Holland America drink packages: What to know before you buy

Beverage packages aren’t for everyone, but they can be a nice way to give your cruise vacation a more luxurious, all-inclusive feel. If you’re sailing Holland America, drink packages are available as optional add-ons to your cruise fare. Choose from four different packages, ranging from a simple soda package to an option that includes premium alcoholic beverages.

Sorting out the differences between the packages and understanding what you are actually paying for can be confusing. Most cruisers want to know what exactly they’re getting with each drink package and whether or not the packages will save them money.

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If you’re considering a Holland America drink package for your next cruise, here’s everything you need to know before making your purchase.

What’s included in Holland America drink packages?

GEORGE BURNS/HOLLAND AMERICA LINE/FACEBOOK

Holland America alcohol packages aren’t the only drink packages available. The line offers two nonalcoholic packages and two options with alcoholic beverages.

All packages allow you to order beverages at most bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and poolside. Exceptions include self-serve draft beer where available and drinks in the Chocolate Seduction and Honor Bar. Packages do not include drinks consumed from in-cabin minibars, ordered from room service or purchased on Half Moon Cay. All packages except the Coca-Cola package have quantity limits.

Related: Cruise ship drink packages: A line-by-line guide

Coca-Cola package

Sodas are not included in your cruise fare, and passengers may not bring them on board. That leaves soda drinkers with the choice to buy a beverage package, pay per drink or get their soft drink fix in ports of call.

The Coca-Cola package covers fountain drinks from bars and bar servers on all ships in the fleet. Three ships — Koningsdam, Rotterdam and Nieuw Statendam — have Coca-Cola Freestyle fountain machines that allow you to mix and match your flavors at will. Canned soft drinks are not included in the package, but fountain drinks are unlimited.

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You might consider this package if you’re the person who relies on soft drinks to quench your thirst throughout the day and drink few, if any, cocktails, mocktails, beer, wine or spirits. It works great for tweens and teens who regularly drink soda.

Quench package

The Quench package includes unlimited fountain soft drinks and up to 15 specialty coffees, bottled water (still and sparkling), fresh juices or mocktails per day.

With this package, you can order your favorite coffee each morning at Explorations Café, drink sodas with your lunch, chill with a frozen mocktail by the pool in the afternoon and grab bottled water before you head out on a day of exploring in port— all without worrying about the individual cost.

Quench would be the Holland America drink package for someone who dives into the vacation spirit with beverage treats throughout the day and evening, but mostly enjoys them sans alcohol.

Signature beverage package

The Signature beverage package is the mainstay Holland America alcohol package. It covers beer, wine, spirits and cocktails priced under $11, plus everything from the Quench package. There is a 15-drink limit, whether alcoholic or non, not counting fountain soft drinks.

You can order a drink with a price higher than the $11 maximum and will be charged only the price difference plus gratuity.

The Signature package satisfies the beverage needs of most cruisers. Unless you prefer top-shelf liquor, you’ll be fine with this package. Even the quantity limit of 15 drinks takes care of the average cruiser. If you party into the wee hours of the night, you’d have to order a drink from the package every hour and a half almost around the clock to use all 15.

All adults of legal drinking age within a cabin must buy the same alcoholic drink package. If one person does not drink, they can be granted special permission to buy only the Quench package.

Related: The best drinks to order with a cruise ship beverage package

Elite beverage package

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE/FACEBOOK

For those who want to eliminate some of the limits on their drink package, Elite is the way to go. This package includes everything from the earlier packages but raises the price limit to $15 per drink. That covers premium beer, wine and spirits.

The daily limit is also removed for nonalcoholic drinks. That means you can drink all the fountain drinks, specialty coffee, bottled water and mocktails you want without touching your 15-drink limit on alcoholic beverages, which for most cruisers, means you’re not likely to reach the limit at all.

What does a Holland America drink package cost?

Here are the standard Holland America drink package prices:

Coca-Cola package: $9.44 per person, per day ($8 plus an 18% gratuity) for unlimited fountain sodas, including from Freestyle machines on select ships

Quench package: $21.18 per person, per day ($17.95 plus an 18% gratuity) for unlimited fountain sodas and up to 15 nonalcoholic drinks per day

Signature beverage package: $64.84 per person, per day ($54.95 plus an 18% gratuity) for unlimited fountain sodas and up to 15 alcoholic or nonalcoholic drinks up to $11 each

Elite beverage package: $70.74 per person, per day ($59.95 plus an 18% gratuity) for unlimited fountain sodas, unlimited nonalcoholic beverages and up to 15 alcoholic drinks up to $15 each

I was hard-pressed to find any discounts off the advertised Holland America drink package prices. Even in the midst of Black Friday sales, the only beverage-related discount I found was for the line’s Have It All package that upgrades your cruise fare to a more inclusive experience by bundling the Signature beverage package with Wi-Fi, specialty dining and shore excursion credit (with the last two based on the length of the cruise).

It should be noted, however, that the Holland America website states drink package pricing as “starting at.” That would imply that the prices could increase from time to time, though I could not find anyone who said they had paid more than the posted prices.

Related: The best cruise ship bars

Drink discounts beyond the drink packages

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE/FACEBOOK

Before you settle on a drink package, know that it’s not your only option for discounted alcohol or inclusive pricing. Holland America offers some add-on items that can be used to supplement or entirely replace a drink package under certain circumstances.

The first is an option to purchase a bundle of wines by the bottle called The Sommelier Suite. You can choose from three different wine lists at three different price points. You can then opt to buy four, six or eight bottles from your preferred list.

