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!
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea Promotion
Are you planning a cruise on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship? Then you’ve probably heard about Norwegian’s Free at Sea promotion.
NCL’s Free at Sea perks promotion is very popular with cruisers. However, whether you’re planning your first cruise or a seasoned cruiser, you’ll want to know the details and see if it’s the best option for you.
Recently, Norwegian Cruise Line has updated their free offers and promotions. In this post I share what perks are included with Norwegian Free at Sea, if some of the perks are actually “free” and if they are worth it. I’ll also answer some common questions many people have about NCL’s popular free perks.
Since Norwegian’s Free at Sea promotions change periodically, always check with Norwegian Cruise Line‘s website or with your travel agent for the most current information.
What is Norwegian’s Free at Sea?
Norwegian Cruise Line runs a very popular Free at Sea promotion consistently throughout the year. The Free at Sea offer includes a choice of free perks, which guests can use to enhance their cruise experience and save money.
The most popular free perks on NCL include a free beverage package, a specialty dining package, a shore excursion credit, free internet, and free or reduced pricing on 3rd and 4th passengers. Occasionally free or reduced airfare is offered.
There are times when you may see more offers that combine with the Free at Sea offers. These include reduced 2nd passenger fares, additional onboard credit, and on rare occasions, free gratuities on certain cabin categories.
Since the Free at Sea offers can change and be withdrawn, when you see a great deal on a future cruise, it’s a good idea to act quickly and book your cruise.
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What to 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 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 Teppanyaki.
Norwegian’s Free at Sea Perks
At this time, Norwegian Cruise Line is offering a choice of 5 free perks as part of the Free at Sea promotion for all sailings of 3 nights and longer. The actual value of some of the perks will depend on the length of your cruise and cabin type.
The Free at Sea offers are applicable for single passenger studio cabins, inside cabins, ocean-view, balcony cabins, club balcony cabins, suites and Haven staterooms. For those book Sailaway cabin categories, often guarantee cabins that are priced lower but not eligible for the Free at Sea perks, a $50 US onboard credit is being offered.
Please note that Free at Sea offers and prices can change. Always check the the terms and conditions on the cruise line website and on your booking.
5 Free at Sea Offers (detailed)
Free Open Bar Beverage Package
If you like to have a few drinks a day on a cruise, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free Open Bar perk (free premium beverage package) is one of the best parts of NCL’s Free at Sea.
Norwegian’s free beverage package perk includes a variety of spirits and cocktails, wines by the glass and bottled or draft beer up to $15 US per drink. It also includes fountain soda, juice, and non-alcoholic beer. Specialty coffees and water bottles are not included.
It has a retail value of $99 US a day. All guests under 21 will receive the soda package, which has a value of $7.95 US a day.
For guests sailing to Hawaii on Pride of America, you’ll receive the Hawaii Beverage Package.
Something important to be aware of, is that the “free” beverage perk does have an additional gratuity charge on the value of the package. If you opt for the free premium beverage package offer, you’ll be charged a %20 gratuity at the time of your booking.
Free Specialty Dining Package
Norwegian’s free specialty dining package option is available to passengers 1 and 2 on your cruise reservation. If you’ve had the free specialty dining package in the past, you’ll notice that Norwegian Cruise Line has made some significant changes.
As noted with the free beverage package perk, be prepared to be charged a 20% gratuity on the free meal package.
Cruises 3-6 nights
If your cruise is 3-6 nights, you’ll receive one meal in a specialty restaurant for all cabin types (studio cabins, inside cabins, ocean-view, balcony cabins, club balcony cabins, suites and the haven).
Cruises 7-11 nights
If your cruise is 7-11 nights, you’ll receive one meal in a specialty restaurant for all cabin types. Balcony cabins and above receive 2 specialty dining meals.
Cruises 12 nights & Longer
If your cruise is 12 nights and longer, studio, inside and ocean view cabins receive 2 meals at specialty restaurants. Balcony and above cabins receive 3 free specialty dining meals.
Free Internet Package
Guests 1 and 2 will receive free internet minutes on their cruise, for use with 1 device at a time. The amount of minutes depends on the length of your cruise. There is no additional gratuity or other charge for this free perk.
