cruise ship beverage packages

Monday mantra – Drink up



Drink up! … Drink up! … Drink up! …

The human brain. Astrophysics. The U.S. Federal Tax Code. Cruise Ship Beverage Packages.

These are some of the things that mystify mankind.

Not too long ago, only the ships of ultra-premium cruise lines such as Silversea Cruises, Seabourn, SeaDream Yacht Club, Crystal Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises offered the luxury of an open bar. Now, thanks to widely available beverage packages, you can guzzle to your heart’s content aboard nearly every ship.

Cruise Ship Beverage Packages

There’s a package for alcohol drinkers, soda drinkers, wine drinkers, beer drinkers, coffee drinkers, and water drinkers. It’s ironic, but when it comes to beverage packages, the same brilliant minds that have simplified the cruise experience with relaxed dress codes, prepaid gratuities, and open-seating dining, have managed to complicate the hell out of buying the basic act of drinking.

On a recent cruise, for example, I purchased what I believed to be the most inclusive beverage package, only to find that if I merely wanted to quench my thirst, I could do so for free with unlimited shots of tequila, but I’d need to pay extra if I wanted a bottle of water.

Navigating your way through cruise ship beverage packages is sort of like figuring out what your health insurance will cover and what it won’t, except here you’ll likely be talking Grey Goose instead of LASIK eye surgery.

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A soda package may seem like a simple option, but not if you envision yourself enjoying a frosty can of Coca-Cola. The bartender may extend the can to you, but the second you whip out your beverage card, he’ll pluck the can away and replace it with its fountain counterpart because canned soda is not included in most soda packages.

A glass of wine on your balcony as the sun sets? Sounds lovely. But if you select the wine from your stateroom’s mini-bar, you’ll be socked with an additional charge, whereas if you scoot down to the closest bar (grab a little dish of pretzels while you’re at it), it IS part of the beverage package.

But the dizzying rules go even beyond the beverages themselves! In order to prevent “sharing,” most lines require all occupants of a stateroom — including teetotaling Aunt Martha — to purchase the beverage package. Even with this, bartenders remain on high alert for cheaters, and a gin & tonic drinker who suddenly feels like a margarita will likely be met with suspicions usually reserved for someone who’s going to swipe the silverware or, at the very least, has a margarita-loving friend hiding behind the planter.

I love the concept of beverage packages. They help us budget our vacation dollars and might even save us money. But when I try to figure out their rules and exclusions? Oh, man, I need a drink.

Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.