Is a Cruise Drink Package Right for You?

By Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor

bar cocktails

Whether or not to buy a cruise drink package when you sail is one of the most common questions that appears on the Cruise Critic forums.

Sometimes passengers balk at the price tag, which can seem steep when you are making a bulk payment as opposed to paying for each drink individually. Others worry that they won’t get good service from bartenders if they have a package (or conversely, be considered “partiers” by other people).

Here are some reasons you might want to consider buying a cruise drink package, as well as times when buying a package isn’t a smart idea.

A Cruise Drink Package Is a Good Deal If…

canned soda

You like knowing your bill ahead of time.

Sure, it can be painful when you pay a few hundred dollars for drinks before your cruise even starts. But once you’ve gone ahead and paid, you have the luxury of being able to order drinks at most bars and restaurants without having to worry about your final bill.

If you’re still undecided before you board, keep in mind that you can usually buy a package during the first couple of days — but it won’t apply retroactively to those first few margaritas you downed during sailaway.

You like sodas, specialty coffee drinks and bottled water.

People who are new to cruising often don’t understand that almost all drinks besides basic tea, coffee and tap water carry a charge. That means that if your daughter has a Diet Coke habit or you enjoy fresh-squeezed orange juice in the mornings or a latte in the afternoons, you’ll have to pay up. Cruise drink packages can cover all of the above, as well as nonalcoholic mocktails, if you don’t go for booze.

Also, don’t forget the bottled water. If you have a lot of shore excursions in a hot climate, such as the Caribbean or Eastern Mediterranean, you will want to bring some water with you on shore — and when you’re on a set tour, you might not have time to stop at a local convenience store to get your own. A package makes it easy to grab a bottle on your way off the ship, without worry.

You like convenience.

Sure, some cruise lines allow you to bring on your own soda or bottled water (although Carnival has banned bottled beverages — any drinks carried on must be in cans). And almost every cruise line allows you to bring at least a bottle or two of wine onboard. But sometimes, it’s just not logistically easy to do, especially if you’re flying into a foreign country or don’t have a rental car to get to a store. Having a drink package means you can skip the annoying runaround.

A Cruise Drink Package Might Not Be a Good Deal If…

Patron brand tequila

You prefer a specific brand or type of drink.

If you’re someone who must have Patron in your margarita or won’t drink house wines, then you might want to examine drink packages to see if they are a better deal. Many drink packages will cover cocktails or wine up a certain amount; if your drink is more expensive, you either have to pay full price or simply make up the difference.

Note: The cruise lines don’t always make it easy to find out exactly what drinks onboard cost. Your best bet to see if your favorite cocktail makes the list is to check the cruise line’s website or ask the question on the Cruise Critic forums for the line you’re sailing.

A Cruise Drink Package Isn’t As Good a Deal if…

bar drinks

You prefer a bottle of wine at dinner.

Most cruise line drink packages apply to wines by the glass. That’s great if you’re someone who likes to match wines with your appetizers and entrees, or like a different type of wine than your dining companions. But if you prefer to order a bottle of wine or want a larger selection, keep in mind that while some drink packages offer discounts on bottles, many do not. (Some cruise lines have drink packages that ONLY cover wine at dinner. This might be your best bet.)

Your cabin mate has different drinking patterns than you.

Some — but not all — lines require both adults in the cabin to purchase the same package. If you like to drink Scotch, but your wife is a teetotaler, you’re better off buying drinks separately. Keep in mind that most bartenders and waiters will only serve you one drink at a time — and will refuse to serve you if you are caught sneaking a glass to a companion.

Some alcohol is already included.

River cruises usually include beer and wine at meals in the fare, as do premium cruise lines such as Azamara; the latter also includes some types of cocktails. Unless you’re someone who really needs brand-name alcohol, what you already have might likely suffice.

You just don’t drink much.

There’s no way to get around it. The absolute best way to determine if a drink package is best for you is to get out that calculator and tally up how much you would spend without the package. In general, if you think you’re going to order five or so alcoholic drinks a day during your trip, a package is worth considering.

Travel Packing Tips for Your Cruise

Whether for business or pleasure, traveling is usually an exciting experience. What’s less fun is the packing that precedes it. That’s why TravelInsurance.com put together this set of travel packing hacks, so you can spend less time staring at your suitcase like it’s some unsolvable puzzle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As travel insurance professionals, we meet many people who travel even more extensively than ourselves (which is saying something!) Unsurprisingly, these intrepid souls have packing down to a fine art and will often share their insights with us.  Here are six hacks to get you on the move:

1 – Check Your List(s)

Keep a checklist for different types of travel — international or domestic; personal or professional; short stay or extended time away. All have different requirements that will influence how and what you pack. Maintaining a dedicated list for each gives you a quick reference guide that will also steer you away from packing unnecessary items. Apps like Evernote or Google Keep are perfect for creating your travel checklist.

2 – Take a Picture

If you are more of a visual person, lay out all of the items you intend to pack on the bed before putting them in your case. Take a picture to serve as the reference for future trips and provide a visual record of the contents, just in case your luggage gets lost or stolen. This will be helpful if you have to make a claim.

3 – Double Check Your Documents

One of the most important categories to cover on your checklist is documentation. Getting every useful document down in list form will prompt you to organize them ahead of time, all in one place. Some emergency documents and contacts you might not have considered are:

  • Telephone number and address of the nearest embassy. Visit the US State Department’s travel site for contact information, a handy traveler’s checklist and important travel alerts that may include your destination
  • Multiple emergency family contacts while away,
  • Your travel insurance policy’s confirmation of benefits–this will include the details of your coverage and also the contact information for any 24/7 emergency global assistance available with your policy.

Keep a dedicated folder for these items. You can also use it to file receipts for important purchases and for necessary documents (related to the insurance claims process), such as medical visit documentation/receipts and police reports for stolen items

Keep photocopies of important documents and store them separately from your wallet and actual travel documents. In the event you lose your passport or wallet, having copies will make it immeasurably easier to cancel your credit cards and to report your lost passport.

4 – Roll for Relaxing, Fold for Formal

When it comes to actually packing your bags, most travelers ask the same question: roll it or fold it?

The answer depends on what you are packing. For a beach vacation, rolling bathing suits, t-shirts, and shorts is a great way to keep your suitcase light. If your clothes need to be neat and as wrinkle-free as possible, stick to folding. On the other hand, folded clothes can be ironed more easily or hung in a steamy bathroom for five minutes.

As a rule of thumb, remember that rolling is mostly for clothes you can relax in, while formal attire prefers the fold.

5 – Maximize Your Miniatures

Not the alcoholic variety, although some security lines may make you crave a cocktail! The minis we recommend are travel toiletries like toothpaste, shampoo, gel, and any other essential bathroom product you’re going to need. Also, if you’re going with carry-ons only, anything larger than a mini will be taken away at security. Not only are these miniature versions lighter and space-saving, they’re much easier to slide into an accessible space if you want to quickly freshen up when you arrive.

6 – Review and Revise

When you get home from your trip, take a few minutes to look at what you used while away. Revisit your checklist when you get home and cross off any items that did not make it out of the bag. This helps to keep non-essential items out of your travel plans next time. If every item was essential, give yourself a pat on the back: you’ve become a travel packing hacker!

By Stan Sandberg, TravelInsurance.com Co-Founder.

Secrets Luxury Cruise Lines Don’t Tell You

By Janice Wald Henderson, Cruise Critic contributor

The Pool on Oceania's Riviera

Who knew that luxury cruise lines keep secrets? It turns out those big brochures don’t spell out every trick in their posh books, and first-timers might miss out on special treats, experiences or freebies because they’re not in the know. We scoured Cruise Critic’s Message Boards, compiled notes from our own sailings and then dug even deeper for more inside information on the lesser-known perks of luxury sailings. Use the knowledge to enhance your cruise, and don’t hesitate to spill the beans to other new cruisers.

