Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea Perks Explained

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea Perks Explained

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If you’re like many cruisers, you LOVE the idea of getting a perk or two included in your cruise fare! Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea promotion is just that!

Are you planning a cruise on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship? Then you’ve probably heard about the Free at Sea promotion, and perhaps you have some questions.

NCL’s perks promotion is very popular with cruisers. However, when planning your first cruise, you’ll want to know the details and see if it’s the best option for you.

Want to know what is the most popular “perk”? You guessed it, the all inclusive beverage package.

Well, Norwegian’s popular Free at Sea promotion gives you that and more. While other cruise lines sometimes (mostly rarely) offer promotional perks when you book, Norwegian offers this pretty consistently so its worth talking about.

Just an FYI, Norwegian’s Free at Sea promotions change periodically, so always check with Norwegian Cruise Line‘s website to see the most up to date information, or with your travel agent. Since I get the most questions about the all inclusive beverage package, I’ll give you lots of details about what’s included and what’s not, further down below.

Norwegian Free at Sea

First, what can you expect on a Norwegian Cruise?

Norwegian Cruise Line is a cruise line in the Contemporary category, along with Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Norwegian markets the cruise as Freestyle, so a relaxed cruise ship experience where you can NOT dress up if you don’t want to, although many still do in the evening. Think very casual during the day and resort casual at night, but it really is up to you!

What they do well is offer a casual fun ship for families and individuals who generally prefer having a lot to do, including water-slides and other on board activities such as a ropes course. The entertainment is generally very good quality and high energy.

There are no set dining times, so you can eat at a different time if you like each evening. Just keep in mind that sometimes it may be busy and there can be a wait time. You may choose one of the dining rooms with the menu of the evening, or a more casual venue like O’Sheehans for pub style food or maybe the buffet. You can also choose to book a specialty restaurant which will offer generally more upscale dining such as the French Bistro or the Japanese Teppenyaki.

Norwegian Cruise Line Free at Sea
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Norwegian Cruise Line Cruise Tip

Although there are some areas to relax on the ship, keep in mind that the bigger ships especially can be a bit busy and loud, especially in the pool areas. My personal tip is to book a cabin with a balcony if possible. When I sailed on the Norwegian Breakaway I just loved the ship’s energy. However, when I wanted to read a book or just relax and look at the sea (with a glass of wine), I was really thankful to have my balcony to get away from it all.

Norwegian’s Free at Sea  – Understanding the basics about the perks offered

With the Norwegian Cruise Line Free at Sea promotion, most of the time there are 4 or 5 perks are offered – The Ultimate Beverage Package, the dining package, 250 minutes free WiFi, and a 50$ shore excursion credit per port. On some sailings the 3rd and 4th passenger (in the same cabin) sail free and pay only the taxes. This is a great benefit for families!

If you’re sailing in an Inside cabin, you may choose 1 perk. If you’re sailing in an Oceanview cabin, Balcony cabin or Mini-suite cabin, you may choose 2 perks (best value!). If you are sailing in the Haven, lucky you, you get all 4 perks! What’s the Haven? It’s exclusive, it’s luxurious, it’s pricey… but may be worth considering for a truly special cruise experience.

Norwegian Cruise Lines Free at Sea
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The Free at Sea promotion explained, including some pros and cons

1. The Ultimate Open Bar

I get a lot of questions about the beverage package, and there are a lot of things to say about it! Alcoholic beverages can be very expensive on a cruise, so this perk can be amazing, even if you are not a very big drinker. If this is of interest to you, keep reading and I’ll give you all the details below.

*Something to note when choosing Norwegian Cruise Line perks is that the beverage package and the dining package have an extra gratuity or service fee that will be added on to your booking. This can still be a very good value, but do be aware that there will be an extra cost for this option.

2. Free Specialty Dining

Norwegian Cruise Line is known for it’s choice of really great and interesting specialty restaurants including Le Bistro (French cuisine), Teppentaki (Japanese) and Moderno Churrascharia (Brazilian Steakhouse). On 7 night cruises the 1st and 2n passenger in a cabin receive a 3 night package. On longer cruises extra nights are added.

