Every time a travel company comes up with a new way to make money, rivals quickly join in. But in one notable area, Celebrity Cruise Lines stands, or rather sails, all alone — with the “All you can drink” packages.
The most deluxe cruise lines, Seabourn, Silversea, and Regent Seven Seas, include most alcoholic drinks in their fares, but those fares are considerably higher than those of the “mass-market” to “premium” ships.
Most of these “mass-market” to “premium” cruise lines have soda cards, with varying restrictions on whether travelers are allowed canned sodas or only fountain drinks. I’ve heard different stories as to whether or not cruisers can get “mocktails” for the same price — Shirley Temples, Roy Rogers and juice concoctions. (It usually helps to add a little extra for the bartender.)
Celebrity Cruise Lines, however, has been fine-tuning a wide array of beverage packages.
These are in addition to the standard $5-a-day soda card. They start out with $13- to $16-a-day packages that include all kinds of non-alcoholic drinks such as specialty coffees and fresh-squeezed juices. They top out at $49 a day for all the beverages you want, including premium liquors, including anything on the bar menu up to $12 a drink. (So no, you can’t use it for the REALLY top scotch and cognac, but Grey Goose vodka, for example, is included.)
Now $49 a day seems like a lot of money, but as a couple clients have indicated, if you like lattes in the morning, a couple beers or frozen drinks by the pool, decent wine with dinner, along with an pre-dinner cocktail and/or nightcap, the value adds up pretty fast.
One curious thing, however, Celebrity Cruise Lines’ parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, doesn’t have such a package. Upon a bit of reflection it makes sense, Royal Caribbean caters to more of a party crowd, and presumably the line thinks they would lose money and/or deal with a ship full of drunk people.
None of the other big mass-market premium lines, NCL, Carnival, Holland America and Princess, have such a package either. Nor have they announced any plans to add them. (They do offer some wine packages, but that’s generally just a slight discount for pre-purchasing a number of bottles in advance.)
It no doubt makes sense from a financial standpoint if nothing else. Bar tabs are a major revenue source for many cruise lines. (We have heard from travelers on at least one major line that the ships authorize a significant amount on your credit card upon boarding, apparently because they have had problems with cruisers who couldn’t pay their bills at the end of the sailing.)
Besides the super deluxe lines, many river cruises do include wine with dinner, but again, like Celebrity, presumably they are not worried about their guests getting out of hand or they just don’t view alcohol as a major profit center.
Which brings up another point. Celebrity Cruise Lines doesn’t particularly cater to an older crowd. Their average age is 35-64, about the same as Princess Cruises and Holland America, while Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean average only about 10 years younger.
While you might not choose Celebrity for their bar packages, depending on your idea of onboard fun, the cruise line management feels they won’t lose money with their all-you-can-drink package is a kind of confirmation that their ships don’t normally cater to the serious party crowd.