Categorized | Rants

Cruise Drink Packages Causing Debate

Unlike all-inclusive land packages, cruises usually don’t offer drinks in the cost of the ticket—but this business model is beginning to change. Many cruise lines are announcing beverage packages, at an additional cost, of course.

This comes as no surprise as cruise ships look for ways to bring in customers and remain competitive. “Royal Caribbean International has developed [these new] packages to enable our guests to make their holiday more relaxing and enjoyable by paying one set price for a wide variety of drink choices,” the company’s top UK executive, Jo Rzymowska, said in a statement.

But many are against this new model, claiming it may encourage people to drink too much. Sue Bryant, a cruise critic asks, “Is this a good idea? Or the slippery slope to binge-drinking at sea?” Cruisecritic.com surveyed their readers, and I was surprised at the number of those opposed, “Can you imagine how drunk some people would get?”, “…all you can drink packages will encourage a lot more drunk behavior”, “..if that [drink package] was an option I would have to choose another vacation. I think that would be abused and the result be [sic] drunken fools all over the place”, “All you can drink sounds too sloppy…”

Another site Sodahead reports, “…is it really smart to have unlimited access to alcohol for days at a time? There’s something about pulling out your wallet to have to pay for a drink that keeps inebriation (and spending) in check”.

But in all fairness to the cruise ships, these beverage programs are no different from all-inclusive land packages that offer alcoholic beverages, so what is the beef? And to debunk the claim that having to pay for each drink keeps inebriation (and spending) in check is difficult when cruise ships give passengers onboard ship cards, so I don’t understand this logic.  Most cruise ships have made a transition to a “cashless society.” Passengers offer up a credit card in exchange for an onboard ship card, which they use to make purchases for drinks, spa services, etc., which makes it easy to rack up a large bill. I’d much rather know the costs of my drinks up front and pay for it in advance rather than the cruise line surprising me with a hefty bill at the end of my trip. It puts my mind at ease knowing the costs up front, and makes for an enjoyable vacation.

Does the rage stem from thinking that cruise ships will turn into a floating frat house?  Serving unlimited alcohol doesn’t mean we all turn into raging drunks. If this were the case, most businesses would have discontinued all-inclusive land packages a long time ago. On the flip side, beverage program experiences probably differ based on the cruise line and level of service—but I doubt we’ll be seeing raging drunks falling over board on the Silver Seas.

Check out the cruise lines that offer wine and beverage programs below—and check with the cruise line directly as programs change often.

Celebrity Cruises: Offers premium wine package selections starting at $13 a night.

Royal Caribbean: Offers packages in the U.K.-based Independence of the Seas, Asia-based Legend of the Seas and Panama- and Spain-based Grandeur of the Seas.

Holland America:  Offers Sommelier wine packages.

Seabourn:  Offers premium wine programs.

Emeraude:  Offers specialty wine cruise packages and black-tie events.

Crystal Cruises: Offers wine and food themed cruises.

Regent Seven Seas: Offers all-inclusive packages; wine and alcoholic beverages included with meals.

Silver Sea: Offers wine and alcoholic beverages with meals and exclusive wine series voyages.

What do you think? Should cruise lines offer all-inclusive packages? Do you know of other cruise lines that offer premium wine packages? Hit us up with a comment.

Photo credit: SeaDream Yacht Club

This post was written by:

- who has written 294 posts on Enobytes Wine Online.

Editor and co-founder of Enobytes.com, Pamela is a former restaurant manager, wine buyer, and sommelier with WSET, CMS & Center for Wine Origins certification. She has contributed to or been quoted by various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Sommelier Journal, Vegetarian Times, VIV Magazine, UC-Berkeley Astrobiology News, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and USA Today. True to her roots, she seeks varietal and appellation integrity and is always passionate about finding the next great bottle of wine.

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9 Responses to “Cruise Drink Packages Causing Debate”

  1. Belinda says:

    I agree with one of the readers at cruise critics. I think it would encourage a lot more drunk behavior.

  2. Hal says:

    Interesting topic. I think it depends on the cruise line. I’ve been on many that serve crap selections and others that know how to run a wine program. I’m for the all-inclusive idea and agree I’d much rather know the cost beforehand. NCL offers a good discount program and the others you list sound worthy of checking out.

    • enobytes says:

      I was on a carnival cruise and the selections were not very appetizing. On the other hand (and if my memory serves me correctly) Royal Caribbean offered some good deals. I haven’t been on an NCL cruise yet.

  3. The wine nerd inside of me would need to see the wine/beer selection first to see if there are names on there I have always wanted to try. If the cruise was organized around wine, with guest speakers and themed tastings, I might go for it (I think Gary V. of Wine Library arranged a pretty ambitious wine list for the cruise he organized a few years ago).

  4. enobytes says:

    Agreed, chicago pinot. I’ve seen a number of $13 per night packages, but considering they are dirt cheep in price, they are probably house wines, and some house wines are good, others are not. I noticed that Celebrity Cruises is up front with their selections, and offer several levels of beverage packages and different prices ranging from $99 upwards of $200 (the most expensive kicks butt – look at the choices!) and the $129 package is great too.

    Ah, yes, I remember the Gary V. cruise.

  5. Michele Blaine says:

    I think this is a good idea. I would love to go on a cruise and I am budgeting away to afford this and to know that I can have the frilly delicious tropical drinks as part of my experience would be fantastic. I have looked up the prices on these drinks and after tip are about 12.00 each so for a day that would be about 4 drinks. My boyfriend drinks a lot of beer and usually the heavier imported – now we can enjoy and not have to worry about buying something as to then have a limit on drinks. I love this idea -this is about all having a truly great time not just the wealthy :)

    • enobytes says:

      I completely agree Michele…I love all-inclusive packages because you can have a good time without the worry of spending additional money. What might seem like a bargain trip can easily cost $$$. I recall being on a cruise ship a few years ago and the line to dispute bills upon departure was a mile long. I think people are shocked when they receive the bill not knowing that each family member consumed a few cocktails every day for 5 days–you can easily run up a bill even when you are frugal!

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