This summer, Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Society updated their happy hour drink benefit policy, which prompted many to wonder if the new offering is now a good alternative to a drink package.
In the past, guests who were Diamond, Diamond Plus, or Pinnacle Club in the cruise line's customer loyalty program were allowed unlimited drinks from a specific menu in the Diamond Lounge for a three and half hour window nightly.
The new benefit has drinks added to your SeaPass card daily that can be used for any drink (up to $13) at any bar (with the exception of Starbucks, The Bionic Bar and the Rising Tide Bar) at any time. You can also use your vouchers for bottled water and sodas.
The vouchers (which is what I will refer to them as for the purpose of this article) must be used each day, they do not carry over.
- Diamond members receive four drinks per day.
- Diamond Plus members receive five drinks per day.
- Pinnacle Club members receive six drinks per day.
Trying it out for the first time
We were on Allure of the Seas three weeks ago and decided to forego buying the deluxe drink package and just use our daily vouchers. We did, however, buy a coffee card for our morning vanilla lattes from the Café Promenade so we could use the vouchers strictly on alcoholic beverages.
As soon as we boarded, we got appletinis in the Champagne bar. We get ours made with vanilla vodka, which was a suggestion from a bar staff friend of ours from many years ago. It makes the vodka sting less potent.
We still went to the Diamond Lounge for cosmos during their happy hour time. They still have staff serving drinks and appetizers, however any drink you order does come off of your daily allowance.
That night we had dinner at Sabor. We ordered the Simply Perfect and Jalapeno Cucumber Margaritas that were on the drink menu We ended up using five of our six vouchers that day.
The second day, we started with BBC’s (Bailey’s, banana colada) at the Solarium pool bar. Before dinner we went to the Champagne bar for two martinis.
My husband likes the red velvet cake martini. It used to be a standard at the Champagne Bar but has since been removed from the menu. Our bartender said they had the ingredients and she knew how to make it. I ordered my standard favorite, the pomegranate martini.
After dinner we ordered chocolate martinis in the main theater before the headliner show. We only ended up using four vouchers that day.
It was day three and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made it to the Schooner Bar yet for one of my favorite cocktails, the lavender daiquiri, only found at that location.
I didn’t want to leave the Champagne Bar because of the excellent bar staff there. Not only did they remember the special way I like my appletinis, they also knew my father would ONLY drink Jack and coke. So much so that one night halfway through the sailing, they had written his name on a piece of paper and taped it to the bottle of Jack Daniels so everyone knew it was his.
Once again our bartender told us she could make the lavender daiquiri there. She also made us a martini version of it with vodka instead of rum.
Other places to use your free drinks
On the second formal night we dined at Izumi.
We used our vouchers on their signature sake infused cocktails, “She’s a Geisha” and “Japanese Strawberry.” Along with our nightly martinis in the Diamond Lounge and the Champagne bar, we ended our night with the drink of the day the “Portside Punch” at the Trellis Bar. It was a beautiful evening to enjoy a drink in Central Park with the guitarist playing soft music.
For lunch on day six, we enjoyed pizza from Sorrento’s on the promenade with a Michelob Ultra. At the Champagne Bar that evening, I discovered a new favorite, the watermelon martini. Can you tell I like fruity vodka martinis?
Coco Cay is included!
You can even use your vouchers at Royal Caribbean’s private island of Perfect Day at CocoCay. There is nothing like a mai tai in paradise.
It’s even better when it’s included in your daily free drinks. We also cooled off with strawberry daiquiris and a frozen mudslide.
We never got to the point where we used all of our allotted vouchers for the day. The most we used was five on any given day.
I know everyone is different, but for us, the free drinks benefit is perfect and we wouldn’t consider buying the deluxe drink package on future sailings. I feel that this was a welcomed change to the daily happy hour.
It is so nice to be able to have the flexibility of time and the venue of your choice to enjoy your favorite drink or discover a new one.
While the drinks are free as part of your Crown and Anchor benefits, it is still a good idea to tip your bar staff. They took such excellent care of us, we were happy to return the favor.
A Royal Caribbean drink package offers unlimited drinks for a fixed price, which makes it a very attractive offer for many guests.
Should you spend the money to get a drink package, or is it better to pay for drinks as you go? This is a debate many cruise fans have time and time again.
While the decision to get a drink package or not is going to vary from person to person, here are the top reasons you might want to get a drink package on your cruise.
The best part of having an unlimited drink package on your cruise is you can order a drink whenever and where you feel like onboard.
