Is Carnival’s drink package worth it? That might be the most commonly asked question among first-time cruisers aboard Carnival Cruise Line.
While what inevitably follows is a discussion of the “break-even point” (which is generally agreed to be around five or six alcoholic beverages a day), that conversation doesn’t provide a full picture of what the package offers.
To help you decide whether it’s right for you, we will look at what Carnival’s drink package costs, what it covers, doesn’t, and more.
In this article:
- How Much Does Carnival’s Drink Package Cost?
- What Does Carnival’s Drink Package Cover?
- What Isn’t Covered in Carnival’s Drink Package (CHEERS!)?
- How Do I Activate The CHEERS! Program?
- Do I Still Need to Tip The Bartender?
How Much Does Carnival’s Drink Package Cost?
Carnival’s CHEERS! drink package runs $59.95 per person, per day, plus an 18 percent gratuity added at purchase. If you pre-purchase the package, this price is 10 percent cheaper than buying CHEERS! onboard.
The program can be pre-purchased up until 10 p.m. on the night before you board the ship.
As of mid-2023, the price of CHEERS! for buying onboard is $64.95 per person, plus the added 18 percent gratuity.
READ MORE: Pros and Cons of Carnival’s Drink Package
Carnival also offers a non-alcoholic program called Bottomless Bubbles, which covers unlimited sodas and juices.
This program runs $9.50 per person, per day for adults, and $6.95 per person, per day for kids, with an 18 percent gratuity automatically added at the time of purchase.
What Does Carnival’s Drink Package Cover?
Carnival’s CHEERS! is probably the most inclusive drink package a mainstream cruise line offers. Whenever people on message boards talk about the package, they seem to focus on the fact that it allows for “only” 15 drinks per 24-hour period.
What’s often not mentioned is all of the other things that are covered. So, let’s break it down to give you a complete picture, which might help you decide whether or not the package is right for you.
According to Carnival’s website, the following beverages are covered or discounted under Carnival’s drink package:
- All spirits (including cocktails), as well as beer and wine by the glass, with a $20.00 or lower menu price
- Sodas, Zero-Proof frozen cocktails, energy drinks, specialty coffee, hot tea, 500ml bottled water, and other non-alcoholic bottled beverages
- Milkshakes (where available)
- Large format water bottles in the Dining Room and Specialty Restaurants
- 25% discount off the menu price for any spirit or wine by the glass above $20.00
- 25% discount off the menu price for wine and champagne by the bottle
- 25% discount off beverage seminars and classes
What Isn’t Covered in Carnival’s Drink Package (CHEERS!)?
While the CHEERS! drink package does cover a lot, there are exceptions. For example, if you order room service or help yourself to the mini-bar in your room, that won’t be covered under the package.
Want a bucket of beer while you’re hanging out at the pool? That’s also not going to be covered by the package.
Interestingly, the Carnival website also lists “food items” as something not covered… because some people don’t know the meaning of “beverage”!
READ MORE: 9 Carnival Drink Package Misconceptions
We had to look up a few things on the “not-covered” list. For example, “tubes.” These tubes contain around 100 ounces of beer and allow you to serve it up draft style, wherever you like.
Here’s what Carnival excludes from the beverage package:
- Beverages promoted and sold in souvenir glasses
- Bottles of liquor
- Beverages offered at Gangway
- Beverages offered through room service, minibars, and/or in-stateroom beverage programs
- Sharing cocktails, floaters, pitchers, tubes, and buckets
- Beverages are offered through aromatic wine machines
- Freshly-squeezed orange juice from the Havana Bar
- All other beverage-related programs, including merchandise, cigars, and cigarettes
- Food items
How Do I Activate The CHEERS! Program?
While some companies (such as Norwegian Cruise Line) apply a sticker to your key card at check-in to indicate that you’ve purchased a drink package, Carnival handles things slightly differently.
Guests who have pre-purchased the CHEERS! drink package find a card in their stateroom that indicates where they should go to activate the program.
The computer automatically tells the bartender you have the drink package, so don’t sweat if your sail and sign card has no sticker. You can pick one up at any bar or the guest services desk if you’d like one.
It’s worth noting that while the program kicks in immediately in most cases, cruises sailing out of Galveston and New York City are slightly different. You’ll notice that if you purchase a package from those ports, the length of the package is one day shorter than the length of your cruise.
That’s because of the CHEERS! program doesn’t kick in until 6 a.m. on the second day of your voyage out of those two ports. So, if you depart from Galveston or New York City, any beverages you have on that first day will be charged to your Sail & Sign account.
Do I Still Need to Tip The Bartender?
Technically, no, as you’ve already paid a gratuity as part of the price of the beverage package. That said, we’re big believers in the power of tipping. We tend to tip the bartender if there’s a bar we know we’ll be spending a lot of time.
Will you still get excellent service if you don’t? Of course. But unless you’ve never set foot in a bar before, we probably don’t have to tell you that a little extra cash (not to mention a friendly attitude) can help make sure you stand out from the crowd.
Is the CHEERS! Drink Package Included On The Private Island?
Unfortunately, Carnival’s drink package does not cover any beverages purchased off the ship, including Half Moon Cay or Princess Cays. So, any drinks purchased there will be charged to your Sail & Sign account.
Can I Buy a Round Of Drinks For My Friends?
Yes, but the CHEERS will cover only your drink. The others will be charged to your Sail & Sign account.
What Other Restrictions Are Important To Know?
As you’d probably expect, the CHEERS! drink package is only available to those 21 and over. Also, if one passenger in a stateroom wants to purchase the package, any other guests over the age of 21 who share the same cabin must buy it.
You also can’t purchase the package for a single day or a portion of the cruise; it is only available for the entire length of the cruise.
The program is refundable, but only until 10 p.m. on the day before your cruise is scheduled to sail.
Finally, CHEERS! is not always available on European itineraries, two-day voyages, or charter cruises.
This article was originally published in July 2019. It was updated and republished in September 2023.