Food Secrets

  • On luxury lines, you can eat whatever you want whenever you want — especially if you give the line a heads up. Just place the request in advance, usually 90 days prior to the sail for complicated requests and 24 to 48 hours for simple ones. Say you want truffle oil-scented popcorn at 4 p.m. each afternoon — even if you’re cruising remote regions like Australia’s Kimberley Coast or Iceland. Or perhaps your fantasy cruise ship dinner is roast duckling with Grand Marnier sauce — every night. Maybe it’s as simple as a craving for pot roast. Special request meals are generally complimentary unless you’re requesting something extravagant.
  • On most luxury ships and some upper-premium lines, you can order off the main dining room dinner menu via room service nightly — and it’s served complimentary. On luxury ships, butlers or stewards will serve your meal in courses, if you like, just like in the restaurant.
  • Although main dining room dinner menus are traditionally written in the appetizer, salad, intermezzo (such as sorbet), entree and dessert sequence, feel free to order untraditionally. Request an entree as a first course, two appetizers as the main event or just make a meal of sweets. No one will bat an eye.
  • You don’t like the thickness of the steak or the tenderness of the pork chop? Do not hesitate to send it back and request another better cut. Servers’ goals are to make you happy. And unlike at some land-based chain restaurants, the onboard chefs are not afraid to present your meat rare or medium-rare if you request it.
  • On formal nights, some luxury lines serve complimentary caviar as a starter, usually with blinis or potatoes. It’s acceptable to ask for a second serving; after that, it’s deemed, well, overboard.
  • Can’t score a reservation for a specialty restaurant? Try asking in person. Maitre d’s are reluctant to say no to any luxury passenger’s request and will do their best to accommodate you. If they can’t, they might bend a rule and let you order from their menu via room service, usually a no-no unless you’re booked in one of the ship’s priciest suites.
  • If you’re counting stars poolside or sipping cocktails at a bar and suddenly crave a burger, know that you can order one — or anything else — from the room service menu. On many luxury lines, anytime you’re outside your suite — and anywhere on the ship — any goodie on the room service menu is yours. Ask any passing crew or pick up a house phone to place your order.
  • Some lines deliver their choice of complimentary canapes to your cabin or suite every afternoon or evening, with daily rotating selections. If you want the same canape every day or want to make requests given your dietary restrictions or preferences, say so and your butler or steward will accommodate. If you rarely eat the canapes and prefer not to have them at all, you can make that request as well.
  • Since food and beverages are complimentary on luxury ships, go ahead, throw a cocktail or dinner party in your cabin or suite for your travel party or newly made friends. It won’t cost a penny if you’re ordering off the complimentary food and beverage menu. (Though you might want to tip your butler extra for helping with setup and bartending. This is tricky as all gratuities are included and this service should be part of that. If you are planning to tip your butler at the end of the cruise — even if gratuities are included — consider upping the amount for the additional service.

Glass of rose at the Golden Lion Pub on Queen Mary 2

Drink Secrets

  • Although sommeliers present just one complimentary white and one complimentary red wine for dinner, they have a stash of other such wines they’re happy to open for you. If you don’t like what the sommelier is pouring, ask him to open another bottle.
  • While wine is always included on luxury ships, and for many upper-premium lines at lunch and dinner, sometimes you want to splurge on a varietal from the fancy list with price tags.  No worries if you can’t finish it at once; your server can mark the bottle and save it for another night — they’ll even whisk it to a different dining venue.
  • Cocktails are complimentary on luxury cruises, but servers and bartenders often typically reach for the most basic liquors, without giving you a choice of brands. If you have a preference, ask if your favorite vodka, gin, rum or other alcohol is available when you place your order. You might be surprised at the selection of labels included.
  • Mini-bars are usually pre-stocked with the ship’s choice of brands and beverages. Ask your butler or stewardess to replace any you don’t like with those that you do.
  • On upper-premium lines where wines are only complimentary at lunch and dinner, you can score a free glass in many a cooking class between meals.

Cabin Secrets

  • If you don’t like the bathroom toiletries, ask the stewardess or butler if they have a backup brand; luxury ships usually stock hyper-allergenic choices, too.
  • The bigger and more expensive the cabin or suite, the better the perks. Before making a final choice, read the fine print and see if the perks add up to enough value to make booking a higher-level accommodation the real bargain.
  • Let your stewardess or butler know if you’re celebrating a birthday or anniversary (if it isn’t already noted in your cruise documents) on a luxury line such as Silversea or Regent Seven Seas Cruises. They tiptoe in and decorate your suite while you’re away. Hearts, flowers, balloons, a cake — it’s always a lovely surprise.
  • If your cabin is feeling crowded or you can’t squeeze your luggage under the bed or another tucked-away space, ask your stewardess if a piece or two can be stored elsewhere on the ship.

Entertainment Secrets

  • Spa fees are exorbitant on luxury cruises. Most ships offer port-day specials and discounts if you purchase multiple treatments at once. Some even offer sample mini-treatments and discounts on embarkation day.
  • Feel free to engage with enrichment lecturers when they are not working. They know that on luxury ships it’s a passenger perk. You can stop to chat by the pool or in a coffee shop — even invite them to dinner. Just be conscious to share their free time with other passengers.
  • Didn’t have time to download books on your tablet or buy paperbacks before you left on your cruise? Visit the onboard library. Upscale cruise ships stock hundreds of hardcovers to borrow; Seabourn has a whopping 1,000 tomes. With novels, travel guidebooks and biographies — these book nooks are a treasure trove for avid readers. And if you brought a paperback you don’t want to take home, there’s usually a shelf to leave it for the next passenger.
  •  Luxury cruise lines offer numerous complimentary enrichment extras every day, like language and dance lessons, and wellness seminars. Read the daily chronicle to see what’s free and note which activities need advance sign-up.
  • Show up at a complimentary exercise class and you might be the only one, or one of a few, who do. Guess what? You score a private or semi-private class with a fitness instructor without paying extra.
  • Complimentary shuttle service in most ports is standard for luxury and most upper-premium cruise lines. If the ship doesn’t dock directly in town, the shuttles will take you to a central location, eliminating the need to haggle with a taxi driver in a foreign language.
The Sanctum Spa Terrace on Azamara Journey

Cruise Line-Specific Secrets

Here are some less widely known complimentary amenities on specific upper-premium and luxury cruise lines.

Azamara Club Cruises

  • When you purchase spa services on Azamara, you can access the private spa deck for free. The retreat includes a small seawater thalassotherapy pool and lounge chairs in a more secluded spot than communal areas.
  • Select fitness classes, such as yoga and spinning, are complimentary.
  • Tapas in The Living Room, a newly redone lounge, are complimentary from 4 until 9 p.m. daily. Think hot and cold small plates celebrating Spain’s fabulous flavors.
  • Suite passengers eat for free in specialty restaurants Prime C and Aqualina, as often as they’d like.

Crystal Cruises

  • Passengers can dine once per 15-day or shorter cruise (more if longer) in each of two specialty restaurants for no extra fee; Silk Road and The Sushi Bar — its cuisine designed by superstar chef Nobu Matsuhisa — and Prego, a superb Italian restaurant. After that, it costs $30 per person per dining experience. However, Penthouse passengers can order room service from these two dining venuesevery night for free. For Nobu devotees, the chance to devour as much salmon tartare and Nobu-style lobster with yuzu sauce as you crave each evening without spending a cent extra is nirvana.
  • Dine nightly at The Sushi Bar for no extra cost, but know that this venue doesn’t take reservations. Show up before The Bar opens to secure a seat at the counter or one of the few tables.
  • Tastes, offering a global take on street food dining, is the only specialty restaurant onboard Crystal Cruises that is complimentary no matter how many times you visit. Reservations are recommended.
  • Magic Castle in Hollywood, California, is an exclusive private club where some of the world’s finest magicians perform. Crystal Cruises features Magic Castle At-Sea performances, and when you score tickets onboard, keep them, as they can be used for one-time access to the real Magic Castle back on land.
  • Crystal Cruises goes all-out to celebrate your birthday. The captain or the hotel director sends a letter inviting you to enjoy a special breakfast in your stateroom or in the dining room. Choose from a creative menu including mini-bagels with smoked salmon and wasabi cream cheese, waffle cone with lemon cottage cheese and marinated strawberries, truffle omelet with caviar and mini-doughnuts filled with Cointreau-flavored vanilla custard. If your birthday falls on an early morning shore excursion day, you can switch the feast to another, more convenient, date. And that’s not all. Expect to find birthday congrats posted in the daily newsletter and on television (unless you don’t want the recognition) and to receive a celebratory dessert at dinner.

