An Improved Signature Beverage Package on Holland America Cruises

by Janis on December 21, 2015

Pink Coral Cocktail, Silk Den, Holland America Nieuw AmsterdamCocktails and cruise ships seem to go together, but some cruise guests get an unpleasant surprise at the end of their cruise when they see their bar bill.

One way cruise lines have come up with a solution to this pain point is to offer drink packages for one set price.  Sometimes, these packages are offered as a perk for booking early.

Earlier this we wrote an update on Holland America’s Signature Beverage package, after we cruised on the Nieuw Amsterdam in March while enjoying the beverage package as an Explore 4 perk.

We were back on the Nieuw Amsterdam in November sailing on a transatlantic cruise from Barcelona to Ft. Lauderdale.  Since the Signature Beverage Package underwent some changes since our March cruise, we decided to try it again. This time we had to purchase the Signature Beverage Package at a cost of $44.95 per day per person.  A 15 percent service charge is added to the price of the package when you purchase it, bringing the total cost to $51.69 per day.

Bartender Tony, Holland America Line, Nieuw AmsterdamIf you do not have the package as a part of Explore 4, you can purchase it on board from any bartender.  In our case, we bought from Tony, the fantastic bartender who was working in the Crow’s on the Nieuw Amsterdam during our cruise

The Holland America Signature Beverage Package has several significant upgrades since March, including:

  • You no longer have to carry a separate card. The package, if you have it through Explore 4, or you buy it, is tied to your key card.  You just present your key card when you order a drink and mention that you have the beverage package. You get a receipt for each drink, but at the end of each day, the charges are removed from your bill.  You can request a copy of your bill from the front desk to double-check during your cruise. (Some ships also have kiosks were you can print a copy of your bill.)
  • All beverages priced $8 or lower are included. The cut-off used to be $7 per drink.
  • There is a little broader selection of wines at the $8 or less price point.  We are wine-drinkers, and one of the challenges of the Signature Beverage Package in the past was a lack of any wines but the house wines. The package still lacks on wine choices, but is much better than in the past.

wine list in bars, Holland America Nieuw AmstersdamAs you can see in the bar menu above, the wine choices $8 and under include a Prosecco, a Pacific Bay Cabernet Sauvignon, two Australian Shiraz wines as well as a House Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, White Zinfandel and Sparkling.

We enjoyed the Prosecco, the House Pinot Grigio, and the Black Opal or Mc Pherson Shiraz from the $8 and under wines.  There are also more $8 and under wine choices in the Canaletto specialty restaurant.

What you won’t find is any Pinot Noir, but perhaps that will be corrected in the future. (Since a bottle of the Meridian Pinot Noir retails in the US between $5.29 and $7.99 a bottle, it seems like Holland America could sell a glass for $8 rather than $9.75.)

The other drag is that you cannot pay the difference to “trade up” to a higher cost glass of wine. On other cruise lines, if you want the $17 glass of champagne, you just pay the different. Not on Holland America. Any drinks over $8 are charged to your account at full price. (We queried the Beverage Manager about this, as it seems like Holland America is missing a revenue opportunity. He said it was due to a lack of technology to support those “overage” charges.)

One also has to be careful in the dining room. I ordered a glass of the “shiraz on the drink package” and was initially charged $14.95 for the glass of wine. This was eventually corrected. The problem seems to come from the “crazy” system of having to order wines by the glass from your waiter but bottles of wine from the bar /wine server staff. The waiters are already overworked and aren’t wine or beverage package experts. Holland America, we were told, is in the process of changing back to all alcoholic drinks being ordered through the beverage staff.

beer list, Holland America Nieuw AmstersdamIf you are a beer drinker, you will find all of the Holland America beer offerings included in the Signature Beverage Package.  The exception is that you cannot get a bucket of beer. You can only order one drink at a time under the package, and your total drink consumption (including coffees, sodas, bottled water, mocktails and alcoholic beverages cannot exceed 15 per day.)

