We enjoy a cocktail or two on holiday, so prior to the introduction of the Ultimate drinks package in 2019, we'd always been keen for P&O to improve their drinks package offerings. We'd cruised on other cruise lines, that had packages available, and liked the idea of knowing how much our bar bill was going to cost us up front. P&O have three packages available, The Ultimate, which is £39.95 per person per day, a soft drinks package which is £19.95 pp per day and the kids package (also available for adults depending on who you ask!) at £7.95 pp per day. We're going to be talking about the ultimate drinks package in this blog post as that's the one that we use, so is it worth the money?
You'll read lots of people suggesting that you need to have an alcohol problem to be able to drink enough to justify the cost of the Ultimate drinks package. However, when you take into account soft drinks and Costa coffees, we find it easy enough to get our moneys worth without ending up with a hangover every day. It’s also worth noting that if you’re travelling with children, when the adults buy the ultimate package, the children will get the kids package for free which makes it good value for families.
The big caveat for us, is that now that the individual drinks prices have gone up, there is an awful lot not included in the package. P&O state "nearly every drink we serve is included" on their website but that is simply not true anymore. There are lots of exclusions, you can’t have bottled or canned soft drinks, anything that costs more than £6.95 or any large sized drinks or doubles regardless of cost. This means that in Emerald bar on Iona there are no cocktails that are included in the package, and most bars and restaurants across the fleet now only have one or two cocktails that cost less than the £6.95 limit. We can find ourselves drinking the same one or two drinks over and over, whereas originally we were able to enjoy a wide range within the package. You will get a 20% discount on anything not included in the package, we used that offer to try some of the fun cocktails in Emerald bar on our staycation cruise.
Full disclosure here, despite our moans, we choose the drinks package more often than not. On both of our Iona cruises last year and our Ventura cruise in April we indulged and enjoyed using it, and we intend to purchase it for our upcoming Iona cruise. We tend to make the decision based on itinerary, for example, for 2021’s summer 'Seacations' it was a no brainier! We also think we’ll make the most of it on our 7 night fjords cruise but for a longer cruise we’d think twice. It might get a bit boring rotating the same few drinks over 2 weeks or longer, and we'd be more inclined to have a few quieter nights.
So do we think it’s worth it? Most of the time it is for us, but it definitely won’t be for everyone. If you're considering it, it's worth having a look at some current onboard prices, and checking if your favourite drinks are within the price limit. One of our favourites, Aperol Spritz, isn't included at the moment and we'd be disappointed if we bought the package without knowing that. We also look at the cost for the whole cruise, rather than thinking about it per day, as you might have some days where you don’t hit the daily amount but still find you get value for money over the duration of the cruise.