Oceania Cruises

  • Check the price difference between a Veranda stateroom and a Concierge Level stateroom on Oceania Cruises. It may cost only $200 more for the Concierge Level per passenger, but the upgrades are notable: priority embarkation and luggage delivery, private concierge lounge access, complimentary welcome bottle of Champagne, a choice of Bulgari amenities, complimentary garment pressing on embarkation day, access to the spa deck and free Wi-Fi. All these perks can add up to or exceed the cost of the upgrade — and your cruise will feel far more indulgent.
  • On Oceania Cruises, look for OLife Choice promotional fares; these include airfare, unlimited Wi-Fi and a choice of either shore excursions, beverage package or shipboard credit per stateroom. Since Oceania is not all-inclusive, such promotional fares can make a big difference in total cruise cost.
  • During the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party, drinks in several bars are free for about two hours — regardless of whether you’re actually in the lounge where the captain is speaking. Looking for more drink discounts? Pre-dinner and late-night happy hours feature two-for-one drinks.
  • Mad for Oceania-themed swag? You earn Big O points at competitive onboard games like trivia, golf putting and beanbag toss, and redeem them for T-shirts and hats on the last day of the cruise. Although the different prizes have stated point costs, we found the entertainment staffers distributing the goodies were very generous in rounding up your point total to get you the gift you’d like.
  • If you have access to the forward-facing spa terrace (Concierge-level passengers and above), know that it’s the best spot onboard for stargazing because the ship’s lights and funnel smoke don’t get in your way. Jump in the hot tub and look up, and you’re sure to be starstruck with your evening activity.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

  • If you love enrichment lectures, seek cruises marked The Smithsonian Collection by Smithsonian Journeys. Regent collaborates with the Smithsonian Institution to secure superb speakers with serious cred; many have doctorates, are professor emeriti and best-selling authors, and some are experts in specialized fields such as Tongan dance or astronomical wormholes. These lecturers are not booked on every cruise, so do your homework.
  • Passengers in Penthouse suites and above needn’t choose between Regent’s three posh brands of bath amenities. Rather, they’re given L’Occitane Mer & Mistral, Bottega Veneta and Guerlain toiletries automatically. Of course, you can ask your butler to remove any you don’t like — but who would?
  • Want to throw a chic cocktail party in your suite for up to eight newfound friends at no cost with plenty of ease? If you’re traveling in a Grand, Master or Regent Suite on Seven Seas Explorer, or Grand or Master on the other Regent ships, the food-and-beverage director or executive chef will personally meet with you to discuss the menu and party arrangements.

Seabourn

  • On Seabourn, caviar isn’t mentioned on the menu yet it’s complimentary to all passengers — anywhere, anytime. Yes, you can order the ravishing roe to nibble by the Jacuzzi, in the privacy of your suite or even in a lounge while sipping cocktails and listening to a singer croon. It’s presented with all the proper trimmings, such as chopped hard-cooked egg whites and minced onions. Naturally, such a delicacy should be savored with a glass of Champagne — complimentary, of course.
  • Seabourn Square doesn’t list or showcase any juices, but if you want to sip yours there, a server will get it for you.
  • Be aware that trivia is cumulative, so try to get on a team right away. If you attempt to do so later in the cruise, it could be awkward.
  • If you want to go shopping with the chef in port, ask the cruise director. While not usually offered as an excursion on non-food and wine sailings, the cruise director will do his best to make it happen — especially if you ask early in the sail.

SeaDream Yacht Club

  • One big SeaDream lure is the opportunity to sleep overnight under the stars on a Balinese daybed. To get first choice for your preferred evening, book it the day you board. You’ll also want to request the bigger bed at the front of the ship, which will be roped off when passengers are sleeping there. The other eight beds are all in a row, four on each side, and adjacent to the Top of the Yacht Bar. There’s little privacy and lots of noise if a rowdy crowd is doing some late-night drinking.
  • Remember to give SeaDream your pajama size when they request it in advance. Matching tops and bottoms are delivered to your stateroom on the first day with your name embroidered on the shirt. They’re not only great to wear for an overnight outdoors on a Balinese daybed, but also to take home for future use.
  • It’s well-known that SeaDream offers complimentary caviar once per cruise during a Champagne-and-caviar party in the surf. However, what’s not advertised is that a complimentary tin of caviar beckons on the poolside cocktail table two nights of each cruise; at the captain’s welcome and farewell cocktail parties. You might find caviar canapes or appetizers on other evenings, but not a whole tin.
  • SeaDream regulars must not be big beer drinkers because the ship keeps only Heineken on tap. If you are a beer lover or have a preferred brand or style of ale, let the line know in advance or the head bartender on the first day of your sailing. Crew will go out of their way to get your favorite brew onboard.

Silversea

  • Silversea has a Gourmet Bites room service menu in its bigger suites that offers extravagant delicacies such as foie gras with brioche, and caviar and housemade blinis. If you want to throw a cocktail party in your big suite, order an abundance of extravagant nibbles from the Gourmet Bites menu. It’s all complimentary and your butler tidies up while you go off to dinner.
  • All bathrooms onboard Silversea possess room diffusers by haute Italian perfumer Laura Tonatto. If you don’t like the scent, ask for another; the ships only present one type to passengers, but actually stash three different scents onboard.
  • Few cruisers know that the best value suite to book on Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper is a Terrace Suite. It provides access to a veranda without paying a Veranda Suite price. Granted, it’s shared by all nine Terrace Suites and has no furnishings, but feel free to take a chair from your suite, sit outside in semi-privacy and count the money you’ve saved.

Viking Ocean Cruises

  • Complimentary access to the thermal suite lets you partake in all the hot and cold areas, from the fabled snow room and hot tub to salt water thalassotherapy pool and cold bucket dump. The spa provides Nordic bathing ritual instructions — what order to move between rooms and hot and cold water treatments — to ensure you get maximum benefit from the experience.
  • Viking Ocean Cruises has more than just complimentary yoga classes; the line also provides free Zumba, TRX and body conditioning classes.
  • Check when cabaret shows are presented in Torshavn, the late-night dance and nightclub venue. These performances are often the best entertainment onboard. But you must get tickets for your preferred show date in advance, so heads-up.
  • Don’t forget the delicious pea soup at Mamsen’s, served until midnight, with other good and complimentary noshes. This soup is rapidly becoming a signature of Viking Ocean.

Windstar Cruises

  • Windstar Cruises features a complimentary yoga class at least once per cruise. It’s held in a great spot — either onboard outdoors on the fly bridge, or in port, often on a private island when in tropical destinations. Check the daily activity schedule for details.
  • On Windstar Cruises, you can wander up to the bridge anytime the ship is at sea. You can chat with the crew, peek at the equipment — even if it’s 2 a.m. Good to know when jet lag strikes.

New Cruise Ships Under Construction/On Order

CruiseFever

by Ben Souza

Cruise lines have a record number of cruise ships on order over the next ten years with the major cruise lines having over 40 new ships to enter service by 2026.

Here is a list of the mainstream cruise lines and the cruise ships that each one has either under construction or on order.

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line has the more cruise ships in their fleet (25) than any other cruise line in the world.  Carnival has four ships on the order block over the next five years including the largest in their fleet.

  • Carnival Horizon (2018) 133,500 GT, 4,200 passengers
  • 3rd Vista Class Ship (2019)  133,500 GT, 4,200 passengers
  • LNG Powered Ship (2020)  180,000 GT, 6,600 passengers
  • 2nd LNG Powered Ship (2022)  180,000 GT, 6,600 passengers

Celebrity Cruises

  • Celebrity Edge (2018) 129,500 GT, 2,918 passengers
  • Celebrity Beyond (2020) 129,500 GT, 2,918 passengers
  • 3rd Edge Class Ship (2021) 129,500 GT, 2,918 passengers
  • 4th Edge Class Ship (2022) 129,500 GT, 2,918 passengers

Disney Cruise Line

  • TBA  (2021) 135,500 GT, 2,500 passengers (double occupancy)
  • TBA  (2023) 135,500 GT, 2,500 passengers (double occupancy)

Holland America Line

  • MS Nieuw Statendam (2018) 99,800 GT, 2,650 passengers
  • 2nd Pinnacle Class Ship (2021) 99,800 GT, 2,650 passengers

MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises has begun a $10 billion investment to bring 11 new cruise ships into their fleet over the next decade.

