A Royal Caribbean beverage package offers the choice to enjoy an unlimited amount of drinks for a fixed daily price. This post offers tips for saving money with these drink packages and our reviews of the various plans.
We will get to what each version of Royal Caribbean's Beverage Packages include and whether the Royal Caribbean Drink Package is worth the money below. Our tips and opinions are based on our first-hand experiences with the drink packages, and the current versions for this year.
Before we get to the dollars and cents, let us cover some basics. For those who are unfamiliar with it, Royal Caribbean's drink packages are a fixed daily cost plan offered on all Royal Caribbean ships so guests can budget their beverage costs in advance and (potentially) save money. The various plans provide guests with unlimited drinks that can be used at any bar or restaurant on Royal Caribbean ships (and private destinations). The drink package benefits are available on the guest's SeaPass card or WOWband, which any waiter or bartender can verify they have the package.
Royal Caribbean guests wishing to purchase a drink package can do so either prior to their cruise via the Cruise Planner web site or once onboard their ship. Once purchased, you must pay for the package for the duration of your cruise. If purchased during your cruise, guests will pay for the remaining nights of their cruise.
Let’s get more into the nitty-gritty of the 2021 Royal Caribbean drink package…
The drink packages can be redeemed at pretty much any restaurant or bar on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship or private destination. There are only two places a drink package cannot be used: room service and stateroom mini-bars.
A lot of information exists about Royal Caribbean drink packages, with most of the focus on whether or not the package makes financial sense. In fact, our most popular articles concerning Royal Caribbean unlimited drink packages include Are the unlimited drink packages worth it, Answers to common Royal Caribbean unlimited drink package questions, Should you buy the unlimited drink packages. Frequent users of Royal Caribbean's drink packages become pretty adept at getting more bang for their buck on the packages, but with some advance planning, first-time Royal Caribbean cruisers can also make the most of the packages.
From time to time, Royal Caribbean may offer a drink package discount.These discounts are offered selectively and can vary in terms of how much the discount is and for which sailings they are eligible. Nearly all discounts we have seen are offered prior to the cruise on the Cruise Planner web site. These discounts have the potential to add to the potential value a guest can get from a drink package, but remember any discount does not necessarily make the value proposition a drink package offers a "slam dunk" deal.
Before even booking a drink package, you should determine roughly how many drinks per day you think you can and will drink over the course of your cruise. For some folks, 5-6 drinks per day is easy, while others may think that is a lot every day of a cruise.
That is probably enough background on Royal Caribbean's drink packages. You likely still have some more questions, and we will dig into them below and get them answered. For a simple system, it can be surprisingly complex, do not feel bad if it takes some reading before you fully understand how the drink package works and whether it is a good for for your party.
2021 Royal Caribbean Beverage Package Overview
Royal Caribbean offers a few drink packages to consider. Each package provides guests with an unlimited allotment of servings of the specific beverages their package includes.
None of the packages include mini bar items, Evian water, canned sodas, bottled juice and souvenir glassware, specialty beers as listed on bar menus, or super premium category beverages.
This drink package pretty much includes all beverages onboard that do not contain any booze. It is popular with older children and those that like having juices, coffee and teas.
For each guests that purchases this package, it includes
- Premium coffees and teas
- Bottled still and sparking water
- Fresh squeezed orange juice
- Fountain sodas / Coca-Cola Freestyle beverages
- Coca-Cola Souvenir Cup included
The price per night of the Refreshment Package is $29.00 per guest (excluding gratuity).
Classic Soda Package
The Classic Soda package is what was once called by many guests, "the soda card". It is unlimited soda and quite popular with kids.
For each guests that purchases this package, it incudes
- Fountain Soda and refills in any venue
- Coca-Cola Freestyle beverages
- Coca-Cola Souvenir Cup included
The price per night of the Classic Soda Package is $12.99 per guest (excluding gratuity).
Deluxe Beverage Package
Since September 2016, Royal Caribbean has simplified its unlimited drink packages by offering just one package, the Deluxe Beverage package.
