Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea Perks Explained

Norwegian Free at Sea Free 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!

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea Promotion

Norwegian Getaway Cruise Ship

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 escape

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Since the Free at Sea offers can change and be withdrawn, when you see a great deal on a future cruise, it’s a good idea to act quickly and book your cruise.

Looking for a good cruise essentials list? I put this post together with the most recommended items on Amazon, that cruisers love!

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What to Expect on a Norwegian Cruise

Norwegian Cruise Ship

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.

Read more: What to Wear on a Norwegian Cruise (day & evening)

Norwegian Cruise Line Free at Sea
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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

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

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.

Read more: Norwegian Cruise Line Beverage Packages (what’s included) 

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

Norwegian Escape

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.

Norwegian Cruise Lines Free at Sea
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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.

Norwegian cruise line perks
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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.

Happy Cruising!


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  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!


    • 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.
    Also, we are used to the tight sanitation practices of Holland America. Compare?
    Thank you!

    • 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!


  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!


  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™‚


  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.


  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.


  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.


  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!!!


  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!


  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!


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

    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,


  14. Helen
    August 27, 2020 / 10:40 am

    Could you please tell me if Ncl is going to make passengers do they excursions only and that passengers won’t be able to come in to port on their own
    Just that we are going on a med cruise in August 2021 I would hate to think that we would be forced into purchasing the excursions from Ncl which costs a lot .
    Any ideas would be a bonus.

    • September 10, 2020 / 2:14 pm

      Hi Helen,

      I totally understand your concerns. NCL hasn’t announced yet, however I would hope that by August 2021 things will be somewhat different and this may not be the norm.

      As soon as I hear, I’ll update the information on this site and as well chat about it on YouTube.

      Let’s hope we hear more soon and that with several months to go, we see progress.


  15. Damien
    March 29, 2021 / 4:51 am

    The beverage package is a great option, for example if you and your partner had a cocktail before dinner and a cocktail at one of the shows after dinner at $15.00 a pop that is potentially $60.00 a day so on a 5 to 14 day cruise it does not take long to run up costs without the package and with out consuming a lot of alcohol;….

    • March 30, 2021 / 3:47 pm

      Very true. Thanks for sharing Damien. I know it will help others to make a decision as well.


  16. Al
    November 20, 2022 / 4:13 pm

    Hi Ilana
    We are cruising on NCL 12+ days in January

    We were told we have to book Both free at sea beverage & dining. Told we can not choose just free at sea dining without the beverage. We donโ€™t drink but love to eat. Have you run into this?

    • November 28, 2022 / 2:40 pm

      I believe you can book only the dining. Try going on the website and just checking this off, or asking your travel agent for assistance.

      Enjoy your cruise!

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