Is Royal Caribbean’s Drink Package a Cruise Game-Changer or a Wallet Drainer?

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As someone who loves to enjoy a drink or two while on a Royal Caribbean cruise, I always make sure to check out the drink packages offered. Sometimes it’s a fantastic deal, other times, it’s not worth it for that particular cruise.

I’ve cruised with Royal Caribbean many times and know that the drinks package can be very confusing. So, below I’ve laid out all of the information you need to help you decide whether a drinks package is worth it or not.

Two women enjoying cocktails on Royal Caribbean cruise, the younger with a strawberry daiquiri and the elder with a pina colada, seated in a lounge with wooden panels, radiating warmth and leisure.
My Mum and I enjoying cocktails on a Royal Caribbean Cruise.

Royal Caribbean Drink Prices

Before going into the details of the drink packages, I want to share the approximate price of the drink if you were to buy it individually on board. Here’s a list of the most common drinks available:

  • Beer: $7 – $8
  • Glass of Wine: $9 – $20
  • Cocktail: $8 – $13
  • Soft Drink: $3
  • Specialty Tea or Coffee: $4
  • Bottle of Water: $3
  • Tea, Coffee and Hot Chocolate: Included within the fare
  • Flavoured Water: Included within the fare
  • Lemonade: Included within the fare
  • Milk: Included within the fare
  • Fruit Juice: Included within the fare at breakfast time

However, you should note on most cruises, an automatic gratuity of 18% is added to the cost of each drink when you receive the bill.

Although, on cruises departing from the UK, the gratuity is included in the price of each drink as shown on the menu, so sometimes the menu prices may appear higher.

What’s Included in Royal Caribbean’s Drink Packages

Now that you have the price of the drinks, you can compare it to the drink packages.

Royal Caribbean offer five main drink packages: the Deluxe Beverage Package, the Refreshment Package, the Soda Package, the Water Package and the Coffee Package (coffee card).

The table below shows a breakdown of all 5 packages, and under the table, I will go deeper into the details.

FeatureDeluxe Beverage PackageRefreshment PackageSoda PackageWater PackageCoffee Package
Cost$50 to $115 per person per day$38 per person per day$15 per person per day$39 for 12 one-litre bottles of Evian$31 for 15 speciality coffees 
Alcoholic drinks
Non-alcoholic cocktails
Freshly squeezed juices
Premium coffees & teas
Bottled water
Milkshakes
Sodas

Deluxe Beverage Package

The Deluxe Beverage Package from Royal Caribbean offers the most extensive array of drink options and operates on dynamic pricing, usually ranging between $50 and $115 per person per day. The cost can vary based on factors such as the specific ship, destination, current demand, and ongoing promotions. 

This package includes a wide variety of drinks, from beers, wines by the glass, cocktails and mocktails to spirits and liquors. It also includes premium teas and coffees, sodas, freshly squeezed juices, and bottled water. 

However, the package only covers drinks valued up to $14, which covers the majority of drinks, except for some premium wines and spirits. It also doesn’t include wine by the bottle, so it’s best to order it by the glass. Although, if you want to treat yourself to a bottle of something special, it does give you 40% off any wine up to $100 and 20% off any wine over $100.

A family celebration with champagne on board Oasis of the Seas, featuring a man in a floral shirt, two smiling women, and a close-up of a hand holding a drink, set against a cabin backdrop with vibrant artwork.
Enjoying champagne with my Family on Oasis of the Seas

Refreshment Package

Next, the Refreshment Package costs $38 per person per day and offers Non-alcoholic cocktails (mocktails), premium teas and coffees, sodas and soft drinks, freshly squeezed juices and bottled water.

Soda Package

The Soda Package is $15 per person per day and includes sodas only, such as Coca-Cola (including diet, zero, caffeine-free and many different flavours of colas like strawberry, cherry and lime), Fanta, Sprite and Dr Pepper (and zero versions), Powerade (and zero version), Vitamin water and Hi C, Seagrams ginger ale (and diet version), Barry’s root beer and creme soda (and diet versions), Minute Maid orange and lemonade (and light versions), Dasani-flavoured or sparkling waters.

Water Package

For those who prefer the convenience and taste of bottled water, Royal Caribbean offers a water bottle package that provides you with 12 one-litre bottles of Evian for $39. These bottles are conveniently delivered straight to your stateroom.

It’s worth mentioning that while the tap water on board Royal Caribbean ships is perfectly safe to drink and has a decent taste, it may not always be as cold as you’d like, depending on the weather conditions. So, if you fancy having chilled bottled water readily available in your room’s fridge, this package might be suitable for you.

If you buy the Deluxe or Refreshment drink packages, water will be included.

Coffee Package

Brewed coffee is always free from the Windjammer buffet, but if you’re into coffee, you might prefer a ‘nicer’ option. Royal Caribbean offers a Cafe Select Coffee Card, which is priced at $31 and gives you 15 speciality coffees during your cruise. This effectively reduces the cost of each speciality coffee from roughly $4 to approximately $2.

