If you read the blog often, you know that I have a cruise coming up. Specifically, Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. It’s a pretty lengthy 11-night cruise to the Caribbean from New York. Sailing from the New York area in December means a couple of things. First, it’s going to be chilly at the beginning and the end of the cruise, and warm in the middle. Second, we are going to have a string of successive sea days at the beginning and the end of the cruise as well. For these, and a few other reasons, I have decided to purchase the “Ultimate” drink package for MrsMJ and myself. Let’s look at a few details. (Note: When I reference pricing, please remember that it is per person and a 15% (now 18%) gratuity will be added, and prices are subject to change over time. Verify before you purchase anything.)

Royal Caribbean offers a variety of beverage packages, and they aren’t always about alcohol. There’s the “Royal Refreshment” package which is fondly known as the soda package. It prices at $4.50 a day for children 17 and under, and $6.50 a day for 18 and over. If you drink a lot of soda, I think it’s an OK deal.

royal refreshment package, royal caribbean drink package, royal caribbean soda package

There’s also a “Royal Replenish” package that includes the soda package, as well as premium coffees, bottled waters (still and sparkling), fresh squeezed juices and nonalcoholic cocktails. This package prices at $19 per day. However, I think the real value in packages lies in those that include alcohol. Obviously, if you don’t drink alcohol, you probably aren’t even reading this post. And if you do, you’re probably wondering if the alcohol packages are worth it. Like most things in life, the answer to that question is “it depends.”

If your standard alcohol consumption is one beer in the afternoon by the pool, and one or two glasses of wine at dinner, don’t bother. Beyond that, the packages become a better deal based on your habits. The best value lies in the most premium packages in my opinion, as long as you have a certain comfort level in “value” not always being about money. Personally, I find value in knowing what my bill will be at the end of the cruise. In other words, no surprises. I say that as someone who has been “surprised” at the end of more than one cruise.

The Details

For my upcoming cruise, there were three choices, the “Select” package, the “Premium” package, and the “Ultimate” package. The Select package prices at $35 per day and includes:

  • Beer
  • Wines by the glass (up to $8 in value)
  • Non-Alcoholic cocktails
  • Fountain soda with Coca Cola® souvenir cup
  • 20% off bottles of wine

This meets my typical cruise budget of $100 per day, but there are other things to consider. I’m not an $8 wine drinker. MrsMJ has a saying, “Life is too short for cheap wine, and bad coffee.” Words to live by. 🙂 So let’s take a look at the Premium package, which prices at $49 per day.

royal caribbean drink package, premium drink package, cruise drink packages

  • Premium cocktails (up to $12 in value)
  • Frozen cocktails
  • Beer
  • Premium wines by the glass (up to $12 in value)
  • Non-alcoholic cocktails
  • Bottled water still (500 ml)
  • Fountain soda with Coca Cola® souvenir cup
  • 20% off bottles of wine

This package has a lot of what I want. Bottled water, wine, beer, and I suppose I might drink an occasional cocktail over the course of 12 days too. The one thing it’s missing for me is coffee. Coffee is important to me and that leads me to the Ultimate drink package. The marketing materials say “virtually unlimited options.” It combines all the benefits of the Royal Replenish and Premium packages which gives me access to the premium coffees I want as well, all for the low price of $55 per day. (I’m kidding, but only a little!)

The Decision

I’m buying the Ultimate drink package for MrsMJ and myself for our upcoming Quantum of the Seas cruise. Let’s look at the math. $55 x 11 nights = 605 per person. Total $1,210.00. A 15% gratuity of $181.50 will be added for an all-in price of $1,391.50. That works out to $126.50 per night for the two of us, or $63.25 per day, per person. Here’s why I think that’s a pretty decent deal for us. (Note: The price has since risen to $65 per day)

  • This will be our big vacation for the year. It could be a late as August, or even October 2015 before we take any substantial time off again. We’re ready to party it up a little.
  • Our cruise includes 3 days at sea on each end. We’ll be in the market for entertainment. The ship has plenty, and there’ll be many opportunities for thirst quenching while we are enjoying ourselves.
  • But the most important reason for our particular situation? I know up front what the majority of our onboard spending is going to be, and that is no small deal on a 12 day cruise.

In the end, this is an individual decision, and I could reach an entirely different conclusion on another cruise depending on the specific circumstances. When I return from the cruise, I will prepare another post that is very math focused and takes a look at whether I made money, lost money, or broke even with this decision. In the meantime, if you’re looking for more details on drink packages of other cruise lines, I highly recommend you take a look at Cruise with Gambee. Gambee has details on the drink packages of all the major lines.

-MJ, November 8, 2014