  • MSC Meraviglia (2017) 167,600 GT, 4,500 passengers
  • MSC Seaside (2017)  154,000 GT, 4,140 passengers
  • MSC Seaview (2018)  154,000 GT, 4,140 passengers
  • MSC Bellissima (2019)  167,600 GT, 4,500 passengers
  • Meraviglia Plus Class Ship ( 2019) 177,000 GT, 6,300 passengers
  • 2nd Meraviglia Plus Class Ship (2020) 177,00 GT, 6,300 passengers
  • 3rd Seaside Class Ship (2021)  154,000 GT, 4,500 passengers
  • World Class Ship  (2022)  200,000 GT, 5,400 passengers
  • 2nd World Class Ship  (2024)  200,000 GT, 5,400 passengers
  • 3rd World Class Ship  (2025)  200,000 GT, 5,400 passengers
  • 4th World Class Ship  (2026)  200,000 GT, 5,400 passengers

Norwegian Cruise Line

  • Norwegian Bliss (2018) 168,800 GT, 4,200 passengers
  • Breakaway Plus Class Ship (2019) 168,800 GT, 4,200 passengers
  • Project Leonardo  (2022) 140,000 GT, 3,300 passengers
  • Project Leonardo 2 (2023) 140,000 GT, 3,300 passengers
  • Project Leonardo 3 (2024) 140,000 GT, 3,300 passengers
  • Project Leonardo 4 (2025) 140,000 GT, 3,300 passengers

Princess Cruises

  • 4th Royal Class Ship (2019)  143,700 GT, 3,560 passengers
  • 5th Royal Class Ship (2020)  143,700 GT, 3,560 passengers
  • 6th Royal Class Ship (2022)  143,700 GT, 3,560 passengers

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean has the second most cruise ships (24) in their fleet and will welcome another six ships over the next seven years.

  • Symphony of the Seas (2018)  230,000 GT, 6,780 passengers
  • 4th Quantum Class Ship (2019) 168,666 GT, 4,200 passengers
  • 5th Quantum Class Ship (2020) 168,666 GT, 4,200 passengers
  • 5th Oasis Class Ship (2021) 230,000 GT, 6,780 passengers
  • 1st Icon Class Ship (2022)  200,000 GT, 5,000 passengers
  • 2nd Icon Class Ship (2024)  200,000 GT, 5,000 passengers

Virgin Voyages

Probably the most anticipated new class of cruise ships in years, Virgin Voyages has three cruise ships planned for the start of their new cruise line.

  • TBA  (2020)  110,000 GT, 2,800 passengers
  • TBA  (2021)  110,000 GT, 2,800 passengers
  • TBA  (2022)  110,000 GT, 2,800 passengers

Husband Won’t Cruise? His Top 9 Excuses and the Arguments You Can Use to Get Him Onboard

By Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor

married couple enjoying a cruise

Let’s be real: We all know who in the relationship pushes for vacations and plans all the details. Your husband might never use his vacation days if you didn’t do the legwork. (Well, mine wouldn’t.) And it’s even more frustrating when you’re longing for a certain kind of trip — say, a cruise — and he’s just not interested.

Sulk no more! We are here to help get you that dream cruise. If your husband refuses to cruise, just use these iron-clad rebuttals to his top gripes to help get him onboard.

1. I don’t want to be trapped on a boat with nothing to do.

You Say: Modern cruise ships have tons of things to do onboard! If you’re feeling active, you can work out in the gym every day, go rock climbing, try onboard surfing and sky diving, traverse a ropes course, practice your golf swing and join a game of pickup basketball. At night, you can see Broadway-caliber shows (like “We Will Rock You” and “Grease” on Royal Caribbean), try your luck in the casino, embarrass yourself at karaoke or create your own bar crawl. Or, just watch movies in the cabin, swim, play board games and read if you need downtime.

7 Best Cruise Lines for Onboard Entertainment

2. There are too many people on those cruise ships!

You Say: We can avoid them. Luxury ships are much smaller than the huge mega-ships, and you won’t feel like you’re in a cattle call or constantly queuing. For example, Crystal Esprit carries just 62 passengers. Or, on a big ship, you can book into a suite with access to private sun decks and restaurants with far fewer people, dine in your cabin or seek respite in a limited-access spa thermal suite or sun deck. MSC Cruises’ Yacht Club and Norwegian’s Haven are two exclusive complexes that make a big ship feel like a much smaller one.

Big Ships vs. Small Ships: the Pros and Cons of Cruise Ship Size

Outdoor movie screen overlooking pool on a cruise ship at night

3. I need to watch the important games.

You Say: Not only do many cruise ships show playoff and championship games like the Super Bowl, often on movie-sized screens, but many have sports bars showing all sorts of games daily. They might just have better access than your home TV, especially if you like international sports like soccer or rugby. Princess Cruises even runs Tailgate at Sea parties, with game time food like pizza and hot dogs, team-inspired drink specials and games shown on giant, poolside screens.

5 Best Cruise Lines for NFL Football

4. I’m not over-paying for bad beer. I can’t live without beer.

You Say: Go on a cruise, and you will not be lacking for beer. Order a bucket of beer at the pool for a discount on multiple bottles (plus, you won’t need to keep getting up from your lounge chair to get another brewski). If you drink a lot, you can order a beverage package for unlimited drinks at one flat rate. Even better, many lines are now offering these packages free as a booking incentive. And, yes, some cruise ships have even caught on to the craft beer craze, such as Norwegian Escape, whose District Brew House offers 24 beers on tap, and Carnival Vista, which has its own brewery right onboard.

Best Ships for a Craft Beer Cruise

5. I prefer active vacations.

You Say: Who says you’re going to sit on your bottom for a week on a cruise? In addition to active offerings onboard, you can snorkel in the Caribbean, kayak in Mexico, scuba dive in the South Pacific, hike in Scandinavia and bike in Europe — either on your own or through an organized tour. Some small luxury cruise lines, like Seabourn and Windstar, even have water sports marinas onboard their ships and offer Jet Skis, water skis, windsurf boards and small sailboats straight from the ship.

10 Best Cruises for Active Travelers

South America Cruise Tips

6. Cruises don’t go anywhere interesting. I don’t want to sit on one beach after another.

You Say: Think St. Petersburg is interesting? How about Vietnam and Myanmar (Burma)? Cruise ships travel the world, sailing through the Panama Canal, around the bottom of South America, even through the Suez Canal to the Middle East and Asia, and onward to Australia. If it’s on a major waterway, it’s likely a ship goes there — and there are some pretty darn fascinating places sitting waterside in this world.

6 Most Exotic Cruises

7. I don’t like long plane rides.

You Say: Who does? Luckily, cruise ships sail from tons of U.S. homeports on the east, west and southern coasts of the U.S. (as well as several ports in the U.K. and Australia if you live there). Reaching a cruise is as easy as a short domestic flight or even a car ride.

10 Best Cruise Homeports in the U.S.

8. I don’t want to be forced to talk to lots of people I don’t know.

You Say: Cruises can be very social if you wish to make new friends, but no one is forced to talk to anyone. You can request tables for two at dinner (easier on some lines, such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises, than others), eat alone in the buffet, order room service or book smaller, specialty restaurants. Put on your headphones by the pool deck, or bury your head in your Kindle, and no one will bother you. Or hide out on your cabin’s private balcony for that perfect mix of sun and isolation.

Tips for Finding Peace and Quiet on a Cruise

Guy's Burger Joint on Carnival Triumph

9. I don’t want to eat weird foreign food.

You Say: Wimp! But if you really don’t want to brave a local restaurant and try new cuisines, or if you’re being a tightwad and don’t want to spend more money on land, you don’t have to. Cruise ships always offer lunch onboard, included in the fare, so you can sightsee in the morning and come back to burgers and pasta in the ship’s buffet or grill venues (including burgers created by Food Network star Guy Fieri on Carnival).

The 6 Best Burgers at Sea

 

5 ways to stay safe while traveling abroad that you haven’t considered yet

Breaking Travel News

5 ways to stay safe while traveling abroad that you haven’t considered yet

Traveling abroad is an unforgettable experience, whether you’re going for the first time in your life or you’re accustomed to being in several different countries each year. When traveling, you always want to take steps to stay safe no matter how experienced you are. A few smart steps designed to cover each aspect of your trip will keep you connected with people who can help in case of an emergency and will keep you safe, making an emergency less likely from the outset.

Tell Friends and Family Your Plans
Send confirmation numbers, travel details, addresses, and phone numbers to a few trusted family members and friends. Make sure these people have a comprehensive itinerary for your plans, including when you’ll be taking the train to new locations as well as all the contact info for your hotels and tour groups. Every few days, send out a check-in e-mail to these people with your itinerary so that they know you’re alive and having fun!

Stay With Your Group
Signing up for group trips is a fun way to see a new area with a tour guide and other tourists. Sometimes you might be tempted to leave the group and do your own thing — but resist the temptation. Groups don’t just provide automatic companionship and information about the area — they also provide safety. Groups can travel more safely at night and on public transportation than individuals can. When you’re unfamiliar with the region or haven’t traveled much before, a group is a great way to stay safe.

Sign Up for STEP
The US Government offers the free service STEP, or the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, for Americans who are traveling abroad. A free STEP enrollment means you connect with the nearest US embassy and enroll your trip with it. The embassy knows when you’ll be out of the country, which means it can contact you more easily if the area experiences any disasters, such as bad weather or civil unrest. Friends and family members can also contact you if an emergency occurs.