Cruises 3 – 6 nights receive 75 minutes
Cruises 7 – 11 nights receive 150 minutes
Cruises 12 nights and longer receive 300 minutes
$50 US Shore Excursion Credit
If you’re planning a cruise, it’s likely that you’ll book some shore excursions, so the free shore excursion credit is a nice perk. With Norwegian’s free shore excursion credit, a $50 credit will be applied to the first guest on the reservation.
If you’re planning excursions before your cruise, you can pre-reserve shore excursions online before your cruise and the credit will be applied. As well, excursions can be booked onboard.
Something to note is that there won’t be a refund given if you don’t book excursions in certain ports, and there is no additional monetary value.
Free 3rd & 4th Guest (or $99 US on select sailings)
This free perk is an amazing value for families in particular. If you’re cruising with a 3rd and 4th passenger, you can opt to have them cruise for free or at only $99 US (on select sailings) as long as they are staying in the same cabin as you.
While the free 3rd and 4th passenger offer isn’t available on every sailing, it’s worth checking different sail dates and ships and even checking back occasionally. Unfortunately, the Christmas and New Year’s holidays often aren’t applicable, and summer sail dates may be scarce. However, we’ve found cruises in March or “Spring Break” dates in the past where the free or discounted rate applied.
Is Norwegian’s Free at Sea Really Free?
It may surprise you to know that although NCL’s Free at Sea offers are free, there will still be some extra costs to pay on certain free perk options. If you choose the free beverage package perk or the free specialty dining offer, you’ll be charged a 20% gratuity on the value of the package. The gratuity charge is added to the price of your reservation and payable before your cruise, and will not be charged on board.
How much is the gratuity charge on Norwegian’s free beverage package perk?
Currently the value of Norwegian Cruise Line’s premium beverage package is $99 US per person, per day. A 20% gratuity ($19.80 US per day) will be added to the total charge for your cabin on your reservation.
The gratuities for the free premium beverage package perk for 2 people is 7 day cruise for 2 people is $277.20 US (138.60 US p/p). Those under 21 years of age will get the soda package, and will be charged a gratuity $1.59 US per day at the time of booking.
How much is the gratuity charge on Norwegian’s free specialty dining perk?
The gratuity on the free specialty dining package perk is 20% of the total cost of the meal package.
1 night of specialty dining is $50 US and a 20% gratuity charge will be added to your reservation when booking your cruise. Therefore 1 free specialty restaurant will cost $10 US per person, or $20 US per cabin (double occupancy).
2 nights of specialty dining is $89 US. A 20% gratuity will be added to your reservation at a cost of $17.80 US per person, or $35.80 US per cabin.
The 3 night specialty dining package is $119 US per person. The additional gratuity added to your booking will be $23.80 per person, or $47.60 per cabin.
Is Norwegian’s Free at Sea Worth it?
People often ask if Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea is worth it, especially since the some of the most popular “free” perks do have an additional gratuity charge. It’s true, additional charges on the free open bar, can add up to almost $300 US per couple on a 7 day cruise and the free dining package another $20-40 for the cabin.
However, the value and worth of the free perk depends on how much you realistically save by getting these perks. At about $20 US per day, per person in gratuity fees on the Free Open Bar perk, you get unlimited alcoholic drinks up to $15, soda or pop, and several types of juice. If you would otherwise spend more, daily, then likely this is worth it for you.
You can also opt out of certain Free at Sea offers. For instance, since my brother rarely drinks alcohol, he’d rather pay for a beer or an occasional cocktail during his cruise. As well, since my sister in law really enjoys her specialty coffees, and this isn’t included in the Open Bar perk, it’s even less worth it for them.
However he’s a big fan of Norwegian’s specialty restaurants and doesn’t mind paying the gratuity fee of about $10 a person for this.
The value of Free at Sea is there, but you do need to calculate the costs and see what is worth it to you.
In some cases, Norwegian will have a much lower rate on certain cabins that don’t include access to any free perks. If you aren’t going to be taking advantage of the free 3rd and 4th passenger offer or the free drinks and specialty dining package, this may be worth looking at and comparing.
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Final Thoughts: Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea Perks
In this post we went over Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea perks in detail, including some changes that came into effect recently. NCL’s popular Free at Sea promotion has been popular for years, and offers some good inclusive options that can save money and make your cruise more enjoyable.
Have you cruised with Norwegian or are you planning to, and booked any Free at Sea offers? Please share your thoughts and tips in the comments below.
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