*Note that there is an extra gratuity charge that will be added on to your cruise booking for this perk.

3. Free WiFi

You will receive 250 minutes of free WiFi for the cabin. Internet at Sea is NOT what it is on land – and it is very expensive, so this is a good perk. There is no extra amount that is added for this  Keep in mind that you can get free or inexpensive wifi on land when you get to each port.

4. 50$ Shore Excursion Credit

The shore excursion credit is 50$ per cabin per port, so if you book a shore excursion on your own you will not benefit. You cannot double up in any given port, its really 50$ for each port. If you plan on booking excursions with the cruise line for more than  port, this will be worth it for you.

5. 3rd and 4th passenger sail free

This is truly a great benefit, especially for families. o keep a look out and try to book early to take advantage of this promotion. It may not be available on all sailings, so do check with your travel agent or Norwegian Cruise Line. Keep in mind that the cruise is free, but government taxes are additional.

Norwegian’s Free at Sea Ultimate Beverage package – what you need to know! (update – now called Open Bar)

As mentioned earlier, there is an extra charge for this perk, so it is not totally free. If you were paying for this perks (which you are not) – the package retails for about $800 p/p for a 7 day cruise. Norwegian charges passengers only the gratuity on the package, which amounts to about $100 p/p for a 7 day cruise. Check you cruise final tally for the exact amount you will be paying, but this gives you a good idea.

For many this is an amazing value, even when calculating the gratuities on the value of the package. Once you get over a slight sticker shock pre-cruise, you will totally enjoy and be worry free once onboard!

This was one of my very favorite drinks on board! I highly recommend trying the incredible martinis and finding your favorite!!

What you need to know about Norwegian Cruise Line Perks, Norwegian Cruise Line Ultimate Beverage Package, cruise tips
Fabulous Raspberry Guava Mojito on Norwegian Cruise Line

What’s included in the NCL drink package?

A variety of soft drinks, beers, spirits, cocktails, wines by the glass and bottled or draft beer up to and including $15 USD. The fact is that an average cocktail on Norwegian is about 12$ or more, so the bill can add up quickly without a package!  Some of the best drinks were at the Mojito Bar, and all were included so no need to upgrade.

It is also a plus that all cabins are eligible to pick this Perk. I like that inside cabins can benefit from this option on NCL, which is not the case on some other cruise lines when a free perk is offered.

What’s not included in the NCL beverage package?

Specialty coffees, water bottles, fresh squeezed juice.

Norwegian cruise line perks
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Final Thoughts: Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea Perks

I have sailed with and without a package,and definitely thought the Ultimate Beverage Package was worth it. I drink more than 100$ p/p for a 7 night cruise, even when I am being careful. Plus, the drinks on Norwegian were great and they didn’t skimp anywhere.

I do wish that specialty coffees were included as I love to have a nice cappuccino after dinner and this would have been a plus if it was included. Conclusion – still totally worth it.

So, what do you think? Have you sailed with any of the cruise lines offering Perks promos and has it been worth it for you? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Ilana

xoxo

If you’re planning a cruise, you may find these posts helpful: Practical cruise packing list and what you need to bring in your cruise carry-on.

P.S. If you’ve enjoyed this or any other post on this blog, I’d be so appreciative if you’d share it with others who love cruising on your favorite social media. Thanks so much!

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31 Comments

  1. Sally Pietracupa
    August 16, 2018 / 11:10 am

    Yes the NCL UBP is the best. MSC does offer the beverage packing but does no5 include all types of liquor, you have to upgrade but not cheap. I will be sailing with celebrity and they off the classic free with cruise, you can upgrade to premium and not too expensive
    , and only one person can upgrade not everyone.

  2. Zandy Clark
    August 13, 2019 / 2:33 pm

    Thanks for your informative blog regarding NCL and the Breakaway. Booked one for March 2020 and this will be our first with NCL however, very familiar with Carnival.

    I do have a question for you regarding the shows. Do you have to make reservations for all the entertainment on board? If so, how does that work? On Carnival, you just show up at the place and watch. Also, same question regarding the Specialty dining, have to make the reservation prior?

