The eternal debate of whether to purchase a drinks package for your cruise has been given a methodical new angle by a Royal Caribbean couple who carefully mapped their drink spending on a spreadsheet.
The couple anonymously posted their results onto a popular Royal Caribbean Facebook page, dissecting all their alcohol consumption on a 12-night cruise to New Zealand. They are 61 and 59 and travelled in a party of eight.
As seen in the tables below, the couple paid $1409.85 each for the drinks package, with the husband downing $2131.74 and the wife polishing off $1288.11 worth of drinks. This came out to a nearly $600 net profit.
The couple had a total of 195 alcohol drinks over the 13-day cruise, which equals seven-and-a-half drinks per day each.
Is your package worth it?
Every cruise line has different-priced drinks and different-priced drinks packages. Cruise Passenger has taken the amount this couple drank on their Royal Caribbean cruise, and applied the same variables.
We give our verdict on whether purchasing a drinks package on other lines, would be worth the cost if our couple drank the same amount on hypothetical cruises. We have calculated all prices in Australian dollars.
Carnival Cruise Line Australia
The Carnival Cheers package starts at $111 per day, and based on an average of some of their drinks menus, drinking at the same pace as the Royal Caribbean couple, the package would not be worth the value. Cruise Passenger found that due to the price of individual drinks onboard Carnival, it would be more cost-effective for the couple to purchase the drinks individually.
Overall the couple would be spending $2886 on drinks packages, but only receiving $2640.50 worth of drinks, leaving them $225.50 out of pocket.
There are a few key considerations before purchasing a Princess drinks package.
The first is that the line offers its guests two drinks packages- the Plus Beverage Package priced at US$65 (AU$97) or the Premier Beverage Package for US$85 (AU$127).
Guests who purchase the Plus Beverage Package have cocktails, wine, beer and spirits up to the value of US$15 (AU$23). Specialty coffee, soft drinks and juices are also included in the package.
The Premier Beverage Package offers guests the options as the Plus Beverage Package, but drinks of up to US$19 (AU$28) are available to the purchaser.
But the cruise line also offers a bundled package called Princess Plus which includes the Plus Beverage Package options as well as WiFi for one guest, two fitness classes, premium desserts, and unlimited access to the juice bar. This bundle is priced at US$65 (AU$97).
The Princess Premier Package, priced at US$95 (AU$142) includes the Premier Beverage Package as well as unlimited desserts and fitness classes, unlimited access to the juice bar, Medallion Accessory, reserved theatre seating, WiFi for four devices, two specialty dining meals per guest and a photo package.
Cruise Passenger found, comparative to Royal Caribbean, that while the beverages are more affordable, the beverage package costs more. If the hypothetical couple drank the same amount as the couple on Royal Caribbean, they would spend an additional $617.25 more than required.
However, the Princess Plus package, priced at the same amount as the beverage package, has amenities worth more than $617.25. Our verdict is that purchasing the Princess Plus Package provides the best value for money.
P&O Cruises Australia offers a Premium Beverage Package for $99 per day or The Lot! Beverage Package. The Premium Beverage Package will cover all your alcoholic drinks up to $16, as well as soft drinks, mocktails, specialty coffee, juice blend and bottled water.
The Lot! will cover drinks up to $19 and covers soft drinks, mocktails, specialty coffee, juice blend, bottled water and energy drinks.
Based on the Premium Beverage Package, Cruise Passenger’s hypothetical couple come out having drank $75.50 worth of alcohol above what they paid for with the package. Our verdict is that the beverage packages are worth paying for.
Cunard’s Beer, Wine and Spirits package is priced US$70 (AU$105). It offers guests alcoholic beverages up to US$13 (AU$19), which includes a range of cocktails, as well as soft drinks, bottled water, juices, specialty hot drinks and mocktails.
In Cruise Passenger’s example, the beverage proves to save the couple just a few dollars. Our hypothetical couple spent $3 more than what they would pay for if they bought individual drinks.
Celebrity’s Classic Drinks package starts from US$89 (AU$133), which includes any drinks up to US$10 (AU$14.93). However, there is a Premium Package, which starts from US$109 (AU$162), where guests can order beverages valued up to US$17 (AU$25).
If the same variables were applied to the hypothetical couple, the couple’s beverage would cost $1364 more on a Premium Package, than they would if they were to purchase the drinks individually.
Norwegian Cruise Line
The Free Beverage Package is US$109 (AU$163), which earns you all alcoholic beverages up to US$15 (AU$22), as well as unlimited soft drinks and juice and 20% off bottles of champagne.
There is also the Premium Plus Beverage Package for US$138 (AU$206) per day, which gets you all alcoholic beverages, unlimited soft drinks, unlimited bottled water, all Starbucks coffees and specialty drinks, energy drinks, and choices of premium wine and champagne to have with dinner.
However, at the moment NCL is running its Free At Sea promotion, which is eligible for every scheduled Australia sailing and includes a beverage package. These beverage packages are included in the cruise fare, along with WiFi, shore excursion credit, specialty dining package, third and fourth-guest travel at a reduced rate, and up to 35% off all other cruises.
Cruise Passenger found that it is necessary to take up the line’s Free At Sea promotion, which includes the beverage package. If the hypothetical couple were to purchase the NCL’s Free Beverage Package, they would pay an additional $1,707.50 compared to if they purchase the drinks individually.
Our verdict is if you can purchase the line’s Free At Sea promotion, then the package is worth it with the additional offerings. But if a guest was to just purchase the beverage package, it would be more economical to buy individual beverages.
Number of sea days
The couple drank much more on sea days, rather than port days. This particular cruise had seven days at sea and six days in port, making a drinks package more attractive.
If your cruise has a higher ratio of port days, it’s worth keeping in my mind you won’t be likely to drink during the day if you’re out exploring a port, and you also purchase additional alcoholic drinks at the port.
Are you both big drinkers?
Every major cruise line makes it so everyone in your cabin has to purchase the drinks package. If you are travelling in a couple or small group and some are heavy drinkers and some are light drinkers, it might be beneficial not to purchase the drinks package as the light drinkers will not be using the value.
Are you travelling in a group?
The Royal Caribbean couple was travelling with a group of friends, which they say made them drink more.
“Being part of a group definitely increases your opportunity to socialise (and drink) more. We’ve been on other cruises on our own and never drank nearly as much.”
Price of drinks versus drinks packages
A key consideration is how the cruise line prices its drinks and drinks packages. For example, Royal Caribbean has comparatively expensive drinks to other Australian family lines, but competitively priced drinks packages.
Whereas, as you can see below, a cruise line such as Carnival has a similarly priced drinks package, but cheaper drinks onboard. Meaning you’ll actually have to drink more to get your money’s worth.
If you are travelling on a cruise line such as Royal Caribbean that operates in USD, a strong Aussie dollar will make a drinks package more affordable for you.