Celebrity Cruises has taken the ultimate step to close the gap between cruises and all-inclusive resorts: It is now selling unlimited alcohol packages. Cruisers can pay one price and start ordering without fear of that gut-wrenching bill on the final morning.
According to TravelMole, Celebrity’s unlimited beer package starts at $34.50 per night, the classic liquor package at $51.50 per night (serves middle-shelf liquors such as Johnnie Walker Red and Absolut Vodka, and the premium liquor package starts at $76 per night for top-shelf spirits like Johnnie Walker Black Label and Grey Goose vodka. Finally, a frozen drink package — think piña coladas, daiquiris, and margaritas — starts from $22 per night.
Until Celebrity begins implementing this option at the end of December, it’s difficult to judge the effect an open bar option will have on passenger behaviors. After all, to this point, soda and wine packages have been the only unlimited drink packages on the table. However, one of the unintended consequences could be a drop in customer service.
When Carnival held the naming ceremony party for its Dream ship on November 11, the overnight gala for travel agents, investors and other VIPs involved an unlimited alcohol policy. No, we didn’t see gangs of drunken friends in the dance clubs or folks crawling to their rooms, most likely because they couldn’t get that much alcohol in the first place. For example, my guest and I took a seat in the theater more than 30 minutes before the show intending to relax and order a couple of Cokes before the curtain rose. The waitress took orders in the first row, disappeared for 15 minutes, and returned with her tray loaded down with daiquiris, margarities, whiskey sours, rum and Coke, etc. She tried to repeat the trip for row 2, and barely made it back before the show started.
Obviously, our Row 10 was toast.
So we headed to a bar area after, only to find a huge swarm of folks waiting to place their orders with the bartender (which explains why the cocktail waitress in the theater couldn’t return in a timely manner — she couldn’t get the tray filled with any speed). I personally wasn’t jonesing for caffeine that badly, but my friend decided to stick it out. After she made it to the front of the bar line, 20 minutes went by before someone finally grabbed the hose and squirted some Diet Coke in her glass.
And this after she lost her temper and asked, “Am I invisible here?” All told, it was nearly an hour’s investment for that “premium” drink.
Certainly Carnival was not slacking off on its service standards, but the sheer volume of passengers packed onto a cruise ship presents traffic and work flow challenges in an all-you-can-drink scenario. Let’s hope Celebrity’s pricing structure is high enough to prevent this newest offering from becoming a detriment to this vacation choice.
Photography: brosner (Flickr)