    Thanks in advance for your time!

    • August 17, 2019 / 4:28 am

      Hi Zandy,

      Great questions. When we were on the Breakaway we made reservations for shows, including comedy shows, onboard. However this may have changed so I recommend checking your online cruise personaliser, as usually you’ll find any places to make reservations there. You can also check the Norwegian Cruise Line fanpage on Facebook, as they’ve got great info there from recent cruisers.

      Have an amazing cruise!! Hope you love it!

      Ilana

    • TJ
      September 3, 2019 / 3:50 pm

      I recommend booking your dining and shows the second it comes available (usually 60-90 days before the cruise. Shows fill up fast as well as good dining times. We’re sailing in 3 weeks and looking forward to it. Enjoy your cruise.

      • September 6, 2019 / 12:39 am

        Great point for the large ships! Thanks for sharing the advice!

  3. Nancy
    September 3, 2019 / 1:13 pm

    i have food allergies. We are used to being spoiled by Holland America where I choose my entree the night before and my dinner appears garlic, onion, etc., free the next night with no fuss.
    Compare?
    Also, we are used to the tight sanitation practices of Holland America. Compare?
    Thank you!
    Nancy

    • September 6, 2019 / 12:53 am

      Hi Nancy,

      While I can’t compare to HAL, they are quite different, Norwegian will still accommodate and work with you.

      My friends were on the Breakaway a few years ago and were able to choose Gluten free meals one night in advance. That being said, I can’t guarantee that’s the case. I would give them a call or work with a Travel Agent specializes in cruises to help you with this, just to be sure.

      Hope that helps a little ๐Ÿ™‚

    • olivia
      October 15, 2019 / 6:04 pm

      I haven’t cruise with HAL yet, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about Norwegian and their accomodations for special diets and food allergies. I hope you end up getting spoiled there too ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Anne
      February 7, 2020 / 2:15 pm

      I’ve never cruised Holland American, so I can’t compare the sanitation practices, but I have always found NCL ships to be very sanitary. As far as food allergies, we’ve cruised many times on NCL and my husband has a very restricted diet. All his information is in the computer, so his restrictions came up wherever we dined (excluding the buffet). All the managers, from the dining rooms to the specialty dining, were incredibly accommodating, even if he waited until the afternoon to order. We’ve cruised with NCL many times, and since they first entered his dietary restrictions, I’ve never had to remind them. As a matter of fact, when I do book a new cruise, as long as I book via telephone, they’ve always asked if there have been any changes or additions that need to be added. It’s one of the things I really like about NCL.

      • February 12, 2020 / 4:11 am

        Hi Anne,

        Great to read about your good experiences, especially with food restrictions which are so important!

        Ilana

  4. Olivia
    October 15, 2019 / 6:00 pm

    it’s one of the frustrations that many cruisers have, when they see the initial base price of a cruise and want to book that, but then are disappointed that the low price applied to the sail away categories, which don’t include the Free at Sea. However, I have still found it to be worth it. Even when my daughter and I went on a Baltic Sea cruise a few years ago on the Getaway, we got the beverage package perk and even though she was given the soda package because she was 17, it was still great and saved us a lot of money. it really took a lot of scrimping and saving to send us for that one (our airfare was pretty expensive from Canada) and so having the beverage package included, with only the applicable gratuities being included in our cruise fare was amazing. we really had everything we needed on board. At one of the ports, my daughter didn’t really want to go there (she takes political issue with one of the places we went due to their treatment of a segment of the population that she supports) and so we stayed on board and had a great time! After all, we had everything we needed! food, drinks, entertainment, hot tub, comfortable cabin… having a beverage package really does offer a great peace of mind. my friends and I never cruise without one anymore. our first cruise, where the beverage package used to be around $400usd for a 7-day cruise, we ended up spending more than $1500usd in beverages between the two of us. we could have spent $800 instead! the next time, we bought the packages and had peace of mind and control over our spending. we also had more drinks! ๐Ÿ™‚

