Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package

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

Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package

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.

Norwegian Specialty Dining PackageDB 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.

Norwegian Specialty Dining PackageSkip 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).

Norwegian Specialty Dining Package

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).

Norwegian Specialty Dining PackageLe 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.

Norwegian Specialty Dining PackageSome 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.

Norwegian Specialty Dining PackageNot 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

Starter
Entrees
Sides
Desserts
Total w/ 18%
6 Night Plan
Savings
Le Bistro
Salade de Crabe $5.99
Medaillons de Veau $17.99
Profiteroles $3.99
33.00
20.45
12.55
Cagney’s
Crab Cake $6
Surf and Turf $25
Onion Rings and Brussell Sprouts $4
Seven Layer Chocolate Cake $6
48.38
20.45
27.93
La Cucina
Fritto di Calamari $4.99
Osso Buco alla Milanese $17.99
Liguine Cioppino $9.99
Torta di Ricotta $3.99
43.61
20.45
23.16
Teppanyaki
35.34
20.45
14.89
Moderno
29.44
20.45
8.99
Supper Club
35.39
37.95 ($20.45 +$17.70)
-2.56
Total Costs
225.17
140.42
84.75

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

Starter
Entrees
Sides
Desserts
Total w/ 18%
6 Night Plan
Savings
Le Bistro
Salade au Crottin $6.99
Coq Au Vin $12.99
Tarte Tatin $3.99
28.28
20.45
7.83
Cagney’s
Iceberg Wedge $4
MDR Chicken $0
Creamed Corn and Truffle Mashed Potatoes $4
Chocolate Fudge Brownie $4
14.16
20.45
-6.29
La Cucina
Mozzarella di Bufala Caprese $3.99
Suprema di Pollo Arrotolato $12.99
Tortelloni di Ricotta e Spinaci $7.99
Tiramisu $3.99
34.17
20.45
13.72
Teppanyaki
35.34
20.45
14.89
Moderno
29.44
20.45
8.99
Supper Club
35.39
37.95
-2.56
176.79
140.42
36.37

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. 

Comments

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.

Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package

Don Bucolo, or “DB”, loves everything about cruising- the ocean, the food, and the atmosphere. While he may be obsessed with doing extensive amounts of research on ships and all elements of a cruise, Don enjoys sharing his new found knowledge with fellow cruisers. When he is not sailing the high seas, he does whatever his wife tells him to do-it only took 10 years to realize this.
Don
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31 comments on Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package

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  1. Great tips… I had no idea that this is how this type of dining worked on Norwegian Cruise Lines.

      Thanks for the comment. NCL offers a variety of dining options on their cruise ships and just rolled out these specialty dining plans to make it easier and more enticing to sample from the different restaurants. All the food options makes the cruise much more fun.

    Got the 3 night plan on Norwegian Spirit a week ago, I figured we each needed to spend $27. to get our money’s worth. We ate at La Trattoria, Le Bistro and Cagney’s of the 3 we thought Cagney’s was the best and we got more than what we paid for all 3 venues.

      Thanks Cynthia for the feedback. Sounds like the three night plan worked well for you. We would definitely buy another plan when we sail on NCL in the future. Appreciate the comment. When is your next cruise?

    I’m sailing on Escape 4/30 and have 3 nights of the UDP. I love your breakdown of prices/savings. I knew Cagney’s would be a great deal, but this really proves it. Well at least for your meal… Princess on the other hand, I can’t stop giggling at her entree… poor girl 🙂 I plan on two nights at Cagney’s, third night I’m leaving open. I know Food Republic isn’t covered under this plan, but this is a must at least one night. My group in December ate there twice, we loved it.
    Love your site, especially all the super detailed information on Escape. I needed this before my first Escape cruise, but happy to know now before this next one. Thanks!!

      Thanks Wendy for the comment! The package is a great cost savings, especially at Cagney’s. Yes, the Princess is a very picky eater. Hope you had a great cruise. Would love to hear how you made out on Escape. When is the next cruise?

