One of the aspects of cruising that seems to surprise newcomers the most is all the little extras that add up. The gratuities, the shore excursions, the specialty restaurant charges, and of course, the alcohol.
Something to keep in mind about cruises: They include a lot, but they're far from all inclusive.
But some cruise lines seem to be moving in the all-inclusive direction, at least when it comes to alcohol. Ranging from included in the price of a cruise to more than $50 per night per person, so called "beverage packages" are the latest trend in cruising, with five lines implementing some variation of an "all you can drink" offer. Carnival Cruise Lines is the latest to roll out a program.
Carnival Cruise Line
The "My Awesome Bar Program" debuted in August on the Carnival Victory and has since expanded to the Splendor and Spirit, and last week, the Breeze. It costs $42.95 per person per day, plus a 15 percent gratuity.
All wines by the glass, beer and individual cocktails priced $10 and lower are available within the program. Full bottles of wine and champagne, as well as wines by the glass, beers and individual cocktails priced above $10, are available at a 25 percent discount.
Guests can sign up for the "My Awesome Bar Program" at the ships' atrium and casino bars, as well as a bar within the main pool area. Each guest aged 21 years and over in the same stateroom must purchase the beverage package if any one person wants to opt in.
While soft drinks, bottled water, specialty coffees and teas have always been included on every Oceania sailing, the cruise line announced optional alcohol-focused beverage packages earlier this year. The House Select package is priced at $29.95 per guest, per day and includes house wine by the glass and beer with lunch and dinner in any dining venue or via room service. House wine options are from a selection of red and white wines that change daily.
The Premium package, priced at $49.95 per guest, per day, includes beer and premium house wine by the glass and most beverages on the bar menu. Guests can also order spirits and beer through room service. Premium house wine options are from an exclusive selection of featured red and white wines that change daily.
The packages include gratuities and can be reserved online or purchased at any point during the sailing.
In 2011, Royal Caribbean announced it would offer beer, wine and spirits packages on three of its ships: Independence of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas and Legend of the Seas. Three levels of packages – Beer, Classic and Premium – range from $29 per person per day to $49 per person per day. The prices include gratuities.
The cruise line offers a range of beverage packages both alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike. The Classic package includes soda, coffee, tea, non-premium bottled water and juice, as well as beers that cost up to $5 and wines and spirits up to $8 per glass. Prices start at $14 per night.
For $54 per night, cruisers can purchase the premium package which includes beers as well as spirits, cocktails and wines by the glass up to $12 per serving.
Neither package includes room service, but there is a stateroom bar set up – from $80 to $100 depending on choice of alcohol – complete with mixers and a bucket of ice in your room from the moment you arrive on board.
The UK-based budget cruise line has announced they will add alcohol to their all-inclusive cruise pricing option beginning in March of 2013 and that all cruises will be priced on the all-inclusive model. Translation: unlike the other cruise lines we've mentioned, alcohol will be included in the cost of your cruise, whether you drink or not.
According to the web site, draught beers, a "wide selection of spirits and aperitifs," select cocktails and house wines will be part of the all-inclusive pricing. Not included? Branded spirits and premium drinks such as Champagne, malt whiskies, ciders and bottled beers.