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  • Joshua Daniels

Are cruise drink packages worth the price?

At the risk of sounding like completely negligent parents, I must confess that we have already purchased alcoholic drink packages for our next cruise. This is something we have never done before. Is a drink package worth the price? I am not sure but we’re going to find out!


Our Princess cruise to Alaska will last 10 days. However, our final day is a bit of a rip-off in terms of an adult drink package. We disembark in the morning back in San Francisco. It's not like I will be boozing it up at 8:30 a.m. "Yes, I would like five mimosas . . . the large ones . . . and to go, please."


Princess offers a “premier” drink package that runs $70.79 per person, per day. This is the package that we bought. This includes all fountain sodas, bottled waters, cocktails, spirits, wine (by the glass), beer, coffee and tea. Each drink is limited to a value of $12. This daily package price also includes an 18% gratuity. How nice of them to ensure that I am a generous tipper. Of course, if I drink enough booze, I usually become Rockefeller and throw around bills like a rapper in a video.


In contrast, Princess offers a "classic soda" package that includes all fountain sodas, fruit juices, mocktails and smoothies. This package runs $11.79 per person, per day. Princess also offers a "premier coffee and soda" package that gives you specialty coffees, hot chocolate, and teas, along with the items in the classic soda package. This package runs $23.59 per person, per day.


Some cruise lines (notably Disney) give you all-you-can-drink sodas, coffees and teas included in the price. It's annoying to have to pay extra for soda on a cruise. In fact, it's a rip-off. I mean, come on, how much does it cost to provide soda and coffee to your passengers? Princess (and many other ocean cruise lines) nickel-and-dime you to death.


Over a 10-day period, the Princess premier drink package will cost us just a little over $1,400. $1,400 for drinks! Yikes! And, of course, we won't be drinking alcohol on our final "day" on the ship.


I seriously doubt we would spend that much on booze without the package, but you never know. Cruise ships are like Las Vegas casinos. No cash is used so it feels like everything is free. Have another drink of the day? Sure! I just need to hand over my cute and handy room key, and voila, I have a drink! No questions asked, and please come back for another one! It's a drinker's paradise.


Of course, in order to make a drink package cost effective, one must drink as much as possible. On a cruise, we normally have adult beverages ad hoc interspersed throughout the trip. While we might have multiple adult beverages on a particular day or two, we don’t usually drink a lot day-after-day. After all, it is a family vacation and some days are spent off the boat sightseeing. I don’t imagine it’s fun going on an excursion hungover. Can you imagine taking a helicopter ride and then dogsledding while your head is throbbing? No, thank you.


For this trip, however, we are doing official "cruise research" in the name of travel learning. If that means we have to drink more booze than usual, then so be it. I am willing to make that sacrifice. It will be hard, but I will solider on . . . .


My plan is to track how much we drink during the trip, try to keep track of prices, and then try to get a rough idea how much we would have spent on booze had we not purchased the package. The research will be a little (maybe a lot) skewed though. With $1,400 already spent on drinks, I think we will feel . . . pressured? Is that the right word? Or maybe . . . "encouraged" . . . to drink more than usual. In any event, I will do my best to see if a drink package is worth the price.


As I write this, I am skeptical that the premier drink package is worth it. In fact, I think it's a no-win situation. Either we will drink a lot more than usual, which will have negative side-effects, or we will come far short of getting our money's worth. Princess is obviously making money on its drink packages or they would not be offered at those price points. Again, it's like a Vegas casino. The house always comes out ahead.


Oh well. In the name of research, we will forge ahead and let the chips fall where they may. I will report back on the results.


Anyone care for a drink? I'm buying.




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