Are There Limits on How Many Drinks You Get With Your Cruise Drink & Beverage Package?

May 25, 2023

The only cruise lines we know to have any limits on the number of drinks you can order are Carnival and Princess (which is owned by Carnival Corporation). They have a 15-drink limit on alcoholic beverages during the 24 hours from 6 am to 6 am. Non-alcoholic drinks aren't included in the 15-drink total.

So if you have 15 alcoholic drinks, you can't order another until the next day, but you can have all the waters or sodas that you want.

While other cruise lines may not set explicit limits, if you are obviously intoxicated, don't be surprised if you are cut off from ordering more drinks.

Also, there are often waiting periods (generally around five minutes) between drink purchases. 

Do I Have to Buy Beverage Packages For Every Day of the Cruise?

You can't simply decide you are going to go wild one day and buy the package for that single day. You need to pick and choose the days you want to buy it.

If you purchase the package, it is charged for every day you are on the ship. It doesn't matter if you are in port for a day; you are still charged. This is one of the main drawbacks of the beverage package.

Also, keep in mind that the drink package is sold on the first day or two of the cruise. You can't decide halfway through the trip that you want it. You'll need to buy it early.

Does Everyone in the Cabin Have to Purchase the Beverage Package?

Often yes, if one person in a cabin buys the package, all adults also need to. That said, the rules do vary depending on the cruise line you are sailing.

Carnival requires that each adult in a stateroom purchase a drink package if one person does. So if a husband purchases the package, but the wife doesn't drink, she must still purchase the drink package as well.

Royal Caribbean requires adult cabin passengers to purchase the package if one person does.

Norwegian Cruise Lines requires each adult in the stateroom (and additional staterooms if you are traveling under the same payment method) to purchase the same drink package.

Princess does not say that all cabin passengers must purchase the drink package. 

Celebrity Cruises spell detailed terms of their drink package, including age restrictions, and that "all guests wishing to purchase a Drink Package to do so for ALL guests of legal drinking age in the same stateroom."

MSC Cruises requires each adult to purchase the drink package one person does. If you are traveling with a minor, they will need a non-alcoholic drink package.

Bottom line: Except for a few cases, you should expect everyone to buy it if one person does.

Most cruise lines require every adult in a cabin to purchase the same drink package. If you plan on drinking lots of pop or alcohol, but your cabinmate is fine with tap water, you'll be better off skipping the beverage package and buying drinks at the bar.

Remember that bartenders and servers will only serve you one drink at a time. And if you are traveling with a group, consider using something other than your beverage package on friends in other cabins. Your drink package privileges will be revoked if you get caught sneaking a drink to a travel companion.

Trust us; you don't want to spend all that money on a beverage package to have it taken away.

What If I'm Traveling With a Minor or Someone That Can't Drink?

You may be traveling with someone in recovery, pregnant, or a minor who can't drink. In that case, you'll want to call the cruise line to explain the situation.

They will make accommodations where that person doesn't have to buy the alcoholic package. It may still be that they need to buy a non-alcoholic package. You may also have to provide proof of a medical condition that means a person can't drink.

Do I Have to Pay Gratuity on the Drink Package?

Gratuity is added to the cost of the package. So when you purchase the package, you'll see an additional gratuity charge tacked on to the total (typically around 18%, depending on the cruise line). So a $60 package, for example, will cost around $71 per day.

You aren't charged an additional gratuity When you use the package at the bar. It's already handled with the cost you paid for the package. If you feel generous, there may be a line for an extra tip on the receipt.

Do Cruise Line Drink Packages Work in Port or Private Islands?

In most cases, the drink package only works on the ship. That's because most ports of call aren't affiliated with the cruise line. So when you port in Cozumel, you are headed into Mexico -- not an extension of the cruise ship.

That said, drink packages work on private islands run by the cruise line. For instance, CocoCay -- Royal Caribbean's private island -- allows you to use the package while in port. MSC's Ocean Cay also allows you to use your drink package in port.