Prices start at $119 for a four-bottle package on the lowest-priced list and go as high as $329 for eight bottles on the highest-priced list. These prices are advertised as “up to 25 percent off” the menu price before the 18% gratuity.

Frequent cruisers who are members of Holland America’s Mariner Society are offered a 25% discount on the Sommelier Suite packages after 75 cruise days and 50% off after 200 cruise days. Even without the Mariner discounts, the package price makes sense for anyone who enjoys wine on multiple nights of their cruise. You can drink the bottles in any restaurant, share them with friends and even take them to your cabin.

Related: How to get free or cheap drinks on a cruise

The final alternative to beverage packages on Holland America is to purchase pay-as-you-go drink cards. These are not discounted but offer the ability to control drink spending or simplify drink accounting by pre-purchasing what is essentially a drink debit card. Funds left on the card at the end of the cruise are refundable to your onboard account.

Holland America cruisers I found on social media report buying the drink cards with cruise line gift cards bought at a 10% discount at some grocery stores and websites, essentially gaining a 10% discount on the drinks they purchase with the drink card. (By the same token, you could use the discounted gift cards to buy your standard drink package, as well.)

You can also purchase gift cards with credit cards, such as the American Express® Gold Card, that give you extra points per dollar spent at grocery stores to get additional value from your purchase.

Is a drink package worth it on your Holland America cruise?

JOHN HALPERN/HOLLAND AMERICA LINE/FACEBOOK

Now that you have the facts, it’s time to decide if the packages are worth the price. Remember that free drinks on board include drip coffee, hot and iced tea, water, lemonade, milk and punch, available at meals and drink stations. The ship’s water is drinkable, and you can bring a refillable water bottle, which is particularly useful on port excursions.

Coca-Cola package

Fountain soft drinks ordered from a bar are cheap on Holland America at $2.50 (plus tip) each, but that’s for a small glass. Serious soda drinkers (me included) could suck down a couple of these in a flash on a hot day in the Caribbean.

Since Holland America does not allow even canned soft drinks to be brought on board at embarkation, this package price seems easy to match for those who regularly drink one or more large sodas at home, especially when cruising in a warm destination. On the three ships offering Freestyle machines, the purchase is definitely a no-brainer.

Related: Are cruise line drink packages worth the price? What to know before you buy

Quench package

This is my favorite package for making me feel like I’m really on a cruise vacation. I’m a lightweight drinker when it comes to alcoholic drinks, but I can slurp frozen mocktails (which average around $8 each) all day long on a sea day.

Since the package also includes unlimited soft drinks, you can have soda with your hamburger at lunch, followed by a virgin mudslide for dessert if that’s what makes you happy. Add in the bottled water, which is the only part of any drink package you can take with you to Half Moon Cay, and it all starts to look quite convenient.

If you drink one specialty coffee per day at around $4.50, two or three of the skimpy fountain sodas, and at least one mocktail per day, you’ll top the $17.95 package price without even counting the bottled water, which can be as high as $4.50 for sparkling brands.

Signature beverage package

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE

Holland America’s main alcohol package packs in quite a bit for the money, allowing you to enjoy a nice combination of nonalcoholic and alcoholic drinks. At $54.95, if you don’t drink anything but the $11 drinks allowed by the package, you’d need to drink five per day to break even.

But factor in a specialty coffee every morning, some bottled water on port days and a soda now and then, and your break-even alcoholic drink tally drops to three or four. If that looks like your typical cruise consumption, you’ll at least break even on this package.

The best way to get this package, however, might be by purchasing what Holland America calls the Have It All package, which includes not only the drink package, but Surf Wi-Fi, shore excursion credit ranging from $100 for a six- to nine-night sailing up to $300 for cruises longer than 21 nights, and at least one specialty dining night. It is not available on every cruise, but when it is, the $55 price per person, per day is an incredible bargain, essentially throwing in freebies on top of the beverage package.

Elite beverage package

This package bumps up the price by a mere $5 per day over the Signature package, so if you prefer premium alcohol in your cocktails, or if the beer and wine on the Elite list are more to your liking, you’ll cover the difference with just a handful of drinks. It’s your vacation, why not splurge a little, right?

I found cruisers on social media who said you can upgrade to the Elite package from the Signature bought within the Have It All package. They said as long as nobody in the cabin has ordered a drink on the Signature Package, it can be upgraded at embarkation at any bar.

Is a Holland America beverage package right for you?

A bartender making the Rotterdam VII cocktail at the Half Moon Bar on Holland America’s Rotterdam. ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Drink packages are a personal preference. You can certainly cruise with Holland America without one, combining drinks included in the cruise fare with a pay-as-you-drink routine for everything else. If that’s what you are most comfortable with, you can easily keep an eye on your drink expenditures using the cruise line app or checking your daily expenses on the in-room interactive TV screen.

You can also earn a discount by buying bottled wine packages or paying with discounted Holland America gift cards.

If, however, you prefer to pay for as much of your cruise experience upfront as possible and not worry about the spending once you are on board, the package that most closely matches your drinking habits will be the one that makes your cruise most enjoyable.

Drink packages allow you to pay once and forget about the price of each individual glass. Even the tipping is bundled into the purchase price for you, though you can add additional tips if you wish.

The bottom line is that Holland America drink packages, while not designed to save you a fortune, certainly allow you to enjoy beverages on your cruise in an all-inclusive fashion if that’s the vacation experience you’d prefer.

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