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Not Happy with Liquor Up Charges

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1 hour ago, Shidah said:

Someone in one of the first posts in one of these threads mentioned that the package had to be purchased while on board.  So maybe it is not offered in advance when calling in for the Breakaway, but available when you board, and will be available online etc in a few weeks? I don’t know but it wouldn’t make sense for NCL to roll something out and not take your money.

 

 Also, yeah Grand Marnier..... just found out, not good straight, reminds me of black licorice.  I’ll try mixing it with some things tonight.  Glad I bought the mid size bottle and not the really big one.  It is pricey too.

 

 Shopping in the liquor store I started to look at some of the stuff mentioned on this thread, and started to see NCL’s side a little.  Some of this stuff is expensive.  Since NCL’s package was unlimited (no 15 limit per day or time between drinks) and they allow 2 drinks per card which I personally thinks encourages people to purchase drinks for those without the package, I can see where costs might get out of control.  Also, I’ve read on here that people encourage their families to try different drinks on cruises, since if they don’t like it, just get another.  So there is also waste.  Personally, I never waste alcohol, would be a sin!  So maybe changes are needed, but the transition into those changes could have been better communicated and executed.

 

Everyone’s palate is different and taste is subjective but Grand Marnier tastes like orange infused brandy. Sambuca tastes like black licorice.

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I would say “do I actually trust a business that treats it’s customers and employees like this?” Is a question weighing heavily on my mind.  Doing business like this out in the open makes me wonder what’s happening out of passenger view. Safety risks? Wage slavery? 

Edited by bbnjcruiser
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Being doing some research and found this interesting page.  It is Alibaba the chinese version of "Amazon" but 10 times bigger.  They don't actually sell much themselves but act as go betweens for businesses.  A warehouse of warehouse suppliers.   Anyway, check out the wholesale value of the alcohol products here.  CAVEAT, you have to buy in BULK, lots of BULK, but you can bet any Corp with multiple cruise lines and millions of passengers a year is buying in Bulk.  Oh and that Grey Goose wholesale...the most expensive price, is 6 dollars a bottle if you buy 35 bottles or more.  

 

https://www.alibaba.com/showroom/wholesale-price-vodka.html

Edited by Aesop081
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Forgive me for being dumb, but I'm not sure I'm fully understanding this. Hoping you guys can clarify....

 

1. The beverage package as it stands really has not changed at all. It's still the same price and covers drinks up to $15. Correct?

2. The drink prices themselves have increased, with many drinks now over the $15 limit. Correct?

3. Those that have the current drink package (either as a perk or purchased) are now finding that many drinks that used to be included are now over $15 and require an upcharge. Correct?

4. NCL are implementing a new premium drink package that will include those drinks that are over the $15 limit, but it is not yet available on all ships even though the pricing has increased. Correct?

 

So, if I have all of the above correct, I think I understand the basics. I have the package as a booking perk on my upcoming Bliss cruise. If I had needed to purchase it, I would not have done so as I don't drink enough to justify the high cost. Luckily for me, I drink mostly beer and white wine so I'm not affected (yet). However, my confusion lies with the upcharge and additional gratuity. Please don't misinterpret this - I am a firm believer in tipping and feel the bartenders do a terrific job. However, haven't we already paid the gratuity for that drink when getting the original package (even as a "free" perk, we still pay the gratuity)? I get that if you are having a more expensive drink you pay the upcharge, BUT why are you being charged the gratuity again? I feel like they are double dipping! Most of the drinks I get are around $8, but my gratuity should also cover a drink that is $15, so why would it not also cover a drink that was $20 (and I just pay the additional $5?) - it's still the same bartender doing the same job, regardless of how much the drink actually costs? Now I know, in the grand scheme of things, this is not the most important issue but it does seem like even more nickle and diming - basically you are being charged a gratuity twice.

 

Or am I just getting this all wrong?

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Ceilidh1..... Your first four assumptions are correct.  The package as it stands has remained the same.  It covers an unlimited amount of drinks up to a value of 15.00.  You paid 20% or 19.80 per day, which covers the gratuity on the 99.00 per day cost if you paid for it instead of a perk.  Let's say you had 4 drinks that were 14.95 and 4 drinks that were 9.95.  That would be 99.60 worth of drinks.  So, the 20% grat that you paid upfront covers those 8 drinks.  If you drink more than that per day, then your gratuity per drink is lower and if you drink less than that per day, then your gratuity per drink is higher.