        I am traveling on the Escape in December and trying to decide about the dining plan my husband eats very little! I on the other hand like to try lots of different things. I know I can just buy the meal pla. For me and he will eat ” a la carte” but I was looking at Ncl’s price if you do not take the plan and for the 2 of
        The restaurants the prices were very high ! The Brazilian restaurant was 49.50. And the other one about the same! But when I looked at other sites they show only 29.50 for the same restaurant! Which is correct, because that could make a big difference in final cost,if I take the plan for 3 days at 118.00 and he goesala carte. Can you tell me which price is correct? And how does the restaurant charge us if one has the plan and one does not?

    What happens if I pre purchase a 4-meal Specialty Dining Plan and the restaurants are booked when trying to make a reservation?

      Hi Marie, Great question. There are no refunds with the plan. If you buy 4 nights, but only use it three times, then you lost that money. I do not think you have to worry about restaurants being completely booked all cruise. We booked all our reservations before our sailing no problem, but still would have been able to get some while onboard. Admittedly, the popular places, like Cagney’s and Le Bistro you need to make reservations ASAP and I recommend trying to eat there early in the cruise. But, the other venues tended to have some openings. Appreciate the comment and thanks for reading.

    Thank you for the information. I was all over the NCL site trying to figure out how the UDP (4 nights) worked on the Epic without any success. I figured that I would have to call the 800 number but your info answered my questions. Thanks for taking the time and effort to help others. We are on a transatlantic on Oct. 30, 2016 from Barcelona to Port Canaveral, FL.

      Glad our post saved you a phone call! Honestly, the NCL dining package is very easy to use and we like that you can be flexible with when you use it. They do not charge your account until after dinner, so you can pick and choose which restaurants to use it and at which occasions. We would love to hear about your transatlantic cruise when you get back. Epic is one NCL ship we are eager to try, so your opinions and review would be great. Thanks for reading and have an amazing cruise.

    I just read your reviews for all the Escape restaurants. This was so helpful for me! I am boarding the Escape next month and have no reservations for my 3 night dining package. I will be running to make reservations as soon as I board.
    Will be looking at the menus next.
    Thanks for all the help 🙂

      Thanks Mo for the comment and for the kind words. Glad our restaurant reviews were helpful. You can actually make dining reservations before your cruise on NCL’s website. That is what we did. Then, when you go to the restaurant they ask if you want to use the specialty dining package or pay a la carte. It is easy and worry free. Have a great cruise. Be sure to come back and tell us how you made out with the dining plan.

    We are taking our family 6 grandchildren, 6 adults on a Thanksgiving cruise. We have booked four balcony cabins for our daughters and their families. So my son-in-laws and one child will stay in one cabin and my daughters and the other 2 children will stay in the adjoining cabin. I would like to get the dining pkg and the ultimate drink pkg under the “Pick two” bonus; but it seems a waste to pay the gratuities for the young children in each of the cabins. Do you know if you are able to just pick two of the choices for one adult in each cabin?

      You have to get it for everyone in the cabin- but the kids sodas really add up if they don’t get the beverage plan so it ends up being a pretty good value anyway- and it is awesome for the adults – the drinks are amazing quality.

      Great question. Anita beat us to the punch with her answer. NCL does require the little ones get the soda package, but as she points out, it is usually a good investment. Thanks for reading. Have a great cruise. Which ship are you sailing on? Sounds like a great family vacation.

    If you purchase the meal plan, the $7 for a la carte restaurants, is that a flat $7 and you can order anything? Can’t seem to find that information anywhere.

      Hi Casey,
      Thanks for the question. If you purchase the meal plan for a certain number of nights, you end up paying around 20-25 dollars per person, per meal. When you go to a specialty restaurant that is a la carte, usually you can get as many starters, sides, and desserts as you want and one entree. Some restaurants allow you multiple entrees. Ask the waitstaff and they will let you know how much you can order. If you have more questions, just let us know. When do you sail and on what ship? Appreciate you reading the blog.

    When you purchase the SDP you then have to add the 18% gratuity. If you get the SDP as a freebie (and UDP) will you still have to pay the 18% when you sign the bill at the end of the meal or does the freebie include the 18%. Thanks

      Hi Ian, great question. For most of the NCL promotions, when you get a free SDP or UBP you are required to prepay the 18% upfront. Once onboard, there will be no gratuity charges, unless you buy something additional or something not covered on either plan. Hope this helps. Let us know if you have any other questions. When is your next cruise? Thanks for reading.