It offers "the best of both worlds," with access to nearly the entire stock of beverages with or without liquor. Enjoy virtually unlimited combinations on everything from cocktails with top-shelf spirits to premium teas and every beverage in between.
For each guests that purchases this package, it includes
- Cocktails, spirits, liqueurs
- Wine (by the glass)
- Premium coffees & teas
- Fountain sodas / Coca-Cola Freestyle beverages
- Coca-Cola souvenir cup included
- Bottled still and sparkling water
- Fresh squeezed juices
- 40% discount on wines under $100. Wines above $100 will receive a 20% discount.
The Deluxe Beverage Package includes drinks with liquor up to $13 in value. Drinks that are served in a souvenir cup/glass/mug and/or drinks served inside fruit (i.e. pineapples) are not included with the drink package, however a portion of the drink price is subsidized by the beverage package.
The price per night of the Deluxe Beverage package varies from ship to ship, and sailing to sailing. Royal Caribbean seems to employ a variable pricing model that considers time of year, ship class and other factors in offering the price of the drink package. Due to the varying prices across the fleet, we hesitate to publish any kind of pricing here. If purchased prior to your cruise on the Cruise Planner site, the Deluxe Beverage package often costs between $48 - $65 per guest, per night (excluding gratuity). The price will be higher if purchased onboard, usually between $63 - $70.00 per guest, per night.
One significant recent change to the Deluxe Beverage package is all Royal Caribbean passengers 21 years of age and older (18 years in Australia and the U.K) are now required to purchase the Deluxe Beverage Package if at least one other person in their cabin has one. If the other adult(s) in the same stateroom do not wish to purchase a Deluxe Beverage Package, you can call Royal Caribbean and ask for an exemption. Usually, Royal Caribbean will allow the other adult(s) to purchase a less-expensive drink package, such as the Refreshment Package.
Is a Royal Caribbean Drink Package Worth It? - Pros and Cons
We have used Royal Caribbean's drink packages on a number of occasions and we have also paid out of pocket for our drinks on even more cruises. The drink package has an equal number of fans and critics. We tend to fall somewhere in the middle, disagreeing with both extremes. We think the drink package has its pros and its cons, so let us take a look at some of them!
Savings - You can save money with a drink package (versus paying for each drink a la carte), but you have to be a certain kind of drinker and not waste the daily package benefits. If you are someone that enjoys having many drinks every day, it can definitely save you money with a Royal Caribbean drink package. This requires anyone that buys the package to be willing and able to enjoy a good half-dozen drinks every day of their cruise.
There is no question a drink package has an excellent value proposition associated with it, but you need to be able to drink enough to "break even" on the package versus buying the drinks on your own. If you knew you would not be drinking enough every day of your cruise to break even, why would you over pay for a package?
With that said, prices for Royal Caribbean drinks have been on the rise over the last few years. Cocktails are regularly priced at around $10-13 per drink, which means bar tabs can quickly get expensive. And with so many tantalizing choices on each bar menu, the temptation to grab a drink is always present.
The drink package benefits will save the most money for folks that drink a lot during the day and spread their drinking out throughout the course of their day and night.
Amount of Drinks - One common regret we hear about drink packages is a phenomenon known as "drink fatigue," where guests drink more than they really would ordinarily order and they end up ordering drinks for the sake of ordering drinks. When using a drink package, I always struggle with the question of, "Am I ordering a drink because I want one or because I have a drink package?" There have been plenty of times with a drink package, I know I am ordering a drink because I have the package and the show, activity or event I am attending offers drinks, so why not get a drink.
If you are on a short cruise and are looking to have a good time, the drink package can make a lot more sense, since there are less days to use the package benefits. Likewise, shorter cruises have a tendency to have more of a party atmosphere than longer cruises.
It is important to keep in mind what your goal is when ordering a drink package. Are you going to be spending much of your time by the pool or are you someone that will be doing other activities where drinking may not always be an option.
Convenience - Many guests swear by the convenience of Royal Caribbean's drink packages. It makes enjoying drinks simple, with no-fuss involved. There is no worrying about how much the drink costs and if you should get it or something cheaper. Heck, there is not even the concern about if you can afford to get a drink or not.
