If you’re going to spend $60 to $140 per day on a cruise ship drink package, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best value. Order the right drink and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. Choose the wrong drink, and you’ll spend more money than necessary.
The most cost-effective option is to get a free cruise line drink package as a booking perk. If you can’t make it, focus on these eight best drinks to order with a drinks package to get the most out of your alcohol budget. I’ll also tell you about three drink types that will work against your plans to make that package worth the money.
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If you pay a flat price up front for alcohol, you can order expensive specialty cocktails without worrying about paying $15 to $20 a pop. Hands down, the best drink you can order from a price point of view is the most expensive cocktail that falls within your plan’s limits.
For example, Carnival Cruise Line’s Cheers beverage program includes drinks for $20 or less. Limits are $15 with Norwegian Cruise Line’s Unlimited Open Bar Beverage Package and $14 with Royal Caribbean’s Deluxe Beverage Package. Prioritize drinks that cost close to the limit. If you go above, most onboard bars will charge the difference, so you might want to try that expensive cocktail for just a few bucks.
Order a gin and tonic, and the bartender will likely pour you the cheapest house brand gin. Get the most out of your drinks package by asking for your tonic with Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire.
The same rule of thumb applies to any alcohol. Ask for your liquor by name to get nicer, more expensive drinks and the best value from your beverage package Just make sure the brand you’re requesting is included in your package – otherwise you’ll be charged extra. (Note that if your cruise line offers multiple tiered beverage packages, top-shelf wines may only be included in the most expensive option.)
Related: Are cruise line beverage packages worth the price? What to know before buying
Weird drinks on the menu
I like to try new drinks, but at $10 to $15 a cocktail, it can be an expensive experiment. With a beverage package, however, experimentation is a risk-free proposition—especially on lines where there’s no limit to the number of alcoholic drinks you can have in a 24-hour period.
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Try a fruit-infused vodka, a crazy-colored shot or a spiked cappuccino. If you don’t like it, there’s no extra cost and you just have to wait a few minutes before ordering a replacement.
Drinks do not raise eyebrows to be experimental. Use your beverage package to sample new wines by the glass or cocktails you’ve never tried. You may discover your new favorite drink.
Related: The Very Best Cruise Ship Bars at Sea
Cruisers have trouble leaving their Starbucks addiction behind them and visit the overcharged coffee cafe onboard. With a beverage package, you can indulge your caffeine addiction with the good stuff at no extra charge.
Make your morning latte a vacation habit, or grab a chai tea on a rainy ocean day or an iced coffee on a hot day. Non-alcoholic beverages don’t count toward a drink limit, so the more you sip, the more value you get from your beverage package.
Many cruisers do not like the taste of the ship’s tap water. If you fall into that category, bottled water is another great beverage package to buy, even if it’s not the most earth-friendly option
Grab a sealed bottle from the poolside bar to bring back to your deck chair so you can stay hydrated as you soak up the sun. Collect bottles from the onboard bar to stash in your cabin so you can drink them after a shipboard pub crawl, or throw them in your day pack when you disembark.
Prefer sparkling water with dinner? If you have a drink package you can order it without a second thought.
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Yatra Day Drinks
Do you feel a little awkward making a beeline for the bar as soon as you board a cruise ship on the day of departure? You must not feel this way if you buy a drink package. Packages are priced according to your cruise length and sailing day count.
Grab a celebratory bubble to start your cruise. Start your vacation with a glass of wine. It’s five o’clock somewhere, and skipping a day of travel means you’re paying for a full day’s worth of beverage services you’re not using. You might as well change it up and get more bang for your buck.
RELATED: 27 Dos and Don’ts on Days of Cruise Ship Sailing
Frozen drinks on the private island
As I mentioned earlier, cruise lines price their beverage packages by day, and you can’t price them to skip port days when you’re rarely on the ship. Most of us can’t afford to party all night after a day of traveling in the sun, which makes it difficult to break even on package costs during port days.
Certain cruise lines’ private island bars — Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day in Cocoa, Norwegian’s Great Stirrup Cay and MSC Cruises’ Ocean Cay — let you use your beverage package ashore. (Half Moon Kay and Harvest Kaye don’t.) A pina colada set against a palm tree backdrop will jazz up your social media feed and is a great choice to round out your beverage package.
Related: How to Get Free or Cheap Drinks on a Cruise
Other non-alcoholic beverages
Some lines, such as Carnival and Princess Cruises, limit passengers to 15 alcoholic beverages per day, which can make it difficult to break even on package costs. Make the plan cost-effective (and drink responsibly) by mixing your bar drinks with non-alcoholic options like soda, energy drinks, fresh-squeezed juices and other bottled beverages like Gatorade or honest tea.
Even better, if you can buy reusable or unopened bottles or cans, you can save them for unloading at the port. This trick will help you get full value from your beverage package on days when you’re mainly out on the ship.
3 Drinks to Avoid
You don’t really have to avoid any drinks when you have a beverage package, but some choices aren’t as effective as others in making the package affordable. If you can, go easy on the following drinks — or reconsider whether that drink package is the right choice for you first.
Beer is usually the cheapest alcoholic drink on board, and it can be filling. If you only drink beer, it may be more difficult for you to reach the break-even point for your beverage package. (Others will have no problem downing eight or more beers a day.) Whether you stick to craft brews or Bud Light, ask if your cruise line has cheap beer-and-wine-only packages (like Windstar Cruises’ Topmast Discoveries). package) that may make more sense for you.
If you’ve already paid for your drinks, you have no incentive to order cheaper good drinks when you can get name-brand liquor for the same price. Unless you specify which vodka or rum you want, the bartender will give you the most basic option. Call your liquor by name, and if you’re not sure, ask the bartender which bottles are included in your package. This tip is especially true if you pay extra for the most expensive, most inclusive beverage package your cruise line offers.
bottle of wine
It’s true that you’ll get 20% to 40% off bottles of wine with most cruise line drink packages. But you’re still paying extra for alcohol when you’ve already paid for wine by the glass, beer and cocktails. Filling up on extra duty wine can prevent you from ordering as many extra drinks as you normally would, saving you from breaking even on your package price. Stick to wine by the glass, and you can get all your vino without dropping more cash.
Of course, you can not get the same vintage by the glass as you can order by the bottle, and you can ask for a beautiful wine to celebrate a special occasion. If you plan to order several bottles of wine during your cruise, you may be better off with a wine-only package rather than an extensive alcoholic beverage package.
Most people who purchase a cruise drink package will order a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages each day. However, if you’re set on getting the most value from your package purchase, you’ll want to be smart about which drinks you order. If you haven’t stopped at least with your wine, beer, soda, coffee and cocktail orders, you may want to reconsider whether you’ve chosen the right beverage package for your drinking style.
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