vodka list, Holland America Nieuw AmstersdamGood news for vodka lovers. Grey Goose and Ketel One are under the $8 limit.

whiskey list, Holland America Nieuw AmstersdamIn the photo above, you can see the rye, whiskey and Scotch offerings, and which are under the $8 limit.

cocktail list, Holland America Nieuw Amstersdam

The price of cocktails on Holland America has increased since March. The good news is that most all of them are under the $8 limit, when made with the house liquor.  The Fresh Lemon Drop, minus the sugar rim, is one of my favorites on the list above.
drink of the day, Holland America Nieuw AmstersdamThe drink of the day is included in the Signature Beverage Package. There’s always a pool-side appropriate drink at the Sea-View Bar to enjoy with the beverage package.

cocktail list, Holland America LineFor Martinis included in the Signature Beverage Package, Mr. Jones favors the Tanqueray 0010 Martini which is made with premium gin and Vox vodka. Drinks that name specific premium liquors in the description are included. For example, the Skinny Berry Citrus Rita is made with Cabo Wabo silver tequila, for $7.50, so it is included in the beverage package.

cocktail list, Holland America LineFor a sweet treat, the Tropical Cable Car Signature Cocktail can’t be beat. Or the Champagne Dreams, although it is made with sparkling wine rather than champagne is our experience.

cocktail list, Holland America LineAll of the special cocktails at the B.B. King’s Blues Club are included in the Signature Beverage Package. You can also order any of your favorite bar cocktail or wine that is priced under $8 while enjoying this fabulous live entertainment most evenings in the Queen’s Lounge.

If you are sailing on the Eurodam or the Nieuw Amsterdam, the Silk Den bar is another fantastic place to use the Signature Beverage package. The Asian-themed bar has some unique specialty cocktails and sake drinks that are priced $8 and under. For example, the Pink Coral martini pictured at the top of the post is from the Silk Den bar menu.

mocktails, Holland America LineEven if you don’t drink alcohol, you can still benefit from the Signature Beverage Package. Check out some of the mocktails offered in the photo above.

All of the sodas, bottled water and sparkling water are included in the package, when ordered anywhere on the ship (except from your mini-bar, room-service or on Half Moon Cay.)

We like sparkling water and often order a large bottle for dinner, or from the bar to take to our room at the end of the night.

Explorations Cafe, Holland America LineThen there is coffee. Espresso coffee drinks from the Explorations Cafe and in the dining room are included in the Signature Beverage Package. We started each day on board with an Americano or a Latte from this lovely lady and her colleague in the Explorations Cafe. The coffee drinks with alcohol, such as an Irish coffee, are also included in the package.

A few points to keep in mind regarding the Signature Beverage Package: 

  • The package is only available for purchase during the first 48 hours of your cruise for the total number of days of your cruise. This means that you want to purchase it as soon as possible after you get on board. (If you buy a few drinks, and then decide to get the package, they will deduct any prior drink purchases of $8 or less from your tab.)
  • If one guest purchases the package, all 21+ year old guests in the same stateroom must also purchase the package. (There is an exception that can be made if one person does not drink alcohol for documented medical reasons.)
  • No sharing of drinks from your package is permitted with anyone else. For example, you can’t order drinks and give them to friends, or order sodas for your kids if they do not have a drink package. Holland America will revoke your package if they find you misusing it.
  • If you order more than 15 beverages in one day, even sodas or waters, you will be charged for the overages.
  • You will not be served any drinks if you are intoxicated.

The Signature Beverage Package is a great deal if you receive it as a perk for early booking. It also can be a good purchase if you have lots of sea days, or plan to spend much of your cruise by the pool ordering umbrella drinks. The advantage is that you know exactly what your bill will be for drinks on the first day of your cruise.

Have you enjoyed Holland America’s Signature Beverage Package? What comments can you add? Please share. 

These posts are on drink packages offered by other cruise lines:

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