Breaking Down Norwegian’s Free at Sea Offers

free at sea.jpgTaking the kids with you on a trip can be tough business.  There are so many things to think of and weigh out because lets face it, these young ones simply can be the bear that will devour your vacation if reality strays too far off from their expectations. If the kids aren’t having fun, you are not going to have fun. So as parents, you try to prepare yourself mentally for the possibility of having to spend EVERY waking moment with them in order to keep them happy and any time you get to yourself is an added bonus. So as a dad I try to think of things that we would either both like doing or maybe something they like doing and I can just simply be a spectator.  Roller coasters, jet ski, fishing, or even mini-golf and I will gladly be right there participating.  Jump in a pool and I might jump in for a bit but if I can sit by the pool and watch while I drink down a cold one in the warm sun, now that’s the best damn vacation I can think of.

Here’s where Norwegian tries to tempt me.  Free Ultimate Beverage Package You Say?! So I can drink all I want as I sit and watch little kids in the pool? OK, that may have sounded a little creepy. But “free” drinks?! I am a dad with three daughters, I think it should be mandatory that all cruise lines offer dads with daughters free drinks.  I believe we have earned it.

As the TV infomercials would say, “But Wait! There’s more!”

Norwegian will let you pick from one of four packages (and as I write this, they have an offer where you can pick TWO of the four!). The offers are:

  1. Free Wifi
  2. $50 Credit for Port Excursion per port (Stop at 3 ports, you get $50 to spend at each port)
  3. Free Ultimate Beverage Package (UBP)
  4. Free Ultimate Dining Package (UDP)

At first glance the UBP and UDP looks like the best option. FREE DRINKS AND more options for FREE FOOD. I feel like these people really get me.

But maybe we should dive in a little more.

FREE WIFI


It’s hard to completely get away from technology.  People may have to work even while on vacation, others need to keep in touch with family, and others may want people to see the wonderful vacation they are having. Norwegian’s free WiFi offer allows you 250 minutes of free internet access throughout the length of your cruise. WiFi is available in internet cafes aboard the ships and some ships even offer WiFi capabilities in the staterooms.  .Screenshot 2016-02-23 13.38.42

This offer is probably the most straight forward out of all of them, yet there are a few drawbacks to consider.  First and foremost, because the ship relies on satellites to communicate with the rest of the world, the internet will be R   E   A   L   L  Y         S  L  O  W. So needless to say, the 4 plus hours of internet may get eaten up quicker than you think.  The other drawback is, you may not want to be connected to the outside world because, lets face it, you’re on VACATION!

EXCURSION CREDIT


Taking a cruise allows you to visit different islands and countries over the course of a few days. When travelers arrive at these ports, they want to explore what the place has to offer. Often times the best way to do this is to plan excursions to take while at port and let the locals take you to some unique locations. Norwegian will give you $50 to spend at each port in order to help pay for these excursions. Every excursion has a different price level as well as various levels of activity so it is up to each individual or group to decide which type of excursion will be best for them.

With this offer, the $50 is not transferrable from port to port.  In other words, if you don’t do an excursion at Port #1, that $50 does not roll over to your next port and now you have $100 to spend.  You either use it or you lose it.  Obviously you can only spend it on excursions that are scheduled through Norwegian. You cannot find your own excursion through a travel agent or online and use the $50 on them, it has to be booked through Norwegian.  You are allowed up to $200 total of excursion credit which means if you stop at 4 ports during your cruise, you will get $200 worth of credit, if you stop at two ports, you will get $100 worth of credit.

Again, this is a fairly straight forward deal but not everyone likes to do excursions and lets face it, most excursions cost at least $60 per person so you will still have to shell out a fair amount of cash, especially if you are traveling with your family.  Because of this, we limit our excursions typically and only do one excursion during our whole trip and opt to find a beach or other interesting locations on our own. Besides, we’d rather just enjoy some time at the beach anyway and we shouldn’t have to pay $60 for someone to drive us to the beach.

ULTIMATE BEVERAGE PACKAGE (UBP)

ultimate-beverage-package.jpg
You are on vacation. You want to relax and you want to start relaxing the moment you step foot on the ship. For some, the best way to do this is to grab a drink and just feel your worries slip away.  Norwegian’s UBP is good for two people per stateroom.  If you have two adults, they will both be getting the beverage package, if one of them is a minor, the minor will be offered the Soda Package in lieu of the UBP.  Norwegian will put a sticker on your guest key card to indicate you have this package.

The following is the fine print direct from Norwegian:

Includes a variety of spirits, cocktails, wines by the glass and bottled or draft beer up to and including $15 and unlimited fountain soda and juices at all bars, lounges, restaurants and the Great Stirrup Cay. A 20% discount will be applied to all bottles of wine purchased on board.

The Ultimate Beverage Package does not include room service, package sales, ship specific promotions or beer buckets, designated Super Premium brands (subject to change), bottled wine, mini bar purchases, bottled water, fresh squeezed juices, select Lavazza coffee beverages, energy drinks, vending machines, wine stations or spirits, cocktails, draft or bottled beer and glasses of wine over $15. One (1) beverage per person per transaction. Package can be used in all restaurants, lounges, bars and Great Stirrup Cay. Any items over $15 will receive an $15 discount and the guest will be charged the difference to their account.

An 18% gratuity and beverage service charge will be added to all package purchases; your check may reflect applicable VAT and/or taxes for certain ports or itineraries. Packages must be purchased by all qualifying individuals residing in the stateroom or additional staterooms under the same method of payment for the entire length of the cruise. Packages may not be shared and are non-transferable and non-refundable. You must be at least 21 years of age to purchase any alcoholic package and to consume alcohol.

