Drink packages are something that every cruise line wants you to pay extra for. Depending on the cruise line and the specific package, it could cost you many hundreds of dollars. The question is, are drink packages a value? Or is it a waste of money?

What Comes Complementary?

In determining whether or not to purchase a drink package, first, you need to know what cruise line you’ll be sailing on and what comes complementary vs the package. We should also note that some cruise lines have both a “beverage” package and a “drink” package. The differences between the two are that typically the “drink” package offers alcoholic beverages while the “beverage” package does not.

As far as what is complementary, again this can vary from cruise line to cruise line. Nonetheless, there are some things that are pretty standard across the board. 

Most cruise lines offer the following items as complementary:

  • Water
  • Coffee
  • Hot tea
  • Non-pressed juices (a.k.a juice from the buffet drink fountains)
  • Cold tea
  • Milk 
  • Lemonade

Make sure you verify with your cruise line what you can get without the beverage package. For example, Royal Caribbean International will give you juices (not fresh squeezed) at breakfast in the main dining room but not at other times. 

Duration of Cruise

Once you’ve narrowed down the cruise line of choice and educated yourself on what comes complimentary on your ship, you have to weigh that against how long your cruise will be. The reason is if you don’t have enough time to at least break even with the added on drink package, it may not be worth the money.

Let play out a scenario. The average alcoholic drink is going to run you anywhere from $5 to about $15. For arguments’ sake, we’ll set the price of the drink package at $50/day. Assuming you’re paying for expensive cocktails at $15 each, every time you order a drink, you’d have to get 3.3 of these drinks every day to break even.

Perhaps you don’t have expensive taste. The average beer will run you $5. That’s reasonable. And the math is easy. You get 10 beers a day. And don’t forget, you aren’t charged when you order orange, cranberry, apple, and other pressed/fresh juice. So you actually get more than the cost of the alcohol.

In view of all this, as a vacationer, you have to ask yourself, “Based on how much I drink, will I get my money’s worth by purchasing the beverage package?”

Not Every Package Involves Alcohol

All the examples provided thus far assume alcoholic beverages. But not all beverage packages involve alcohol. Some cruise lines have teen and children soda packages. Depending on who you’re traveling with, particularly if you’re bringing your children with you, this might be a beverage package that is worth the money. You’ll obviously get the soda. But you also get the fresh/pressed juices the other packages offer. 

The Beginning of the End – Maybe

Beverage packages have been a staple of cruising for decades. But a new kid on the block is shaking things up. 

Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin brand (Virgin Records, Virgin Airlines, Virgin Mobile… you get the idea) is jumping into the cruising market. Sir Branson doesn’t like to cruise. So he does what he always does – he sees an opening and decides to fill it. 

That’s basically how Virgin Voyages was born. You might be asking, what does this have to do with drink packages.

Since Sir Branson doesn’t like traditional cruising, he changed everything about the industry he doesn’t like. And drink packages are one of them.

To be more specific, there are no drink packages. There are no charges for juice and soda. And there are no alcoholic beverage packages. Don’t take that to mean there is no alcohol. There’s plenty of that. Virgin Voyages promises to compensate for not having beverage packages by having “very reasonably priced” drinks.

Will this catch on in the industry? Only time will tell. But when Norwegian Cruise Line created “Freestyle Cruising” and their signature “Freestyle Dining” (that is, eating whenever you want with no designated seating times or dining rooms), everyone in the industry has tried to implement their own version of it. 

So, will Virgin Voyages’ do something similar by removing beverage packages? Let’s hope so.

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