However, before you rush to purchase the Coffee Card, there are several factors worth taking into consideration:

  1. The Coffee Card cannot be used in Royal Caribbean’s Starbucks on board.
  2. Opting for Grande or Venti sizes will consume two drinks from your card instead of one.
  3. The card is shareable, allowing you to purchase multiple speciality coffees at once if you wish.

If you’ve already purchased the Deluxe or Refreshment drink packages, don’t buy this on top, as you’ll already be entitled to speciality coffee within your drinks package.

A lineup of Starbucks coffee cups with the iconic mermaid logo, arranged on a counter with a barista in the background, showcasing the partnership with Royal Caribbean.
Note: Starbucks Coffee is not included in the coffee package

Key Considerations Before You Buy a Drinks Package

Before deciding on whether to buy a drinks package or not, it’s also worth noting the following:

  1. None of the drink packages include mini bar items, bottles of wine, canned sodas, bottled juices, souvenir glasses or super premium drinks. 
  1. There’s no limit to the number of drinks you can have. Some cruise lines limit the number of drinks you can order in a day, however, Royal Caribbean has no daily limit. Although, if you’ve had one too many alcoholic drinks, the staff can refuse to serve you.
  1. All guests in a stateroom are required to purchase the same package, so you can’t share the package. For example, you can’t buy the Deluxe package for one person and the soft drink package for another. However, there are some exceptions to the rule, such as medical conditions, pregnancy, alcohol addiction and religion. If this applies to you, contact your travel agent or Royal Caribbean and be prepared to show proof.
  1. Royal Caribbean does not require guests under the legal drinking age to buy any kind of drinks package. So, you can get an alcohol or soft drink package for the adults without being required to buy any kind of package for your children.
  1. You have to wait 15 minutes between each drink, so it is technically possible to get drinks for the kids and then, 15 minutes later, go and get drinks for yourselves. This isn’t technically allowed, but I have known people do it.
  1. All packages must be purchased for the entire duration of the cruise. 
  1. For most sailings, when you buy a drinks package online, an 18% gratuity charge is added at the checkout.
  1. On Quantum class ships, such as Anthem of the Seas, you can order drinks from the Bionic Bar – a robotic bartender, which is covered by your package.
A man and a woman interacting with a robotic arm bartender at the Bionic Bar on Royal Caribbean, displaying amusement as the robot prepares their drinks.
  1. All of these packages come with a refillable souvenir cup. These can be used at self-service machines across the ship, so you can help yourself to unlimited refills. Or, if prefer, you can just order fountain sodas from bars and restaurants.
  1. If you cruise to either of Royal Caribbean’s private islands (CocoCay, Bahamas or Labadee, Haiti), your drink package can also be used here.
  1. It’s important to note that there are rules and restrictions when it comes to Royal Caribbean drink packages. For example, you must be at least 21 years of age to purchase an alcoholic drink package. Make sure to read the terms and conditions carefully before making your purchase.
  1. Royal Caribbean keeps the price of its Deluxe Beverage Package drinks package a secret until after you have booked your cruise. I find this quite frustrating, as you might want to be able to budget for the whole cost of your cruise with drinks before you commit to booking. (Although, in the next section, I’ll show you a trick that might overcome this).
A cheerful couple holding champagne flutes in a Royal Caribbean stateroom, standing by the balcony door, embodying a relaxed cruise atmosphere.
Drinking bubbly in our stateroom on the balcony.

Find Out the Exact Price of a Deluxe Beverage Package

Royal Caribbean are quite secretive about the prices of the drinks packages, as the price does go up and down. However, there are some ways to see how much it currently costs. Here are my top 3 tips:

1. Look at the Royal Caribbean Cruise Planner

To discover the current cost of the Deluxe Beverage Package, one effective method is to navigate to Royal Caribbean’s online cruise planner. While this feature is generally accessible only to those with a confirmed booking, there’s a way to sidestep this requirement. First, ensure you’re not logged into the planner. Using your browser’s Incognito mode can be helpful for this.

Once you’re on the website, you’ll notice the URL contains specific parameters that you can modify. These parameters usually include the’shipCode’, and ‘sailDate’. You can manually adjust these to match the details of the cruise you’re interested in.

  • shipCode: Update this to the code corresponding to the ship you’re interested in. For example, ‘IC’ for the Icon of the Seas.
  • sailDate: Input the sailing date in the YYYYMMDD format. For example, 20240203 for February 3rd, 2024.

So, for instance, if you’re keen to know the drink package price for the maiden voyage of the Icon of the Seas departing on February 3rd, 2024, you could modify the URL to: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/account/cruise-planner/category/beverage?bookingId=&shipCode=IC&sailDate=20240203.

2. Use Facebook

Joining the Facebook group dedicated to your specific cruise is a brilliant idea for gathering more insight into the pricing history of the Deluxe Beverage Package. These groups are often treasure troves of information, where you can directly ask members what they’ve paid for their drinks packages, giving you an idea of both current and past pricing.

