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The Gen Z trend that has mixed up Royal Caribbean's cruise ship drink menu

In:
05 Jun 2024
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Having a cocktail on a cruise ship is one of the most stereotypical cruise activities, but the cocktail choices are evolving.

Gen Z drinks

Royal Caribbean is always looking for opportunities to improve its offerings, and with a shifting demographic of younger cruisers going on ships, the menu choices are being altered too.

A 2023 survey by Drizly of consumer drinking trends found that Americans are opting more and more for non-alcoholic beverages, especially among Gen Z cruisers.

"The desire to try non-alcoholic (NA) beverages continues to climb with half of respondents having tried NA beer, wine or spirits. The NA category is sparking the most interest amongst Gen Z (23%) and millennials (24%) who have tried these drinks more frequently than other generations," the survey said in its findings.

Concept art for Royal Beach Club

The 2023 State of the Cruise Industry Report released by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) revealed that passengers between the ages of 20 and 59 are now making up over 50% of passengers onboard cruise ships. 

This change in consumer preferences is something Royal Caribbean has already jumped on with its latest drink menu updates.

Jumping on the trend

At the bar

Royal Caribbean Director of Beverage Operations, Ed Eiswirth, saw this trend emerging as early as 2020.

When cruises restarted in 2021, Royal Caribbean overhauled its fleetwide drink menu and introduced its first zero-proof drink menu.

Zero proof cocktails
Photo by Pilotboy1985

His team found was Gen Z and Gen X are more interested in lower-ABV beverages than previous generations.

"I stumbled on a lot of research around sober-curious guests and especially around Gen Z being super curious. These are young people who still drink alcohol, but they consume a lot less. They’ll go out at night and buy one really nice, handcrafted cocktail and then switch to something that’s no-alcohol but that has just as much care taken and is really curated as well as a cocktail."

In addition, zero proof cocktails work for teens and tweens who want something beyond the usual assortment of beverages. As an example, you will see a Shirley Ginger on the menu, which is similar to a Shirley Temple, but made with ginger to give it more sophistication. 

hyperlink-cruise-compass

Royal Caribbean event went as far as to add Gen Z programming on its cruise ships.  The "Hyperlink" events are daily events specifically for guests between the age of 18-25 years old.

Zero proof cocktails

Nojito

With the launch of Icon of the Seas in 2024, Royal Caribbean went beyond the standard menu to craft a drink menu exclusively for drinks that had no alcohol in them.

Royal Caribbean actually built this menu to be more family friendly in its Surfside Neighborhood than for Gen Z, but it doubles for both purposes.

Toasted Marshmallow Old Fashion from Schooner Bar

To be clear, these aren't virgin mocktails.  Royal Caribbean wanted its zero proof cocktails that work as standalone drinks.

"We really took the time to curate them as standalone drinks without alcohol and really look at blending flavors that work together versus a stock virgin daiquiri that is just an alcoholic drink we’ve taken the alcohol out of. We didn’t even consider putting alcohol in these as we put them together," Mr. Eisiwrth said.

The Lemon Post is a "family centric bar", where parents and their kids can enjoy a drink together.  

Hideaway drink menu

Alexandra Palmeri is Royal Caribbean's Corporate Manager of Beverage Operations, and she helped design 13 new bar menus just for Icon.

"When you start with alcohol and you start to deconstruct it, it becomes a lot more challenging to create a non-alcoholic mocktail. So we started from the mocktail perspective and then built it built it up that way," Alex explained.

Rye and Bean

Another bar on Icon, Rye & Bean, also has two mixologist-created zero-proof drinks that are unique to the venue.

Read more: 8 mocktails to try on your next Royal Caribbean cruise

Drink sales are big business

Drink package table

Offering passengers more drink choices is more than just keeping guests happy. It also pads the cruise line's bottom line.

Onboard spending is the category of revenue Royal Caribbean makes when people buy individual drinks or the even more lucrative drink packages.

Mr. Eiswirth said over the course of a year 44 million alcoholic beverage transactions are conducted across the 26 ships in the fleet.

Soda cup

The Deluxe Beverage Package, which includes alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks, ranges between $60 and $110 per person, per day.  The Royal Refreshment Package only includes non-alcoholic drinks, and costs $38 per person, per day. 

Read more: Royal Caribbean drink packages prices and guide

When Royal Caribbean Group reports its quarterly earnings to Wall Street, they often tout onboard spending by guests as one of the top reasons why profits are higher.


Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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