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aug 19

Would you prepay for an unlimited drinks package on a cruise?

Celebrity Equinox (Celebrity Cruises)

When you go on a typical cruise ship you pay a standard fare that includes your accommodations, meals and entertainment, but not extras like soda and booze.

Cruise lines have wrestled with the concept of allowing passengers to prepay for more, including drinks. The goal is to eliminate the sticker shock some travelers get at the end of the cruise when they get the bill.

Nearly every line now has a soda package providing unlimited soda from about $42 for adults/$28 for kids (though prices vary by line) for a weeklong sailing.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which includes Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, has taken a lead in expanding the prepaid concept to alcoholic beverages.

RCCL Chairman Richard Fain tells Budget Travel the packaging has been "hugely successful."

"It's very dramatic how much people like buying the drinks package, for example, and not have to worry about that," Fain says. The idea, he adds, is to give the passenger "a more customized all-inclusive experience."

On Celebrity, up to four days before your trip, you can pay for an unlimited drinks plan such as the Classic Package, from $308 per person for a weeklong cruise. A package that includes premium brands adds another $70. Your savings depends on how much you drink.

On both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships you can pre-book wine packages. On Celebrity, these start at $99 for three bottles you choose from a set menu, for a 5 percent savings off regular rates. Competitor Carnival sells wine packages too, but you have to purchase them onboard.

Celebrity has also done programs in Alaska and Europe where you prepay for shore excursions at every port or book a package combining wine and nights at an alternative restaurant (shipboard venues that charge a fee), both for a savings.

Fain hints there's more packaging to come.

Would you prefer to pay upfront for cruise costs including booze?

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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