For many cruisers, enjoying cocktails and beer while on their trip is as important as the ports their ship will visit.
Whatever the reasoning, the most important question to consider is whether or not a Royal Caribbean drink package is worth the cost. The Deluxe Beverage Package is usually around $70-$85 per day when pre purchased through the Cruise Planner. It is possible to snag it for even lower, though-- it just depends on the ongoing sale!
For this fixed price, cruisers are able to enjoy unlimited drinks each day of their cruise, including at Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee! For those who plan on drinking a lot during their vacation, a drink package makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider that most cocktails are around $14.
If you have multiple guests 21 and older staying in the same stateroom, everyone will be required to purchase their own package. This is done to help reduce the sharing of benefits.
On my recent Symphony of the Seas cruise, I decided to purchase a drink package to see if it was worth the cost for me.
How much was the drink package for my cruise?
I bought my drink package about 2.5 weeks before my sailing and paid $600 for a 7-night cruise. This breaks down to $72.99 per day, plus the 18% daily gratuity. It's important to note, though, that I was sailing solo and did not have anyone else booked in my room. If I did, the total price would have doubled!
Package prices vary greatly, which is why it is important that you go ahead and purchase it when you see a price that you like; there's no guarantee that it will stay the same. If it decreases, you can cancel your current package and repurchase it at the lower price.
You can sometimes even bundle a drink package with wi-fi for additional savings.
What does the Deluxe Beverage Package include?
The real question is what doesn't the package include! You can order anything from a fruity cocktail to craft beer, wine, premium coffees, sodas, smoothies, bottled water and sports drinks, milkshakes, and fresh squeezed juices. You can even choose from top shelf liquor, like Grey Goose, Captain Morgan, and Patron!
I found myself starting my day each morning at Cafe Promenade ordering a cold brew coffee. To me, this is a huge benefit.
While there is nothing wrong with the complimentary coffee, the premium drinks at Cafe Promenade are much better, especially since I prefer iced coffee over hot! You can order anything from an americano to flavored lattes, cappuccinos, espresso shots, and frappuccinos.
Even though Cafe Promenade now serves Starbucks coffee, they do not offer a full Starbucks menu. I wasn't able to use my package for specialty drinks (like my favorite Iced Brown Sugar Oat Milk Shaken Espresso) or refreshers.
The package also does not include full bottles of wine or drinks served in souvenir cups. However, bottles of wine can be purchased at a discount of 40% off bottles of wine under $100 and 20% off bottles above $100.
Was the drink package worth it?
To break even, I knew I needed to drink at least five cocktails per day. With four days in port, albeit one at their private island, I honestly wasn't sure I would be able to accomplish this. That being said, I think the drink package was worth it. I had a total of 36 cocktails over the course of the week, and that doesn't even include the premium coffee, Powerade, or bottled water! I do not drink much at home, so I see any kind of vacation as my time to splurge!
When I was onboard Symphony of the Seas last month, I found myself returning to the same bartender since I liked how he made my beverages, so I felt like I was getting my money's worth. This time, however, I was more adventurous and even tried making my own drinks at the Bionic Bar. It's safe the say that bartending is not my calling, but it was a neat experience!
When I boarded the ship, the first thing I did was go straight to the On Air and order a Strawberry Blonde, aka my favorite drink. Over the course of the week, I had five of these. Without the drink package, this would have been my go-to since I know I enjoy it!
For my embarkation lunch, I ate at Jaime's Italian and ordered grappa stagionata, a kind of Italian liqueur. Without the package, I know I would not have tried this. It was what you'd expect for straight liqueur and, unsurprisingly, one of my least favorite drinks of the cruise.
If I was paying for my drinks a la carte, I probably would not have had my first drink of the day until sail away! I definitely felt the freedom to indulge on a drink whenever I wanted, which is something I usually do not do--I don't even keep alcohol at home!
During sail away, I enjoyed a vodka soda that I got at the Wipe Out Bar while watching Miami disappear into the horizon.
By the end of the first day, I had (to my disbelief) ten drinks, including Schooner Bar's infamous Lavender Daiquiri, a Sexy Ocean while watching HiRO, and a custom Bionic Bar drink.
I realized, though, this was a trend I couldn't keep up throughout the week. Would I have had ten drinks if I was paying for each individually? Absolutely not! I also noticed that many of the fruity drinks were more sugar than anything, including my own Bionic Bar concoction. Regardless, it's easy to get carried away when you have a drink package.
Day 2 was one of two sea days, and I I started it with, of course, a cold brew coffee. Later on, I enjoyed an ice cold Diet Coke during lunch.
