by Kevin Griffin of The Cruise People writing on cybercruises.com
Having just come across a bar list from Western Cruise Lines’ Azure Seas, sailing on 3- and 4-day cruises from Los Angeles in the 1983, it is worth looking at how much on board drinks cost back then.
Cocktails were pretty well $1.75, no matter what you wanted – Margarita, Bacardi Cocktail, Stinger, Black Russian, Pink Lady, Grasshopper, Champagne Cocktail, Manhattan, Whiskey Sour, Rusty Nail, Sidecar, Wallbanger – all $1.75. But even more shocking, a Martini was only $1.60 – something cruise lines typically charge $10 for to-day, and even more if the vodka is Grey Goose. A Daiquiri or an and Old Fashioned was also $1.60.
Highballs were $1.50, Bourbons $1.50 too, as were Canadian Club, Seagram’s VO and 7 Crown. Also $1.50 were Beefeater and Tanqueray gin, Bacardi and Meyers rum and Smirnoff vodka. Liqueurs and Cognacs ran to $1.75.
On the cheaper end, beers were $1.20 for Budweiser, Miller Lite, Heineken and Dos Equis, and on the high end one paid $2.00 for a Long island Ice Tea, Strawberry Daiquiri or Margarita or a Banana Daiquiri. The only thing more expensive than this was an Irish Coffee or a Mexican Coffee or a Cappuccino with Cognac, all of which ran to $2.50.
And on the non-alcoholic side, 50 cents got you a glass of Coca Cola, Sprite, Club Soda, Ginger Ale, Seven Up or Tonic Water, while 60 cents got you a tin. Orange, tomato and grapefruit juice were all 75 cents, whereas at breakfast on Royal Caribbean to-day one must pay $2.50 additional to get the freshly-squeezed variety of orange juice.
From that lowly $1.60 Martini of 1983, many ships, but particularly those of Celebrity Cruises, now have their own Martini bars, while others have specialty Martini menus. Cruise lines to-day sell Martinis for $9.00-10.00, or even more, even $15.75 if it’s Grey Goose vodka. Just what makes people think that the French can make good vodka isn’t clear except that Bacardi bought the brand for $2 billion in 2004.
Typically now, it costs around $4.00-$6.00 for a beer and around $6.00-$8.00 for a drink. Prices to-day are more typical of shore-based hotels and drinks have become a huge profit centre for cruise lines since they abandoned the idea of selling them duty free. That huge margin of tax and duty that has been saved goes straight into cruise line coffers. The same is true, of course, for wines.