This past December, I decided to book my very first cruise. Being anxious and a little claustrophobic, I didn't expect to have such an enjoyable experience. Admittedly, I expected the ship to be packed with elderly retirees and to encounter many social situations that would not be my vibe.
I've been told cruising is rare among Australians. Surprisingly, this cruise attracted an overwhelmingly youthful crowd, running the gamut from children and teenagers to young adults. What was undoubtedly a popular pastime on this cruise by most of its passengers was, you guessed it, drinking.
P & O Australia Cruise Drink Package
Day, night, afternoon, early evening – it's always 5 o'clock somewhere. I should disclose that the only reason I booked this cruise was that P&O Australia was having a flash sale on their website for Cyber Monday.
These deals included a complimentary drinks package for two people if you booked a cruise at least seven nights long. As someone who was able to experience their first cruise with a fully included alcoholic drinks package, I want to help those considering splurging on one for their next cruise.
Cost of Drinks Packages & What's Included
There are different types of drink packages on all cruise lines, with varying prices, and P&O Australia is no exception. This cruise line offers five drink packages with various inclusions and pricing. Though there are different drink packages, most people are referring to the ones that include alcohol when they speak about a cruise drink package.
- The Soft Drinks Package: Costs: $10 pp per day. Includes: unlimited soft drinks
- The Refreshments Drink Package: Costs: $25 pp per day. Includes: unlimited soft drinks, juice blends, mocktails, 600 ml bottles of water, and espresso coffee & specialty tea
- The Premium Beverage Package: Costs: $99 pp per day. Includes: unlimited soft drinks, juice blends, mocktails, 600 ml water bottles, and alcoholic beverages up to $16 value
- The Lot! Beverage Package: Costs: $115 pp per day. Includes: unlimited soft drinks, juice blends, mocktails, 600 ml bottles of water, espresso coffee & specialty tea, alcoholic beverages up to $19, energy drinks
- The Spring Water Package: Costs: $21 pp per day. Includes: six 1.5L bottles of spring water delivered to your room each day
What To Know Before You Purchase a Package
These are the costs of these packages if you book them online before your cruise. While you can purchase one of these packages once onboard, you will be up-charged.
Save yourself money by booking ahead. Since the Premium Beverage Package was included in my booking for free, this is the package I will focus on.
If you are going on a cruise, you will likely need to book at least one type of drink package because continuously buying water bottles gets extremely expensive. The only drink package that doesn't include water is the Soft Drinks Package.
Restrictions on Drink Packages
Before purchasing a drink package on your next cruise, you should be aware that certain restrictions limit how much you can drink in a day, how much you can order at once, and who you can get it for.
You also won't be able to get away with purchasing one drink package, hoping you and your roommate can swindle the cruise line and get drinks for the both of you. If one person in a room purchases an alcoholic drink package, everyone else will need to order one, regardless of whether you want it.
In rare instances, the cruise line may allow another person in the room to purchase a less expensive drink package if they are unable to drink alcohol, but this would require speaking directly with a representative of the cruise line.
Drink Package Limits
All passengers with alcoholic drink packages are limited to 15 drinks daily and can only purchase one drink at a time. That is – if you want to avoid paying full price for a drink. The 24-hour window starts at 6 am and ends at 6 am the next day.
Within this period, you can order 15 alcoholic drinks for free, but the 16th will be charged at full price. It is essential to keep track of how much you're drinking. To prevent passengers from sharing their drinks package with others, you can only order one drink at a time.
However, you can order a drink at one bar and circle around to another nearby bar to get another drink. You learn the tricks of the trade rather quickly.
If you order two drinks, the more expensive drink, up to $16, will be covered by your Premium Beverage Package. The other beverage is full price. The same rule goes for ordering drinks that exceed the value of what your package covers.
How To Bring Your Beverages Onboard
There are tight restrictions when bringing your beverages onboard the ship, too. Some cruise lines allow a set amount of alcohol to be brought onboard, but all alcohol is strictly prohibited from being packed in your luggage and brought onboard the ship.
If the cruise line finds alcohol in your luggage, it will be confiscated and returned to you when you depart from the ship. However, you can pack 12 non-alcoholic cans per person, which must be in your hand luggage. You cannot pack water bottles or anything other than canned drinks.
