We are currently on a 5-year trip around the world while trying to maintain a tight budget. And although we have a consistent record of scoring unbelievably affordable repositioning cruises for under $50 per day (here’s how to get a cheap repositioning cruise), we hate how those cruise drinks we enjoy so much have a tendency to cost so much! So we found some creative ways to not only get cheap drinks on a cruise, but also to get cruise drinks for free! And these methods have all worked incredibly well during the past 10+ cruises we’ve now sailed.
We’ve even been on two cruises in which all of our alcoholic beverages have been included for free! (See tip #6.) Here we now divulge all of our secrets on how to score free drinks on a cruise!
1) Captain’s Toast = Free Drinks
If you notice any event in the daily itinerary titled something like “Captain’s Toast” or “Captain’s Reception,” this always means there will be servers running around with trays full of complimentary cocktails, wine, and/or champagne. Don’t miss it! For longer soirées you may even be able to snag several gratis beverages. So hang out, find a nice cozy spot where the drink servers are coming out of, and then cheers to the captain with that Greek name you can’t pronounce.
2) Play to Win Free Alcohol on a Cruise
There are always a number of contests and competitions held on board cruise ships. You’ll find anything from karaoke to the newlywed game to craft competitions. Smaller activities like daily trivia may only reward winners with a trinket like a keychain. But the larger game-show style events dole out much better prizes, such as bottles of champagne!
The Newlywed (AKA, Love & Marriage) gameshow always rewards participants a free bottle of bubbly. This game is played across every cruise we’ve been on and even the losers have been rewarded with champagne. Really, they’re rewarding participants for embarrassing themselves on stage. And what better reward than a bottle of bubbly!
Participate, bring your A-game, and you just might get rewarded with oh-so-precious free booze! Once you’re gifted the bottle from the cruise, you’re welcome to drink it anywhere on the ship without a corkage fee. We’ve won a few times and have brought our free bottles, both into the main dining room and to drink poolside.
3) Be Loyal
If you’ve come back on the same cruise line for a second cruise, you may be rewarded for your loyalty with a bottle of champagne, a few drink tickets, and perhaps a cocktail party. Cruise a few more times on that same cruise line and you may find complimentary happy hours every single night!
Cruise lines are quite fond of treating their loyal patrons with booze. Even if you’ve only cruised once prior with the ship, there is usually a loyalty party event that includes complimentary drinks. So if this is your second or greater instance of cruising with the same cruise line, then be sure to check what alcohol perks you may be entitled to.
4) Make Friends with Benefits
Perhaps you still have a ways to go before you can reap the rewards of elite loyalty status. But that doesn’t mean fellow loyalty members won’t share the wealth. Not everyone onboard the cruise may be as big of a drinker as you are. Some high-ranking loyalty members may not drink at all. These folks may have leftover drink tickets they’re just going to let go to waste. Such drink tickets are of no value to those who don’t drink, so they are often happy to give them away to anyone who can use them.
People that have unused drink tickets should be your new best friends! Note: while sometimes these drink tickets are technically non-transferable, this tends to be widely unenforced on most cruise line we’ve sailed on.
5) Could It Be? Liquor Tastings That Are Free
Most all cruises have a duty free liquor store. On at least one night (often multiple nights), the liquor store will sample some of their best liquors as a way to entice you to buy a bottle while on board. Usually, these free liquor tastings tend to occur earlier on a cruise’s itinerary, such as the first or second night. Check the daily guide for times, then stroll on by for your free shot (err, I mean a sample of liquor).
6) Take Advantage of Promotions Offering Free Beverage Packages
When booking a cruise, watch out for promotions that include generous onboard credits that you can apply directly to your bar tab.
Yet even better, certain lines such as Celebrity and Norwegian, periodically run promotions that will include an unlimited beverage package. If they’re running an offer like that on your next sailing, take them up on this great deal and treat yourself to the ultimate booze cruise!
In 2015 we booked a Norwegian Cruise that included a free beverage package and this gave us unlimited open-bar for free during the entire two-week sailing. It was awesome. In 2016 we took a transatlantic cruise on the Pullmantur Monarch which automatically includes a beverage package as a standard offering. Similarly, I’ve voyaged on the Norwegian Sky, which is NCL’s only all-inclusive ship, that includes an unlimited drink package for all passengers on the ship! It’s really one big party at sea!
You should know that most of the “free beverage packages” that are offered, you still must pay an extra gratuity charge for the bar service, so technically those may not be entirely free. So when offered a free drink package, you may still have to the gratuities which vary by cruise line and range from $8-$16 dollars per day. Even if paying $16 per day, that’s a heck of a deal for all-you-can-drink top shelf alcohol.
But although that’s not free, other all-inclusive ships it is truly free. For example, our Pullmantur Monarch sailing did not charge an extra gratuity for its included beverage package. Furthermore, the Norwegian Sky, also includes its beverage package without passengers having to pay any extra gratuities. For these ships, all the booze you can handle really is free, included in the cost of the cruise itself. It’s a beautiful thing.
7) Free Champagne at the Art Auction
If you’d like to sip on a complimentary glass of champagne, then head on over to the art gallery. Nearly all ships will have multiple art auctions during the cruise, which usually extends a free glass of sparkling wine. You’re not required to bid. So just sit back, learn something about the art, and watch others fight for those limited release prints.
It can be an entertaining experience. But if you get bored, there’s no shame in making a quiet exit. So perhaps be sure to pick an aisle seat in case you do want to leave early.
8) Take the Night Off
Ok, we know this sounds lame. But if you’re on a cruise for a week or longer, it may not be an awful idea to give your poor liver a break one evening. Use this night off to explore some complimentary non-alcoholic beverages. We found that an after dinner mint tea pairs quite nicely with decadent chocolate desserts. Also, we love sipping on some chamomile tea before bedtime.
There’s a whole world of complimentary non-alcoholic drinks often available with dessert and at cafes found around many ships. So take a night off from the booze to enjoy some non-alcoholic libations for free.
While these are some of the best ways to drink for free on a cruise, we have detailed so many more ways to drink very inexpensively on a cruise! So be sure to also check out our post on Best 10 Tips for Cheap Drinks on a Cruise!
Also, be sure to check out all of our favorite cruise tips in our latest article about cruising: Top 50 Cruise Hacks to Save You Money, Wifi, Hassle, and Weight Gain.