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Northwest Traveler

Travel news, consumer advice and trip reports for the Northwest and beyond.

May 17, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Alaska cruise: You’re on vacation, is alcohol on your mind?

You’re on vacation. You’re ready to let down your hair, kick up your heels, even do the funky chicken if the spirit moves you. The cruise ship’s alcohol policy matters to you.

A Mucho Mango will cost you $7.95, plus extra for tip and the souvenir glass if you want it. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

A Mucho Mango will cost you $7.95, plus extra for tip and the souvenir glass if you want it. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

On my Princess cruise to Alaska, while food of all types is included in the cruise ticket, alcoholic beverages (as well as soda pop and specialty coffee drinks) are extra. Here’s a quick look at the policies and costs on board the Star Princess if you choose to indulge in the nectar of the grape, ho-ho juice from hops, gin from juniper berries or any other alcoholic beverage:

  • Did you plan to save on bar costs by bringing along a case of microbrews? Out of luck. Each voyage, adults of legal drinking age may each bring aboard one bottle of wine (regular or sparkling) no larger than 750 ml, the size of an average wine bottle. No liquor or beer. Each time you board the boat, including ports along the way, your luggage and/or carry-ons will be put through a scanner as it is at airports, and they do look for bottles. (I brought a bottle of wine in my suitcase and they sent me over to a special table where they made a note of it.)
  • You can bring more wine bottles aboard, but you’ll be charged a $15 corkage fee — even if you plan to consume it in the privacy of your own cabin.
  • Cocktails on board the ship are typically $7.95, including everything from a mojito to a martini. An Alaskan Amber craft beer will knock you back $4.95. In the Amalfi dining room, a glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc is $7.95 per glass, while the bottle charge is $32 ($36.80 with the gratuity I’m about to tell you about), for a bottle you could purchase at Fred Meyer for about a third of that.
  • A 15 percent gratuity will be added automatically to all bar charges – and to any beverage that isn’t free.
  • You need no cash. Anytime you order a drink at a bar or restaurant, or a waiter passes by the pool, hand over your “Cruise Card,” a card you’ll be issued on boarding that looks and acts just like a credit card. They scan it and you sign. Note there is a space for an added tip, though you’ve already been charged 15 percent; up to you whether you want to add more. It feels painless, and it can add up.
  • You’re from Starbucks Country. Just need a latte fix? When I ordered a half-caff latte, I had to explain what “half caff” meant – these waiters aren’t trained baristas. The 12-ouncer came with a decent head of foam. Wasn’t bad, but could have benefitted from a double shot. $2.50 plus 15 percent tip.
  • Note that you can buy refillable soda-pop or specialty coffee cups at the start of the week that give you a price break if you’re a heavy user.

Comments | More in Brian hates cruising, Cruises, Trip reports | Topics: Alaska cruise, alcohol on a cruise, cruising

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