How to Get Free Drinks on a Cruise

I may not be the best author to write an article like this because my focus during a cruise is not how much alcohol I can drink, rather, my focus is to enjoy the vacation, the entertainment, the food and the ports.

If you’re trying to “buck the system” (which you’re really not), try this advice to find free drinks on a cruise.


1. Attend liquor tastings

During the first night of the cruise and typically one more night following the cruise line will offer a complimentary liquor tasting, as they entice you to purchase some of their duty-free spirits.

Result: Tested and passed

2.  In your “checked” luggage, pack boxed wine

Choose your favorite wine and pack it in your checked luggage.  Be sure not to check bottled liquor, rather, find your wine of choice in a box. Just remember, most cruise lines allow you to bring wine on legally.

Result: I tested this on a cruise in 2012, the box got through okay but it leaked everywhere. You know how the airlines handle your baggage? That also applies to cruise porters. 

2. Attend the Art Auctions 

Free champagne! ParkWest Gallery is a company that is onboard almost every cruise ship in the world and sells all different types of art including original paintings, drawings, sculpture, jewelry, sports memorabilia and animation. This artwork is sold in an auction setting and during the auction there is endless bubbly. There is no obligation to purchase and if anything, you’ll get a couple glasses of champagne on the house.

Result: Attended and passed the drink test. Almost bought an animation piece, I was gonna sleep on it – came back and it was gone! Ugh.

4. Purchase a drink card package onboard the ship

Each cruise line has figured out that many passengers like to enjoy a good drink during their cruise vacation, so they often offer special, discount, drink cards that you purchase once you board the ship.  These drink cards give you a way to easily budget what you spend on drinks.  I’ve seen some invoices at the end of a cruise where passengers had unknowingly racked-up thousands of dollars purchasing drinks, so a special drink card comes in handy.

Result: Did this on a transatlantic sailing in 2013. I learned one thing – my body can not handle 15 drinks per day break even point! I’m better buying my drinks a la carte.

5.  Attend the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Party

Free drinks are offered at the Captain’s welcome aboard party.  Usually the drinks offered are wine, champagne, and mimosas.  Also, you might be able to enjoy free alcohol at the Captain’s Gala Dinner Reception. That depends on the cruise line.

Result: Attended and passed. Extend a couple extra dollars to the drink server and you’ll be taken care of. 

6. Sneaking Booze On

Typically you’re allowed to bring two bottles of wine per cabin on your cruise. So really, it’s not sneaking it on. Disney Cruise Line has a really lax policy that allows you to bring whatever you’d like. If you really want to be creative, just Google what you’re trying to do. However, these days the cruise line security teams are onto a lot of the tricks.

Result: Plead the fifth.

Final Thoughts 

I think a misconception of travelers is that the cruise line will greatly over-charge for alcohol beverages.  When you get onboard, most likely you’ll soon discover the price of drinks, is about the same as what you might expect at a local bar back home.  So when you figure out that no matter what you choose to do, it might be more cost-effective, to simply buy your alcohol onboard to avoid potential issues like leaking bottles of alcohol in your luggage, or being discovered by security and losing your masked alcohol completely.

By Barry Vaudrin


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