This means not having to compromise on when you feel like getting a drink, and it is great when traveling with friends or family. There is no worrying about how much a drink costs, or if you will like a new cocktail.
With a drink package, there is no risk in trying new drinks and then being "stuck" with something you do not like.
By pre-paying the cost of drinks on a cruise, having a drink package means an easier means of staying within your vacation budget.
For a lot of guests, not having to think about money on a vacation is a major relief.
Moreover, if you pre-purchase your drink package before the cruise begins on Royal Caribbean's website, there are often significant discounts that bring the daily cost down compared to waiting to buy it onboard.
There is no need to be concerned with receipts, gratuity, or how much one drink costs over another.
Not just alcohol
While the unlimited alcohol package gets a lot of attention for all the various beers, cocktails and wine included, there is way more included than just booze.
The Deluxe Beverage Package also includes a lot of non-alcoholic beverages that can greatly sway the value proposition for any guest.
It also includes bottled water, sparkling water, sodas, juices, and premium coffee or tea.
Considering how so many of us rely on a morning espresso, as well as having bottled water available to bring on shore excursions or while in the gym, the fact these are included with the Deluxe Beverage package is a major benefit.
It can (potentially) save you a lot of money
If you can drink enough every day of your cruise, the drink packages will absolutely save you money compared to ordering the same amount of drinks individually.
When you calculate how many drinks per day you would need to drink to "break even" on a drink package, it often sounds a bit much to new cruisers. However, those that have bought the drink package in the past will tell you it is not as bad as it looks.
When you consider a beer will set you back around $8, a cocktail between $10-12, soda around $3 and a latte around $5, breaking even on a drink package investment is not that difficult to achieve.
When you spread your drink consumption out throughout the day and evening, the result tends to be a good value. Especially if your cruise visits a Royal Caribbean private destination where your drink package benefits also work.
Royal Caribbean is offering half off its popular unlimited alcohol packages on select sailings of Navigator of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas.
The new offer runs between August 26-27, 2020 and is applicable to just Navigator of the Seas & Symphony of the Seas sailings from January 1, 2021 - August 30, 2021.
The cruise line says it will offer up to 50% off onboard prices of the Deluxe Beverage Package, and it "has limited inventory and is available on a first come first serve basis."
This is a new type of offer, as usually drink package discounts (and Cruise Planner sales in general) are usually offered for the entire fleet, but rarely with this deep of a discount.
It's our best selling Deluxe Beverage Package - but at half off onboard prices - making this our best deal ever. There's a limited quantity available for your clients' sailing at this special price, so book theirs today!
As of this posting, one RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader reported seeing a $44 per person, per day cost to the Deluxe Beverage Package for a January 2021 Symphony of the Seas sailing.
To check if your sailing has this new offer available, log into the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's web site look for any available offers. Keep in mind that not all sailings may see the sale applicable, nor are all offers significantly cheaper than previously posted.
If you spot a better discount on something you already pre-purchased, you should be able to cancel the purchase and then re-purchase the same item under this promotion.
Are you debating if an unlimited drink package on your Royal Caribbean cruise makes sense to buy?
Drink packages have a high up-front cost, but promise savings compared to paying for drinks individually, so how do you know if a beverage package is worth buying?
The decision will be different for everyone, but here are some tell-tale signs that may signify it is a smart purchase for you.
You prefer name brand liquors
When you order drinks at home, do you specify the liquor brand to be used? If so, a drink package purchase might make sense.
Royal Caribbean's drink packages include many brand name liquors, such as Patron, Grey Goose, Bacardi and more. Not only are name brand liquors smoother, they cost more than the house brands.
If you know you will want a name brand liquor with your martini, margarita, or rum and coke, the Deluxe Beverage package includes that.
You will be cruising with a group
The more friends or family you are cruising with, the more likely a drink package will save you money in the long run.
Large groups on a cruise tend to congregate and spend time enjoying each other's company, and inevitably having a drink or two happens.
Whether you all enjoy cocktails with dinner, or beers by the pool, keeping up with the family is a lot more affordable with a drink package.
Spreading out your vacation cost is important
One of my favorite reasons to buy a drink package is to spread out the total cost of the cruise vacation.
When you buy a drink package before the cruise, you pay for it at the time of purchase. This means I can pay off the drink package on a different billing cycle than I did for my cruise deposit, final payment for the cruise, and onboard charges after the cruise.
The ability to budget better is a very compelling reason to buy a beverage package for the flexibility it provides.