There is an uproar because many individual drinks that used to be covered under the UBP such as Grey Goose vodka, Grand Marnier, Chambord and Patron Silver are no longer covered and you need to pay the difference over the 15.00 limit, plus an additional 20% gratuity on the differential.

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Comparison on some liquor prices   NCL vs Carnival

 

Grey Goose       19.95   7.95

Titos                14.95   7.50

Belvidere          17.95   7.50

Grand Marnier  17.95   7.50

Chambord         19.95   7.25

Chivas Regal      17.95  10.95

Dewars 12         17.95   7.50

Patron Silver     19.95   9.95

Patron Repo       22.95  10.95

Patron Anejo     24.95  13.95

 

Carnival's Cheers program covers up to 15 alcoholic drinks per day, with a value of up to 20.00.  Drinks such as Don Julio Reposado, which NCL has the gall to charge 29.95 for, can be gotten for half that price and is covered.  Nobody in their right mind is going to pay 23.94 for a shot of Grey Goose, so they will go for Tito's or Ketel One, which are both covered.  The same can't be said about tequila.  I prefer Don Julio or Patron, none of which are covered by the UBP.  I am hoping that Food Republic still has Patron Silver in their Toro Toro, and it's still under 15.00.  That would be my go to tequila loophole.

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8 hours ago, Shidah said:

Someone in one of the first posts in one of these threads mentioned that the package had to be purchased while on board.  So maybe it is not offered in advance when calling in for the Breakaway, but available when you board, and will be available online etc in a few weeks? I don’t know but it wouldn’t make sense for NCL to roll something out and not take your money.

 

 Also, yeah Grand Marnier..... just found out, not good straight, reminds me of black licorice.  I’ll try mixing it with some things tonight.  Glad I bought the mid size bottle and not the really big one.  It is pricey too.

 

 Shopping in the liquor store I started to look at some of the stuff mentioned on this thread, and started to see NCL’s side a little.  Some of this stuff is expensive.  Since NCL’s package was unlimited (no 15 limit per day or time between drinks) and they allow 2 drinks per card which I personally thinks encourages people to purchase drinks for those without the package, I can see where costs might get out of control.  Also, I’ve read on here that people encourage their families to try different drinks on cruises, since if they don’t like it, just get another.  So there is also waste.  Personally, I never waste alcohol, would be a sin!  So maybe changes are needed, but the transition into those changes could have been better communicated and executed.

I couldn't disagree more about Grand Marnier. It's not licorice; it's bitter orange, and cognac based. I call it "nectar of the Gods" and is best served straight up with no ice, no mix, no distractions from the nectar 🙂 At $15 a shot, the cruise line is still making a bundle, and I don't see a whole bunch of people wasting Grand Marnier. Even if they taste it and don't like it, they have paid for it. No cost to the cruise line.

 

Edited by KateQ22003

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4 hours ago, SNJCruisers said:

Comparison on some liquor prices   NCL vs Carnival

 

Grey Goose       19.95   7.95

Titos                14.95   7.50

Belvidere          17.95   7.50

Grand Marnier  17.95   7.50

Chambord         19.95   7.25

Chivas Regal      17.95  10.95

Dewars 12         17.95   7.50

Patron Silver     19.95   9.95

Patron Repo       22.95  10.95

Patron Anejo     24.95  13.95

 

Carnival's Cheers program covers up to 15 alcoholic drinks per day, with a value of up to 20.00.  Drinks such as Don Julio Reposado, which NCL has the gall to charge 29.95 for, can be gotten for half that price and is covered.  Nobody in their right mind is going to pay 23.94 for a shot of Grey Goose, so they will go for Tito's or Ketel One, which are both covered.  The same can't be said about tequila.  I prefer Don Julio or Patron, none of which are covered by the UBP.  I am hoping that Food Republic still has Patron Silver in their Toro Toro, and it's still under 15.00.  That would be my go to tequila loophole.

