them individually is likely cheaper than purchasing a drink package. 

Similarly, if you're a gambler, you might be able to get free drinks while playing in the casino. Complimentary drinks are offered to Prime, Signature, and Masters guests within Club Royale, Royal Caribbean's casino program. To reach Prime status, you have to accumulate 2,500 points. 


Carnival Cruise Line has a program called "Drinks on Us!" that rewards cruisers who gain a certain number of points. According to their website, you're able to earn free drinks twice as fast on Carnival than any other line. 

Read more: 19 Tips and Tricks About Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Package (2024)

Planning a cruise? Here are some other helpful articles about add-ons: 

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