Norwegian Cruise Line is known for their Freestyle Approach to dining. This means no set dinner times, table arrangements, or main dining room. Instead, they offer a variety of dining options. However, many of the dining venues are not complimentary, charging an additional fee beyond your standard cruise fare to dine there. More recently, the cruise line transitioned to an a la carte pricing model at many of these venues. Luckily, there is the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining package.
DB Digging into Dinner at Cagney’s Steakhouse
This package entitles users to dine at many of the for-fee restaurants on a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship for one set price. The question becomes, is the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining package a good value? In this post, we take a look at our experience using the package on our recent seven night cruise on Norwegian Escape.
Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package Review
Booking a Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package
The specialty dining plans are available for all NCL ships. You can purchase the dining package as early as 90 days prior to boarding using your MyNCL.com. If you do not purchase the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining package before departing, you have the chance to buy it onboard during the first two days of your sailing. For sailings of four days or less, you can only buy the dining plan prior to sailing or on the first day of your cruise. You can purchase the plan at Guest Services, at any restaurant, or on your stateroom television once onboard the ship.
Skip the Lines and Book Your Specialty Dining Package Before Sailing
The Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining package is structured on a per night basis. You have to buy a minimum of a three night dining plan regardless of the length of your cruise. The maximum amount of nights you can purchase is equal to the number of nights of your sailing. If you are taking a 7 night cruise, then the 7 meal Specialty Dining Package is the largest package you can buy.
For our Norwegian Escape cruise, we purchased the 6 night plan for $104 (now $114, plus 18% service charge) for a 7 night cruise as we knew we wanted to dine in the Manhattan Room, a complimentary dining room, on one night. Do plan accordingly as Norwegian Cruise Line does not issue refunds for unused meals.
Using the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package
Whether you book onboard or online before your cruise, you will be charged the total cost of the plan, plus an 18% gratuity. Right after our cruise on the Escape, the prices of the plan increased, making our comparisons on value a little skewed. Also, NCL now gives a $10 discount for booking before your cruise. Below are the costs as of March 1, 2016 of the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining package (note you need to add 18% service charge to these costs).
Similar to the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining package, specialty dining reservations can be made online 90 days prior to boarding as well. If you are more of a Freestyle cruiser, you can make reservations once onboard or simply walk up to a restaurant to see if they have availability. We are not as carefree and wanted to make certain we got to dine in our restaurants of choice at our preferred times, so we made all of our dining reservations in advance. Some restaurants are very popular and do fill up fast, so you should probably consider making reservations. If your plans change, you can cancel your reservations 24 hours in advance and not be charged (just remember any unused meals are not refunded).
Le Bistro Specialty Dining Restaurant
When you check in with the hostess at the restaurant, they will scan your card and see you have a meal plan. They will ask if you want to use a meal from your Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining package or pay a la carte. You will still have to sign a receipt at the completion of dinner, which will detail the prices of the meal and your (most likely) zero balance.
What is Covered in the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package
You can use your meals from the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining package at most of the specialty restaurants on all NCL ships. At the following restaurants, a meal “credit” covers all the starters, entrees, and desserts you want to eat: Teppanyaki Japanese Steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse, Italian Restaurants (La Cucina on most ships), and Margaritaville (on NCL Escape and Getaway only).
At the cruise line’s signature Cagney’s Steakhouse and French restaurant Le Bistro, you can order as many starters, sides, and desserts as you want with the Norwegian Specialty Dining Package, but you are restricted to one entree. If you want to order an additional entree at these venues, it will cost you $10 (plus 18% gratuity). Of these restaurants, Teppanyaki and Moderno are the only 2 restaurants that have a flat rate cover charge if you do not use a dining package; all of the others are priced a la carte.
On various ships that offer either Sushi, Raw Bars, or Tapas Bars, dining at these venues will cost you one meal plus an additional $7 fee (plus 18% service gratuity).
At upscale seafood restaurants, including Bayamo on NCL Escape and Ocean Blue on Breakaway class ships, there is an additional $15 charge on top of the one redeemed meal from the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package.
Some Restaurants Include an Additional Cover Charge like Bayamo on Norwegian Escape
Lastly, you will also get a discount if you use a meal for the live dinner shows at the Supper Club on Escape ($15 additional charge), the Cirque shows on Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway, and Norwegian Getaway ($10-$35 additional fee depending on seating). For the most up-to-date costs, see the FAQ on NCL’s website.
Chef’s Table experiences, treats at the Cafe Atrium or onboard Bake Shop, Food Republic (on NCL Escape), in-room pizza delivery, and room service are not currently covered in the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package. Those are additional costs and priced at current rates advertised onboard.
Not All Restaurants Are Included in the Specialty Dining Plan
Is the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package a Good Value?
Hands down, we found the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package to be a great value on our cruise. During our trip, we paid $20.45 per meal (including the service charge) for a 6 night meal plan. With the new pricing, those costs would now be $22.42.
DB’s Specialty Dining Package Breakdown
Total w/ 18%
6 Night Plan
Salade de Crabe $5.99
Medaillons de Veau $17.99
Crab Cake $6
Surf and Turf $25
Onion Rings and Brussell Sprouts $4
Seven Layer Chocolate Cake $6
Fritto di Calamari $4.99
Osso Buco alla Milanese $17.99
Liguine Cioppino $9.99
Torta di Ricotta $3.99
37.95 ($20.45 +$17.70)
The Princess is a rather picky eater, so she did not fair as well on the break down, but she still did come out ahead with the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package.
The Princess’ Specialty Dining Breakdown
Total w/ 18%
6 Night Plan
Salade au Crottin $6.99
Coq Au Vin $12.99
Tarte Tatin $3.99
Iceberg Wedge $4
MDR Chicken $0
Creamed Corn and Truffle Mashed Potatoes $4
Chocolate Fudge Brownie $4
Mozzarella di Bufala Caprese $3.99
Suprema di Pollo Arrotolato $12.99
Tortelloni di Ricotta e Spinaci $7.99
One of our mistakes with the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package was using a meal towards the purchase of the Supper Club. While we really enjoyed the show (the food on the other hand was not the best), we ended up paying a total of $37.95 ($20.45 and the $17.70 for the additional fee). If we would have purchased tickets to the Supper Club separately, the cost including 18% service charge would have been $35.38.
Combined, purchasing the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package saved us over $120 for our cruise (or $97 based on the new pricing). We really enjoyed our meals at the specialty restaurants and would suggest purchasing the specialty dining package to those who plan on dining at specialty restaurants during their cruise. Our recommendation would be to review the menus and calculate your potential costs to see if the plan is right for you. For instance, it did not make sense for us to use one of our meals at Margaritaville even though we dined there on two occasions for lunch. We think you will agree that even if you purchase just a three day plan for a seven night cruise, you are sure to get some value out of it.
Have you purchased a Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining package? Did you find it to be a good value? Drop us an anchor below to let other cruisers know your experience using these plans on NCL ships.