Get Travel Protection
Travel insurance and travel rescue services keep you safe when something unexpected happens. For example, MedjetHorizon memberships offer medical transport and crisis rescue. Ideally, nothing but fun will happen to you while you’re out of the country, but you always want to be prepared. Staying safe and getting home in unforeseen dangerous circumstances such as disasters or medical emergencies is important.

Remain in Lighted, Touristy Areas
Every city has areas meant for tourists as well as areas that tourists should stay away from. The tourist areas are well-lit and busy, so stay close to these places. Do research beforehand if you’ll be out late at night so that you can plan your safe route home — or you can just save a local taxi number. Remaining in busy spaces is especially essential if you’re traveling alone.
Staying safe while traveling doesn’t require much extra effort, and you can put in most of this effort before you get on the plane. Make sure your trip is the best you can possibly have by giving yourself peace of mind before you leave.

Live From Oceania Marina: Hits and Misses

–By Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor

Exterior shot on Marina at sea

Cruise Critic is currently onboard Oceania’s 1,258-passenger Marina, cruising to Central American destinations like Belize, Honduras and Mexico. The ship is one of only two custom-built ships for the upper-premium cruise line (the other four are refurbished vessels from defunct Renaissance Cruises), and we love how the ship feels like its smaller R-class sisters, just with plenty of enhancements. Here’s a closer look at what Marina’s got right — and what needs a bit of tweaking.


Surf and Turf at the Polo Grill on Oceania's Marina

Hits

Specialty Restaurants

If Marina were a person, it would be an unabashed foodie. The ship’s four specialty restaurants — steakhouse Polo Grill, Italian Toscana, French Jacques and Asian-fusian Red Ginger — all feature an overabundance of menu options and no surcharge. The food has been pretty drool-worthy, too, from homemade pesto gnocchi at Toscana and pumpkin soup at Jacques to tender filet mignon at Polo Grill and miso-glazed sea bass at Red Ginger. Restaurant staff help you customize your dining experience to make it perfect, whether it’s offering an entire menu of olive oils to accompany your baked-that-day bread or letting you choose from a selection of chopsticks made from a range of materials. Only trouble is it’s tricky to get reservations if you didn’t prebook online ahead of the cruise.


Beds

Oceania’s Prestige Tranquility beds and 1,000-thread-count linens practically guarantee that you will never have a sleepless night on Marina. Snuggle into those havens of comfort, and you can’t possibly keep your eyes open. They’re wonderful after a full day of touring and eating, but can be absolutely dangerous if you lie down for “just a minute” midafternoon. We’re no expert on fancy sheets, but a 12-piece queen set with sheets, duvet and pillows will set you back $1,500, so they must be top of the line. We plan to enjoy them as much as possible while we’re still onboard.


Afternoon Tea on Oceania Cruises

Afternoon Tea

Some lines pour you a cup of Lipton, hand you a sad petit four and call the event “afternoon tea,” but Marina knows how to do things right. Every afternoon at 4 p.m., white-gloved waiters wheel carts of finger sandwiches, cakes and pastries around the panoramic Horizon Lounge, while others proffer boxes of Twinings tea. A classical string quartet plays as you head to a central buffet for proper British scones, jam and clotted cream. It’s all very civilized — and highly delicious.


Smoothie Bar

Calling all vegans, gluten-avoiders and health nuts! Oceania’s famed milkshake bar gets a healthy makeover every morning when it offers green juices and smoothies made with cashew milk, as well as “energy bowls” (such as an acai berry bowl or a chia cashew yogurt bowl). It’s a popular morning addition, especially for folks on their way to or from the fitness center or jogging track — and we can attest that the drinks taste quite good, too.


Thermal Suite

On Marina, the thermal suite is not limited to those who cough up more cash at the Canyon Ranch Spa Club. Men’s and women’s sauna and steam room areas, as well as two coed spaces with tiled heated loungers, are available to all comers. They’re a lovely spot to rest weary limbs after a busy day of touring. The thermal area is lacking a thalassotherapy pool (found on Oceania’s other ships), but we didn’t miss it.


Wi-Fi

Although neither free nor quite as fast as at home, Marina’s Internet has been quite satisfactory, and not as ridiculously slow as other ships we’ve sailed. We’ve checked email, had real-time text conversations and even watched videos on Facebook. We can’t decide if its upgraded technology or a lack of Millennials onboard that is leading to the efficient Wi-Fi service onboard.


Shower in Oceania cabin

Misses

Showers

On first glance, Marina’s bathrooms are a wow. They’re beautifully marbled, with both a standalone shower and tub with showerhead. Then you actually try to take a shower and discover the flaw. The standalone has a central rainshower head that makes the already low ceiling even lower and means anyone close to or over 6 feet tall has to duck to avoid konking their head in the shower. And the angled shape of the stall means anyone not rail thin is banging elbows or incapable of leaning down to wash their legs. The bathtub is a tad better, but you risk dousing the entire bathroom with water when you use the showerhead, and you have a large step over into the tub.  We recommend the spa if you want to shower with a bit more space.


Desserts

So far, we have not been impressed with the desserts on Marina. The cookies do not entice, dessert “burgers” and “lasagna” at specialty restaurants were more creative than mouth-watering, and main dining room options have been surprisingly easy to skip. The best sweets we’ve eaten have been at afternoon tea — and the ice cream. In a way, dessert misses are a good thing, though, because we’re eating so much at dinner, we really don’t need the extra calories.


Extra Fees

We appreciate that no one is chasing you down to take your photo then sell it to you or begging you to sign up for extra-fee pub crawls or buy art at auction. But compared to other high-end lines, you can spend a lot extra on Oceania paying for drinks, gratuities, shore tours and more. The spa is pricier than many cruise ship spas (we’re paying $175 plus tip for a 50-minute facial), and the lame 45-minute yoga class we took was not worth $11. Excursions are pricey, as well. And do we really need shopping talks and pamphlets for Diamonds International and Del Sol color-changing T-shirts? Not really. (To avoid the nickel and diming, book your next cruise when Oceania is offering its O-Life Perks promotion and take your pick of perks like free Internet or a complimentary beverage package.)

Travellers over 60 share how to choose the right cruise

There are three types of cruisers: the ocean-lover, the river-enthusiast and those who love all types of cruises. But if you’re weighing up the pros and cons and trying to decided which type of cruise is right for you, take a tip from other travellers to help you choose. This vibrant bunch of knowledgeable cruisers have shared their tips and advice about river and ocean cruising to help you decide which is the right option for you. Here’s what they have to say!

1. The amount of passengers

One of the biggest differences between a river and an ocean cruise is the size of the ship. While some prefer the opportunity to meet people and be surrounded by a lively atmosphere, others are more content in an intimate environment. “River is better,” Sonia shared. “Fewer passengers on smaller ships!”

2. The staff to passenger ratio

With that intimacy comes a more personalized service, as Rhonda noticed on her recent trip. “Higher staff/client ratio on river cruises [and] less children,” says Rhonda.

3. Activities at sea

With river cruises there is often the option to disembark on a regular basis, which Betty loved during her recent holiday. “River, at least you can embark every day,” says Betty.

4. The scenery

Another drawing card for a river cruise is the beautiful scenery that you constantly travel through throughout your trip. This can provide hours of entertainment simply by watching the world go by. “Love, love, love river cruising and all we get to experience by having greater time ashore and smaller numbers.”

5. The ocean

There’s nothing quite like taking to the ocean, though, it’s so expansive and beautiful and a real drawcard for many looking to go on a cruise. “Ocean for me!” says Val. “Nothing beats being at sea!”

6. The atmosphere

It’s really all about the atmosphere on an ocean cruise, from entertainment and food to pools and parties. Maureen completely forgot that she was even on a cruise at all. “Went on [a cruise] from South Africa to Perth WA and loved it,” she said. “Crew were great, cabins great and never felt we were on the Ocean. Would do it again in a heartbeat.”

7. You can go over and over again

It doesn’t matter how many times people have gone on a cruise, the diehard ocean cruisers go back time and time again. Just like Kerrie. “Ocean cruises are my favorite, about to leave on cruise #5.”

Secrets the Cruise Lines Don’t Tell You

By Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor

Cruise ship life can be a little mysterious. Your choices aren’t always spelled out in black and white. The more you cruise, the more you pick up on the unofficial secrets the cruise lines don’t tell you — which give you more options, let you save money and generally allow you to have a better time onboard.

