Is the Premium Beverage Package on Royal Caribbean Cruises A Good Deal?

by Janis on August 13, 2014

When we sailed on the Allure of the Seas in July, we decided to try one of Royal Caribbean’s beverage packages during our 7-day western Caribbean cruise.  Royal Caribbean drinksSince it was a holiday week at the height of World Cup Soccer, and we were sailing in the sunny, HOT Caribbean, we decided to purchase Royal Caribbean’s Premium Package which includes all beers and cocktails that cost up to $10, plus wine by the glass that costs up to $12.

The Premium Beverage Package also includes non-alcoholic cocktails, still bottle water and unlimited fountain soda with a Coca Cola souvenir cup.

This beverage package is not inexpensive.  The Premium Package costs $55 USD per person, per day, including gratuities. In reality, you are paying $770 for two people for unlimited beer, wine, cocktails, soda and bottle water during your cruise, with a few key footnotes and exceptions.

Champagne Bar menuWe bought our package from the bartender in the Champagne Bar. Although the Premium Package only includes wine by the glass that cost up to $12, we could still order glasses of our favorite Taittinger Champagne, but we would have been charged the difference between the $19/glass price and the $12/glass limit. Champagne barInstead, we chose to enjoy glasses of the Domaine Chandon California sparkling wine, which at $10/glass, was included in our Premium Package. This “pay the difference” feature of the Royal Caribbean drink packages is a huge benefit compared to the “can’t not exceed $7 USD” restriction of the Holland America Signature Beverage Package we tried on our Holiday cruise. Coca Cola souvenir cupWhen you buy the Premium Package, you get a sticker placed on your key card and a Coca Cola souvenir cup. The special cup both activates the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines on Deck 5 that offer more than 100 options of soda and water drinks from Coke. You also can get unlimited fountain soda at any bars or lounges, the Windjammer Café, Main Dining Room and Royal Caribbean’s private destinations like Labadee, Haiti.  While bottled sparkling water is not included in the Premium Beverage Package, club soda through the fountain soda program is included, so we often requested a club soda at dinner, or to complement our cocktails or wine. Wildberry Lava Flow, Allure of the SeasIf you look closely, you can see the Premium Package sticker (PP) on the card in the photo above. The drink is the Wild Berry Lava Flow, as served in the Boleros Bar on the Allure of the Seas. It’s delicious, but quite rich and sweet.

We are wine drinkers, so while we will try an occasional cocktail, we prefer wine. We wondered how the good the quality and variety of wines would be that are covered within the package.  For the most part, we were in for a pleasant surprise.

wine menu, On Air, Allure of the SeasHere (above) is the list of white wines from the On Air Club on Deck 5 of the Allure. It was a popular destination to watch World Cup Soccer. This is a sports bar, but they have a decent selection of wines that are under the $12/glass cut-off that are included in the Premium Beverage Package.

wine menu, On Air, Allure of the SeasHere (above) is the list of red wines served in the On Air Club. They familiar, inexpensive wines and they all are included in the Premium Beverage Package.

wine list, Champagne Bar, Allure of the SeasOne of the nice benefits of sailing on the Allure of the Seas is the variety of bars and lounges, and the fact that many of them serve different wines. The list (above) is from the Champagne Bar on Deck 5. Many of the red wines are priced higher than the $12/glass cut-off, but the Arboleda Carmenere and the Spellbound Petite Sirah were both wines covered by our premium package that we enjoyed.

wine list, Champagne Bar, Allure of the SeasIf cocktails are your thing, there are definitely some interesting ones to try on the menu in the Champagne Bar.

after dinner drinks, Champagne Bar, Allure of the SeasOr, how about a nightcap in the elegant Champagne Bar? All of the nightcaps featured on the list above would be included in the Premium Package.

The Champagne Bar, with its rich furnishings and contemporary art, is one of the most elegant places to enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail on both the Allure and the Oasis.  Unfortunately, even though we bought our drink packages in this bar, we found the service to be severely lacking during our 4th of July cruise. When the bar was mostly empty, and there were at least three server/bartenders working, they would ignore tables until people got up and went to the bar to order their drinks, and then had to carry their drinks back to the table.

One of the advantages of having the Premium Package was that we could try out all of the bars on the ship (and there are more than 20 0f them) to find the one that was the best fit for us.

Since we enjoy wine, perhaps it was a natural fit that Vintages Tapas and Wine Bar was our favorite destination to use our Premium Beverage Package.