There are large (1.5L) water bottles in your room and at the bars on port days, but beware that the drink packages only cover these, except for the Spring Water Package. For all other packages, only 600 ml water bottles are included. The 1.5L water bottles cost $5.25 each.
Ordering From Bars & Restaurants
Onboard the Pacific Encounter, there were eight different bars you could order from on the ship, and they all had more or less the same cocktail menu, aside from the more eccentric secret bar, The Bonded Store.
Two of these bars are located in areas exclusively for adults (The Oasis Bar and Altitude Nightclub). P&O Australia is a cashless cruise line, so you will be given a cruise card that you can either link to a credit card or use as a debit card after depositing cash.
You will scan the cruise card whenever you purchase something onboard, including drinks. If you have a package, you won't be charged for the drinks as long as you follow the package's guidelines, but you still need to scan your cruise card so they can track how many and what drinks you have ordered each day.
Keep Up With Your Drink Orders
It's a good idea to regularly check your transaction statements at the kiosks throughout the ship because mistakes sometimes happen. It's better to catch them earlier rather than later. You will find the same cocktail lists at all the bars around the ship, but you can also order shots, glasses of wine, and beer.
The cocktails were all delicious, and there was a good range of salty, sweet, creamy, and fruity flavors for all preferences. All the bars have blenders, so you can order frozen daiquiris, margaritas, and pina coladas. Many of the drinks were also generous in size – especially the frozen ones.
Standing in Line for Drinks Can Be an Issue
For the most part, the bartenders provided tremendous and quick service, but crowds can build up at certain times of the day, and you can spend much time standing in line waiting to order a drink.
Standing in line wouldn't be a problem if you could order multiple drinks at once, but knowing that you will need to rejoin the line again if you finish yours fast or want to grab something for your partner, it can be inconvenient.
Prices Are Easy to Spot for Quick Decision Making
The bar's cocktail lists transparently display their drinks' prices. You don't have to worry about accidentally purchasing a drink that is out of the range of what your package covers because out of the 18 or so cocktails they advertise, only two are more expensive than $16.
Not only can you order drinks from the bars onboard, but if you sit down at one of the ship's many restaurants, you can also order a drink from the bar, and they will get it for you.
Overall Value & Experience
I'm glad I could experience my first cruise with the complete freedom of not needing to worry about calculating how much I was spending on drinks, and it did make my vacation feel extra luxurious.
Drinking your money's worth is challenging, especially if you're experiencing seasickness. On port days, you will also spend most of the day outside the ship, so you will only get the value out of your package if you force yourself to binge drink later that night.
I found that I could never get anywhere near the maximum limit of drinks covered by the package per day, even when I was explicitly trying to. Unless you're confident that you will be drinking about 15 drinks each day, you're likely better off paying for each drink.
Someone who drinks this much daily would pay about 2.5x for their drinks if they paid out of pocket. If you're more of a moderate drinker, you'll average something closer to 6 drinks a day.
What made the Premium Package worthwhile (especially since I didn't pay for it on this trip) was the inclusion of all drinks except specialty coffee/tea and energy drinks. If you only drink alcohol occasionally, you will waste your money on alcoholic packages.
Final Thoughts on P&O Australia's Premium Drink Package
Did the Premium Drink Package enhance my cruising experience? For me, it did, but that might only be the case for some. When deciding if purchasing a drink package is worth your money, you must account for how much you can or even want to drink daily.
I like to have cocktails on vacation, and the Italian in me can't pass up a glass of red wine. However, when I consider how much I ended up drinking, the time spent waiting in line at bars, the difficulty of getting your money's worth on port days, and how rough seas prohibit too much drinking, I don't think I will be purchasing an alcoholic drink package in the future.
As someone who places more value on coffee, I'll try out the Refreshments Drink Package on my next cruise. If you want to treat yourself or it's a special occasion, I highly recommend balling out with a full Premium Drink Package.
Think about how realistic it is to get the full value of the drink package and do the math on how much you would spend per drink. If it exceeds the cost of the package in the long run, then you know the package is for you.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.