Is the Beverage Package Worth the Cost?

Tropical Drink Overlooking Cove

As travel agents, we often get asked whether a beverage package on a cruise ship is worth the money. While having a beverage package on a cruise ship is always convenient, on one hand it can offer savings - but on the other hand, purchasing the beverage package can result in wasted money. And, when asked, our answer is always the same: do the math!  In this blog post, we’ll explain what these beverage packages are, what they include, and try to help you work through that math.

What is a Beverage Package?

When it comes to beverages on a cruise ship, the most economical way to stay hydrated is to not purchase any beverages at all! “But I thought only meals are included on cruise ships, how can I stay hydrated if I don’t buy anything to drink?” All cruise ships have free water-based drinks available throughout the day. These vary from cruise line to cruise line, but think along the lines of filtered water, basic coffee and tea, lemonade, iced tea, fruit punch, and juice (typically at breakfast only) and even milk. But if you want more, you will have to pay extra. To help with this cost, most cruise lines have beverage packages where, for one price, you can consume beverages to your heart’s content. While there are differences from cruise line to cruise line, they are mostly the same.

What Types of Packages are Available?

The least expensive is usually the premium coffee package. Not all cruise lines offer this but, if yours does, and you want more than basic coffee, you may want to consider this package. Starbucks, being a separate entity, is usually not included in this package (not all cruise ships have a Starbucks).

Black Coffee
Soda in Alaska

Next, in terms of cost, is the soft-drink package. This package will typically include everything the premium coffee package offers plus, soda, fresh-squeezed juices, and even mocktails (depending on the cruise line).

The most common beverage package (for adults) is considered the premium beverage package. Again, it has different names depending on the cruise line, and usually includes everything in the premium coffee package and the soft-drink package as well as most alcohol-based beverages. Usually there is a $12-$15 limit per beverage, so if you order a more expensive drink, know that you will pay the difference (very few cruise lines will actually not cover these more expensive drinks at all).

Mimosas on the Deck

Drink Costs

We mentioned above that drink packages have a limit of $12-$15 or so. But what can you get within that cost? The prices below are current averages:

Soda $2.50 $3.00
Premium Coffee $3.00 $5.00
Beer $6.00 $9.00
Glass of Wine $9.00 $12.00
Cocktail $9.00 $13.00

Pros and Cons of Purchasing a Beverage Package on a Cruise Ship

OK, so let’s get into whether a beverage package is worth the investment for your next voyage. While there are different beverage packages, we will only consider the premium beverage package for the rest of this post. There are 3 questions in red below, you will use these for your math later.

Pros of a Beverage Package:

  1. Savings: If you’re a heavy drinker and/or are one who enjoys mixed drinks with multiple liquors, having a beverage package can save you a substantial amount of money over the course of your cruise. How much will you be drinking?
  2. Convenience: One of the biggest advantages of a beverage package is the convenience it provides. Since you don’t physically pay for drinks on a cruise ship (they are added to your ship-board account), you don't have to track your spending and worry about what your bar tab will be at the end of the cruise if you purchase a beverage package. Simply order what you want and enjoy your cruise. How much is your convenience worth while on vacation?
  3. (Almost) Unlimited Drinks: With a beverage package, you have the option to order as many drinks as you want throughout the day (one at a time). While it’s actually not completely “unlimited;” the daily limit is usually set pretty high so you can usually drink to your heart’s content.


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Cons of a Beverage Package:

  1. Cost: As of this writing, some cruise lines charge over $75 per person/per day plus 18%-20% gratuities for their premium beverage package (without a beverage package you will still pay gratuities on individual drinks). For an average 7-day cruise, a beverage package can easily run over $500 per person. We have seen where the premium beverage package ends up costing more than the cruise itself!
  2. Limited Drink Options: Another disadvantage of a beverage package is that it may limit your drink options. As noted above, some cruise lines only include drinks under $12-$15 in the package.
  3. No Sharing: Another factor to consider when purchasing a beverage package is that you cannot buy someone a drink with your drink package. Since all adults in a cabin must purchase the beverage package if one does, it’s not a concern if you’re only cruising with your significant other, but there will be no “buying a round” for your friends on the cruise.

With the pros and cons in mind, it all comes down to one final question: How much is your vacation enjoyment worth?

Drinks with Friends

Do the Math

1. Look at the 3 questions in red above

2. Place a value on each one

3. Add those 3 values up and compare to the cost of the beverage package (including gratuities)

Answer: if your total is greater than the beverage package, it makes sense to purchase the package. If not, then you’ll save yourself some money by not purchasing the package.

*IMPORTANT*  Before making a final decision, carefully consider your individual needs and budget to determine whether a beverage package is the right choice for you.

Cuervo Martini

Bonus Tip

If you do decide to purchase the beverage package, do it NOW! Yes, you’ll have to pay up front for it, but beverage package prices can fluctuate (some cruise lines more-so than others). The math you did above is based on the current price – if the price goes up, that may change your decision. Buying the beverage package now means you will not pay more if it goes up. “But if I wait, the price may come down!” If it comes down, you can always cancel the package you bought and buy it again at the lower price! See, buying it now, you could save yourself even more money!


We hope this helps you identify whether or not you should purchase that beverage package. If we can help you with this, please feel free to contact us!