It is a fair point and among the most commonly cited reasons people love the drink packages. We love the convenience of the drink package too, especially to have the freedom of trying new drinks without fear of ordering something we do not like and being "stuck" with it. Or relegating ourselves to drink the same old drinks because we know we like them.
The thing is, the number one reason to buy a drink package is to save money, otherwise why would it exist. Royal Caribbean would not roll out something that offers no savings and expect people to pay for it, right? With that in mind, while convenience is important, we believe the cost savings still supersedes whatever convenience the drink package offers.
Budgeting - This is probably the most contentious point. In addition to being convenient, a lot of its fans advocate the unlimited drink packages help them stay on a budget and avoid thinking about money on a vacation.
On the surface, this makes sense because you can buy a drink package before your cruise and break up the cost of the cruise, or opt to purchase it onboard and cap your drinking spending. In either scenario, it goes to making your total cost more predictable. It reminds us of cell phone plans and why so many people prefer unlimited data plans rather than fixed-data plans. Simpler to have one cost that covers everything, than worry about "going over."
There is a point to be made about pre-purchasing a drink package months before your cruise, paying it off then and then later going on your cruise and not dealing with a bill at the end of your cruise that makes you cringe (or worse). It does not mean you will actually save any money, as you still need to drink enough each day of your cruise to make a drink package worthwhile. Otherwise, you overpaid earlier than usual.
The whole notion of not having to worry about receipts, gratuity or how much a drink costs holds less water for us. Sure, it is nice to have, but far from essential. If someone told me I could save more money by doing some simple math every day, you bet I would bring my calculator onboard. There are a lot of fun things to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise, and the more money I can save, the more fun stuff I can afford.
Sticker Shock - Even if you are not on a tight budget, drink prices on a Royal Caribbean cruise can be somewhat shocking. There might be the most amazing drink on the menu, but you cannot bring yourself to spend $13 (or more) on it because that sounds too expensive for just one drink.
It is debatable how much any drink should cost. Go to a concert or theme park, and you will find prices for drinks that make Royal Caribbean's pricing strategy look pedestrian. On the other hand, your local restaurants may serve up drinks for a fraction of the cost of what you will find at Boleros. Having the drink package does help ease your mind about paying $13 for that cucumber martini.
It is important to note that you are not always forced into paying full prices for drinks. Every day there will be a "drink of the day," where one drink is discounted about 20%. You can usually find other drink specials throughout your cruise. In addition, guests that are members of Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Society are eligible to receive discounted and complimentary drinks during the cruise. Diamond and above members get complimentary drinks every evening, which can be a big money saver. Moreover, guests are allowed to bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom on their Royal Caribbean cruise. All of this contributes to bringing down the cost of drinks on a cruise, especially if you forgo a drink package and pay a la carte for your drinks.
Overall, whether a Royal Caribbean beverage package is right for you is a highly personal decision, based on a lot of variables. There is no flat "yes" or "no" answer to determining if a drink package makes sense for everyone, but hopefully the considerations in this post can help with your decision. Before purchasing any drink package, be sure to do your homework and do the math of how much you have to drink, every day of your cruise for it to make sense.
First-time cruisers will hopefully find this post as a good jumping off point for further reading on the drink packages. The drink packages can make sense for some people and others no sense at all. It is foolish to assume any drink package is a good or bad value without first considering how you cruise.
Keep in mind that you can always purchase a drink package even after your cruise begins, if you find yourself drinking more than you thought. Royal Caribbean advertises that its drink packages can be purchased at any point in a cruise, provided there are at least four days left in the cruise.
The key is to know how you like to cruise and which pros and cons of the drink package are more important to you. At worst, you are going to overpay for a drink package or for drinks on your own. In either case, you will still likely have a great vacation experience.
What is your experience with Royal Caribbean's beverage package? Thinking about using it? I would love to hear your thoughts about a Royal Caribbean beverage package, and how it works (or does not work) for you, in the comments! If you have questions, ask them there, too.