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Beverage Package Issues for Cruise Lines

Beverage packages seems to be an ongoing issue for cruise lines. They have tried a variety of twists with their beverage packages. Some have tested limiting beverage packages to 15 alcoholic drinks per 24 hour period. Others have tested whether they can allow passengers to purchase packages without requiring other adults in the stateroom to purchases the same package. It just feels like every time we turn around, we’re hearing about some cruise line tinkering with their rules and polices about beverage packages.

And just recently we have received announcements from two different cruise lines.

First up, Norwegian Cruise Line is increasing the pricing on their Ultimate Beverage Package. What has been running $79 per person per night plus tax (i.e. $652.54 per person for a 7 night cruise), will now be $89 per person per night plus tax (i.e. $735.14 per person for a 7 night cruise). Hands down, Norwegian now has the most expensive beverage package on the high seas.

And if clients pick the Ultimate Beverage Package as their pick-a-perk they’re safe, right? Not quite. As you might know, Norwegian is the only cruise line that charges gratuities on a “complimentary” perk. So even though the client is not affected by the $10 per person per night increase in the package pricing, they will see an increase in the gratuities for the perk. The gratuities paid will increase by $1.80 per person per night. A seven night cruise will see an increase of $12.60 per person. No passenger goes unaffected by this increase in pricing.
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The other recent cruise line beverage package news is from Royal Caribbean.  They have announced that they will now require that when one passenger buys an alcohol package, then all over-21 passengers in the same stateroom must buy the same package. Cruise passengers were grateful when Royal Caribbean had decided to not require everyone in the room to buy an alcohol package just because one passenger in the room had purchased the package. Now, they are reversing that decision. As expected, cruise passengers aren’t thrilled about it.

The most likely reason for this action  is that passengers took advantage of the program when everyone wasn’t required to buy the package. Royal Caribbean has not confirmed this; this is solely a informed assumption. But I truly think that actions of enough unethical passengers resulted in everyone losing this opportunity. The most likely problem is that the one person buys the package, then visits different bars in short period of time getting drinks for themselves as well as other passengers in their room that didn’t buy the package.

The financial loss to Royal Caribbean (and the bar servers losing out on potential tips from packages that weren’t purchased) probably reached a tipping point;  enough to push them into changing their policy. Whatever triggered the change, future cruisers will be paying the price.


Susan SchaeferSusan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at susan@shipsntripstravel.com or by phone at (888) 221-1209.

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