You are a social drinker
My mom used to remind me in college that I do not have to drink to have a good time, and while sage advice, having a drink or two is not a bad thing either.
Going on a cruise is about spending time relaxing, being entertained at shows and performances, as well as spending time with friends and family.
If having a drink in your hand while you chit chat or see a show is something that you tend to do, a drink package makes this a heck of a lot more affordable habit.
Your cruise is visiting a private island
There is a good argument to make for buying a drink package if your Royal Caribbean cruise visits a private island because the drink package benefits work there too.
Royal Caribbean private destinations of Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee are amazing places to spend the day, and the fact Royal Caribbean extends drink package benefits to these locations adds a significant amount of value to the drink package equation.
Considering you will probably spend at least 8 hours at one of these ports, it is like having a bonus sea day worth of time to take advantage of what the drink package has to offer. Moreover, Royal Caribbean's beverages are the "only game in town", so that means you will have to pay Royal Caribbean for a coke, cocktail or beer.
You drink espresso-based coffee
While black coffee works well-enough for some people, there are many others who love a good espresso.
Lattes, macchiatos, or even just espresso shots are very popular, and included with the Deluxe and Refreshment packages.
If you might have one, two or more of these premium coffees every day of the cruise, investing in a drink package might make a lot of financial sense.
Royal Caribbean offers guests the option to enjoy unlimited beverages on their cruise, but you might be wondering exactly how much is a drink package on Royal Caribbean.
Beverage packages are a very popular choice among guests, because they offer a fixed cost for drinks, and this means an easy to budget approach to a cost that could otherwise rack up a big bill later.
Depending on which package you choose, there are a few price ranges to consider.
Drink Package Costs
The cost of a Royal Caribbean drink package will vary from sailing to sailing, and ship to ship. This means there is no fleet-wide cost or standard to expect. There are a variety of factors that play into the cost of a drink package.
The Deluxe Beverage Package (unlimited alcohol package) will cost somewhere between $63.00 - $89.00 per person, per day for a drink package when purchased onboard.
The Refreshment Package (non-alcoholic package) will cost between $29.00 - $38.00 per person, per day for a drink package when purchased onboard.
The Classic Soda package will cost between $12.99 - $15.00 per person, per day for a drink package when purchased onboard.
These prices are the range you can expect when purchased onboard the ship.
There is almost always a discount of some kind available to for drink packages when guests pre-purchase them. In fact, the exact discount can change depending on the various promotions available, so be sure to keep an eye on prices.
It is common to see a 20-30% discount off the daily rate. Royal Caribbean has been known to run even more lucrative discounts from time to time.
Gratuity with the drink package
When you buy any drink package, you will pay a 18% gratuity on top of the daily drink package price.
This gratuity will cover all of your drink package usage during your cruise, and it means no additional gratuity is expected when ordering beverages from a waiter or bartender.
Crew members receive a pool of the gratuity, based on how many drinks they serve. The more orders they take, the greater their share of the drink package gratuity pool of money.
Is the drink package worth it?
A drink package is not cheap, especially on longer sailings, but they do offer a value when properly used.
Many guests enjoy the fact a drink package offers fixed costs and convenience of being able to order drinks anytime they see fit, without concern of running up a big bill or being stuck with a drink they do not like.
On average, it will take 6-7 cocktails per day to break even on the Deluxe Beverage Package, whereas the Refreshment Package breaks even around 4-5 mocktails. The soda package takes about 3-4 soft drinks per day to break even.
There is no denying that you can save money with a drink package and make it worthwhile, but it requires you to want/enjoy having a number of drinks, everyday of your cruise.
Getting a drink package on a Royal Caribbean cruise is a very popular choice, and if you are among the many that choose to purchase one, be sure to avoid these costly mistakes.
Buying a drink package for your cruise means a fixed daily cost that can add up to a substantial bill. Even with that high package cost, you can easily break-even on your investment, but there are also some strategies for maximizing your drink package so that you get much more out of it.
Here are the top cruise drink package mistakes, and how to avoid them!
Not specifying a liquor
When you order a drink, it is very easy to simply order the name of the drink without telling the waiter or bartender which liquor to use.
More often than not, the drink will be served with a lower quality liquor, but you could get a higher quality alcohol that is included in your drink package.
Instead of ordering "a pina colada", order "a pina colada with Kraken rum" or "a martini with Grey Goose".
By specifying the liquor, not only do you get your preferred brand of alcohol served, but you can take advantage of higher quality booze included at no extra cost.
