Is the drinks package worth it? Regardless of whether you sail Royal Caribbean or Carnival, the answer depends on a lot more than the cost of your alcohol. I explain more in a short YouTube video. However, yes, there are several reasons I always invest in purchasing the package before boarding.
Before turning to adult drink packages, let’s talk about the kids. Royal Caribbean offers both a Refreshment Package and a Classic Soda Package. Carnival, in turn, offers the Bottomless Bubbles package. The soda packages cost between $5-$10 a day and cover sodas. On Royal, the Refreshment Package is often available for $19-$20 through the cruise planner. It includes essentially all non-alcoholic drinks. It is also available for adults. This is significant, because typically only water, tea, coffee, and lemonade are available without charge.
We bought our kids the Refreshment Package when we sailed the Liberty of the Seas this Summer. My wife and I laid down clear expectations with our kids about what was OK. We also checked in with them several times a day. However, it was incredibly convenient to not have them ask each time they wanted something. They liked smoothies and fresh squeezed juices, and I liked not paying for each one. My teenager also loved going down to the coffee bar to get an Iced Whateveritwas every morning.
What about the adults?
Most of the people I talk to treat the drinks package as a straight value proposition. Will it cost me more to buy the package or to buy drinks individually? Cool. I get it. Galveston Cruise Reviews has the Royal Caribbean bar menus to help you figure it out. I will also post Carnival bar menus after I sail the Dream later this month. However, for me it isn’t just about the money. I love boarding the ship knowing that everything was paid for months ago. That helps me relax and enjoy my vacation. Your mileage, of course, might vary.
In a straight up value proposition, you need to look at what you drink and how much of it you consume. You should also consider how many sea days you have, and how many days you will be in port. Keep in mind that both Royal Caribbean and Carnival provide non-alcoholic drinks in their beverage packages. In between beers, you may want a soda or some water or some fruit juice. I had a cappuccino after dinner every night, and it was included in the package. Those non-alcoholic drinks provided a great deal of value in my drinks package.
The Carnival Bottomless Bubbles package is $51.95 per day if purchased in advance. The Royal Caribbean package can sometimes be found on sale for $45-$50. Both packages are more expensive when purchased onboard. I drink cocktails, and many of these are $10-$12 each. Particularly since I save quite a bit of money on non-alcoholic drinks, this becomes a good value in a hurry. The economics would change a little if I drank more beer.
There is one more thing to keep in mind if you sail from Galveston. Texas, like a lot of places, requires you to have a local tax stamp for drinks served in local waters. On Royal Caribbean, this means that they serve some truly awful well liquors until the ship leaves port. However, your drink package works as soon as you board. There is always *something* available, and the full selection is open within an hour of departure. Carnival does not charge for it’s drink package on the first day out of Galveston. They have a better selection available, but drinks are a la carte on embarkation day.
For me, the drinks package is indeed worth it. I love the convenience for my kids, and I love paying for everything in advance. It probably saves me some money, too. Drink responsibly, and happy cruising!