Interline vs free bonus offers like OBC and drink packages.

Perhaps the biggest question we get asked here at FAB for mid range cruise lines like Princess, Holland America, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean - can we get a drinks package included, or pay extra for them when we buy interline fares - or is it better to buy a retail fare that includes these as free bonus offers.

It is complicated area and a lot of mystery surrounds these questions.

Let’s clear up some of the confusion.

Almost invariably interline rates at most times of the year, especially those at the last minute (90-30 days prior) will be much much cheaper than any retail offer. The discounts are often so steep - often with savings of several thousand dollars - that no matter what free inclusions are offered to retail customers, they can never beat the low low interline rates. So in most cases, if you find a massive interline discount, you don’t even need to check if it’s cheaper to go with the interline fare. Things like Drink Packages and Gratuities can always be added to your booking online prior to your sale date, or on the first day of  each voyage.

HOWEVER there are times of the year, and now is one of them, when the cruise lines traditionally have big sales designed to lure new bookings. It has become standard practice that most operators will offer two free extras from a list of: Drink packages/Wifi/Gratuities/On Board Credits.

I’ve just done a quote on a cruise where the retail fare with the free bonus offers is cheaper than the interline rate. That doesn’t happen often and at FAB we are one of the few agencies that will take the time to alert you to this.

A lot of people will simply grab the two bonus extras they most want. This is a mistake if you want the best value for money deal. To use the example of the cruise I have just quoted, a nine day voyage - I’ve quantified the value of each bonus below.

Tips @ $15 per day (9 day voyage = $135 per person)

Wifi @ $140  per person 5-9 day voyage

OBC @ $150 per person

Drinks package @ $60 per day (9 x $60 = $540)

So as you can easily see the best combo of 2 from above is Drinks $540 + OBC $150 = $690. The worst value for money combo would be Gratuities $135 and Wifi $140 = $275 value.

You need to double that to get the value of the free bonus per cabin = $1380.

So therefore if the interline fare is less than $1380 you would go with that. If it was more you’d obviously go with the retail offer that included the bonuses. Buy doing this calculation you will instantly see which is better for you.

NOTE: you have to do the sums for each voyage as the number of nights will determine the value of the bundled savings.

NOTE: if you are not a drinker most of these retail bonus offers do not work out in your favour as the Drink Package component is always the highest value element.

NOTE: Paying for stand alone drink packages. Unless you are planning to drink in excess of over 8 drinks every single day of your cruise, which is a lot, you will likely not be saving any money. I say every single day because that is what is required to ensure you are saving money. If you have a port heavy voyage where you will likely be off the ship most days, and some evenings, the ability for you to drink 8+ drinks per day is greatly reduced. Say for example you manage to drink 8+ per day but one day you don’t drink much at all, then by my calculations a drink does not work out to be the cheapest option. And one other observation about drink packages.

It is the nature of holidays that we all tend to go hard, especially if something is considered free. I’ve done it myself on too many cruises. It so easy over indulge in many more drinks than you usually would - but hey, who cares you’re on holidays, right? Well that is absolutely true. But in my experience when you do that, invariably you have several days where you are hung over the next day and that significantly reduces your enjoyment of that day. And your willingness, let alone your ability to consume more alcohol that day. And if that is the result a big night the day prior, there goes any saving you might have made on buying a drinks package.


For explanation of how to use the table below visit our page on You can afford six star ships.