Drinking on a cruise is not cheap. Drink packages can cost around $50/day, and individual cocktails are comparable to what you'd pay in a major city. We’ve documented some of the crazy schemes cruisers hatch to sneak alcohol on board, but you don’t have to resort to smuggling just because you want a few free drinks. Here are 9 (perfectly legal) ways to drink for free on your cruise:
1. Free Beverage Perks
Keep an eye out for special offers that include a free drink package. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Line
When you book your cruise, look for special offers like a free beverage package or onboard credit. For example, Norwegian’s “Free at Sea” deal offers a choice between five perks, and free open bar is at the top of the list.
2. Loyalty Pays
Cruise lines reward repeat customers with special parties. - Photo by Princess Cruises
If you sail multiple times on the same cruise line, you'll earn "status" in the line's loyalty program. Once you reach a certain tier, you'll be invited to the loyalty parties. These events usually include free drinks.
3. Book the Right Excursions
Tour of the RedFrog Brewery on Carnival Vista, the first brewery at sea. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Line
Some cruise excursions include visits to breweries or distilleries that offer free samples as part of the tour. In many Caribbean ports, you can find “booze cruise” excursions that offer an open bar during your excursion, and some all-inclusive resorts booked through Resort for a Day have open bars or generous food and beverage credits.
4. Sail on Norwegian Sky
Norwegian Sky is one of the first cruise ships to offer itineraries to Cuba. - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line
When you book a cruise aboard Norwegian Sky, your cruise fare includes unlimited open bar throughout the cruise. Sure, cruise fares tend to be a bit higher than on other ships, but it means no big bar tab at the end of your voyage.
Blackjack table on Norwegian Breakaway - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line
Booze doesn't flow as freely in a cruise ship casino as it does in Las Vegas, but if you're a frequent player or a high-roller, you may earn free drinks while you're playing on your current or a future cruise. Check with the casino host for the requirements.
6. Art Auctions
You don't actually have to buy anything at an art auction. - Photo by Carnival Cruise Line
Art auctions on cruise ships almost always offer at least one free glass of champagne to all comers. The auctioneers hope the free booze will reduce your inhibitions and make you more likely to bid, but there's no requirement you buy - you just have to show up.
7. Captain's Parties
Captain's party on Carnival - Photo by Carnival Cruise Line
Most cruise lines offer a Captain's party, usually before dinner on the first formal night. The Captain will give a short speech welcoming guests, and waiters and waitresses will circle with trays of free drinks.
8. Tasting Events
Duty-free liquor store on Norwegian Joy - Photo by Norwegian Cruise LIne
Duty-free shops on cruise ships sometimes hold events where they offer special discounts on alcohol and provide free samples. It'll be a small, thimble full of alcohol, but free is free, right?
9. Sail on a Luxury or River Line
Most luxury lines include drinks in the fare. - Photo by Seabourn
Most luxury cruise and river cruise lines include at least some free beverages. Luxury lines like Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, and Crystal include an open bar, as does upper-premium line Azamara Club Cruises. On river lines like Viking, beer and wine are included with dinner. The service and dining will be far superior on these lines, but if you’re just in it for the drinks, it's probably not worth the significantly higher cruise fare.