Let’s Drink on It

My husband and I just got back from a 12 day cruise.  Cruises have a lot of pluses; you can visit a lot of places and only unpack once, you can eat whatever you want and not have to cook or clean, there are always interesting people to talk to and since you typically booked months in advance, the vacation is already paid for so you can just relax and enjoy.

With rare exceptions, cruise lines do not include a couple of items which can get pricey in a hurry.  

Internet (which I’ll cover in another blog upcoming), shore excursions (also a future blog topic) tips and drinks.

Some cruise lines now include the tips, others allow you to “pre-pay” them.  Tipping can add an average of $500 to the price of your cruise but the real “incidental” you will find is your bar tab which includes not only the price of the drink, but a mandatory 15-18% “tip” as well.  Many cruise lines charge for soft drinks as well!

Very few cruise line include the alcohol and those that do are the most expensive lines such as Silver Seas, Seabourn, Crystal and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.  River cruises typically include wine with meals as does Azamara.

So how can you save some money and not resort to just drinking water, coffee and tea on your cruise vacation?

Soft drinks:  Many cruise lines offer a package that allows unlimited soft drinks for a flat rate.  This can be a real savings if traveling with kids or other heavy soda consumers.

Drink of the Day:  Most cruise lines promote a drink of the day.  The trip we just completed had 3 options each day for $5 each.  They were listed in the newsletter left in our cabin each day and we found this to be a great way to try some new things and save some money.

Happy Hour:  Yes, some boats even have happy hour.  Ours had 2 for 1 drinks.  Check the hours in the newsletter and plan accordingly.  Maybe you can have dinner a little later and drink your cocktails in the lounge with some live musical entertainment rather than having your before dinner drink at the table in the dining room.  Again, both a fun experience and a cost savings.

Tastings:  During the length of a cruise, some ships will offer events such as “Martini tastings” or “Wine tastings”.  My husband did the martini tasting on our cruise for $15 (no tip added because it was an “activity).

Wine:  Buy a bottle.  It’s less expensive than the “by the glass” price and what you don’t drink tonight, they will store for you and bring to your table tomorrow night for you to enjoy the rest.

Before you decide to just buy alcohol at the first port of call to save some money make sure you know your cruise lines rules.  All cruise ships make you go through airport type security as you reboard the ship so they see the bottles you purchased ashore.  MANY will ask your cabin number and then “store it for you” until you get off at your final port.  Others will charge a per bottle “consumption fee”.  Most have a “corkage” fee to open and serve the bottle in one of the dining rooms.

If your ship does allow you to bring outside alcohol on board to “consume in your cabin” for little or no fee and you drink something simple (no blender required) you can save some money by pouring your own drink in the room and then taking it with you around the ship.  No one blinks an eye at someone walking down the hall, into the showroom, casino or dining room with a full glass.   Of course that also means going back to your cabin every time you want another round which I guess is one way to burn a few extra calories as your cruise!

When evaluating cruises for your next vacation, consider your beverage consumption and be sure to factor in the costs before you book.  Check the FAQ section of your cruise website or call their representative for specific information so you can budget – or book – accordingly.


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