Virgin Voyages Bar Tab vs. Traditional Cruise Line Drink Packages

This is a guest post by David Todd, Co-Founder and Director of VV Insider

As you prepare for your upcoming cruise with Virgin Voyages, you’ll no doubt be considering how to make the most of the beverage options on board.

Two guests, one in a vibrant floral shirt and the other in a formal maroon jacket, share a cheerful moment at a bar on a Virgin Voyages cruise ship, reflecting the lively and stylish atmosphere on board.
Photo credit: Virgin Voyages

With 22 different bars on board each of the Virgin Voyages ships; Scarlet, Valiant, Resilient and the upcoming Brilliant Lady offer a huge variety of alcoholic and specialty soft drinks to match any taste and budget.

One thing to consider though is the cost; unlike most other cruise line brands, Virgin Voyages does not offer a one-cost all-you-can-drink package.

Instead, Virgin offers sailors the option to pre-purchase a type of on-board credit called ‘Bar Tab’.  

What is a Bar Tab on Virgin Voyages?

There are two types of on-board credit on Virgin Voyages….

Firstly there is ‘Sailor Loot’ which is a type of promotional credit that sailors can spend on anything on board.

We mean anything – drinks, upcharge food in restaurants, merchandise, shore excursions (called Shore Things on VV) and even tattoos in the ‘at sea’ on-board tattoo parlour!

Secondly, ‘Bar Tab’ credit can exclusively be used on bar purchases. Meaning any beverages purchased on board, including at restaurants, will be deducted from the Bar Tab before eating away at your Sailor Loot or being debited from your onboard account.

You can not use Bar Tab on any alcohol-based event, however. 

In contrast with a traditional all-you-can-drink cruise package, there are some advantages to the way Virgin do things with its Bar Tab:


There are no restrictions to what the Bar Tab can be used for, from top-shelf liquor to exclusive alcoholic milkshakes from The Social Club Bar, you are not restricted to selecting from a small selection of options.


Sailors can purchase Bar Tabs up to 24 hours before sailing and even share them with cabin mates, offering flexibility before your sail.

Transparent Pricing

With reasonable drink prices comparable to on-land pricing, sailors can estimate expenses easily and avoid unexpected charges. As with all things Virgin Voyages; tips are included in the price of the drink by default.


The Bar Tab covers a wide range of beverage options, ensuring there’s something for everyone, from cocktails to cold-pressed juices. Sailors can also use their credit to buy large / premium bottles of wine and spirits, pitchers of sangria and buckets of beers by the pool.

Guests laugh and enjoy an interactive dining experience at the first Korean barbecue restaurant at sea on Virgin Voyages, with soju bottles and grill in the middle of the table, creating a lively and communal mealtime atmosphere.
Photo credit: Virgin Voyages

How To Save Money With a Bar Tab

To incentivise sailors topping-up their Bar Tab credit before sailing, Virgin Voyages offer an ‘extra credit’ incentive.

Depending on your loyalty status with the Virgin Voyages Sailing Club, you will receive an extra incentive for purchasing particular chunks of additional Bar Tab.

  • By topping up $100 you get a bonus of $10
  • By topping up $200 you get a bonus of $25
  • By topping up $300 you get a bonus of $50

(As of March 2024)

How To Get The Most Out Of The Virgin Voyages Bar Tab

As this is a fairly innovative way of introducing a drinks package, working out exactly how much money you can save is fairly complex. It comes down to how many ‘chunks’ of bar tab you should buy.

VV Insider have built a Bar Tab Calculator that helps work out exactly how much Bar Tab you should pre-purchase to make your money go further.

For other cruise line drinks packages, Cruise Mummy has put together a great comprehensive breakdown of drinks package calculators.

There are certainly some upsides to the traditional all-you-can-drink packages offered by other cruise lines, the VV Bar Tab falls short in a few areas:

Tracking your balance

Sailors must keep track of the amount left on their Bar Tab throughout the cruise, as any overspending will be debited from Sailor Loot or your onboard account / credit card.

Exclusions for alcohol-related events

Currently, the Bar Tab cannot be used for alcohol-related events like Grog Walk, Shot for Shot, or Mix it Up. This limitation is a disappointment for sailors who want to try these onboard activities without the additional expenses.

Use-it-or-lose-it policy

The Bar Tab operates on a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy, meaning any unused portion of the package expires at the end of the voyage and cannot be refunded or transferred. This can lead to pressure for cruisers to consume more drinks than they otherwise would, potentially resulting in wastage or overindulgence.

Extra costs

If you would normally drink enough to get the very most out of a traditional all-you-can-drink beverage package, it’s likely that you will spend more on drinks on Virgin Voyages than you might on other cruise lines, despite the extra credit offers.

Cheerful guests on Virgin Voyages toast with bottles of Shiner Bock beer, sharing a bucket of beers in a casual and colorful setting, encapsulating the friendly and convivial spirit of the cruise.
Photo credit: Virgin Voyages


One of the most significant advantages of traditional drink packages is the convenience. With a pre-paid package, cruisers can enjoy their favourite beverages without worrying about individual prices at the bar.

Value for Money

For cruisers who drink a lot, a drink package can offer significant savings compared to purchasing drinks individually. By paying a flat fee upfront, travellers can indulge in a variety of beverages throughout the voyage without the fear of overspending or exceeding their budget.


Traditional drink packages allow cruisers to sample different drinks and flavours without additional costs. 

High prices

Despite offering value for money for heavy drinkers, traditional drink packages can come with a hefty price tag, especially for cruisers who may not fully utilise the package during their voyage. This high upfront cost can deter some travelers or those who prefer to consume drinks sparingly.


While traditional drink packages offer a variety of beverage choices, they may also come with limitations on available options. Some packages may exclude premium brands, top-shelf liquors, or speciality cocktails, limiting the variety and quality of drinks available to cruisers.

Hidden costs and fine print

While traditional drink packages promise convenience and savings, they may also come with hidden costs and fine print. Additional fees, service charges, or restrictions on when and where the package can be used may diminish the perceived value of the package for some cruisers.

Soft drinks

Although some cruise lines offer soft drink packages it is often required that everyone sharing a cabin must buy an alcohol package if only one is needed regardless of what they drink. This could mean that non-drinkers or sober guests are forced to pay for an alcohol package that they do not want to use.

An elegant afternoon tea setup on Virgin Voyages with a bottle of Moët & Chandon, delicate pastries, macarons, and finger sandwiches on a tiered server, accompanied by fine china and flutes of champagne, offering a luxurious high tea experience at sea.
Photo credit: VV Insider


Don’t miss the latest Virgin Voyages offers…


It’s refreshing to see a different approach being made to drinks packages on board cruise ships. Although some guests that are heavy drinkers may find their money doesn’t stretch quite as far under Virgin’s Bar tab system, the benefits lie in its overall flexibility.

VV Insider’s Bar Tab Calculator is the best way to save money on your Virgin Voyages drinks costs. 

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