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I tried Princess Cruise's premier package. At just $80 a day, it's one of the best deals at sea.

Jill Schildhouse   

I tried Princess Cruise's premier package. At just $80 a day, it's one of the best deals at sea.
  • I paid about $80 a day for a premier package on a recent Princess Cruise.
  • The fee got me unlimited room service, onboard WiFi, premium desserts, and more.

I've been on 18 cruises and I absolutely love them.

I wake up in a new place every morning and unpack only once. Most of my meals are planned and paid for in advance, and I feel the ocean breeze every time I step out onto my cabin's balcony.

The only letdown is when the bill that arrives the night before each cruise ends contains more charges than I'd kept track of in my head.

I hate the wallet-wrenching surprise of that final invoice, filled with a few more drinks than I remember ordering, the WiFi I couldn't live without, and the specialty dining restaurants I splurged on.

But all that changed the moment I discovered the Premier Cruises' Premier Princess package on Princess Cruises during a family vacation on the Regal Princess in December.

Although my parents, brother, and brother's girlfriend went à la carte with their onboard purchases, my fiancé and I ordered the premier package.

It gave us a huge leg up throughout the trip. Here's why it may be worth considering if you're planning to sail with Princess Cruises.

For just $80 per person per day, we got tons of perks

The premier package costs $80 per day per guest, which amounts to $560 per person on a seven-day sailing (or $1,120 per couple).

At first glance, that sounds like a significant additional line item — but not when you compare the included items to the cruise's à la carte costs.

Princess Cruises' Premier Princess package includes:

  • WiFi: Up to four devices per guest
  • Beverages: Premium drinks (up to $20 each), bottled water, specialty coffee and juice bar
  • Crew appreciation: Mandatory prepaid tips
  • Professional photos: Unlimited digital photos and three prints
  • Specialty multi-course meals: Two per sailing
  • Meals at casual-dining restaurants: Unlimited
  • Premium desserts: Unlimited treats from specialty venues
  • OceanNow: Fee waived for food and drink delivery anywhere on board
  • Room service delivery: Unlimited
  • Fitness classes: Unlimited classes by Xpotential (Pure Barre, Yoga Six, and Stretch Lab)
  • Reserved theatre seating
  • Princess Prizes: Win prizes like wine tasting, onboard credit, and more by opening your door during certain hours

I didn't indulge a ton on my trip but I still saved money with the premier package

Right off the bat, passengers must pay $16/day for crew appreciation (read: gratuities). Crew appreciation is included in my package, so that's $112 of the $560 I paid for the package accounted for.

I'm a light drinker, so I only ordered two alcoholic drinks a day: usually a pre-dinner cocktail ($15 to $20 à la carte) and a glass of wine with dinner ($10).

I sometimes got a soda with lunch ($2.50) or a specialty coffee ($3 to $4) at breakfast. That totals $27.50 to $34 a day, or $192.50 to $238 a week for a week of drinks if they were à la carte.

For the record, though, the premier package includes 15 alcoholic beverages daily, so you can drink far more than I did and order over $2,000 worth of drinks in a week.

I also saved on onboard WiFi, an essential for me because I'm always working and sharing my adventures in real time on Instagram.

Since I use both a phone and a laptop, I'd need to connect at least two devices. That would typically cost $40 a day, but up to four devices are included with the package. So that's a savings of $280.

If you're keeping tabs, I've now accounted for more than the cost of the premier package with just drinks, gratuities, and WiFi.

With our savings already more than accounted for, everything else was a bonus

For instance, I enjoy breaking up the monotony of eating in the main dining room with visits to such specialty restaurants as Sabatini's Italian Trattoria, Crown Grill, or The Catch by Rudi. Cover charges at these eateries range from $35 to $39 per person. I dined at two during my sailing, which would have totaled $74 without the package.

Because this was our first family vacation in about a decade, getting family photos was also a priority. So most nights before dinner, we visited the various portrait stations around the ship.

With the premier package, I was given an unlimited number of digital images, so we didn't have to make difficult decisions about which photos to keep and which to discard.

We ended up with more than a dozen digital photos and six prints. On the other hand, my brother and his girlfriend bought some of their couples-only photos and paid $191.75 for five digital photos.

Plus, my fiancé and I indulged in a few premium desserts ($10 each à la carte), I took a fitness class to help balance them out ($30 à la carte), and we made use of the OceanNow service that delivers food or drinks to you anywhere on board ($15 one-time fee).

Overall, my package basically paid for itself, and then some

Overall, I'd estimate we saved at least $275 per person by choosing this package — and we used the included perks rather conservatively since we just aren't big drinkers.

But even if you only plan to have two drinks a day like we did, this package basically pays for itself.

It's worth noting that you can only order the package before you board or through the second day of your sailing. Both passengers in a stateroom must sign up for it.

If one of you doesn't drink alcohol or doesn't care to be connected to WiFi, it probably won't make financial sense to purchase this package.

But the best part of having this package was that I never felt nickeled and dimed and was able to just enjoy a week with my family in the Caribbean.

I didn't stress about putting any extras "on my tab" because I knew my final bill would be a fixed cost I'd already made peace with. And by doing so, I certainly came out ahead.