Are drink plans worth it on a cruise? This is always a big question and depends on what the drink plan includes, what you drink and how much you drink. Keep in mind that a drink plan is not only for alcohol. Many drink plans start out with the basics of providing unlimited soda, domestic beers and bottled water. On ships with specialty coffee bars that normally cost extra, a drink plan may also give you unlimited access to those.
As the cruise industry gets more aggressive, you're starting to see lots of perks thrown in with a cruise purchase. Among those perks are sometimes basic drink plans, onboard credits or paid gratuities. Sometimes it's a combination of those or other perks.
Here are our main tips for deciding if buying a drink plan OR upgrading a drink plan is worth it:
- Don't buy or upgrade your drink plan until you get on the ship. There's no need to do this before boarding. Once you are on the ship, there will be many people offering you drink plan specials from the moment you step onboard. This will give you the opportunity to see and talk to a live person to fully understand what you're getting and what any rules or regulations exist.
- If your base cruise package does not include a drink plan, you need to determine what you want to drink and how much you think you'll drink. Want to take a bottle of water with you off the ship each day? That might require a separate charge per bottle where a drink package might have it included. Do a rough estimate of what the drinks package offered costs per day versus how much you'd spend on individual drinks. Think of the bottled water, soda, coffees and specialty alcohol drinks you will otherwise pay for separately.
- Look closely at the alcohol included in a base drink plan before upgrading. It may already include your favorite brands. Some bars and lounges on a cruise shape may offer specialty cocktails, which almost always require you be on a drink plan, or you’ll pay separately for every drink.
- Many cruise packages include a stateroom credit which gets applied to your total final bill. Once you're onboard the ship, you can purchase or upgrade your drink plan and it will be charged to your stateroom. So, you could plan ahead to use your stateroom credit to cover your drink plan. Check for any restrictions, but we’ve never been unable to do this.
Depending on the cruise line you choose, a selection of red and white wines may be included with your evening meal. We’re not wine aficionados, but have always been happy with wines offered us at dinner. This definitely saves on your alcohol bill if you drink wine with dinner. Unfortunately, it’s not something all cruise lines do, so you’ll have to check what’s included with yours.
Most cruises we’ve been on also include some daily drink specials, offering you a more affordable drink price. We’ve found many of these to be a frozen, sugary, fruity concoction that wasn’t worth it. Again, it varies by ship, so be sure to check out any additional deals available on your cruise.
And finally, everyone has a different approach to drinking and your personal preferences and style will determine what’s best for you. We tend to drink more when traveling with friends, and less when it’s only the two of us. We’d rather spend our vacation dollar on the experience of the ship and the options in ports of call than extra alcohol.