Similarly, based on the ship, the onboard experience can be very different, with everything from a quiet country club atmosphere to a serious Las Vegas party vibe.
As a general rule, the more sedate lines, which are also often the most deluxe, are more likely to offer unlimited alcohol policies.
In my admittedly limited personal experience as well, the Seabourn cruise I took, where everything was included, featured a lot fewer loud drunks than other cruise lines where drinks averaged $10 a pop.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, which owns Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, has for the past few years offered an “all-you-can-drink” option, but only on the Celebrity ships. (They have been trying this recently on a few cruises within Europe.)
Many travel professionals I know figure the company’s policy makes sense. Offer the package, which runs about $60 a day, for the more restrained Celebrity passengers, but keep it away from the more potentially serious party-goers on Royal Caribbean.
Now, Carnival Cruise Lines, long known as the “Fun Ships,” is dipping a toe into the water (or perhaps I should say, into the “Bahama Mama” glass) as they test an “all-you-can-drink” package of their own.
Dubbed “My Awesome Bar Program,” the package is only offered on the Carnival Victory, sailing out of San Juan. It’s about US$50 a day, including gratuities, and includes alcohol beverages up to $10 a glass; plus, sodas and non-alcohol beverages. More expensive drinks and bottles of wine are available for a 25 percent discount.
As an interesting wrinkle, all passengers over 21 in the same cabin must purchase the package, which makes some sense, as it would theoretically be possible for a couple to share their drinks otherwise.
On the other hand, what happens with a couple where one person doesn’t drink? Or drinks considerably less than their cabin mate? For that matter, what happens if one adult in a cabin is pregnant?
Now, I can imagine that bartenders on board may have some leeway in cutting passengers off if they get out of hand. Even so, having watched some passengers clearly determined to get their money’s worth at the buffets, I have to wonder what happens when that is applied to a booze package.
In addition, it’s not always obvious just how inebriated someone might be at the time they order a drink. Add to that the creativity of travelers who like to party, and it seems like this might easily get out of hand.
For examples, even if both people in a cabin have to pay for the package, what’s to prevent one traveler from topping off someone else’s drink or, for that matter, giving the drinks to a minor?
With cruise ship crime increasingly making headlines, including sexual assaults, it seems like unlimited alcohol, even for a price, could raise liability issues.
Since this is only a test of the “My Awesome Bar Program,” no doubt Carnival is watching carefully to see how the potential additional revenue is offset by the developing headaches.
What do you think, Consumer Traveler readers? Would a $50 a day all-you-can-drink program make you more, or less, likely to try a “Fun Ship” vacation?