Cruise lines in an attempt to become competitive with all-inclusive land based vacations are welcoming an open bar policy on its ships with all you can drink packages for purchase. The only main stream lines with programs at this time are Celebrity, Carnival and Norwegian.
The Carnival program- My Awesome Bar Program – is still in its testing phase, but it will likely go fleet wide. The ships currently testing the program are: Spirit, Breeze, Splendor and Victory. For $42.95 per person, per day, plus 15% gratuity, you will get unlimited beer, wine and mixed drinks individually priced under $10. You can also get a 25% discount on drinks priced over $10 (individual drinks only, not packages). In order to indulge in the package, it must be purchased for ALL adults in a cabin. Carnival’s claims this is to prevent sharing of the package. There are certainly other ways to do this. But this would require effort on its part. Some ways that come to my mind are, place a time limit on the frequency of use, i.e. need to wait 10 -15 minutes between drinks. Or a longer wait with different types of alcohol – unless you are drinking the same type of beer, you have to wait a certain time limit. These options would both require monitoring on the part of Carnival, and clearly they are not interested in that, which irritates me. What about those sharing a cabin with a non-drinking adult? What if you are traveling with a pregnant woman, or with someone who is attending the Friends of Bill W meetings, or just someone who doesn’t drink? I think it is not a horrible plan, I just think it is not that useful for most couples/travelers.
Norwegian Cruise line started testing their drink program and has copied it from Carnival’s program. The ships trying the plan are the Sun, Gem and Jade. The price is $49 per person per day, for drinks up to $10 in price. There are not a lot of details explained yet about this plan. There has been rumors that everyone in the stateroom needs to purchase it, but it has not been confirmed yet.
Celebrity’s program is far superior in my opinion. You can purchase at a level that is appropriate for your drinking habits. There is a basic alcoholic drink package, as well as a premium package. The basic package cost $44 per day (plus taxes and tips) and allows for the purchase of drinks up to $8 in price. The premium package costs $54 (plus taxes and tips) and allows for drinks up to $12 in price. This allows for the purchase of most martinis, glasses of wine, etc. If you have the premium package and order a drink that is over the $12 limit, you just pay the amount over $12, i.e you pay $3 to cover a drink that costs $15.
For both programs, you can not buy the program for just the days at sea, or the last 2 days of the trip, you must purchase it for every day of your trip. Do the math (if you are that type) – do you want to drink over 4 drinks each day of your trip, even the days in port? For Celebrity, you have to drink over 6 drinks a day. It’s certainly doable, you just need to see if it makes sense for you. Some people don’t want to do the math, nor do they want surprises, they just want to know that for a week, their bar bill will be $350 total. Others like the fact that they do not have to sign anything… Others like that they can have a cappuccino in the afternoon, along with some drinks sprinkled throughout the day and not worry about the expense.
What do think about the 2 programs? Have you used either? Would you use either? Bottoms up – Happy Travels!
[The prices & programs in this post were accurate when it was published in 2013.]