Cruises are one all-inclusive vacation option that's super convenient. Even if you pay for your room and board separately from the other activities, everything's in a central location. So you won't pay for transportation costs or to access a pool or even hit the gym. But the best scenario is when you pre-pay everything so that you can enjoy on deck without pulling your wallet out every five minutes.

The problem is, you have to pay extra if you want to have adult beverages onboard. But why is that? Cruise ships are pretty particular about doling out food, beverages, and privileges to their passengers. Here, we'll shed some light on why they do what they do when it comes to alcohol consumption aboard the ship.


Cruises Are For All Ages, So The Companies Would Have To Refund Families

Having a cruise ticket that includes all-you-can-drink adult beverages can mean messy billing when families book a package. After all, you have to be 21 to drink, so it doesn't make sense to lump the pricing for beer and cocktails in with chocolate milk and soda. Cruise lines could make separate ticket options for children, or drinkers and non-drinkers, but that would complicate things. And to be honest, the purchasing process is already stressful (and potentially confusing) enough.

There are very few adults-only cruise options, too. And even with those selections, not every adult wants endless alcohol flowing the entire trip. Plus, cruises are already expensive as it is, so bumping the cost up by hundreds of dollars could mean a decline in profits for cruise ship companies. They definitely don't want to risk that!

Too Much Alcohol Can Be A Liability

A lot of cruise passengers complain about not being able to redeem their beverage vouchers or take advantage of their bottomless beer packages. Cruise lines sometimes shut down their main bars after set hours, leaving package buyers to seek out a bartender who is willing to serve them. But why do cruise lines make this so difficult? For the same reason, they don't offer everyone on board extra booze: it can become a liability.

If people have to pay for their alcohol separately, many are going to pass on the option. That could mean fewer incidents on board the ship involving over-inebriation. If your drink costs $10 with dinner, you're less likely to keep them coming after dessert.

All the same, a lot of drink packages may say you can get unlimited booze. But when it comes time to order your tenth drink, the bartender can still cut you off. After all, the cruise line is in charge when you're on the open sea, and you won't have much say in the matter if they decline to serve you after a certain point.

Beverage Packages Are Lucrative For Cruise Lines

We're pretty sure that cruise lines make enough cash as it is, but their beverage packages are worth big money. Think about it: the beverages that are often included with your fare are things like milk and water. Some cruise lines even require passengers to purchase soda packages if they need their caffeine fix while on the open ocean. Basically, they're offering the bare minimum when it comes to anything beyond hydration.

So, these alcohol packages are a huge selling point. All you can drink is an amazing offer, right? But the cost for the packages means you've got to drink a lot more than what you typically would to break even. As Cruzely explains, the average drink package is about $60 per day. That could mean around 12 beers, depending on the type and size, which is a whole lot to imbibe.

In contrast, cocktails cost more, so you'd need fewer of them to make up the price difference. But cocktails are also stronger than your average beer, meaning you might hit the floor before you break even on that alcohol package.

You might even find that a particular cruise completely bans outside alcohol because they want to bill you for it so badly. In contrast, many ships allow passengers to bring a bottle or two of wine onboard, for example, and there's no corkage fee if you imbibe in your private room. As Family Cruise Companion explains, Norwegian allows bottles of wine or champagne (but you pay a corkage fee regardless), Holland America says one bottle per stateroom, and Royal Caribbean allows two bottles per room.

Drink Packages Are Kind Of A Scam

Honestly, drink packages are kind of a scam, which is why they're an add-on that cruise lines propose as such a great deal. In fact, if you calculated your beverages per day cost, it'll likely be less than the $1,000 or so per couple for a seven-day cruise that Family Cruise Companion quotes.

Cruise lines couldn't make this kind of profit selling you regular drinks at each meal, especially because you'll be visiting ports and having drinks elsewhere. If they get you to buy into a drinks package, they get your cash no matter what, and typically at a flat rate per day, even if you spend half the day in line waiting to board the ship.