Having the luxury to choose exactly what you want to drink and when is one of the biggest advantages of a drink package. It turns cruising into a more all-inclusive experience. There's nothing wrong with sticking to the complimentary drinks -- like water, juice, and tea -- during the day and paying for a few drinks when you want them, but I like having the choice of being able to get whatever I want!
I had eight alcoholic drinks on the second day, but I knew that the next three days were going to be spent in port. I enjoy drinking most on sea days, so I figured those would be the days that made the package worth the money.
I hate feeling groggy while exploring ports, so I prefer to drink during the day and wind down in the evenings.
I was right, too. My drinking slowed down after the first two days. I only had three alcoholic drinks after I got back onboard after spending the day in Roatán: an Espresso Martini from Dazzles and two drinks at Wonderland.
I spent day 4 at the beach in Costa Maya where I had two cocktails. By the time I returned, I was tired and sunburnt. I made it a point to try something new, so I got a Kentucky Summer at Trellis Bar in Central Park for a pre-dinner drink. I also had a Truly and Strawberry Blonde before retiring for the night.
One way I like to justify drink packages is by trying new drinks! If I have the package and order something I don't like, I'm not obligated to finish it. I can simply go elsewhere and get something else. When I don't have a package, I definitely stick to my tried-and-true favorites.
I did not have my first drink on day 5 until I went up the rising tide bar and got a Tropical Sangria around 3:30pm. Since I had a more relaxed morning onboard and only got off the ship to grab a quick bite to eat, I felt ready for the night ahead!
I ordered got a Lavender Daiquiri to drink while watching the ship depart from Cozumel, two Aperol Spritzs in Jazz on 4, a Tom Collins in the Schooner Bar, and a Rum Old Fashioned to take with me to the Love and Marriage show in the Royal Theatre, bringing my total for the day to six alcoholic beverages.
Day 6 was our second and final sea day. I had a light breakfast to prepare for my lunch at Izumi and opted not to order an alcoholic drink. Instead, I brought along my Coca Cola Freestyle cup and got a zero sugar Powerade from the machine in the Sorrento's before going.
At this point, I was trying fewer new drinks. I visited Dazzles again that evening for another Espresso Martini (or two...), Schooner Bar for a Rum Old Fashioned, and even a simple vodka soda during the Crazy Quest. After that, it was time for some pizza and bed!
If you go to CocoCay and don't get a Coco Loco, you're doing it wrong! It's the perfect frozen drink to sip on while enjoying your perfect day. By this point of my cruise, however, I was exhausted. I didn't want exacerbate this by drinking in the heat. I opted to order one right before I headed back to the ship around 3:45pm. Plus, the heat wasn't as bad then. There's no way that I could have spent all day drinking on the island.
When I got back onboard, my plan was to have one more drink at Schooner Bar and call it a night, then I realized that I had some free play at the casino. Well, one thing led to another, and I was down $130 and three vodka sodas in. Not my smartest move considering I had to wake up early for disembarkation, but I had a lot of fun. I was still packed and in bed by 10:30pm, so there wasn't any major damage done.
I had five drinks on the last day of my cruise, bringing my total for the week to 36!
Do I need a drink package to have a great cruise?
Prior to this week's trip, I thought that I needed a drink package. Growing up, I always had the Refreshment Package, and once I turned 21, I began to get the Deluxe Beverage Package. In fact, I've only ever been on two cruises without a drink package.
By the end of the cruise, I was honestly tired of drinking, both mentally and physically. I know that I'll always get my money's worth when I purchase a package, but sometimes, I do not actually need one.
I found myself ordering drinks just because I had the package, not because I necessarily wanted them. I could have easily gotten away with purchasing the drinks I wanted when I wanted them and saving a lot of money.
That being said, alcohol is not the only thing that's included with the package. I love the premium coffee options, as well as the sports drinks. They're great when getting back onboard after a long day spent in port! I know that without a package, I would save my money for alcoholic drinks instead.
Plus, I do enjoy the "I can do whatever I want" mentality when vacation, rather than worrying about how much is being charged to my SeaPass card.
Deciding whether or not a drink package is worth it sometimes is more complex than the monetary aspect. For me, I know I'll get my money's worth, but is it something that I truly need to enhance my vacation? Would I rather spend the money on other experiences like shore excursions or a better stateroom? Or do I truly value the convenience of a package and that all-inclusive feel?
On my upcoming Europe cruise, for instance, I am saving the money for once-in-a-lifetime shore excursions that I wouldn't be able to get if I splurged on the drink package. With only two sea days and long days in port, the alcoholic drink package would feel more like a chore than anything.
Everyone's preferences are different. Some may always want a drink package, even during port-intensive cruises. Others may never get one, either because of loyalty status or because of personal drinking habits.
This time, I'd say the money was well spent, though.