A Carnival cruise vacation just doesn’t feel complete without a few fruity frozen cocktails and a nightly glass of wine or two at dinner. Whether you’re a casual drinker or a spirits enthusiast, you might be wondering if the Carnival Cheers drink package is right for you.
The beauty of cruising is that almost everything is included — transportation, accommodations, dining and entertainment. But when you’re navigating onboard expenses, there’s one place where the spending can add up quickly: drinks.
The Carnival Cheers package takes care of drinks by covering almost all of your beverage consumption (alcoholic or otherwise) under one fixed price per day. It can save you money on your next cruise if you’re planning to, well, drink like you’re on a cruise.
Other cruise lines offer tiered drink packages, breaking out their standard alcoholic selection from the top-shelf liquors. With Carnival Cruise Line’s Cheers drink package, however, you get almost all alcoholic drinks up to $20 each.
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To help you decide whether to book the Carnival Cheers package, we’ll cover how much it costs, which drinks are included (and perhaps more importantly, which aren’t) and whether it’s the best option to help you stick to your beverage budget. Plus, we’ll show you how to break down whether you’re getting a good value based on how much you expect to drink on an average day.
What’s included in the Carnival Cheers drink package?
First, let’s clarify which beverages are already included in your standard Carnival cruise fare. Non-bottled water, lemonade, unsweetened iced tea, hot chocolate, non-specialty coffee and tea, juices (orange, tomato, apple or grapefruit) and regular, skim and chocolate milk are all available to cruise guests at no additional charge.
Carnival’s Cheers package includes all spirits, cocktails, beer and wine by the glass, up to $20 each, plus these additional nonalcoholic options:
- Smoothies, juices and milkshakes
- Specialty coffee and tea
- Virgin drinks, including zero-proof frozen cocktails
- Energy drinks
- Standard 500-milliliter water bottles and other nonalcoholic bottled beverages
- Large water bottles in the dining room and specialty restaurants
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The drink package also includes a 25% discount on any spirit or wine by the glass over the $20 limit, bottles of wine and Champagne, and beverage seminars and classes.
Related: 8 best drinks to order with a cruise ship beverage package (and 3 to avoid)
The package covers or discounts nearly everything you might want to drink on board, but there are some exceptions. Here’s what’s not included:
- Bottles of alcohol (aside from beer)
- Large shareable drinks like pitchers, tubes and buckets
- Drinks in souvenir glasses
- Double shots and floaters (because it’s like ordering two drinks at once)
- Drinks offered at the gangway or at any port of call, including the cruise line’s private islands
- Room service or minibar drinks
- Drinks from automated wine dispensers
Gratuities are also included with the Cheers drink package because you’ll be paying an 18% service charge on top of the package price. If you’re ordering drinks while within U.S. waters at a port or before embarking from your home port, you will still be charged tax. For example, if you order a $10 drink and the local tax is 10%, you’ll be charged $1 for tax but not for the drink itself.
How much does Carnival’s drink package cost?
The Carnival Cheers package price starts at $59.95 per person, per day when you purchase it online before the cruise, plus an 18% service charge. It’s $64.95 per person, per day (plus the 18% service charge) if you wait until you’re on board to purchase Carnival’s drink package. Early planners save a little less than 10% by preordering.
If one person in your cabin purchases the Cheers package, every adult age 21 or over in the same room must also do so. The rule aims to keep you from sharing free drinks while paying for only one package. Carnival’s terms state there are no exceptions to this rule, and when we contacted the Carnival team, they confirmed that includes pregnant adults.
Related: Are cruise line drinks packages worth the price? What to know before you buy
You have to purchase the package for the duration of the cruise. If you wait until you’re on board to buy the package, you must purchase it on the first day of your sailing. You cannot try out the package for a single day or start it midway through the cruise — unless you’re sailing from New York or Texas, where drink packages get activated at 6 a.m. on the second day of the cruise due to local laws. The Carnival Cheers package isn’t offered on two-day cruises.
If you’re looking for a Carnival Cheers promo code for a drink package discount or a free drink package deal, these offers aren’t widely available. Carnival might send out targeted offers to certain members of its VIFP Club loyalty program and casino guests based on their travel and spending history with the cruise line.
To activate a pre-purchased Cheers drink package, go to the Casino Bar when you get on board. Otherwise, you can purchase the package at various bar locations on the ship. The bartender will give you a sticker to place on your Sail & Sign card so servers and bartenders know you have the package.
What’s the Carnival drink package limit?
If you plan on making the most of the Carnival Cheers package, you’ll find a generous drink limit of 15 alcoholic beverages per day (and a value limit of $20 per alcoholic drink, as we mentioned earlier).
That’s 15 alcoholic drinks per 24-hour period running from 6 a.m. to 6 a.m. the next day, so late-night partiers can’t take advantage of bonus drinks after the clock strikes midnight. If anyone looks like they’re drinking beyond their personal limits — even if they haven’t reached 15 — staff members are trained not to serve guests who look intoxicated.
The package does not place a daily limit on sodas and other nonalcoholic beverages.
Drinks must be ordered one at a time (whether alcoholic or not), with a wait time of five minutes between drink orders. Carnival sets these rules to prevent you from ordering drinks for cruisers who haven’t purchased a drink package. So what happens when you want to order a round of drinks for friends? The first drink will count toward your Cheers package limit, and the rest will be charged to your account.
Is the Carnival Cheers package worth it?
Whether the drink package is worth it on Carnival depends on how much alcohol you plan to drink — and which kind. Are you more of a beer drinker, or are you into wine, spirits and cocktails? Beer is generally cheaper, so it would take more drinks per day to add up to the daily value of the Cheers package.