For those not entirely comfortable with Facebook, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to locate these groups:

  1. Log In or Sign Up: If you don’t already have a Facebook account, you’ll need to create one. If you do, simply log in.
  2. Search Bar: At the top of your Facebook homepage, you’ll see a search bar. Enter keywords related to your cruise, such as the cruise line name, ship name, and sailing date. For example, you might type ‘Royal Caribbean Icon of the Seas January 2024’.
  3. Filter Results: Once you hit ‘Enter’, you’ll see a range of results. Click on the ‘Groups’ tab, usually situated just below the search bar, to filter the results to only show groups.
  4. Review and Join: Browse through the list to find a group that seems to match your cruise. Click on the group name to find out more about it. If it seems relevant, click the ‘Join Group’ button, usually located near the top of the group’s page.
  5. Group Approval: Some groups are private and require approval to join. If that’s the case, you may have to answer some basic questions to prove your interest in the cruise. Once you’re approved, you can start participating in discussions.
  6. Post Your Query: After joining, you can create a new post asking what others have paid for their Deluxe Beverage Packages.
The image shows a list of Facebook groups dedicated to Royal Caribbean cruises, including groups for specific ships like Icon of the Seas, as well as groups for UK travelers and general tips and tricks for cruising with Royal Caribbean. The groups vary in size and posting activity, offering a community for enthusiasts and travelers to share experiences and advice.

3. Approach Your Travel Agent

A valuable resource that is often overlooked when trying to find out the exact price of the Deluxe Beverage Package is your travel agent. They have privileged access to an array of information not readily available to the general public, including current pricing for various add-ons like drink packages.

Utilising a travel agent’s expertise not only helps you find out the current price but can also offer insights into any promotional offers or discounts that might be available, potentially saving you money in the long run.

When and How to Secure the Best Deal

Now that you have an idea of what’s included in a drinks package and a ballpark figure of its cost, you’re probably wondering how to snag a great deal. Having purchased Royal Caribbean drink packages in the past, I’ve gathered some insider tips to help you make the most of your money. Here’s what you should keep in mind:

First and foremost, timing is crucial as the package prices can fluctuate quite a bit. It’s generally a good idea to book your drinks package in advance of your cruise. 

The prices for these packages onboard tend to be inflated, so pre-booking is usually more cost-effective. When using Royal Caribbean’s online cruise planner, keep an eye out for special promotional offers; these can often provide substantial savings, especially during certain promotional periods like Black Friday. 

While you might see enticing ‘Buy One Get One Free’ offers advertised on the first day of your cruise, bear in mind that these are usually not as cost-effective as they appear due to the higher onboard prices. 

Lastly, if you’ve already purchased a package and then spot a price drop due to a promotion, you can actually cancel your initial package, get a refund, and then buy it again at the lower rate. While this does require some vigilance and effort to keep track of prices, the savings can make it well worth your while.

The image showcases Royal Caribbean's non-alcoholic beverage packages, including a Refreshment Package, Classic Soda Package, Evian Water Package, and a Cafe Select Coffee Card, each with pre-cruise savings and per guest per day pricing. It displays images of various drinks such as smoothies, sodas, bottled water, and coffee.

Alternatives to Buying a Drink Package

As much as a Royal Caribbean drink package can be attractive, it may not be the best option for everyone. Here are some alternatives to consider:

Freebies and Special Events

While Royal Caribbean’s drink package is tempting, it may not be the most cost-effective option for every traveller. There are actually a variety of ways to enjoy complimentary beverages aboard. 

For example, the first formal night usually features the Captain’s Toast, where guests are treated to a free glass of Champagne. Art auctions are another event where Champagne is typically provided free of charge. Even duty-free shops get in on the act, occasionally offering liquor tastings that include a free shot.

It’s also worth checking your Seapass account, as occasionally, ‘Buy One Get One Free’ drink deals may be pre-loaded.

Loyalty Rewards and Suite Perks

Long-standing loyalty to Royal Caribbean can also net you some free drink opportunities. Guests who have sailed more than 30 nights can attend a special Crown & Anchor Welcome Back Party, which often features complimentary Champagne or rum punch. 

If you’ve sailed for more than 80 nights, you’ll be granted Diamond status, entitling you to free drinks during Happy Hour from 5 pm to 8.30 pm. 

Additionally, staying in a Grand Suite or higher provides access to the Concierge Lounge, where complimentary drinks are available for a few hours each evening. 

Is the Royal Caribbean drink package worth it?

When considering the value of a Royal Caribbean drink package, various factors must be considered. On one hand, if you foresee indulging in multiple drinks per day, the package can offer significant savings. For example, the Deluxe Beverage Package includes a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic options, potentially providing good value for money, especially if you pre-purchase or capitalise on any discounts. 

The added peace of mind of not worrying about your spending can also enhance your cruising experience; you’re free to sample various drinks without the angst of wasting money on something you don’t like.

Practical Considerations and Personal Experience

On the flip side, if you’re a light drinker or have specific preferences, a package might not offer good value. You might be better off buying the odd drink and enjoying the drinks already included in the cruise.

Also, if you plan to spend considerable time exploring ports of call, you may not fully use the drinks package and, therefore, not get its full value. 

In my own experience, the true worth of a drink package often depends on individual drinking habits and how you plan to spend your time on the ship.

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I'm Hannah and I've been cruising for as long as I can remember.

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