Maybe it’s knowing what your cabin steward is able to bring you or what the off-the-menu items are at the bar or dining room. Or perhaps it’s a tip to getting a good deal on an onboard purchase.

But why wait to figure these things out the hard way — possibly after you’ve missed your chance? We trawled through all the great advice on Cruise Critic’s Message Boards to bring you some of the worst-kept cruise secrets … at least among our readers who love to share. But whether you’re a first-time cruiser or an old sea dog, you may find there’s something here you didn’t already know.

Carnival Freedom - Posh Dining Room

Food Secrets

  • You are not limited to one of each appetizer, entree and dessert in the main dining room. You can order two entrees or three desserts if you choose. You can also order appetizer-sized portions of entrees as starters or order a few appetizers for your main meal. It’s a great way to try new foods you’re not sure you’ll like (escargot, anyone?).
  • Room service is generally free, except for service charges on certain lines. Royal Caribbean’s late-night orders bear a $3.95 fee, while all orders on Norwegian (excluding morning coffee, Continental breakfast and those placed by Haven Suite passengers) cost $7.95. Meanwhile, Carnival and Holland America offer for-fee room service menus in addition to their complimentary menus. It’s recommended you tip your delivery person, but in-room dining is not the splurge it is at a hotel.
  • Speaking of breakfast, you may have more options than just the buffet and main dining room. On Norwegian, it’s no secret that O’Sheehan’s offers tasty made-to-order omelets and corned beef hash, yet many cruisers still don’t know about it. Carnival’s BlueIguana Cantina and Royal Caribbean’s Johnny Rockets (on Oasis-class ships) are other alternative breakfast venues. Check your daily newsletter to see which restaurants are open in the morning.
  • Most people dine in the main dining room or buffet on the first night of the cruise, and many haven’t discovered the specialty restaurants yet. If you book an alternative dining venue for the first night of the cruise, you may get a discount on select lines (like Celebrity Cruises) or have an easier time getting a reservation for a popular venue. Carnival Cruise Line passengers who dine in the steakhouse on the first night get a free bottle of wine.
  • Specialty coffee at the designated coffee shops onboard comes with an extra fee, but the pastries, sandwiches and other food at these venues are often free. While some specialty items (like chocolate-covered strawberries) will have a charge, don’t assume all the small bites do. Some bars — such as Celebrity’s Martini Bar — also offer complimentary snacks; all you have to do is ask.
  • Like ice cream? Cruise lines will charge for branded licks like Ben & Jerry’s and Celebrity’s gelato. However, there’s always a free version — whether soft-serve machines on the Lido Deck or hard-serve stations at the buffet. And do your reconnaissance — Cruise Critic members report that soft-serve machines on either side of the deck can have different flavors.
  • On embarkation day, most people head straight to the buffet to have lunch and wait for their cabins to open. It’s a mob scene. But many cruise ships have alternative venues open — the main dining room or a mini-buffet in the solarium or atrium area. Ask a crew member or check your daily newsletter to find an alternative for a calmer first meal. For example, on Princess Cruises, the International Cafe, Pizzeria and Grill also are open; on Royal Caribbean ships, Sorrento’s, the Solarium and Park Cafes, Giovanni’s Table, Cafe Promenade and Starbucks are open on the afternoon of embarkation.
  • Don’t know which night to make specialty dinner reservations? The main dining room menus are planned for the week, and the purser’s desk often has access to those menus. Ask to see them so you can decide which nights are less appealing and which you don’t want to miss, and plan your cruise accordingly.
  • Pina Colada

    Drink Secrets

    • There’s no “open beverage” rule onboard. You can bring drinks from a bar or buffet to your cabin or elsewhere on the ship and no one will bat an eye. (Same goes for food.)
    • It’s often cheaper to buy a bottle of wine than a few glasses — but what do you do if you don’t finish the bottle? Cruise ship waiters can mark the bottle with your room number and save it for another night, even for dinner in another onboard venue.
    • Groups of beer drinkers can save by ordering buckets of beer. You get four or five beers in a souvenir bucket at a per-beer cost slightly cheaper than ordering individual bottles.
    • On most lines, soda is not free — but iced tea in the dining room usually is. Save on soda by buying a soda card, offering a set price for unlimited soft drinks.
    • Most cruise lines prohibit passengers from bringing beer and liquor onboard, but do let you bring a bottle or two of wine or Champagne. Some lines (such as Holland America and Princess) also let you bring a reasonable amount of nonalcoholic drinks onboard — which helps save on pricy shipboard sodas and bottled waters. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian passengers are prohibited from bringing any nonalcoholic beverages onboard, while Carnival only allows limited amounts of soda and juice as long as the drinks are in cans or cartons (and not glass containers).
    • Enticed by all those special drinks in a souvenir glass? You can refill those glasses at a discount — or ask to have the drink of the day in a regular glass to save money. Also watch your daily program for drink specials or happy hours with reduced-price beverages.
    Carnival Cloud 9 cabin

    Cabin Secrets

    • Most cabins are made of metal… and therefore they’re magnetic. Bring along some magnets (or buy some as souvenirs) and you can keep all your cocktail party invites, alternative dining reservation notices and daily planners hung up on the walls and doors.
    • Inside cabins have no natural light. At all. Turn your TV to the bridge cam station, turn off the sound and — voila! — you’ve got an instant nightlight and a way to see if the sun is up.
    • Spa cabins can often be a smart financial decision for avid spa-goers. For example, Carnival’s Cloud 9 Spa balcony cabins include access to the thalassotherapy pool, steam room and sauna. The extra you’d pay for the cabin (above a regular balcony room) is often less than what you’d pay for a cruise-length spa pass.
    • With all of the electronics we tote around with us these days, most people find cruise ship outlets to be insufficient. You can bring your own charging station or power strip (check to see if these are legal on your cruise line), but you may also want to ask your cabin steward. Sometimes there’s an extra outlet hidden behind the TV or under the bed.
    • Picky about your bedding? Some lines will provide egg crate mattress toppers, top sheets and alternative pillow types by special request. Feel free to ask, before or during your cruise.
    • Cabin designers are pretty smart about creating as much storage space as possible. Do a little exploring or ask your cabin steward for a tour. You may be surprised to find extra storage under the bed or couch, inside an ottoman or behind a mirror.
    • If you’re feeling queasy, don’t run out to a pharmacy before making some calls. Room service can bring you green apples and bland crackers (crew members swear by the apple remedy), and often you can get seasickness meds from the purser’s desk for free.
    Rock of Ages

    Entertainment Secrets

    • Casino frequenters can get a hole punched in their room card and a free lanyard from the casino staff for easy play without forgetting your card in the slot machines.
    • Many lines offer free minutes if you sign up for an internet package on the first day of the cruise.
    • Cruise ship spas often offer discounts for first-day and port-day treatments. Stop by the spa, or check your daily newsletters to find out about deals.
    • If the port talk is at the same time as your massage, don’t worry. Presentations and audience-participation shows are often re-broadcast on the ship’s channel on your in-room TV. You can still catch the recording if you miss the live show.
    • Use of the showers, saunas and stream rooms not located in fancy thermal suites is free. Showering in the spa can often mean access to more clean towels, fancy toiletries and bigger shower stalls — and prevents fights over who gets cabin bathroom access first. Using the free saunas is also a great remedy for that inevitable vacation head cold that stuffs you up.
    • If you want to see one of the big-name shows on Royal Caribbean or Norwegian (like “Mamma Mia” or “Rock of Ages”), but tickets are sold out, don’t fret. Many people reserve the free tickets but don’t show up, so if you get in line prior to showtime, cruise ship staff will let you in if seats are available.
    Tamarind on Holland America

    Cruise Line-Specific Secrets

    • Celebrity’s buffet secrets include delicious ship-made hard-serve ice cream (for free) in the buffet and made-to-order waffles with a choice of toppings. You can also order a cup of candy toppings with no ice cream if that’s your treat of choice.
    • On Holland America, lunch is discounted to $10 at the Pinnacle Grill, and free chocolate truffles make an appearance in the Explorer’s Lounge each evening.
    • Royal Caribbean’s Cafe Promenade offers high-quality coffee without the price tag. It’s no Starbuck’s, but it’s a step above what you’d find at the buffet.
    • The North Star on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships offers amazing views any time you go, but you’ll get the best views on sea days. That’s because the enclosed, glass capsule — which can rise to 300 feet above sea level — is often restricted from extending out over the side of the ship while in port.