 

Your font is hard to read

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6 hours ago, SNJCruisers said:

Comparison on some liquor prices   NCL vs Carnival

 

Grey Goose       19.95   7.95

Titos                14.95   7.50

Belvidere          17.95   7.50

Grand Marnier  17.95   7.50

Chambord         19.95   7.25

Chivas Regal      17.95  10.95

Dewars 12         17.95   7.50

Patron Silver     19.95   9.95

Patron Repo       22.95  10.95

Patron Anejo     24.95  13.95

 

Carnival's Cheers program covers up to 15 alcoholic drinks per day, with a value of up to 20.00.  Drinks such as Don Julio Reposado, which NCL has the gall to charge 29.95 for, can be gotten for half that price and is covered.  Nobody in their right mind is going to pay 23.94 for a shot of Grey Goose, so they will go for Tito's or Ketel One, which are both covered.  The same can't be said about tequila.  I prefer Don Julio or Patron, none of which are covered by the UBP.  I am hoping that Food Republic still has Patron Silver in their Toro Toro, and it's still under 15.00.  That would be my go to tequila loophole.

I don't cruise with Carnival and never would, but wonder if they give their beverage package as a perk as often as NCL does?

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6 hours ago, SNJCruisers said:

Comparison on some liquor prices   NCL vs Carnival

Thanks for the comparison. NCL clearly believes people are gullible sheep. Price the drinks at ridiculous levels and people will therefore give the "free" drink package a higher value. Then add in a higher tier drink package.  

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8 hours ago, ceilidh1 said:

Forgive me for being dumb, but I'm not sure I'm fully understanding this. Hoping you guys can clarify....

 

1. The beverage package as it stands really has not changed at all. It's still the same price and covers drinks up to $15. Correct?

2. The drink prices themselves have increased, with many drinks now over the $15 limit. Correct?

3. Those that have the current drink package (either as a perk or purchased) are now finding that many drinks that used to be included are now over $15 and require an upcharge. Correct?

4. NCL are implementing a new premium drink package that will include those drinks that are over the $15 limit, but it is not yet available on all ships even though the pricing has increased. Correct?

 

So, if I have all of the above correct, I think I understand the basics. I have the package as a booking perk on my upcoming Bliss cruise. If I had needed to purchase it, I would not have done so as I don't drink enough to justify the high cost. Luckily for me, I drink mostly beer and white wine so I'm not affected (yet). However, my confusion lies with the upcharge and additional gratuity. Please don't misinterpret this - I am a firm believer in tipping and feel the bartenders do a terrific job. However, haven't we already paid the gratuity for that drink when getting the original package (even as a "free" perk, we still pay the gratuity)? I get that if you are having a more expensive drink you pay the upcharge, BUT why are you being charged the gratuity again? I feel like they are double dipping! Most of the drinks I get are around $8, but my gratuity should also cover a drink that is $15, so why would it not also cover a drink that was $20 (and I just pay the additional $5?) - it's still the same bartender doing the same job, regardless of how much the drink actually costs? Now I know, in the grand scheme of things, this is not the most important issue but it does seem like even more nickle and diming - basically you are being charged a gratuity twice.

 

Or am I just getting this all wrong?

I hadn't thought about your last point but you are correct. If I order a vodka and pepsi, it is exactly the same amount of work for the bartender whether I request grey goose or accept titos. There should not be a gratuity on the upcharge, definite money grabbing by NCL in this scenario.

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3 hours ago, KateQ22003 said:

I couldn't disagree more about Grand Marnier. It's not licorice; it's bitter orange, and cognac based. I call it "nectar of the Gods" and is best served straight up with no ice, no mix, no distractions from the nectar 🙂 At $15 a shot, the cruise line is still making a bundle, and I don't see a whole bunch of people wasting Grand Marnier. Even if they taste it and don't like it, they have paid for it. No cost to the cruise line.

 

Someone else mentioned Sambuca tasted like licorice, so I would really hate that.  It is just the aftertaste of Grand Marnier that reminded me of anais (not sure if I spelled that right).  I threw in a bunch of orange juice and it was drinkable at least. I have a bottle to drink now to acquire a taste for it.  But my experiment proved to me i’m still good with the drinks under 15.  I don’t think I have enough of a cultured palette for good alcohol.  I did some B-52’s in the casino one night and loved those. But I love Baileys and Kailua and didn’t even taste the Grand Marnier or knew it was in there.  I had never had one and the lady playing next to me recommended them.

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On 1/24/2019 at 2:19 PM, YVRBassElectric said:

I canceled a cruise in the DOS, the $19,000 + 2 drink packages $2100 was outrageous enough + $1260 if anyone wants premium alcohol was the tipping point (this is based on a 30% exchange rate, it might be higher in January)

Anyone cancelling on the Bliss for this summer in the DOS?  My daughter just gave me the go ahead to book an Alaskan cruise for the two of us this summer, and our past favorite cruise was in the DOS so looking for that specifically.  But I can’t find any open on the Bliss all summer or Fall. 

