While all-inclusive luxury cruise lines pour complimentary drinks, most ships charge extra for booze. And when you’re lounging under the hot Caribbean sun and spot one of those frosty piña coladas, you’re going to want to indulge.
Luckily, there are ways to wet your whistle on any ship for free. Here are the three that experienced cruisers use most.
1. Look for sale fares that include onboard credit.
Norwegian, Princess, and Celebrity cruise lines sweeten the pot with this perk on a fairly regular basis. This is money you can use for drinks (or other extras, such as shore excursions or gratuities). The higher category cabin you book, the more credit you’ll receive. Snag $100 in credit, and it will cover maybe a dozen mixed drinks or a few bottles of wine with dinner. (Tip: If you don’t finish a bottle of wine at dinner, ask that it be corked for the next night.)
Keep an eye out for free beverage packages, too. Normally you would pay extra for these, but occasionally sale fares include them in their rate. (Read our guide to alcoholic drink packages here).
2. Don’t toss that newsletter.
The newsletter that’s delivered to your cabin daily often mentions other sources of free drinks, such as two-for-one offers and beer bucket savings. If there’s a Captain’s party, or if you’re invited to an event for VIP repeat guests, show up early and you may have time to snag a couple of drinks from the trays of beverages proffered by waiters. If there’s a Champagne art auction, show up for the free glass of bubbly (you aren’t required to buy any art).
3. Upgrade your accommodations.
Another way to get free drinks is to book fancy accommodations, which sometimes come with the perk of free beverages. On Royal Caribbean ships, for instance, those in top suite accommodations can sip cocktails in a private lounge during a nightly cocktail hour. If you’re the type to hit up the bar often while on vacation, the higher-priced room might be worth it.
We’ll drink to that!