By Sam & Arline Bleecker
Compared to your cruise fare, the cost of quenching your thirst for soft drinks, coffee, juices, wines and spirits may not seem like much. But at two dollars a pop for soda or four to twelve for a glass of wine or twenty-five or more for a bottle of vino, the numbers can add up quickly.
So what can a cruiser with a yen for Coca-Cola or a passion for Cabernet Sauvignon, Aussières Rouge by Barons de Rothschild, do to pare down expenses?
Just sign on the dotted line.
For The Pepsi Generation
Several cruise lines now offer discounts for the Pepsi generation to help take the bite out of your beverage bill. Depending on the line, these discount packages allow you to belly up to the bar for your fill of unlimited soft drinks and other potables for a fixed price, depending on the length of your voyages. Other lines give you a break for purchasing packages of select wines and spirits. And on Disney Cruise Lines, where kids reign as princes and princesses, you get the best deal possible: you pay nada.
On Disney ships, all non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary. They’re free for everyone at all the dining establishments, as well as at the top deck where soda, coffee and tea dispensers are always available.
Carnival Cruise Lines, on the other hand, offers kids under 17 all-they-can-drink soda and juice packages for $36.23 for a seven-day sailing and a tad more for adults, $48.30, or about $5 per day for children and $7 per adult – a bargain when a can of pop runs $2 on a Fun Ship.
Of course, you can choose not to spend a penny at all and indulge yourself in all the free iced tea, lemonade, apple and orange juice, as well as coffee and tea in Carnival’s Lido restaurants fleetwide.
Sports giant Royal Caribbean offers its own competitive beverage packages. For about $4 per day for kids and $6 for adults, Royal’s fountain soda package entitles you to unlimited refills at any of the ship’s bars or lounges, Windjammer Café, Main Dining room, and private destinations. You also get a refillable souvenir mug.
Since this is a daily rate, the total cost of the beverage package is, of course, determined by the length of your cruise.
RCI also offers passengers as much as 25-percent off the purchase price when they buy bottled water and juices in bulk. Instead of paying nearly $100 for two dozen 1-liter bottles of H2O, for instance, you’ll pay at tad more than $70. The same applies to 15.2-oz. Minute Maid juices. If you buy a dozen, you can save 25 percent and pay only $35.50.
Princess Cruises, too, offers an unlimited fountain soda package for a flat $4.25 per day per person, young or old. It also comes with a souvenir mug, but on Princess you needn’t carry the mug with you. Just show your beverage card at any bar (except with room service or at Princess Cays, the line’s private island) and get a free fountain soda.
Princess also sells a coffee package for $24.00 – about a 20-percent savings — which lets you toss back15 speciality coffees, such as Espresso, Macchiato, Cappuccino and Cafe Latte, at any location where the service is offered.
On Norwegian Cruise Line, you pay $4 a day per kid and $6.25 per adult to drink as much fountain Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Sierra Mist and soda water as you wish.
Italian-based MSC Cruises makes it simple: for $25.30, you can imbibe 10 drinks – you’re choice of soda, juices or iced tea.
As a result of extensive research and past-passenger feedback, upscale Celebrity Cruises now offers two non-alcoholic beverage packages. The lower-priced “classic” package features fountain and canned soda, bottled and fresh-squeezed juices, premium coffee and bottled water for $14.95 per person, per day. Its premium offering includes everything in the lower-priced package plus specialty non-alcoholic coffee drinks, additional name-brand bottled water choices, canned energy drinks and flavored bottled water offerings, smoothies and frozen non-alcoholic drinks, and is available at $18.40 per person, per day.
For Adults Only
Okay, enough with the kid stuff. What about adult beverages, such as beer, wine or liquor?
Celebrity’s classic wines and spirit package features everything in the non-alcoholic package plus beers with a retail value of up to five dollars per serving and spirits, cocktails, and wines by the glass with a retail value of up to eight dollars per serving, and costs passengers $44.85 per person, per day. The line’s beverage upgrade offers all the beverages in the premium non-alcoholic package plus all beers, and spirits, cocktails, and wines by the glass with a retail value of up to 12 dollars per serving, and is available for $56.35 per person, per day.
Royal Caribbean’s Diamond, Platinum or Gold “Wine & Dine” packages enable you to purchase a pre-determined number of wines from its special selection and save up to 25 percent off the list pricing. For example, in the line’s Gold offering, you could choose a 5-bottle package for $135 instead of $152 retail. Select a dozen wines in the same package and the savings is nearly $100 — $364 list, but $275 bundled.
Among the availabe wines offered in the Gold special are Pinot Grigio, Danzante Venezie, Italy; Sauvignon Blanc, Caliterra Central Valley, Chile; Chardonnay, Aussières Blanc by Barons de Rothschild – Lafite Languedoc, France; and Malbec, Familia Rutini, “Trumpeter” Mendoza, Argentina.
If you go upscale and opt for the Diamond package, percentage-wise the discounts run about the same, but the wine selections seem more sparkling. For instance, you’ll pay $395 for a dozen bottles of wine instead of $528 and can uncork Cabernet Sauvignons from Robert Mondavi; Aussieres Rouge from Barons de Rothschild; and Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve.
Holland America Line also offers two levels of imbibing pleasure: Navigator’s or Admiral’s Choice. For ensigns and above, the 7-bottle package run $199, but for fleet commanders, the price inches to $269.
For $56 per day, NCL passengers can opt for the line’s Freestyle Premium” package, which includes unlimited spirits from the most popular premium labels, domestic and import beer, house wine and unlimited fountain soda, at all bars, lounges and restaurants.
Princess Cruises offers an inelegantly named “Bucket of Beer” package giving you one free beer for every five you buy.
Costa Cruises offers a variety of packages on all its ships. One of the most popular is its “Buon Viaggio” selection — a wine package with two bottles of red, two bottles of white and seven bottles of mineral water, priced at $94.
On Disney, you can choose any seven bottles of wine from the line’s special selection and save up to 25 percent. For its seven-night cruises, you can opt for either of two wine-and-dine packages: the classic runs $189 and the premium $292.
MSC’s beverage packages run $22 per day and includes bottled wine, mineral water, beer and soft drinks with a white wine choice of DOC Trebiano or Verduzzo and a red DOC Montepulciano or Cabernet.
With these deals, cruise lines are clearly trying to put you in the spirits. But before your head spins, you might want to contact a travel agent or the cruise line for further details and any price changes.