Royal Caribbean makes a major beverage package change

Drink packages are a key part of cruising for many passengers. They’re expensive, sometimes as costly as the cruise if you’re buying one for more than one person, but they bring peace of mind that many people enjoy when on vacation.

If you buy a drink package on cruise lines that sell them including Royal Caribbean, its sister line Celebrity Cruises, Carnival, Norwegian, and MSC Cruises, you don’t have to worry about how much money you are spending while you cruise. 

Related: 3 Royal Caribbean drink package secrets passengers should know

The specifics vary by cruise line, but the various top-tier beverage packages include all the alcohol, soda, water, juice, specialty coffee, milkshakes, and other beverages you can consume.

Once you make the purchase, you no longer have to keep track of how much you are spending onboard. That’s sometimes worth it for passengers who may not actually get their money’s worth each day.

In reality, however, with cocktails at around $15 each, beers at $8, and glasses of wine at $12 or more (all prices vary by cruise line) the cost adds up quickly. Throw in water, soda, juice, and specialty coffee, and the value — even at high prices — becomes a decent, maybe even good deal fairly quickly. 

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Beverage packages can be purchased before or on a cruise.

Image source: Daniel Kline/TheStreet

Cruise lines price beverage packages differently

There are caveats. It varies by cruise line, but there’s a maximum price per drink. In general, if you exceed that price — usually with a high-end liquor or fancy glass of wine — you simply pay the difference. And, while Royal, Celebrity, MSC, and Norwegian offer truly unlimited alcoholic beverages, Carnival caps people who buy its Cheers! package at 15 alcoholic beverages per day. 

Carnival uses a set price for its beverage package, which it shares on its website:

The beverage package can only be purchased for the entire voyage at a rate of (5 days or less) $82.54 USD per person, per day including 18% service charge or (6 days or more) $70.74 USD per person, per day including 18% service charge via Carnival’s website and (5 days or less) $88.44 USD per person, per day including 18% service charge or (6 days or maore) $76.64 USD per person, per day including 18% service charge, if purchased once on board.

Royal Caribbean has a much less clear pricing program for its Deluxe Beverage Package (DBP). The cruise line uses demand-based pricing which means that people sailing on the same cruise can pay very different prices.

There’s no official range of prices, but it can range from around $62 per day per person to over $100 per day per person. Anyone buying a drink package also has to pay a mandatory 18% gratuity charge.

Royal Caribbean’s pricing strategy makes it hard for passengers to know when to buy the package, If the price drops, a passenger can cancel their purchase and buy it again, but the cruise line will not lower the price without you doing that. 

It’s a situation that sometimes leads to passengers not booking a drink package until they board the ship. That’s almost always a more expensive option, but it’s not always clear.

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Royal Caribbean changes onboard beverage package offer

If you don’t book the DBP before you board, you can do it on the ship. Traditionally, the cruise line has offered a “Buy one, Get one at 50% off” deal when onboard.

Since there’s no set price for the beverage package, offering a BOGO with 50% off doesn’t really mean anything. In theory, a full-price onboard offer could cost less than the traditional “deal” Royal Caribbean offers.

In reality, the BOGO with 50% offer has always actually been 25% off each package. All adults staying in the same room must buy the DBP and if two go to buy it onboard, it’s actually priced at 25% off each while a solo traveler also gets the 25% off deal. 

The BOGO signs, however, have been an onboard fixture, but the offer has disappeared at least on some ships. 

“Nothing has been officially announced as a matter of policy, but on two different ships this week, cruisers reported not seeing the BOGO deal offered when a drink package is purchased onboard,” the Royal Caribbean Blog, which is not affiliated with the cruise line, reported.

In addition, Royal Caribbean passengers on multiple other ships have reported that the BOGO offer has disappeared.

ALSO READ: Top travel agents share how to get the best price on your cruise

The cruise line did not return a request for comment on the DBP change. Pricing on the ships where the change has been seen is around $100 per day, at the higher end of Royal Caribbean’s range.

It’s almost always cheaper to purchase the DBP before you cruise and, if an adult in the room does not drink alcohol, they can generally get permission to only buy the non-alcoholic refreshment package. That can only be done by calling the cruise line.   

Related: Get the best cruise tips, deals, and news on the ships from our expert cruiser

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