This is only the case in some places. Notably, Harvest Caye -- operated by Norwegian -- doesn't offer the use of drink packages (though NCL's Great Stirrup Cay does allow the use of drink packages). Carnival's Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays also don't offer the service of the onboard drink package.

Bottom line: Your drink package won't work in ports of call, but there is a possibility if you are visiting a private island run by a cruise line.

Keep in mind being able to use the package in port is a BIG deal. It's an extra day to get your money's worth versus spending out of pocket when you are off the ship.

The drawbacks of a cruise line drinks package

The big drawback of buying a drinks package when you cruise is that you may need to get the value out of it that you think.

Remember that lines generally sell drinks packages by the cruise rather than by the day. That means you can't buy a package for the specific days you want to bar-hop on a ship. If you're on a seven-day cruise, you'll have to pay the steep per-day rates for all seven days — even when you don't plan to drink heavily.

Even if you think you'll use a drinks package every day, remember that you might be spending a significant amount of time off your ship during port days on your cruise. On days when you're off the boat much of the time, you will be ordering fewer drinks on board. Some cruise lines need to allow you to use your drinks packages on their private islands.

The packages make the most sense for passengers who consistently order many drinks from day to day — even on port days.

Related: Can I bring alcohol on a cruise ship? A line-by-line guide

On many ships, you'll also need to factor in the drinking habits of your traveling companion. Several lines, including Carnival, Holland America, and MSC Cruises, have a rule that if one adult in a cabin orders a drinks package, all adults in the cabin must order the package. This prevents two people in a cabin from sharing a single drink package.

Buying a drinks package often only makes sense if everyone in your cabin is a significant drinker. If one of you drinks and the other does not, you'll save more money by buying drinks by the glass.

Two lines that notably don't have such a rule are Princess Cruises and Windstar Cruises.

Another downside of many drinks packages is that they often have unexpected exclusions and price caps. For instance, even the priciest drinks packages might not include your favorite brand of whiskey or vodka. And many packages only apply to drinks on menus that cost under $15. In some cases, lines offer more than one drinks package, with a pricier tier that gives you access to a broader range of brands and a higher per-drink cost limit.

If you're picky about wines, you may find that the wines included in drinks packages need to meet your expectations. Generally, drinks packages can only be used for the wines by the glass available at bars and restaurants on ships, not the wider array of bottled wine in cruise ship cellars. That said, signing up for a drinks package will get you a discount when buying wines by the bottle on some lines.

Are Cruise Drink Packages Worth It?

Whether or not a drink package is worth it depends on how much -- and how often -- you drink. For most people, the costs don't justify purchasing an all-you-can-drink package.

You can use our drink package calculator to see if it's worth it.

Consider that a beer on the ship costs between $6-8 before gratuity. For a drink package running $60 per day, you'd have to drink about 8-10 beers every day -- including on days when you are in port -- to get your money's worth.

The math works more in your favor if you like more expensive drinks like cocktails. A $10-14 cocktail means you'd have to drink about 5-7 drinks daily to make it worthwhile.

Many people might be able to keep this pace up for a couple of days, but it can be tough to do that every day of your cruise. Also, keep in mind that you have to spend more to purchase the drink package for everyone in the cabin, even if they don't want it.

There is one benefit to consider, even if you have yet to come out ahead financially. Some passengers love knowing exactly what they will spend with the package and not worrying about every nickel and dime they spend on drinks.

With the drink package, you aren't going to be surprised by a high bill at the end of your cruise. You'll know exactly what you're spending right up front.

Are There Other Benefits to Drink Package Beyond Saving Money?

The biggest point of the packages is that they can save you money if you plan to drink your fill on a cruise. But there are some other benefits beyond just the potential money saved.

But there is another benefit -- the option of trying new things without worrying about the cost. Head to a bar normally to try something new, and you pay out of pocket whether you love it or hate it. With the drink package, you can try drinks you normally wouldn't order without the risk.

If you do not like it, you didn't pay anything extra, thanks to the package. You can head right back and order something else. That's a bonus that many people don't realize.

I hope this article helps future sailors decide and allocate the drinking budget. Whatever option you choose, remember to drink responsibly and always stay safe. Take care. God bless