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The Truth About Those Expensive Drink Packages

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Ready for a little riddle?

When is the cost of a drink package not really about the cost of a drink package? When that drink package is offered as a popular perk. Then, it becomes more about the sales pitch than it does the actual package being purchased.

Why The Package Can Be Pricey

Looking at the cost of the drink packages offered on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, you’ll find that the latter proves to be the most expensive by a pretty penny … while seeming to offer less bang for the buck.

After all, at $79 a day plus an 18 percent gratuity, the Norwegian Ultimate Beverage Package only covers drinks which come in at under $15 (as opposed to the $50 cap on Carnival), and does not include bottled water (which is included in the packages offered by both Carnival and Royal Caribbean).

Additionally, cruisers recently noticed that the price of several top-shelf liquors had increased across the Norwegian fleet, meaning some of the costlier cocktails now price out at above the $15 limit allowed on the beverage package. Those who have the beverage package and order these drinks are now asked to pay the difference in price. (So if a passenger with the UBP orders a $17 cocktail, they would have to pay the additional $2.)

So why is NCL’s package so expensive?

All of which is simply preamble bringing us back to the main question, which is why NCL’s package comes in at such a higher cost than those of its competitors. And the answer is that it all comes down to promos. Generally speaking, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone sailing on NCL who wasn’t offered a free beverage package as a “perk” when booking. (The line also offers things like free dining in the specialty restaurants, free wifi, and other booking perks, depending on the category of room a guest is looking to book.)

Each of those perks has a value attached to it, and the higher the value, the bigger savings the cruise line can say they are passing on to their guests. In other words, it’s simple math… the kind that even someone like me, who failed algebra twice, can comprehend: If the drink packages costs more, then the line can say that, in giving it to you “free” as a perk, they are saving you a larger amount of money.

Why It Works

Having sailed Norwegian numerous times – always with the drink package as a perk – I can attest that for cruisers such as myself, it’s an attractive package. While it’s pretty unlikely that I would actually consume enough alcohol in a day to allow the package to pay for itself (especially when you consider days in which you are visiting a port, and thus not sitting in the sun sipping margaritas), there’s something liberating about not keeping a running tab in your head each time you order a drink. Likewise, this particular perk makes NCL the first line I look at when booking, as they are the only one on which the “free” drinks package is offered on practically every voyage.

Now, I know, in my head, that it’s not free, and that it may not even be that great a bargain. It is essentially a throwback to the old days when contestants on Wheel of Fortune would take their winnings for the day and go shopping for wildly overpriced items. “Pat, I’ll take the ugly cheetah blanket for $200,” they’d say, “the faux diamond coffee mug for $1,245… and the rest on a gift card!” No matter how many times we were told those were “actual retail prices,” we knew what was going on. Likewise, most NCL passengers know the deal with their “free” drink packages… but are happy to have them anyway.

Do you find that drink packages are a good deal? Let us know below!

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