Paying for the drink package on the ship
The most costly mistake you can make with a drink package is waiting to buy it on your cruise ship.
Royal Caribbean charges the highest price for its drink packages on its ships, whereas it offers discounts regularly to guests who purchase their drink package before the cruise.
In the months leading up to your cruise, just log onto Royal Caribbean's website and purchase the drink package there.
If timed during a sale, you could save 30-45% off the onboard price of that drink package. Those savings can add up quickly!
Sharing the drink package benefits
Royal Caribbean is quite clear that sharing the drink package benefits with someone else is against the rules.
This means you cannot (and should not) order a drink for a friend or family member who does not have the drink package.
Not only is sharing a drink package frowned upon, if you are caught, you could lose your drink package benefits entirely without a refund.
Forgetting all the beverages that come with a drink package
When you hear "cruise drink package", the first thing most people think about are soda or alcoholic beverages, but Royal Caribbean includes plenty of other drinks with their drink packages.
The Deluxe Beverage Package or the Refreshment Package both include soft drinks, espresso specialty coffees, premium teas, bottled water, sparkling water and juice with their drink package.
This means you can break even on your drink package cost without just drinking booze.
It also means you can enjoy a latte in the morning, shake at the gym, milkshake at Johnny Rockets, and afternoon tea without spending anything extra.
Not stocking up on bottled water
Bottled water is included with a drink package, and you should always order a water bottle to bring back to your room periodically to stock up on.
Not only will having bottled water in your room make for a convenient option when you need a drink in the morning, but you can also take these bottles off the ship with you when you go on an excursion.
While you certainly could just stop at a bar and get a bottle of water before heading off the ship, having a little stockpile makes getting ready for a fun day on shore easier. Plus, the crew are usually happy to give you an extra bottle or two if you ask.
Not using a drink package at restaurants
Did you know your drink package benefits work at Royal Caribbean's restaurants, including the specialty restaurants?
Some Royal Caribbean specialty restaurants have a special cocktail menu with drinks not available elsewhere on the ship.
If the restaurant has a special cocktail, usually it is on the drink menu that also includes the wines and other beverages available.
Assume you need a drink package
While this article is about how to maximize a drink package, it is worth noting everyone does not absolutely need one.
Getting a drink package means you have a fixed cost to your drinking onboard, as well a great deal of convenience. But if you will not drink enough during the cruise, then a drink package is not necessary.
Your cruise fare includes some basic beverages, including water, coffee, milk and tea. For a lot people, this is more than enough.
In addition, a drink package has a high upfront cost that is difficult for some to pay, even if it means a lower bill later.
Drink packages are a nice to have splurge, but far from a necessity, so have an honest conversation with yourself to determine if it makes sense to get one.
Many people with an upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise often wonder if there is a way to get a free Royal Caribbean drink package for their vacation.
Can you really get a Royal Caribbean unlimited drink package for free? And if so, what's the catch?
Free drink packages are rare
Generally speaking, Royal Caribbean does not offer its drink packages for free, but it does regularly offer discounts on them.
If you book a Star Class suite on an Oasis or Quantum Class ship, complimentary Deluxe Beverage Package is included for every guest in the room. Star Class staterooms are the highest category of suites available on any Royal Caribbean ship, and usually come at a high cost.
The cruise line used to include a complimentary soda package if you booked a Boardwalk Balcony stateroom on its Oasis Class ships, but discontinued that program on January 1, 2020.
In select countries (i.e. United Kingdom), occasionally a new promotion will offer an "all-inclusive package", where the drink package cost is included with the cruise fare cost. Whether or not the drink package is free, or simply paid for as part of the cruise fare, is debatable.
Another way to get a free deluxe beverage package is if you reach a high enough tier of the Casino Royale program, which rewards guests who gamble a lot on Royal Caribbean.
As previously stated, a free drink package is nearly non-existent, and when it is "included" for free, you are usually paying for it in the grand scheme of things.
How to get a discount
If you want to know how to get a get a discount on a Royal Caribbean drink package, there are far more options available to you.
Every few weeks or so, Royal Caribbean runs a sale on pre-cruise purchases made on its Cruise Planner site.
These discounts regularly offer money off the cost of an unlimited drink package, primarily the unlimited alcohol package. The exact discount will vary, but the price offered online is always cheaper than the price onboard the ship.
If you know you want to buy a drink package, your best option is to pre-purchase and lock in the lower price.
In addition, Royal Caribbean will offer Crown and Anchor Society members a discount if they purchase the drink package onboard the ship.