If you have multiple sea days during your sailing, you’ll likely get more value from your package since there’s more time on board to drink. Otherwise, on port days, you’ll need to get your drinks in at breakfast, dinner and late-night bar-hopping.
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Based on the starting price of drinks on board, you can get your money’s worth by drinking roughly six cocktails, eight glasses of wine or 10 beers each day — and that doesn’t include the water bottles, specialty coffees or sodas you’d surely order, too.
Most people mix it up, but you can do the math to see how your likely drink orders will stack up. Here are the starting prices for drinks on board, according to Carnival:
- Beer: starting at $6.50 (mostly 16 ounces)
- Wine by the glass: starting at $9.50
- Mixed drinks: $7.50 to $20
- Specialty cocktails: starting at $10.50 (excluding souvenir glassware and premium selections)
- Soft drinks: $2.75
- Specialty coffee: $2.50 to $4.25
- Energy drinks: $4.95
- Water (San Benedetto bottled water and coconut water): $1.50 to $5
In other words, you’ll save money if you and the other adults in your cabin plan to drink your fair share of alcoholic beverages every day. If you’re a moderate drinker — who’d order three or four alcoholic drinks and a handful of nonalcoholic beverages in a day — or if you drink but your cabinmate doesn’t, it’s probably not worth getting the beverage package.
Even if you’re a caffeine fiend who drinks coffee and soda all day, it’s hard to recoup the costs of the Carnival Cheers package on nonalcoholic beverages alone.
If you’re under 21 or don’t drink alcohol, you might want to consider the Bottomless Bubbles package for soft drinks. Carnival’s all-inclusive soda program covers all soft drinks and juices and costs $6.95 per day for children and $9.50 per day for adults (plus the 18% service charge). It doesn’t include other nonalcoholic beverages, such as bottled water and specialty coffee; drinks ordered through room service and the minibar also are not included.
There’s another way to think about the value of the Cheers package. Some people are looking for the unquantifiable peace of mind that comes with not worrying about drink costs adding up at every turn. If that’s you, creating a more all-inclusive experience on board might justify the cost of the package, even if you don’t break even with drink prices.
What are other ways to get free or cheap drinks on Carnival?
If you’ve decided the Carnival Cheers package isn’t worth the cost, you might still want some tips on scoring free or cheaper drinks during your cruise. Here are our top tips for drinking for less on a Carnival cruise ship.
- Hit the casino. You can get free drinks if you spend enough time playing in the casino. Once you earn enough casino points in Carnival’s players club, you can order cocktails, beer, wine and even sodas for free while you’re gaming.
- Dine in a specialty restaurant on night one. You can get a free or half-price bottle of wine at some of Carnival’s signature restaurants if you make a reservation for the first night. The cruise line offers one bottle of complimentary house wine per two guests at any onboard steakhouse, Rudi’s Seagrill, Il Viaggio, JiJi Asian Kitchen and Cucina del Capitano (except Cucina on Excel-class ships). On both the first and second nights, guests can also receive a 50% discount on wines listed under $100 at all steakhouses, Rudi’s Seagrill and Il Viaggio.
- Head to an art auction. Even if you don’t consider yourself an art collector, you can walk away from Carnival’s art auctions with something else: free Champagne. Check the schedule of onboard activities to find out when the auctions are taking place during your sailing and sip on complimentary bubbly while you watch art aficionados bid on the gallery’s artworks. (Drink responsibly, though, so you don’t end up bidding on art you never meant to purchase and bring home.)
- Use a coffee punch card. Another place where Carnival rewards passengers with free drinks is the JavaBlue coffee shop. Grab a punch card on your first day, and once you’ve ordered six specialty coffees or milkshakes, you get one free. As someone who’s sailed Carnival often with family members who have coffee running through their veins 24/7, we’ve found these coffee punch cards to be a nice bonus. Just remember to present the card for a punch with every order, and you can get through six punches pretty quickly if you’re ordering multiple coffees or shakes as a group.
Related: How to get free or cheap drinks on a cruise
There are also a few ways to bring your own drinks on board Carnival for free. Every guest age 21 or over is allowed to bring one 750-milliliter bottle of wine or Champagne in their carry-on on embarkation day. There’s a corkage fee of $15 per bottle if you drink it in the main dining room, specialty restaurants or bars, which is why we like to bring Champagne and pop open the bottle in our room for sail away. (Just don’t forget to pack a corkscrew!)
Don’t think you can get away with buying duty-free alcohol on the ship or at a port and drinking it on board, though. The ship will hold any duty-free purchases for you until disembarkation day.
Related: Can I bring alcohol on a cruise ship? A line-by-line guide
You can also bring up to a 12-pack of nonalcoholic beverages in 12-ounce cans or cartons. Acceptable beverages include soda, sparkling water, energy drinks, juice and milk.
Bottled waters and soft drinks cannot be brought on board, but you can preorder water bottles to your room through the Carnival website and have them delivered to your stateroom on embarkation day. A 12-pack of standard water bottles (16.9 ounces) costs $9.95 plus an 18% delivery fee, an eight-pack of large 1.5-liter bottled water costs $20 plus the delivery fee and single 1.5-liter water bottles cost $3.95 each plus delivery.
If you and your cabinmates (this is key) are ready to drink it up on your Carnival cruise — and our bet is you are if you’re reading this story — the Carnival Cheers drink package could save you money by capping your daily beverage spend at $64.95 per person, per day (plus gratuity). Use Carnival’s average drink prices listed above to calculate your expected cost of drinks each day and see if it would come out to more than the price of the package.
But if you’re more of a moderate drinker who can’t see yourself partaking in more than five alcoholic drinks per day (or if your cabinmate won’t be drinking), skip the drink package on your next sailing and consider other ways to save instead, like bringing your own wine bottles or soft drinks on board and taking advantage of free drinks wherever Carnival offers them.
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