    But I have done the math. and for me, it works out great to have a beverage package. and it works out twice as great to have it from Free at Sea, because it’s TWO people who get the package!
    so if you’re not sure, run the math quickly and you’ll likely agree that it’s a great perk to have ๐Ÿ™‚
    in the case of our next trip, the free beverage packages equal our cruise fare! for us, who now always get the beverage packages, that’s like sailing half price!(our cruise is approx $1,295 CDN. our beverage packages (for two) would have cost approx $1,325 CDN (two people, 5 day cruise). for those who’d like that in USD, our cruise cost around $967, and beverage packages would have cost approx $990 for two people. so we’re effectively sailing for half price, considering we would have bought the beverage packages

    I used to cruise more with another line, but now that I cruised NCL with Free at Sea and had a great time, I want to give NCL as many chances as I gave the other line (I went 4 times with the other line) so now I have 2 more booked with NCL already (the getaway again, and the jade). one of them even had the free airfare promo!

    • October 17, 2019 / 2:17 pm

      Hi Olivia,

      You have a great point! Definitely the value is there for many (we love it too), but as you said, people have to make their own calculations. I have to agree there’s some peace of mind that comes with having a package too!

      Enjoy your next cruise!

      Ilana

  5. Donna Squier
    November 10, 2019 / 2:05 am

    Our first NCL cruise included our tween daughter. We had the soda package for her, but found at the end of the trip that we had an additional $400+ ‘smoothie bill’ because they weren’t included and we never thought to ask.

    • November 11, 2019 / 4:46 pm

      Hi Donna,

      Oh my goodness! That’s a lot of money for smoothies. You’re so right, that especially as cruise lines do make changes, it’s important to know what’s included and what’s not. Thanks for that great warning for others ๐Ÿ™‚

      Ilana

  6. Brenda
    November 12, 2019 / 11:43 pm

    We have sailed with NCL four times. Have never used another cruise line because we just like everything about NCL so much. Our next cruise is the 9-day Baltic cruise in Aug 2020. We have the Beverage Pkg and the Excursion Pkg picked, but now we are thinking of booking our own tours instead of NCL ones. We will have to find out if we can exchange the Excursion perk for another one. But we are not sure which one would be best for the money. Do you have any thoughts? I see you mentioned that the Specialty Dining has free dinners. I had thought that you just get a discounted rate on those dinners. Could you let me know if they are free. Thanks.

    • November 13, 2019 / 2:42 pm

      Hi Brenda,

      What a great cruise you have coming up!

      So, typically your shore excursion credit does not have an additional charge, and you can use 50$ per port (for the cabin) towards their own excursions. If you switch to dining, then you will get 3 specialty dinners (check your cruise though as perhaps a 9 day is more?). There is an additional gratuity charged for the dinners. Only the dinner is “free”, service/gratuties are additional.

      I suggest calling NCL and asking about your options and exact amounts, to see what is best for your specific cruise and situation. Here’s a tip – ask them to also check if the price has decreased or if there are any new promotions that might be advantageous for you. Since you are still before final payment changes can often be made.

      Good luck and hope this helps – feel free to let me know how it turned out.

      Ilana

  7. Elmer Mcelvy
    November 27, 2019 / 1:55 am

    You failed to mention one thing in your friends sail free. They must stay in the same room to be free. Donโ€™t kid yourself, the balcony rooms are much to small for 3 much less 4.

    • December 5, 2019 / 4:35 am

      Great point Elmer. You’re right, 3rd and 4th passenger must cruise in the same cabin. This is most often used by families, who weigh the pros and cons of the savings versus staying all in one cabin.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Ilana

  8. December 2, 2019 / 9:06 pm

    My wife and I took A 12 day cruise to Canada. We had all four fee at sea. With $50 of per port and 10% Latitudes credits. We were joking making money on our cruise. All said and done we had a 258 dollar credit. We used it and got a CruiseNext Credit. (Wouldnโ€™t give us cash)They gave us one too. $500 for our next cruise. Basically 500 off our next cruise.

    • December 5, 2019 / 4:29 am

      Hi Russell,

      That’s fantastic! I’m so glad it was such a good value for you!

      I agree, those Cruise Next certificates are awesome!!

