NOTE: There is a more recent post: An Improved Signature Beverage Package on Holland America Cruises
When we sailed on the Holiday cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam in December, 2013, we bought the Signature Beverage Package and wrote about our experience.
For our March 1, 2015 7-Day Western Caribbean cruise, we booked the cruise last fall during the Explore 4 promotion in an outside stateroom category that included a complimentary Signature Beverage Card. During a second promotion tied to U.S. Thanksgiving, our cruise was priced lower and still included the drink package, so we upgraded our stateroom to a verandah for the same price.
Upon boarding our cruise, we found our Signature Beverage Cards waiting for us in our stateroom. To use the card, you take it to a bar the server “activates” your card. Every time you order a drink, you must present both your cruise card (your room key) and the Signature Beverage card. The card is registered to your account, and tied to your photo, so only you can use the Beverage Package card. You are allowed, however, to order two drinks at a time if you have two cards, i.e. Mr. Jones could take both of our cards to a bar and get two bottles of sparkling water for our room, without me being present, or take the cards to the Explorations Cafe to get both of our morning coffees.
January, 2016 update: this “two-card” process has been eliminated. See on more recent post:
Every time you order a drink, the bartender must swipe both your cruise card and your Signature Beverage Card. This double-swiping does slow down the bartenders and servers. It’s too bad that Holland America can’t integrate the drink packages into the regular cruise card/stateroom key (like it is for Royal Caribbean’s Premium Beverage Package.) It is also worth noting that while the Signature Beverage Package does include the 15 percent auto-gratuity, this program appears to reduce the actual tip money that ends up with the bartender and the servers, while increasing the amount of drinks served. Finding your favorite bartender and/or servers, and rewarding this with extra tips, and/or just being pleasant versus demanding will help you get more enjoyment from your drink card.
By registering your card with a bar staff member the first time you use it, you are protected if you lose the card. You just head to the front desk, who issues you a new Signature Beverage Card (this time with your name on it.)
The Signature Beverage Card is a terrific deal if you get it free with your cruise purchase. All of the beverages that are priced at $6.95 or less are included, and you can have up to fifteen of them per day.
Did we consume 15 drinks a day? Not even close. But we did enjoy espresso-based coffee drinks at the Explorations Cafe each morning, and sometimes in the afternoon. We loved that you could get small or large bottles of sparkling water at meals, or to consume at the bar, or to take to your cabin. We also had fun try different drinks on the menu, such as the “Frosty Chocolate Mint Buzz” which is pictured above. Both bartenders in the Ocean’s Bar were talented at creating this milkshake-like drink.
What drinks are included in the Signature Beverage Package on Holland America Line? This is one of the most common questions. We noticed that there are some changes to the beverages and the prices, so we took photos of each page of the beverage menu and are posting them below. Remember, any drink that is priced $6.95 or less is included. You can order a new drink every five minutes. You cannot share the drinks with others in your party, and doing so puts you at risk to lose your card privileges.
The Tropical Cable Car is one of my favorite drinks on the page above. Note the date in the right corner; that it the date that this particular page in the beverage menu was last updated.
This page offers a number of fun drinks. We learned from some fellow cruise guests to order the Fresh Lemon Drop without the sugar rim. The Fresh Grapefruit is a favorite version of the Sexy Citrus Cosmopolitan.
This part of the list features “vintage” cocktails. Note that the $6.95 price is for the house liquor. You cannot pay the “up” charge for premium liquor with the Signature Beverage Card; you may only use for drinks priced under $7.
Some of the drinks list Premium spirits in their description, and are still within the $6.95 price point. For example, Mr. Jones enjoyed the Tanqueray 0010 Martini made with Tanqueray 10 gin and Vox vodka.
We enjoyed the Tropical Cable Car (above, left) and the Tanqueray 0010 Martini (above right) in the B.B. King’s Blues Club in the Queen’s Lounge.
All of the special B.B. King’s Blues Club cocktails (shown above) are priced at $6.95 each, and therefore included with the Signature Beverage Package. However, drinks on shore at the bars on Half Moon Cay are not included in the beverage package, even if they are under $7 each.
We are wine lovers, and despite having the Signature Beverage Package, we bought a 3-bottle Admiral’s package, and a bottle of Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon for a special birthday celebration. The Navigators and the Admiral’s wine packages are great deals at 50 percent off for four and five star Mariners. While the Leonetti is an expensive wine, it is a fantastic deal on the Pinnacle wine list compared to its regular restaurant price.
The list includes a wide range of Coke products and a variety of juices. As mentioned earlier, we made heavy use of the Perrier (small bottles) and the San Pellegrino (large bottles) of sparkling water during meals, in between cocktails, and to take to our room. You can also get bottled mineral water from a bar to take to your room, store in the refrigerator or the ice bucket to take ashore the next day.
There are also some unique Pan-Asian cocktails in the Silk Den bar (and served in the Tamarind restaurant) that qualify under the $7 price point like this jalapeí±o martini.
Our Bottom Line on the Holland America Signature Beverage Package:
While it’s nice to have an all-inclusive drink package, the price is too high for many to justify the purchase. You need to drink 7 cocktails a day (or a whole lot more sodas and coffees) to break even on the expense. Purchasing the package does make sense for those who like to pay for as many of their cruise expenses as possible in advance, and not worry about a big bill at the end of their cruise.
If you receive it as a free cruise perk during Explore 4 or another promotion, we consider the Signature Beverage Package to be a great value, even if your cruise costs a little more than it does later without the promotion. It is nice to try drinks that you normally would not from the extensive list. If you don’t like it, you don’t need to finish the drink. Plus, having coffee drinks in the Explorations Cafe, and an ice-cold refreshing Corona with your Dog Paddle at the Dive-In, and Perrier when you need a refreshing drink of water — all of these “perks” make your cruise feel like a truly luxurious vacation.
Have you tried the Holland America Line Signature Beverage Program? If so, what did you think? Please share in comments below.
Check out these other posts from our recent cruise on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam:
- The Cabana Club on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam
- A Look at the Dim Sum Lunch in Holland America’s Tamarind Restaurant
- A Look Inside a Verandah Stateroom on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise Ship
- Views from Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
- An Updated Look at Holland America’s Canaletto Restaurant Menu
- The B.B. King Blue’s Club on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam
- The Updated Menu for An Evening at Le Cirque on Holland America Cruises