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I’ve just received an email from P&O announcing their new drinks packages. I know there has a lot of interest in this topic in recent years, and indeed there was a trial on Azura (?) last year, and now P&O have decided to launch these packages from later this year.

There will be four packages: one each for non-alcoholic drinks (“mocktails, mochas & more”) at £19.95 per day per person, one for hot drinks at £10.95 per person per day, one for children’s drinks at £7.95 per child per day, and of course the one that’s the most interesting, the “Ultimate Drinks” package, for £39.95 per person per day.

As usual with these packages, there are some T&Cs. The first one is that for the Ultimate Package, the non-alcoholic package and the hot drinks package, all adults in the same cabin are required to purchase the same drinks package. So no sharing a single package between a couple…. The packages will only be available on cruises of five nights or more, can be purchased on the first two days of the cruise, and must be purchased for every night of a cruise.

With regard to the Ultimate Drinks package, there are a few other restrictions:

  • the package “includes up to 15 alcoholic drinks per day…”;
  • “….up to a value of £6.95 per drink”;
  • if you want a drink priced above £6.95, then you’ll get a 20% reduction;
  • “…staff may refuse service if a guest appears to be inebriated”.

It’s also worth saying that if the adults in a cabin have bought the Ultimate Drinks package, then any children with them get the children’s drinks package without charge. And finally, you would get your Peninsula discount as well. The actual cost might go down to £36 or so for those on high tiers, or between that figure and say £38 for those on middle tiers.

Here’s my take – it’s not for me, for several reasons. First, there’s the question of value for money. Rounding up the figures, you’ve got to be drinking 6 drinks a day costing £7 each in order to have spent your £40 (6 x £7=£42). OK, some people will manage more than 6 drinks, and if you do so then you’re saving money – if you have 10 drinks at that amount then you’ve £30 or so. On the other hand your drink of choice might not be as much as £6.95 in which case you’ve got to drink more than 6 drinks just to break even.

Which brings me onto the second point: health. Even at six drinks a day, that’s a lot of alcohol, day in day out. On a fourteen night cruise that would be at least 84 drinks (I’m still using the 6 drinks a day figure, and 6 x 14 = 84.) Let’s say a drink is 1.5 units – that’s 126 units of alcohol (84 x 1.5) over the cruise, which is a serious amount. The NHS guidelines suggest that regular drinkers are safest “….not drinking more than 14 units per week”, but this would be a whopping 60+ units per week. (Here’s a link to the guidance.)

My third point would be that I don’t always want to buy ‘a drink’. My wife and I might want to buy a bottle of good wine with a meal, which would amount to 2 or 3 drinks each (depending on whether you regard a medium glass of wine or a large glass as “a drink”). But because we’ll have bought a bottle it’ll be outside the package limits – it’ll cost more than £6.95. And, yes, we could buy our wine by the glass, but the range of wines by the glass is much more limited than the range of bottles and we enjoy exploring the list.

And finally (and partly linked to my second point), I don’t drink regularly. I may, over a longer cruise, have a couple of sober days (again, the NHS guidelines recommend having non-drinking days). Or, particularly in the case of a cruise to the Med, we’ll go ashore in the morning, do our own thing, and finish off with a lunch and drinks ashore, after which we may not want to drink again that day. Val & I still remember (vividly and fondly) a lunch we had in the Le Suquet district at the top of Cannes which included wine. We could happily have stayed there all day, except that we had booked an excursion for the afternoon. That taught us….

You’re probably thinking I’m a kill-joy. Well, I don’t mean to be, but I have always thought that these drinks packages were fraught with perils. And not just for the reasons above – I can’t wait to hear the horror stories about people getting caught out trying to ‘game’ the package, or the reactions when a crew member refuses service “because the guest appears to be inebriated”. It will all end in tears….

But never mind! Buying the package isn’t compulsory. Over a 14 night cruise it’ll cost a bit less than £560 per person, so over £1000 for a couple which is a serious amount to put on your account right at the outset. And I shall enjoy counting the number of passengers I see exhibiting signs of delirium tremens in the later stages of our 18 night cruise in 2020!

What do my readers think? – I’d very much welcome comments on this.

The packages will be available from the following dates, ship by ship:

  • Arcadia – 5 May;
  • Aurora – 8 April;
  • Azura – 26 March;
  • Britannia – 7 April;
  • Oceana – 18 April;
  • Ventura – 23 April.


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