All-inclusive drinks packages are becoming increasingly popular onboard ships as cruisers look to keep tabs on their spending. But, are these packages value for money and good for cruising?

We now live in a society where responsible drinking is encouraged and getting legless on holiday is seen as crass, inappropriate behaviour. But will an endless supply of booze take us back to the Costa de Sol of the 90s, or will it mean people can enjoy their cocktails and cold beers in a more relaxed way?

Drinks Packages

Drinks packages on cruise ships are not a new thing — Thomson have been offering all-inclusive upgrades for years and sister line, Island Cruises, are going all-inclusive full stop come 2013. Most major cruise lines have offered soft drinks packages in the past, usually consisting of one price for a cruise worth of soda, fruit juice and mocktails. In general these deals aren't often abused and even if they are, the sugar wears off eventually. So, could the adult-only drinks deals offer a sensible, good value way to enjoy your cruise onboard?

At a glance the all-inclusive options range from ship-wide, to cabin. The per cabin deals usually stipulate everyone staying in the cabin has to purchase the package, and sometimes everyone in the party— this is to stop people trying to buy it once and then get drinks for several people, which is smart. The prices vary too, from £24 per person per day for wine and beer with your meals, to $71 pppd for unlimited premium drinks by the glass.

Value For Money?

Value for money really comes down to how much you would normally spend onboard, what you usually drink and how much you value not having to second guess your bar bill at the end of the cruise. Some people will happily enjoy a couple of glasses of wine during lunch, a cold beer by the pool, a couple more glasses of wine during dinner and a cocktail in the evening, and they will gain exceptional value for money.

The route Fred. Olsen has taken is to offer a selection of all-inclusive cruises, where house wine, beers and spirits are included. This is similar to Island Cruises, who will offer the same on all their cruises circa April '13. With the cruise fares not rising by huge costs, this amounts to great value as your only worries onboard are the shops, shore excursions and luxury drink items.

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Oceania and MSC Cruises have all gone down the route of offering cruise packages. MSC are the only cruise line offering the dinner only package, which is $24 pppd. The main packages include house wines, beers, house cocktails and spirits on an unlimited basis. So if you like a drink at $40-$50 pppd, these are good value, as five cocktails in a day can set you back nearly $50 and you are on holiday after all.

There are also a few premium packages, which don't include wine by the bottle, but do include more premium wines by the glass as well as premium spirits and cocktails, these usually give you 25% off decent bottle of wine or fizz. So if you prefer the finer things in life — in moderation of course — but don't want to scrutinize your bill at the end of the cruise, the $70-odd pppd, actually works out good value too — premium cocktails, such as a decent Martini, can cost your $15 a go onboard some ships.

Personally I think these packages are a good idea, and the next cruise I am on offering them, I will most likely be taking advantage. These deals aren't designed for people looking to "drink their money's worth", they are designed to help you kick back and relax on your cruise and are priced to reflect the quality of drinks you can enjoy, as opposed to the quantity.

Cruise lines are trying to appeal to the variety of audiences they have onboard these days, and during a time of supposed austerity, paying one price for a week's worth of drinks on your cruise is going to appeal to the mass markets. Well done to the cruise lines for recognising it, but fingers crossed the old Costa del Sol crew will stick to their cheap hotels, Linekar bars and Spanish beaches.

Here's a selection of 2013 all inclusive cruises, just in case they take your fancy.