While cruising can be among the most relaxing vacations, there are some aspects that can also be annoying.
Particularly, it can sometimes feel like even though you’d paid for a cruise, you’re always spending more once you’re on the ship.
In fact, onboard spending is big business. In Cruzely’s analysis of onboard spending reported by cruise lines, the amount spent once on the ship for an average cruise was around 35-40% of the cruise fare.
Celebrity Cruises — the luxury brand that’s part of Royal Caribbean — has announced a new way of doing things that should make those people happy who normally get annoyed by the extra costs.
The cruise line has announced a new program called Always Included. This program is a more “all inclusive” way of sailing where your gratuities, wi-fi, and alcoholic drinks are all included already in the cruise fare.
That can potentially save you from having to spend hundreds of dollars extra once on the ship. As with most things cruising, however, there are often questions about how new policies like this one work. We’ve laid out everything you need to know about Celebrity’s Always Included program below.
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What Is Always Included?
This program is a new way of doing things from Celebrity Cruises. Under the change, all passengers now receive their gratuities, the Classic Beverage Package, and wi-fi service included automatically with their cruise fare.
There’s nothing to do or extra charges for the service. Instead, you book and you’ll get the three extras included with your cruise. In cruising, where the extra charges seem to continue to increase, having extras like tips and drinks included is a breath of fresh air.
How Much is Always Included Worth?
With this change, you get tips, a drink package, and wi-fi included in your fare instead of being an out-of-pocket expense on the ship.
Prior, the daily gratuity charge was $15.50 per person, per day for most cabins (suites were charged more). The Classic Drink Package was $70.80 per person, per day with the additional 20% gratuity included. The basic wi-fi package — Xcelerate Surf — was $15 per day, per device.
Add it all up, and the cost savings comes to $101 per person, per day. So for a couple sailing on a week cruise, this comes out about $1,400 over the course of the entire trip that they won’t be spending once on the ship.
Is This a Limited-Time Sale?
Every so often, you’ll see cruise lines offer something similar to this program as a special deal to get passengers to book. That’s what makes the Always Included program different.
This is not a sale or special deal — it’s a long-term change for the cruise line. If you sail Celebrity, you no longer have to worry about tips, drinks, or wi-fi. It’s all included.
Which Drink Package Is Included?
Celebrity offers two drink packages. There’s the Classic Beverage Package and the Premium Package. With this program, the Classic package is included with your fare.
This package covers drinks up to a menu price of $9. Normally the package costs $59 per day, plus 20% gratuity, for a total of $70.80 per person, per day. This package covers many typical liquors and cocktails, about 15 types of beer, and also soda, premium coffee, bottled water and more.
If you want more drink choices, you can upgrade to the Premium Beverage Package, which covers drinks up to $15 per serving, for an additional $12 per person, per day.
Which Internet Package Is Included?
Celebrity offers two different Internet packages: Xcelerate Surf and Xcelerate Stream. The “Surf” package allows basic web browsing for things like checking email and social media. The “Stream” package offers streaming capability, as well as things like Facetime and other video calls.
With the Always Included program, you get access to the “Surf” package for two devices per stateroom.
What About Upgrading the Offer?
Under the Always Included program, the drink package offered is the basic “Classic” package and the wi-fi offered is the basic “Surf” package.
If you want, Celebrity offers two different upgrade options for the higher-end drink package and wi-fi.
The first upgrade option is the “Elevate Package.” Booking it gives you the Premium Beverage Package (a $12 per day value), plus up to $200 per person in credit for shore excursions.
The amount of credit varies based on trip length. Cruises of five nights or fewer see $100, trips 6-9 nights get $150, and 10 nights or more get $200 per person.
Celebrity says that the cost to upgrade is $30 per person, per day. However, we’ve seen dynamic pricing that varies depending on the specific cruise (including rates as little as $16 per day).
Celebrity also offers the “Indulge Package.” Here, you pay an extra $60 per person, per day. Again, however, prices seem to vary based on the specific cruise.
The package gives you the Premium Beverage Package as well (a $12 per day value), plus the upgraded “Surf” wi-fi that allows you to stream video (a $20 value per day).
Along with the upgraded perks, there is also the onboard credit with double the amount seen with the Elevate Package (values of $150, $300, or $400 per person, depending on trip length). As well, this onboard credit can be used anywhere, not just on shore excursions.
What Are the Differences Between the Elevate and Indulge Packages?
Here’s what each package includes to help you see the difference.
Basic Always Included Package
- Classic Beverage Package
- “Surf” wi-fi
- Cost: Included with cruise fare
- Premium Beverage Package (+$12 value per day)
- “Surf” wi-fi
- Onboard credit for use on shore excursions (varies based on cruise length)
- Cost: ~$30 per person, per day (prices seem to vary depending on the specific trip)
- Premium Beverage Package (+$12 value per day)
- “Streaming” Wi-Fi (+$20 value per day)
- 2x onboard credit for use anywhere on the ship (varies based on cruise length)
- Cost: ~$60 per person, per day (prices seem to vary depending on the specific trip)
Does Everyone Have to Upgrade If One Person Does? What About Kids?
Yes, Celebrity says that if one person chooses to upgrade the Always Included package, then everyone in the cabin will need to upgrade. Keep this in mind when budgeting.
One reason to upgrade is obviously the higher-tier drink package. So what if you have kids or someone else that doesn’t drink? In this case, Celebrity points to the non-alcoholic drinks available in the package and suggests that kids will still be charged for the upgraded package, although obviously won’t be able to get alcohol.
What If I Booked a Cruise Before the Always Included Program Was In Place?
The new program went into place in November 2020. If you booked a cruise before this, then you weren’t offered the Always Included program.
If it’s something that you’re interested in, then Celebrity says that you are “eligible to participate at prevailing rates.” In other words, you can call the cruise line and get the deal, but you may have to pay a little more if there is a price difference between the rate you booked and what it is now.
Is Always Included a Good Deal?
While there is no word on the difference in pricing before and after the Always Included deal was put in place, you can rest assured that the cruise line is likely raising prices to cover the difference in cost between sailing without the perks and sailing now.
In other words, you can expect to pay more, but you’ll also get more.
For gratuities, having them included in the cruise fare is a nice perk as it’s something you’d pay for anyway. As for drinks and wi-fi, the value depends on if this is something you’d normally splurge on during your cruise or not.
If you’re not a big drinker, then it could be that you’d be better off without the program. However, you can still benefit from not having to worry about your drink bill (even for non-alcoholic beverages) at the end of the trip.
Same goes for the wi-fi access. Many people like to use cruises as a way to escape and prefer not to have access. Even so, with Always Included, you’ll end up paying for it in your cruise fare.
For those that normally keep their onboard spending to a minimum, then it’s possible you’ll end up paying more for your cruise than you normally would (again, we can’t say how much rates changed with the new program).
If you’re someone that enjoys having drinks and Internet access, then you might come out ahead.
Either way, it is a nice feature to have these amenities included, giving you fewer onboard expenses to worry about while enjoying yourself on the ship.
Can I Opt Out of Always Included?
At this point, it doesn’t appear that you can opt out of the program. If you book a Celebrity cruise, then the program will be included. This comes from both searching cruises online and also a call to the cruise line, who told us that opting out wasn’t available right now.
It could be in the future that passengers might be able to sail without the deal and possibly get a lower price, but that’s not the case right now.