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One additional thought here - the increase in price to the UBP doesn't surprise me at all. Since for the free perk you still have the pay the gratuities, increasing the price of the package also increases the gratuity, making everyone who gets the UBP for "free" pay more for it in the end. By doing this NCL is still making more money on this "free" perk... seems crazy that they would do this, and still need to increase the price of individual drinks above the $15 limit and create a whole new premium beverage package to serve those who want those drinks/brands.

It is really sad that NCL didn't communicate this better, and is forcing the bartenders to do it for them... definitely not fair to their poor staff. They should have emailed everyone with a cruise booked about the change, and made the premium beverage package available at the exact same time for those who want the high end brands. This was definitely a poorly executed change on their part.  The fact that it doesn't appear to be available for upcoming cruises, even though the prices have already changed, is awful.  Doesn't affect me personally because I don't have a preference for specific brands of alcohol, but I feel bad for those that do. I'm also nervous about whether they will keep rising prices on drinks and if some of my favorites will end up outside of the $15 limit - as mentioned earlier I would be really upset about that, and would definitely give less value to the UBP, which is a big reason we prefer to cruise with NCL.  The way the package is currently structured still works for us personally, because the cocktails I like are under $15, and my husband only drinks beer, and we like the freedom to have as many as we'd like without worrying about the cost.

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3 hours ago, NLH Arizona said:

I don't cruise with Carnival and never would, but wonder if they give their beverage package as a perk as often as NCL does?

 

I've never seen Carnival give their beverage package as a perk, but buying their package outright pre-cruise is approximately the same cost (if not less) as NCL's "free" UBP and Premium Plus combined. 

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Do the arithmetic - the sum of the UBP  gratuities and premium pkg is what?  $54 or $55?  Kinda like buying a beverage pkg on another line up front, no free perk at all.

 

However, NCL’s individual drink prices are so ridiculous IMHO if you are having more than a couple of drinks a day then it gets so pricey you might as well pay for the UBP and be done with it.  I’m sure there is a lot of thought into NCL’s strategy for booze.  

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The NCL strategy is to eventually drive everyone to purchase the new premium package.   Eventually most name brands will be increased above the $15 threshold so people who enjoy a decent drink will be forced to pay the upcharge. In light of all this the current package needs to be rebranded. How about the PCBP (Pretty Crappy Beverage Package). 

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Yeah, exactly.  Inflating drink prices to crazy levels incentivizes smuggling, bringing your own wine, or BUYING the “free” UBP.  It is going to be interesting to see if anything happens besides a bunch of outrage on the boards.

In all of this strategizing though everyone has forgotten cabins with more than two people.  Addition people are really messed over - either pay full price for the ridiculous UBP or buy drinks individually. Again, incentivizes “bad” behavior, sharing drinks from UBP or smuggling.  Think about it - EVEN if you get free additional people in your cabin, if you want to drink you’re on the hook for $120/day or $155/day each.  Still more cost-effective than a separate cabin, depending on cabin level, but pretty outrageous.  

 

I’d actually thought about my strategy because I want to eventually do a GV for us and some other adult family members - I think we’d pick the two heaviest drinkers to get the UBP, and everyone else would just pay per drink.  

Edited by erdoran

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10 hours ago, SNJCruisers said:

Ceilidh1..... Your first four assumptions are correct.  The package as it stands has remained the same.  It covers an unlimited amount of drinks up to a value of 15.00.  You paid 20% or 19.80 per day, which covers the gratuity on the 99.00 per day cost if you paid for it instead of a perk.  Let's say you had 4 drinks that were 14.95 and 4 drinks that were 9.95.  That would be 99.60 worth of drinks.  So, the 20% grat that you paid upfront covers those 8 drinks.  If you drink more than that per day, then your gratuity per drink is lower and if you drink less than that per day, then your gratuity per drink is higher.

There is an uproar because many individual drinks that used to be covered under the UBP such as Grey Goose vodka, Grand Marnier, Chambord and Patron Silver are no longer covered and you need to pay the difference over the 15.00 limit, plus an additional 20% gratuity on the differential.