18% Gratuity!!!! Yes, you saw that correct. Apparently something new Norwegian is doing which means this free offer isn’t necessarily 100% free.  It’s nice you don’t have to worry about paying gratuity while on ship if you don’t want to. At the same time, you want to make friends with the bartenders in order to make sure you get excellent service the whole time and the best thing you can do is to lay down some cash in front of them.  So how much are talking when they say 18%? Well, the package would cost $69 per person so you will get charged $24.84 per stateroom, per day. For a seven (7) day cruise, that means an extra $173.88 tacked onto the price.  The cheapest drink you will find is around $7.50 to $8 (domestic beer) which means each person who has the package will need to have two drinks per day in order to do better than breaking even when considering the gratuity.

Have children? You will need to order them the Soda Package if you allow them to have sodas while on the cruise. Or, you can pay for sodas as you buy them which is what we are opting for. We allow our kids to have a soda for dinner only so we will just charge those to our room as buying a package for one or two sodas a day is not worth the price. ORrrr…..yeah you know what I’m about to suggest, you can buy yourself a soda using your UBP and let your children have drink off of it. Either than can sip off your cup or go back to your room and dump the soda into another cup for them.  JUST MAKE SURE YOU DON’T ACCIDENTALLY GIVE THEM YOUR ALCOHOLIC DRINK!

For me personally, this is still a great deal. I love to have some drinks and order drinks I normally would never have when I’m at home so I look forward to this deal. I am so much funnier when I’m drinking anyway.

ULTIMATE DINING PACKAGE (UDP)


There are many dining options to select from when cruising. Part of the original price you pay for the cruise of course includes dining in their main dining rooms or in select Packages_diningspecialty restaurants.  Every cruise does offer other specialty restaurants where there are extra fees. These often will include French, Italian, or Japanese specialty eateries as well as other options.  The UDP will allow you to eat at any of the restaurants free of charge for two people per stateroom.

Once again, below is some of the fine print from Norwegian:

The UDP is nontransferable. Reservations are not required for UDP guests, however, tables reserved onboard will be subject to availability for reservations made 24 hours in advance. We encourage you to log in to My NCL to make dining reservations in advance for specific night(s) of your cruise. An 18% gratuity and specialty service charge will be added to the package price. A 25% discount applies to all a la carte and entertainment based dining and select Specialty Restaurants (Not included in the Ultimate Dining Package). These venues include: Sushi, Raw Bar, Food Republic, Hot Rock, Tapas Bar, Noodle Bar, Ocean Blue, Ocean Blue on The Waterfront, The Cellars, The District, Murder Mystery, Cirque Dreams & Dinner, Illusionarium, Supper Club, Wine Lovers, Pajama Jam, Bayamo and Pincho by Jose Garces. The UDP does not include beverages or corresponding gratuity.

So as you can see, it does not correspond 100% to all restaurants although you will get a discount to some of the more premium dining options.  Similar to the UBP, the UDP will add on gratuity when you book your cruise.  The amount of gratuity will be dependent on the length of the cruise.  A seven day cruise will allow you to dine at specialty restaurants seven times. If you bought the 7-meal package outright, it would cost $119/person, so 18% of that is $21.42.  So if you have a 7-day cruise and two people per stateroom get the free UDP, that means an extra $42.84 per stateroom.  The other drawback is you have to worry about getting reservations on the nights you want them.

Again, looking at it from a family man standpoint, if you have your children with, you have to find a reservation with enough room for the kids.  Plus, if you want them to enjoy food off the specialty restaurant menu, now you have to either buy them the package, to which there is no discounts for kids, or your pay for it a la carte, meaning if they order at $24 steak, that’s what you pay, plus gratuity. It is my understanding that they can order off the kids menu from the main dining and that would be free, however, if there is a cover charge to get into the restaurant, you still have to pay for the cover.

WRAP IT UP, MAN!

So there you have it.  Each individual, family, group, or stateroom will have to decide which free offer will best suit their needs.  I have some thoughts and feelings but mine will be different from yours.  For instance, I don’t want to be in touch with the rest of the world but I do enjoy having drinks so WiFi is not worth it to me at all but the Drink Package would be. The Excursions and Dining would be good options but for me, it would be a better option if I wasn’t traveling with children.

As always, please, if I am missing something, please leave a comment below. If you have any questions that I have left out, I will try to answer them the best I can.  For me when traveling, vacation planning done right will only enhance your enjoyment when you are cruising because you know all the details have been taken care of, now you can just relax.

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6 thoughts on “Breaking Down Norwegian’s Free at Sea Offers

  1. That seems really complicated for “free” and also for a cruise! I haven’t been on Norwegian Cruise Line for years but it definitely seems like it has changed more recently. But now that I’ve been on Disney Cruise Line, I just don’t know if I could ever go back to Norwegian, Carnival or Royal…

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    • Yeah, there is a lot of fine print and it’s not all in the same place. The don’t have a page just for the Free at Sea fine print, you have to search each individual offer. I loved Disney but I personally can’t keep paying their price.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do think it would be interesting to see a comparison between overall prices of Disney vs other lines since other cruise lines seems to now charge for some of the main shows, most of the restaurants, some of the experiences, etc where a lot of that is still all included in Disney’s price.

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      • You are correct there. I guess if you want to make it a cheaper cruise and not do all the things that are offered you can do that but Disney you pay once and much of it becomes inclusive.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You don’t mention the “Choice Promotion Service Charge” that is added to the bill when booking a Free at Sea Promotion. Do you know if that service charge is the gratuity or an additional fee?

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    • The service charge is the gratuity fee. With that said, they will also add additional service charge to take care of gratuity of dining and stateroom stewards. For us, family of 5 and a 7 day cruise, it would be $472.

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