Considering a drink package for your cruise? These are the worst mistakes you can make.
Are you considering a drink package for your next cruise? Typically, these packages are BIG investments, so you want to make sure you choose wisely AND get the most out of your investment. Today, we’re sharing 10 of the WORST drink package mistakes, and how to avoid them. Special thanks to our readers & viewers for sharing their costly blunders, so you don’t blow it with your next drink package.
This guide will navigate you through the murky waters of cruise drink packages, highlighting common pitfalls and equipping you with savvy strategies to maximize your onboard merriment without maxing out your credit card.
A tip about drink package “tips”
First up, everyone loves a generous tipper, and the crew staff are certainly deserving, but overtipping without knowing can be a costly drink package mistake. That’s because most cruise drink packages include pre-paid gratuities. It’s true – you typically pay around 18% in tips up front when you buy the drink package, so while you CAN (and probably should) tip extra here and there on your cruise, remember you’ve already covered the basic tip amounts. Also, some cruise lines charge tax on each drink when sailing in US waters, so this will add a bit to your bill. It’s not much, but it’s good to know.
Don’t take a chance, buy in advance
This next mistake is irreversible, so listen up. On most cruise lines, NOT buying your drink package in advance will cost you. With very few exceptions, cruise lines offer discounts for buying the package in advance of your cruise, and that discount can vary from a few dollars per day per person, to WAY more. For example, we’ve seen Royal Caribbean’s cruise planner sales bring a drink package down by nearly 40%, and that’s a lot of money when you’re considering the base price can be over $80 per person per day. So, do your research and buy the package before your cruise.
Know the limits
Another often overlooked element of cruise drink packages is that some cruise lines impose daily drink limits. Beware of this not so obvious gotcha. Carnival cruise line is known for having a daily drink limit of 15 alcoholic drinks per day. BUT Sodas and other applicable non-alcoholic beverages remain unlimited and will not be counted toward the 15 alcoholic beverages limit. Every cruise line handles this differently, and the good news is that some do NOT impose limits. Read the line’s beverage policy before you purchase, or you may regret it.
Another limit to know
Speaking of limits, some cruise lines impose drink price limits on certain packages. Not understanding these limits is a huge mistake. Let’s consider Princess Cruises’ drink package for example. At the time of publishing this article, if you purchase your drink package by way of upgrading your cruise to Princess Plus, that drink package covers drinks of up to $12 a pop. You can order whatever drink you want, BUT you’ll have to pay the difference for any drink over that $12 limit. Just be aware of those overages, or you could end up with a surprise bill at the end of your cruise.
Here’s where it gets good
MOST cruise line beverage packages include way more than just beer, wine and cocktails, and that good. Not knowing this and missing the opportunity to take advantage of free (well, included) nonalcoholic beverages, water and more is a big mistake, because this is where many people find that their drink package cost becomes “worth it”, in the end. It’s super important that you look at each cruise line individually with this one, but here are a few examples of how this works.
On Royal Caribbean, if you purchase the Deluxe Beverage Package, it includes fountain soda at any venue, a coca cola souvenir cup, mocktails, still and sparkling water bottles, premium coffees and teas, fresh squeezed juices, and of course, beers, cocktails and wine. On some ships, your drink package even includes smoothies at the spa cafe. Not every cruise line is as generous as Royal Caribbean, BUT you get the idea. What this means is you can and should stock your fridge with bottled water for use in your cabin, on shore excursions, and to rehydrate between all those yummy cocktails!
Make sure it’s worth it
That leads us to our next blunder, and that’s buying a cruise drink package, but not getting your “money’s worth”. Now, we realize that for some, buying the package isn’t really about getting MORE than you paid for. It can be about the fact that it’s WAY more relaxing not to pay individually for every drink you consume on your cruise and as many of our viewers report, they’d just rather take care of the cost before the cruise, so they don’t have a big bill at the end.
However, budget is usually a consideration for most of us, and you’re going to want to do your research before you make the decision to buy a drink package. To make this math a little easier, we created a drink package calculator.
Go for the good stuff
Next up is a regret that many cruisers stumble upon mid way through their cruise.
Settling for cheap house liquor when you don’t have to is just a total waste of your drink package. Here’s the deal; if your cruise beverage package includes top shelf and premium liquors, be sure to ask for them when you order your drink. Ask the bar staff what your package includes, and they’ll help you through this. Believe me, a margarita made with Patron is a MUCH better alternative to the cheap stuff, and I love my martinis made with Bombay Sapphire Gin. Don’t make this mistake. It’s so easy to just just ask the bar staff!
Rules are rules
This next oversight is one you definitely want to avoid. Not knowing the rules, and fine print of your drink package will probably lead to disappointment. For example, most cruise lines don’t allow you to order drinks on the drink package as part of room service. You can have them delivered to your room, but that will cost extra. They also don’t allow you to share drinks with other cruisers who haven’t purchased the package. If you break these rules and get caught, you could suffer consequences. Another example is that certain cruise lines don’t allow you to use your drink package at their private islands or destinations. You get the idea here. Know exactly what you’re buying.
There’s a lot to this fine print stuff! Yet another example of fine print you should know about is state regulations on drink packages. Case and point; when cruising from certain destinations, the package begins on Day 2. On Carnival cruise line for example, this is true for ships sailing from Texas and New York due to state restrictions. Again the bottom line is read the fine print, and know what you’re paying for or suffer the consequences.
Ask about exceptions when traveling with non-drinkers
Not a drinker? No problem. There may be a drink package for you as well. Most cruise lines offer some sort of drink package alternative – like a soda package, water package, or our personal favorite, Royal Caribbean’s refreshment packages. The bummer here is that most cases the cruise lines require all adults in a room to purchase the full, alcoholic drink package.
So say, if you want the alcohol drink package, but your spouse doesn’t, you’ll still need to pay for drink packages for both of you. At the time of recording, Royal Caribbean is the only line we know of that offers exceptions IF the non drinker purchases the refreshment package, but it’s always best to give your cruise line a call and ask them so you can avoid this drink package mistake.
Don’t forget the port visits
We touched on his last drink package mistake earlier, but it bears repeating. Booking a beverage package on a port intensive cruise when you may not yield the full value is something we hear cruisers often regret. Let’s just say you’re going on a 7 night cruise with 5 port stops. NONE of those ports offer a private destination where your drink package works, and you plan to go ashore every day. Well, because you’re buying drinks ashore instead AND you’re not going to be on the ship all that much, the drink package on that port intensive itinerary may not be the best investment for you.
There’s not a one size fits all when considering cruise drink packages, but we hope this article gave you some insight into how to make the right decisions when considering buying a cruise drink package.
Remember, knowledge is power (and pesos saved!), so go forth and conquer those cocktail menus, guilt-free and budget-conscious. Bon voyage, and cheers to smooth sailing (and sipping)!
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