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Ilana

  9. Dennis Szeba
    December 11, 2019 / 11:37 pm

    We’ll be going on the Dawn 1/21/2020. It’ll be cruise #22 for us with 15 on NCL. We still got sticker shock when we booked a cabin for $1500 p/p and it’s over $2,000 after port taxes, prepaid service charges and Beverage package tips. However, after using our CruiseNext certificates, getting the $50 cabin rebate and $50 per port for excursions – it balances out and we have very little to pay when we get off the last day. The Open Bar drink package is costing us $475 for this 12 day cruise, but it only works out to just under $20 per day/per person. We aren’t big drinkers, but at $10-15 per drink retail, you’re ahead after two drinks a day. We can do that with morning Mimosa’s or Bloody Marys! (Granted, it’s not as good as the old UPB, but it’s still a great deal.) The shore excursions from NCL can of course be cheaper if you get them independent of the cruise line, but we’ve seen too many pier runners over the years who literally missed the ship because they didn’t make it back in time. Book through NCL and the ship WILL wait for you. Being Platinum level, we always wind up with extra liquor because of the bottles we get in the room and the specialty restaurant. Keep in mind, if you do get those perks, the dining rooms will hold your bottle if you don’t finish it! Good Sailing y’all!

    • December 16, 2019 / 3:49 am

      Hi Dennis,

      Thanks so much for the detailed explanation of the perks and the value. I think you’re right, even for moderate drinkers, this package can be a great deal!

      You’ve got a great point about excursions as well. We are pretty cautious when booking excursions or sometimes going on our own, but missing the ship is always our biggest concern. Booking with the cruise line definitely buys peace of mind.

      Have an amazing cruise!!!

      Ilana

  10. Janessa
    December 30, 2019 / 2:42 am

    I have an upcoming cruise on the Norwegian epic. There are 3 adults and 1 kid in the room. The first two guests chose the ultimate beverage package for the promo, but on the website it states every adult has to have the same package. Does the 3rd guest have to buy the package also, or can they choose not to? Mind you, they drink a lot, but are weighing out whether to purchase drinks just on their own

    • January 1, 2020 / 12:39 am

      Hi Janessa,

      Recently the perks were only available for the first 2 passengers in the room. Perhaps give them a quick call just to make sure, in case they’ve had a change.

      To answer your question through, to my knowledge you do not need to buy additional packages for 3rd and 4th passengers.

      Have a great cruise!

      Ilana

  11. Julie SMITH
    January 31, 2020 / 12:36 am

    So …. you pay the gratuities for the Beverage Pkg and the Dining Pkg upfront. What are the expectations regarding additional gratuities for other services?

  12. Bob Beatty
    February 10, 2020 / 2:45 pm

    I’m still unclear about the beverage perk. We booked a cruise to Bermuda for July and it included the beverage, WiFi, Dining packages. There is nor an option on the booking site to upgrade the beverage package to premium for 243.00 PP. Why would I even consider that if we already have the free at sea beverage deal??

    • February 12, 2020 / 4:04 am

      Hi Bob,

      If you have the beverage perk, it sounds like you’ll be just fine and have what you need. However, for specific questions pertaining to your booking, please call Norwegian directly and they’ll be able to go over your options.

      Have a great cruise!

      Ilana

  13. Shannon
    March 7, 2020 / 7:09 pm

    Hello,
    I was wondering what you know about the internet packages. I have WIFI calling on my phone and all I need is access to the internet. Do you know if I would need to purchase the unlimited or premium package? Also I will not be using an app to make calls just simply have to put phone in airplane mode, turn on wifi calling and it works, well it did on my Royal cruises. Any help on this would be great! I’ve seen that others state you need the premium but they were using apps. I don’t really see why I would need that when that is suppose to be for streaming.

    • March 10, 2020 / 2:28 am

      Hi Shannon,

      I’m not sure unfortunately. I usually buy internet these days so I haven’t tried. If you’ve done this on RC, I can’t see why not – but I don’t know.

      Perhaps try the Facebook group for Norwegian Cruisers. Hope you’ll get your answer.

      Enjoy your cruise,

      Ilana

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