Bottoms Up! A Guide to Cruise Line All-You-Can-Drink Packages

By Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor

Disney drinks

First it was a trend — now it’s here to stay: Mainstream cruise lines have embraced all-inclusive drinks packages. Found somewhere between the ubiquitous soda packages and the included-in-your-fare booze of luxury lines, these programs let cruisers pay one base price that covers most of their nonalcoholic and alcoholic drinks onboard. But will high prices and annoying fine print persuade travelers to go it a la carte, or will the freedom to sample brightly colored cocktails and wines of unknown provenance be too appealing to ignore?

See below for a line-by-line guide to available packages, followed by some Cruise Critic member reactions to the new and not-so-new programs.

Editor’s Note: For cruises departing from Australia, please see Drink Packages on Australian Cruise Ships.

Azamara Club Cruises

Ships: Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest

Package Details: Although Azamara Club Cruises includes select standard spirits, beers and a changing daily selection of red and white wines by the glass in its cruise fares, the line also has nine for-fee all-inclusive beverage packages. Options include the Premium Water Package ($8.95 per person, per day), Beer Package (26 brands, $14.95 per person, per day), Premium Liquor Package (90 brands, $15.95 per person, per day), Top Shelf Liquor Package (120 brands, $18.95 per person, per day) and Ultimate Liquor Package (140 brands, $21.95 per person, per day). Beer and liquor packages also include a 25 percent savings on premium wines by the glass, as well as all the beer selections that come with the beer package. There are also three wine packages: Wine by the Glass (13 wines, $29.95 per person, per day), Wine Lover Package (all bottles of wine valued at $50 or less, $180 to $350 for five-, seven-, 10- and 12-bottle packages) and Wine Connoisseur Package (all bottles of wine valued at $51 to $75, $315 to $630 for five-, seven-, 10- and 12-bottle packages). All packages feature more choices and more premium brands than the complimentary offerings.

Fine Print: Packages can be pre-purchased (through Azamara Club Cruises or your travel agent) or bought onboard throughout the length of your cruise. Charges begin the day you purchase the package. Packages are not refundable once purchased and cannot be downgraded to a lower-tier package. You can only order one drink at a time. You can order drinks through room service as part of your package.


Carnival drinks

Carnival

Ships: All ships, except Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend

Package Details: The Cheers! program has been rolled out to all ships in the Carnival Cruise Line fleet, with the exception of those sailing in Australia. The cost for the program is $49.95, per person, per day, if purchased in advance and $54.95 per person, per day, if purchased once onboard. The package allows cruisers to select from mixed drinks, beer, wine and spirits valued at $50 or less each, up to a 15-drink maximum per day. Additionally, the package includes soda, nonalcoholic cocktails, energy drinks, specialty coffees and teas, most bottled water, PowerAde, Vitamin Water, coconut water and Honest Tea. The program also includes a 25 percent discount on bottles of wine and Champagne, beverage classes and seminars, and cocktails that cost more than $50.

Fine Print: If one adult in a cabin purchases the package, all adults over 21 years old in that cabin must also purchase it. Participants can order only one drink at a time, there is a five-minute wait time required between drink purchases, and all bottles and cans are served opened. The package does not apply to drinks in souvenir glasses. A 15-percent gratuity is added to the cost of the package, and due to state laws, the package is not available until the second day of all sailings leaving from ports in New York, Alabama and Texas. Cheers! applies to onboard beverages only; it cannot be used on Carnival’s private island, Half Moon Cay. The package is not available on two-night sailings or chartered sailings, and it must be booked for the entire duration of the voyage.


Celebrity

Ships: All ships except for Celebrity Xpedition

Package Details: Celebrity Cruises was a forerunner when it comes to packages; it first introduced its alcohol packages in 2009. The line has gone package crazy with classic and premium nonalcoholic packages ($18 and $22 per person, per day, respectively), as well as packages for wine, soda, bottled water and even in-room bar setups. The line now offers three all-inclusive drink packages. The Standard Package ($45 per person, per day) includes any drink (beer, wine, cocktails) up to $6 per serving. This includes soda and bottled water. Additionally, the package includes a 10 percent discount on wines purchased by the bottle.

The Classic Package, starting from $55 per person, per night, includes soda, fresh-squeezed and bottled juices, premium coffees and teas, non-premium bottled water; all beers (priced up to $6 each); spirits, cocktails and frozen drinks up to $8 per serving; and wine by the glass up to $9 each.  The package also includes a 15 percent discount on wines by the bottle.

The Premium Package, priced from $65 per person, per day, includes soda, premium bottled water (Evian, Perrier and San Pellegrino), specialty coffees and teas, nonalcoholic frozen drinks and smoothies, Red Bull, specialty water from Vitamin Water, all beers, and spirits, cocktails and wine by the glass up to $13 per serving. The package also includes a 20 percent discount on wines by the bottle.

Fine Print: An 18-percent service charge is added to package prices. Packages must be bought for the entire sailing and refunds are not allowed; however, packages can be purchased onboard up until two nights are left in the cruise, at prorated prices. Packages do not include drinks purchased from the mini-bar, room service or Enomatic wine dispensing machines. Ordered packages can be modified or canceled online or by phone up to four days prior to the sailing date.


Costa

Ships: Fleetwide

Package Details: Costa Cruises’ All-Inclusive Beverages package includes a selection of alcoholic beverages (including beer and wine), soft drinks by the glass and coffee. The cost is 24.99 euros per person, per day, including service charges, and is available to adults 18+. A youth version of the package (for ages 4 to 17 years — see the fine print) costs 15.99 euros per day, including service charges, and includes soft drinks by the glass. It must be booked in combination with the All-Inclusive adult package.

Fine Print: Mini-bar products and premium brands are excluded from the package. All passengers, even kids (ages 4 and up), traveling together with the same booking number or who choose to dine together, must purchase the package.


Holland America drinks

Holland America Line

Ships: Fleetwide

Package Details: For $44.95 per day, Holland America’s Signature Beverage package allows cruisers to indulge in up to 15 beverages a day — choosing from a variety of wine, beer, spirits, cocktails (including nonalcoholic), sodas and coffee for an entire sailing. Each drink must cost less than $8. If one passenger in a cabin opts for the package, anyone who is 21-plus years old in the same cabin is required to purchase it as well. Items from the mini-bar, in-room dining and beverages on Half Moon Cay are excluded from the package.

Fine Print: An additional 15-percent service charge is not included in the base price.


MSC Cruises

Ships: All ships sailing in the Mediterranean and Caribbean

Package Details: MSC Cruises offers multiple beverage packages, including:

Premium Packages: The More-For-Less Premium Adult All-Inclusive (Caribbean sailings, $61 per person, per day) and Allegrissimo Premium Adult All-Inclusive (Mediterranean sailings, $53 per person, per day) packages each include the entire bar list, all beers, wine by the glass, premium spirits and cocktails, in-cabin mineral water and mini-bar access, energy drinks, soda, fruit juice, tea, coffee and hot chocolate, as well as items from the onboard Gelateria and Pastry Shop. This package is valid in all onboard bars, lounges and restaurants. (Drinks are not included in specialty restaurants as part of these packages, but a 20-percent discount is offered to package-holders.) Children’s packages are priced at $31 and $25 per person, per day, respectively, and they include all nonalcoholic beverages — including milkshakes, smoothies and mocktails — and items from the Gelateria and Pastry Shop.

Note: In summer 2017, these packages will be combined into one, called the All-Inclusive Premium Drink Package.

Standard Packages: The More-For-Less Classic Adult All-Inclusive (Caribbean, $45 per person, per day) and Allegrissimo Adult All-Inclusive (Mediterranean, $31 per person, per day) packages offer wine by the glass, all beers, soda, fruit juice, mineral water, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, spirits and cocktails (excluding premium brands), and ice cream (cone or cup). This package is valid in all onboard bars, lounges and restaurants. (Drinks are not included in specialty restaurants as part of these packages, but a 20-percent discount is offered to package-holders.) These packages do not include energy drinks, premium liquors, in-cabin mineral water and mini-bars, or items from the Gelateria and Pastry Shop. The kids’ versions of these packages cost $23 and $14.50 per person, per day, respectively. They feature ice cream and all nonalcoholic beverages, including milkshakes, smoothies and mocktails. They exclude in-cabin mineral water and mini-bar soft drinks. Drinks ordered as part of the standard packages in this category must cost less than $7.50 each.

Note: In summer 2017, these packages will be combined into one, called the All-Inclusive Classic Drink Package.