Vintages wine list, Allure of the SeasThe wine list in Vintages is a book with hundreds of wines. Wines are sold by 2 ounce taste or a 5 ounce glass, or buy the bottle. We loved that you could try to the 2-ounce taste pours of a number of expensive wines (such as the Penefolds “St. Henri’) in the photo above.  Now this one was priced at $12.50, so we were charged the $.50 difference. There were also many, many wines of all types on the list with a 5-ounce glass price of $12 or under.

Vintages Wine Bar, AllureBeing able to taste and compare different wines on the extensive list was a highlight of buying the Premium Package for us. This Clark & Telephone 2012 Santa Maria Valley Belle Glos Pinot Noir was one of our favorite new wine discoveries.

Most of all, we loved the bartenders/wine servers working in Vintages. They were all very knowledgeable about wine, and they were hospitality superstars.

Key Notes on the Royal Caribbean Beverage Program

There are a number of rules and issues to be aware of when you are deciding if a Royal Caribbean Beverage Package makes sense for you:

  • Royal Caribbean offers 8 different beverage packages, ranging from the Royal Refreshment soda package that costs $4.50 for kids under 18 to the Ultimate Package costing $65 per day per person. Study the options and understand what is included in each to determine which package, if any, is best for you.  This PDF on the Royal Caribbean website spells out the details of each. Scroll down, it is two pages long.
  • The Premium and the Ultimate packages are very similar, but the Ultimate package costs $10 more per day. This extra cost does not change the alcoholic beverages portion of the package; it simply adds premium coffee and tea drinks, bottled sparkling water and fresh squeezed juices. For us, the $140 extra to get this package for a 7-day cruise is not worthwhile: we think the regular Seattle’s Best coffee was adequate, and the “premium” coffee and tea does not include anything from the Starbucks on the ship. The unlimited soda includes club soda, which is a good replacement for sparkling water (though, granted, it has more sodium), and the fresh squeeze juices are not a $20/day value to us. Your needs may vary – study the packages.
  • There is no price break to buy ahead, so it’s a good idea to buy on-board from a server or bartender in a bar that you think you will frequent.
  • Sodas, waters and in drinks from the mini-bar in your stateroom are not included.
  • Drinks at Royal Caribbean’s Private Islands, such as Labadee, are included, which is a nice perk.

Our Bottom Line on the Royal Caribbean All-Inclusive Beverage Premium Program

While it’s nice to have an all-inclusive drink package, the price is too high for many to justify the purchase. Buying a package definitely makes you drink more, as you think you need to get your daily “value” of the $55 cost.  Depending on what you drink, you could probably buy individual drinks cheaper.  Take a look at the price lists above to see what your expenditure might be without the package.  If you and your traveling companion don’t normally spend $110 per day on beverages, you won’t come out ahead.

We enjoyed the freedom that the package gave us to try many different wine “tastes” in Vintages, and the 20 % discount when we wanted to buy a bottle of wine or wine pairing with our dining companions.

This cruise was a “enjoy’-the-ship” cruise for us, and that added to the value we received from the Premium Package.

If we would have been on a more exotic and/or port-intensive cruise, such as the Allure is sailing next summer in the Mediterranean – we would want to spend our money tasting wine on shore in each of those ports rather than the ships.

All-in-all, though, as far as cruise ship inclusive beverage packages go, this one has some definite advantages of those of other lines:

  • No daily drink limit, although the bar staff will refuse to serve you if you have already over-indulged.
  • It’s nice that you can just pay the overage if you want a drink that is above the cost of the program-covered value limits.
  • Including the 2 ounce pours in Vintages is a nice perk – and smart, it gets you to taste the “value” in the more-expensive wines.
  • It’s nice that the tips are included in the published price, although it’s a little annoying that there is an “extra” tip line on every single receipt that you have to sign to get each drink in the program.  (We sometimes tipped extra, but felt that it’s a little heavy-handed to have to zero out the tip line on every drink, if you don’t want to tip more than the 15 percent you’ve already been charged.

UPDATE NOTE: Since we sailed in July and bought the Premium Package for $55.00 per person per day including gratuities, Royal Caribbean has modified it’s drink package. See the new pricing here. While the Premium Package appears to be lower at $49 per person per day than the $55 we paid, it is actually sightly higher in total cost. The reason? When we purchased the package at $55 per person per day, gratuities were included. Now the price is $49 per person per day, but does not include the 15 percent gratuity that is automatically added to the total package, bringing the new cost to $56.35 per day, or a total of $394.45 per person for a 7-day cruise. 

Have you tried the Royal Caribbean’s All-inclusive Beverage Packages? If so, which one did you choose, and what did you think? Please share in comments below.

You may want to check out these other posts on the Allure of the Seas and cruising in the Caribbean…

I’ve also sailed recently on Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. Check out these posts to learn more about that ship”;

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