Typically, the onboard discount for a Crown and Anchor Society member is 20% off for Diamond, 30% off for Diamond Plus, and 40% off for Pinnacle.
This discount can be a better option if you are cruising solo, as the pre-cruise discounts typically offer the best deal if you are buying two packages.
If you are trying to decide if buying an unlimited alcohol package right for you, then you are not alone in debating this quandary.
Many cruisers are curious if the up-front cost charged by Royal Caribbean is worth it, and if they are better off simply paying for drinks as they go.
If you are on the fence about whether it is a good idea to buy a Royal Caribbean drink package on a cruise, here are the important considerations to factor into your decision.
Why you should get a cruise drink package
Purchasing a drink package means you have a fixed cost for all your drinks during your cruise.
Instead of worrying about if you really should order one more mojito, the cost is already set, so it is all about what you want, when you want it.
Purchasing an unlimited drink package makes containing costs super simple and gives a great deal of relief that you can order a drink at any bar or restaurant and not end up with a crazy bill at the end of the sailing.
One of the best reasons to get a drink package is how simple it is to order drinks and not worry about running up bills or collecting receipts.
In addition, gratuity is included with the unlimited alcohol packages (in North America), so you do not need to be concerned about how much to tip the bartender or waiter.
Having a drink package makes things incredibly simple for enjoying drinks on your cruise, without having to think about bills, budget or extra cost.
While Royal Caribbean includes basic beverages to all guests in the cruise fare, some guests prefer to drink a lot of bottled water, sodas, specialty coffees and more.
When purchasing an unlimited alcohol package, most of the focus is on the beer, wine and cocktails included, but these packages also offer unlimited sodas, coffees, bottled water and sports drinks.
The assortment of drinks means added value to your package investment, and convenience of being able to vary what you want to drink.
Your cruise will visit a private island
If your Royal Caribbean cruise will visit Perfect Day at CocoCay or Labadee, getting a drink package makes a lot more sense because of the fact drink packages work in these locations.
Just like onboard the ship, drink package benefits extend to CocoCay and Labadee and that means an entire day onboard and onshore of getting value from the package.
The only exception is souvenir cups are not included with the drink packages, so you need to request your drinks in a plastic cup if offered the souvenir option.
Why you should not get a cruise drink package
You do not drink a lot
The top reason not to get an unlimited drink package is if you do not drink enough during your cruise to "break even" on the investment.
Drink packages offer value, but it requires you to drink enough every day of your cruise to make it worth it.
There are a lot of ways to get value from a drink package, especially if you mix up the type of drinks you get, but for the alcohol package, you should be ordering around five to six alcoholic drinks per day to make it worthwhile.
Port intensive itinerary
If your cruise ship is scheduled to visit a lot of ports, you may not find a lot of opportunity to take advantage of a drink package.
Longer sailings, especially ones with very few sea days, can make breaking even on a drink package purchase difficult. Since you will be busy exploring ports, and likely tired at night from a full day of exploring, that leaves little time to indulge in drinks onboard.
In general, the less sea days and more days docked in a port, the more difficult it is to break even on the cost of a drink package.
When you look at the total price of an alcohol package for two people on a seven night sailing, you are probably looking at over a thousand dollars in total cost.
This sticker shock is a lot to swallow, and while it may end up being a money-saving option in the long run, it is still a lot of money to pay up-front.
Your adult cabin mate does not want an alcohol package
Royal Caribbean requires if one adult in a stateroom wants to purchase the Deluxe Beverage Package (unlimited alcohol package), then all other adults in that stateroom must buy a package. This drink package rule often creates an issue when one adult prefers or cannot drink alcohol.
If you call Royal Caribbean and mention your the other adult(s) in your stateroom do not drink (as much) alcohol, they will often let the other adult purchase the Royal Refreshment package instead (which costs significantly less per day).
Royal Caribbean has unveiled a new design for its unlimited drink package soda cups on a few different ships across the fleet.
The new cup design comes in at least two colors (blue or green) and features a large Royal Caribbean Crown and Anchor logo with plenty of bubbles around it.
Photo by Chris Bowers on Liberty of the Seas
Pink design. Photo by Chris Spears
Royal Caribbean Blog reader Michael Pastore shared photos of the new cup design while on Adventure of the Seas this week.
These souvenir cups are compatible with the self-serve soda machines on the pool deck as well as the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines. The Coca-Cola souvenir cup has a special chip in it which activates the machine.
Do you like the design of these souvenir Coca-Cola cups? Tell us in the comments below!