I understand this in theory but, when I'm at a bar, I tend to tip $1-$2 per drink - regardless of if that drink cost $5 or $20. I would imagine that's what the majority of people do. I find it hard to believe folks would calculate 20% and tip that exact amount each time they visit the bar. My point is that I have already been forced to pre-pay that gratuity (when I get the free perk on Princess you don't pay that as it's included, so I just tip bartenders as I go - definitely not trying to get out of tipping here), so asking for an additional gratuity on more expensive drinks, while retaining the "extra" pre-paid amount on less expensive drinks is just another money grab in my opinion.

 

Again, I am NOT saying the bartenders don't deserve the tips, but I would much prefer to tip as I go to ensure the money is going to the people that deserve it.

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17 minutes ago, erdoran said:

Do the arithmetic - the sum of the UBP  gratuities and premium pkg is what?  $54 or $55?  Kinda like buying a beverage pkg on another line up front, no free perk at all.

 

 

This may be the case, but NCL shouldn't be marketing it as "free" in that case as you are actually paying for the same value of product! I think you are spot on, though. It is all marketing smoke and mirrors. The consumer thinks they are getting something free but they are actually getting something for the same price they would have paid on another line....

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2 minutes ago, ceilidh1 said:

I understand this in theory but, when I'm at a bar, I tend to tip $1-$2 per drink - regardless of if that drink cost $5 or $20. I would imagine that's what the majority of people do. I find it hard to believe folks would calculate 20% and tip that exact amount each time they visit the bar. My point is that I have already been forced to pre-pay that gratuity (when I get the free perk on Princess you don't pay that as it's included, so I just tip bartenders as I go - definitely not trying to get out of tipping here), so asking for an additional gratuity on more expensive drinks, while retaining the "extra" pre-paid amount on less expensive drinks is just another money grab in my opinion.

 

Again, I am NOT saying the bartenders don't deserve the tips, but I would much prefer to tip as I go to ensure the money is going to the people that deserve it.

NCL has a 20% surcharge on all alcohol sales, whether you pay per drink, by the pkg, or an upcharge.  They have a 20% surcharge on bottled water, for crying out loud!!!  They call it “gratuity” to make it seem less objectionable, but let’s call it as it is.  I guess they do distribute it somehow to the bartenders because tipping is clearly not required on UBP drinks (sure, it’s never required, but bad form not to tip in a non-auto great bar).

 

You are charged 20% “gratuity” only on the upcharge, not the full drink price.

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2 minutes ago, ceilidh1 said:

This may be the case, but NCL shouldn't be marketing it as "free" in that case as you are actually paying for the same value of product! I think you are spot on, though. It is all marketing smoke and mirrors. The consumer thinks they are getting something free but they are actually getting something for the same price they would have paid on another line....

of course they shouldn’t PRETEND it’s free.  It isn’t free.  

Edited by erdoran

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2 minutes ago, erdoran said:

NCL has a 20% surcharge on all alcohol sales, whether you pay per drink, by the pkg, or an upcharge.  They have a 20% surcharge on bottled water, for crying out loud!!!  They call it “gratuity” to make it seem less objectionable, but let’s call it as it is.  I guess they do distribute it somehow to the bartenders because tipping is clearly not required on UBP drinks (sure, it’s never required, but bad form not to tip in a non-auto great bar).

 

You are charged 20% “gratuity” only on the upcharge, not the full drink price.

So if I buy a bottle of water there is an automatic 20% added? I didn't realise that. Wow! This will only be my second cruise on NCL and the first time I don't think I "paid" for any drinks at bars as I also had the beverage package...

 

This increase is tough to think through. Right now, the "free" package is fine as the increased pricing won't affect me, but no way would I be able to justify the upcharge or even purchasing the package. I just don't drink enough to warrant the gratuity portion even!!

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5 hours ago, Casino Comp Chick said:

 

Your font is hard to read

Apologies...for some reason, the Comic Sans looks great on the PC, but comes up funky via cell phone.

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My wife and I are taking a TA in April, our first NCL cruise in nine years. Many other cruises , just not NCL. 

I was just coming to terms with Pepsi not Coke, Jack and Pepsi is nasty, now this money grab. We thought we could live with the price increase, not happy but we think we can make it work.

 Until we started thinking about wine with dinner, if we can’t get a decent wine without paying the up charge I am confident this will be our last NCL cruise.

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