Cheers: Offered on all sailings, Cheers packages for adults ($20 to $22.50 per person, per day) and kids ($11 to $12.50 per person, per day) allow for unlimited beverages during lunch and dinner in the main dining rooms and self-serve buffets. Featured items for adults are house wine selections, draft beer, mineral water and soft drinks. The children’s version includes soft drinks and mineral water. These packages are not valid for drinks or discounts on drinks in alternative restaurants.

Note: In summer 2017, Cheers will be renamed the Mealtime Restaurant Drink Package.

Fine Print: If one person in a cabin purchases a package, all others in the cabin must purchase a package. If 21 or older (18 or older on cruises not departing from the United States), an alcohol package must be purchased; for passengers younger than 21 (younger than 18 on non-U.S.-based sailings), the equivalent children’s package must be purchased. Packages must be purchased for the entire duration of each voyage. Advance package purchases must be completed no later than seven days prior to sailing; packages can also be purchased onboard on the first and second days of each voyage. There is no per-day limit to the number of drinks a package-holder can order. The above listed packages do not include cigars, bottles of wine or Champagne, or drinks in souvenir glasses.


Norwegian fishbowl drinks

Norwegian Cruise Line

Ships: All ships except for Pride of America. Norwegian Sky includes a free Ultimate Beverage Package for all passengers.

Package Details: Norwegian has two beverage packages, available on all ships. The “Corks and Caps Package” costs $59 per person, per day, (plus an 18-percent gratuity) and includes a selection of fountain soda and juices, beer and wines by the glass ($15 or less). The “Ultimate Beverage Package” costs $79 per person, per day, (plus an 18-percent gratuity) and includes everything in the “Corks and Caps Package” plus liquor and cocktails (all drinks $15 or less). You can use your beverage package at all onboard bars, lounges and restaurants, and on the line’s private island.

Fine Print: The Ultimate Beverage Package is only available for purchase ahead of time on sailings of five days or more, and for purchase onboard for sailings of three or four days; the package is not available for sailings of two days or less. An 18-percent gratuity is added to your package price. Only one drink is allowed per passenger per order. All passengers sharing a cabin or using the same payment method (i.e., kids you stuck in the inside cabin across the hall) must purchase the beverage package. For kids two and up, that means buying the soda package instead. The package does not include room service, buckets of beer, super and ultra premium brands, wine or liquor by the bottle, mini-bar purchases, freshly squeezed juice, canned soda or energy drinks, specialty coffee or bottled water. Passengers looking to purchase this package onboard during the dates of March 1 through April 15 will only be able to purchase on embarkation day.


Oceania Cruises

Ships: Fleetwide

Package Details: Oceania Cruises offers two all-inclusive beverage package options. House Select, which costs $39.95 per person, per day, includes unlimited Champagne, house wine and beer with dinner and lunch. (Interestingly, it’s available when ordering room service, but it does not cover mini-bar drinks.) The second package, Prestige Select, is pricier — $59.95 per person, per day — and includes beer and premium house wine (from a selection of red and white vintages that change daily), most beverages on the bar menu and room service beverages during regular operating bar hours. Mini-bar selections are not included. Oceania already includes in cruise fares items like soft drinks, bottled water and specialty coffees.

Fine Print: Package prices include gratuities and can be prebooked online or through a reservations representative. They can also be purchased onboard at any time during the cruise (with prices prorated for days remaining). You can upgrade from Package A to B during the voyage, but you can’t downgrade. Refunds aren’t allowed.


Princess Cruises

Ships: Fleetwide (different packages are available on Australia-based ships)

Package Details: Princess Cruises’ package costs $56.35 per day, per day plus a 15-percent gratuity, and includes all cocktails, spirits, beer and glasses of wine up to $10. All nonalcoholic drinks served in cans or bottles, as well as mocktails and shakes are included, as are all coffee, tea, espresso and specialty drinks and any food items such as crepes and gelato included with the coffee card. Each purchaser of the package also receives a 40-percent discount on all bottled wine less than $100.

Additionally, Princess offers beer packages, by brand, that includes five bottles for the price of four: Dos Equis ($22.27), Heinekin ($24.15), Budweiser ($26.45) and Bud Light ($26.45). The price includes the service charge. Beer packages are not available on Diamond Princess, Emerald Princess or Golden Princess when itineraries begin/end in Australia or New Zealand.

Fine Print: Princess cruisers may purchase the package on seven-night or longer cruises. All passengers traveling in the same stateroom do not have to purchase the package.


Royal Caribbean

Ships: All ships with three-night or longer itineraries offer the all-inclusive package.

Package Details: Royal Caribbean has one alcohol-inclusive beverage package on offer. The $55 per person, per day Deluxe Beverage package includes premium coffee and tea, bottled still and sparkling water, fresh-squeezed orange juice, house and premium cocktails (up to $12 value), frozen cocktails, beers, premium wine by the glass (up to $12 value), nonalcoholic cocktails, fountain sodas with a souvenir Coca-Cola cup, a 40 percent discount on wine bottle purchases up to $100 and a 20 percent discount on wine bottle purchases more than $100. For drinks over $12, a $12 credit will be applied to the price of the drink.

Prices do not include an 18-percent gratuity that will be applied to each individual drink order.

Fine Print: The drinks package is available on all two-night or longer sailings and must be purchased a minimum of four days before the cruise ends. Only passengers who intend to use a package need to buy it. Package users may only order one item at a time for individual consumption. There is no daily limit on how many items a person may order.


Windstar

Ships: Fleetwide

Package Details: Windstar’s package is only sold by the cabin and costs $116 per cabin, per day, plus a 15-percent gratuity. The price includes taxes. The package entitles passengers to unlimited cocktails (including some top-shelf brands), regular and sparkling wines by the glass (priced at $12 or less), beer, mini-bar selections and room service drink orders. (Windstar includes nonalcoholic beverages, such as coffee drinks and soda, for everyone in its cruise fares.) Bottles of wine and Champagne are not included.

Fine Print: The package is valid for all passengers sharing a cabin or suite. It must be purchased in advance or on the first day of the cruise, for the entire length of the sailing. Package holders are entitled to purchase certain ultra-premium liquor brands for $1.15 per cocktail.


Mermaid’s Tail on Regal Princess

Reader Reactions

Are drink packages a good addition to cruising or a bad one? Cruise Critic readers — not surprisingly — have a wide range of opinions on the subject. Proponents are all about the value proposition these packages offer, especially for people who buy a lot of beverages onboard. Says Docalbe, “I try to cruise once a year and bar tab is always over $1,500. $50 is ok with me ($450)…. Not that I’m a lush….” And disan points out that “the main thing is it just makes the experience a little more mindless and isn’t that what a cruise is all about? More fun and less to think about.”

Opponents either don’t see the value or worry about the consequences of unlimited booze. Judi Stein O’Brien posted this Facebook comment: “I can’t see how that’s worth it…we must be cheap drunks! This past cruise we drank and partied pretty hard, rented a tux, paid for a specialty restaurant for 2, various small souvenirs, internet, etc., and our total bill for 2 people for 7 days was less than what this package would cost us.” Others take a more extreme view, like Fred Couch, who says on Facebook, “Some people will drink themselves silly just to get their money’s worth. Just a terrible idea.”

Reader Paula Winchester rebuts that argument. “Those of you saying it would cause too many drunks? Really? Those people are already drinking on the ship with or without the package.”

Still others are on the fence, acknowledging that whether the packages are a good deal have much to do with your ordering habits and the cruise itself. Kathy says, “I do like the idea…and yes on days at sea a great idea…but on port days…could be a waste. I would definitely do this if it could be done on a day by day basis.” Member chillyw concurs, “There’s just no way I’m going to drink 8-9 drinks EVERY DAY.” (Unfortunately for them, a daily package isn’t on offer. Yet.)

And several readers have had some enlightening comments about how to get the most out of the packages.

“Not only did we get our money’s worth and more, there were other perks that we didn’t anticipate,” posts boyerd about Celebrity’s package. “Aside from no slips to sign etc., often around the pool when a frozen drink started melting the staff would ask if they could just make a new one. We tried many different types of drinks esp. martinis that we might not have bought otherwise. If we tried a new drink and didn’t like it, it was replaced with another drink of our choice without question…. We told our assistant waiter the first night about the specialty coffee and we had it served with our dessert every night…no hassles. It really added to the vacation atmosphere that we enjoy!”

Cadburysmom had a strategic plan for her Celebrity drinks package. “I waited until halfway through my Eclipse Baltic cruise to get the package,” she reveals. “More sea days towards the end and the Solstice-class ships offer a much more interesting variety to taste with the Martini and Molecular bars as well as the coffee/tea bar.”