For good or ill, one of the primary reasons people want to take all-inclusive cruises is for the unlimited supply of alcohol. When you are on an all-inclusive cruise with alcohol included – these are sometimes labeled “all you can drink” cruises – you can rack up as large of a bar tab as you want and never have to worry about paying it. However, it is important to note that not every all-inclusive cruise includes unlimited alcohol, and also that some regular cruises (i.e., non-all-inclusive cruises) offer “all you can drink” packages for an extra fee. To sort this out, we have compiled a guide to alcohol and all-inclusive cruises which will point you to cruises on which you can drink an unlimited amount of alcohol.
Before we begin, it is worth mentioning that no cruise line will feed you an unlimited supply of booze with no strings attached. No cruise line will give you unfettered access to all the alcohol on their ship, as this will very likely include very expensive wines and spirits. With stamina and a liver forged of steel, a person could drink several thousand dollars worth of booze in an evening if he or she was consuming sufficiently expensive stock. So, just because you are on an all-inclusive cruise that covers alcohol doesn’t mean you can order bottle after bottle of Dom Pérignon until sleep (or worse) overtakes you. You also won’t continue to be served alcohol, regardless of what type of cruise you are on or package you have purchased, if you are dangerously intoxicated. That is, you can get “cut off” if you are drunker than a cruise line allows its passengers to be. Given the festive atmosphere on board a cruise (especially an all-inclusive cruise), this perhaps doesn’t happen as often as it does on land, but it certainly can and does happen. It is not as if you enter a state of nature upon boarding a cruise ship, where the drunk do whatever they want and the sober suffer what they must, to twist a famous line of Thucydides to fit my needs.
With those fairly obvious qualifications out of the way, let us move on to the matter of finding an “all you can drink” cruise. As we explained in our article about the cruise lines that offer all-inclusive cruises, most luxury lines include a lot of services and amenities in the cost of the cruise fare, making them for the most part all-inclusive. Cruise lines like Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, and Cyrstal Cruises all offer free alcohol (among many other things) on their cruises. Again, there will be certain restrictions on what kind of alcohol you can order, but unless you have particularly expensive or exotic tastes, you’ll likely be happy with the selection of free alcohol on board. The one luxury line we have found that does not offer complimentary alcohol is Oceania Cruises, which requires you to buy a package if you want an unlimited amount of booze.
And speaking of packages, you will need to buy one to get unlimited alcohol if you are not on a luxury cruise. Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, MSC, Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean all offer these types of packages, and while they vary from cruise line to cruise line, they are fundamentally the same: you pay a set fee (about $50) per day to get unlimited alcohol for a 24-hour period. Once more, there are restrictions on what you can drink – the cruise line generally says the drink must cost less than a certain amount (say, $5.50) to be covered by the package deal – but these restrictions become looser if you buy a more expensive “premium package,” which are offered by a few different cruise lines. (Although you have access to a wide range of complimentary alcoholic beverages on board Azamara cruises, you can upgrade to a more robust package for the relatively low cost of $12-$18 a day.) It is generally cheaper to book these packages before you board, as several cruise lines increase the drink-package prices once the cruise is underway. So, you have to plan your debauchery ahead of time if you wish to get the best possible deal.
There are, in short, lots of ways to take an “all you can drink” cruise. Some of these cruises are all-inclusive to begin with, whereas others can be made this way by purchasing a supplemental package to your cruise fare. If you plan on drinking a lot on your cruise vacation, these are definitely good deals to pursue. However, they are not for everyone, which is why you have to think hard about whether all-inclusive cruises are worth the cost before you commit to taking one. You might also consider if taking an “all you can drink” cruise is worth the cost for reasons unrelated to money.