I like to plan things WAY in advance, so it is no surprise that I have been planning for my next cruise in March 2018 since July 2017. In the cruise world, this isn’t even considered early (the best time to start planning a cruise is 1-2 years in advance)! Now that I’m 134 days away from my vacation, I’ve kicked up my planning a bit more. The final balance for the trip is due in early December and by the end of December I aim to have plane tickets, specialty dinning, shore excursions, drink packages, and show reservations all complete. I can definitely cross drink packages off my list as I purchased it a few days ago and so did everyone else in my group. RCI recently made some big changes to their drink package rules that effect all sailings after December 2017 (yippee).
(A twisted shirley temple aka a shirley temple with vanilla vodka. My favorite drink to have while playing trivia in Schooner bar)
Prior to the change in rules, purchasing a drink package was not mandatory. So if I was traveling with a friend and we were sharing a cabin, if I purchased the all inclusive alcohol drink package it didn’t mean that she automatically had to purchase it as well. Now with the new rules, if one person in the stateroom purchases the all inclusive alcohol drink package, anyone over 21 in the same stateroom MUST purchase it as well. The only exceptions to the rule are if you are pregnant, a recovering alcohol, don’t drink for personal/religious reasons, or have a medical reason (must provide documentation from doctor). With these exceptions, you are no longer required to purchase the all inclusive alcohol drink package, BUT you are required to purchase the refreshment package which basically includes all drinks on board that don’t have alcohol. There is about a $20 price difference between the two (that can vary depending on when you purchase it if you happen to catch a sale).
Does the new rule really make a difference to me? Not really. I love a good drink and the all inclusive beverage package is always the way to go for me. It gives me a chance to try new drinks without having to worry about paying for another one if I don’t like it and it allows me to literally drink as much as my heart desires. It also includes gratuities so I don’t have to worry about tipping the bartenders (although sometimes I do tip extra when they provide exceptional service). Even before the new rule was implemented, everyone in my party was going to purchase the all inclusive alcohol package (With the exception of my brother who is 18 and will only be getting the soda package).
This new rule isn’t really all that “new” if you think about it. Many other cruise lines have made it mandatory for all passengers over 21 in a stateroom to purchase the drink package if one person purchased it (i.e. Carnival). RCI made the decision to implement the program because passengers were getting sneaky and sharing 1 drink package with everyone in their party. So because a few people couldn’t follow the rules, we are all being ‘punished’ in a sense.
Of course you could make the decision to have no one in your party purchase the alcoholic package and pay per drink, but one alcoholic mixed drink runs upwards of $8-$16. Nonalcoholic mixed drinks are between $6-$10. Bottles of water are about $4. Soda by the glass is about $3-$4. Specialty coffee/tea and wine by the glass/bottle prices vary. If you do the math and calculate about how many drinks you’ll have per day, you can figure out if a drink package is right for you. Look at me for example: I’ll have a couple of mimosas in the morning with breakfast ($5 each), mixed drinks and beer throughout the whole day($8-$16 each), soda with lunch ($3-$4 each), a glass or two of wine with dinner(price varies depending on what type), and another few drinks after dinner when we go to the shows or the nightclubs. The all inclusive alcoholic package is $55 a day at regular price (I was able to get it for $41 a day because I check daily for sales on RCI website). You need to drink an average of 6 drinks a day to break even. If you’re anything like me you go way beyond breaking even and really get your money’s worth and like I said before – TIPS ARE INCLUDED!
At the end of the day, figuring out whether the drink package is for you/your party is a personal decision. All that matters is that you enjoy your vacation to the fullest!