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All-You-Can-Drink Alcohol Packages, A Popular Cruise Option

Cruise line all-you-can-drink options are proving to be a popular option. It's not that cruise lines want to encourage binge drinking or sloppy drunkenness at sea. Quite the contrary, cruise lines have worked hard for years to shake the "party cruise," "nothing but a bunch of drunks" characterizations that give families pause when considering a cruise vacation for the first time. It's all about convenience and now, Norwegian Cruise Line is the latest to try out the increasingly popular system.

Norwegian is testing an unlimited beverage package on just three ships, Norwegian Sun, Norwegian Gem and Norwegian Jade for $49 per person per day. Included are alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Obviously, heavy drinkers would come out ahead but in the end, it appears that cruise lines will be the big winners. Apparently, cruise travelers drink heavily at the beginning of the sailing, tapering off as the voyage continues.

Those who simply don't want to have to pay every time they have a beverage will enjoy the convenience but not everyone is happy about the program, now on a number of cruise lines.

"As we have argued in prior articles, we have found that there is a direct correlation between excess booze and passengers going overboard," says maritime attorney James Walker on his blog Cruise Law News, adding that there is also a risk of "sexual assault, and brawls between passengers, plus drunken passengers doing insanely dangerous and stupid stunts."
Royal Caribbean International has offered the all-you-can-drink program on Independence of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas and Legend of the Seas since 2011. The Royal Caribbean program features three levels of packages – Beer, Classic and Premium – that range from $29 per person per day to $49 per person per day including gratuities.

Sister cruise line Celebrity Cruises has had a variety of packages on all their ships since 2009, boasting a wide variety of beverage choices, including cocktails, premium coffees, wine by the glass, endless refills of sodas and unlimited bottled water. On their website, Celebrity says of the program: "Our beverage packages allow you the freedom to try something new or stick with your tried-and-true favorites."

Carnival Cruise Line started testing their version in August. Those enrolled in the My Awesome Bar Program pay $42.95 plus $6.44 gratuity and can be used to order any alcoholic drinks $10 and under.

All the programs have similar restrictions that are closely monitored. Passengers must buy the program for the entire sailing (not available on a daily basis), everyone 21 and older in a stateroom must buy it and users can order one beverage at a time (to avoid sharing) and the program is non-refundable.

Oceania and UK-based Thomson Cruises also offer some version of an all-you-can-drink package.

So, about $50 per person per day, right? What would one have to drink to come out ahead? At $6 to $9 each for a bottle of beer, specialty cocktail or glass of wine, not all that much. Throw in a coffee drink or a few bottles of water and you're there.

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