    I have read several places on the internet that the lobster has been removed from all the specialty dining on NCL Beakaway except for OceanBlue. I called the 800 number and the lady there said she had no way of knowing this, but that “NCL still had free lobster in their Main Dining Room”. I told her this hasn’t been available for several years and disconnected (politely). I then emailed the Concierge on NCL Breakway who did confirm that lobster has been removed from the menus except for MDR (upcharge) and Ocean Blue (upcharge).

    I am cancelling my 9 days of Specialty Dining and replacing it with 3 days. Be warned.

      Interesting….I’m going on a cruise 11/13/16 and I too understand that lobster has been taken off the complimentary dining venues, which in the past, lobster was usually available on formal nights or on 1-2 nights of a 7 day or more cruise. It’s a real shame they have discontinued it. The last NCL cruise I went on did have the lobster but the food overall was subpar in quality. It was like eating at Applebee’s. We swore we were never going on NCL again but alas we are giving it one last shot before deciding whether to use NCL for next year’s family reunion.

      Also not sure about the SDP. If you pay for dining package, does it work like a credit and you use it till the value you paid is used up? For example for the 7 night package, I can use this 7 days at the same or different restaurants for either lunch or dinner regardless of what entree I got? Is it only for dinner? As for the starters, sides and desserts – I see some people say unlimited- is it really unlimited or is the value subtracted from the credit on your purchased plan? I do understand some venues do charge extra for second entrees? And some venues have an initial up-charge as an additional cost? And that some charge extra $ if you wanted something like lobster? It’s very confusing.

        I went on the Norwegian Dawn from Boston to Bermuda in August 2016. We did the Dining Package and thought it was worth it because it was more relaxing for us to have a sit-down dinner (vs the buffet) and the few sit down places took a long time to eat. (Servers worked hard but maybe understaffed?). The Dining Package restaurants service was excellent and the waitstaff let us enjoy our meal but also didn’t keep us waiting. It’s more worth your while to use them meals for dinner instead of lunch since the Dining Package is the same price whether you use them for lunch or dinner and if you paid a la carte, the dinner is more expensive. It’s one set price and you can get as many appetizers and desserts as you want, but only one entree. There may be one entree choice on the menu where you would have to pay a little extra. The tip is already included when you purchase the Dining Package so it’s up to you whether you want to add an extra tip or not. Dining Package is by the meal, not based on how much you spend. Hope this helps.

        Hi GG, you ask some great questions. We will try to answer them the best we can. When you buy the plan it is loaded to your room key. When you go to the restaurants, they ask you if you want to use the plan or pay a la carte. The plan works for dinner or lunch, but many of the specialty restaurants are only open for dinner. At most restaurants, you can get unlimited apps, salads, and desserts, and one entree. Some restaurants, like Teppanyaki or Moderno are set up different with one flat rate. Each item is not subtracted from your credit. You have a certain amount you can use, and have to pay a la carte if you go beyond that, e.g., getting a second entree. Some restaurants are an additional charge above the credit, like Ocean Blue. When you pay the additional difference, you have the same coverage, which includes all the apps and desserts, and one entree. I think this answers all your questions. Let us know if have further questions. Appreciate you reading the post and leaving a comment. Happy Sailing.

      Thanks Cub for the update. Appreciate the warning. We are surprised that the surf and turf is gone from Cagney’s Steakhouse. But, it was not the best so that is not a big lost. It is a shame that lobster is not available in the MDR. Most contemporary lines do offer it at least once during a cruise. When are you sailing on Breakaway?

    We are going on a 14 day trans Atlantic cruise on April 27, 2019……what would you recommend for he Specialy Dining Package? We have never cruised for that length of time before and wonder what arrangements for dinners we should make and should we reserve at specialty restaurants in advance? I hope you can give us some suggestions. Thanks

    We are sailing on a 15 day Transatlantic Cruise in April 2020. We booked a balcony cabin, so it included all 5 of the free offers .
    do you know how many nights are in included on the specialty dining package ?

      For cruises 11+ nights, it should be a free 5-night specialty dining package.

    My question from oct 3 was never answered! I found out that the right price for the 2 top restaurants on escape are 49.50including gratuities and taxes. So,if I take the plan and he does not , we will be charged for his meal only! As for the other restaurants they are a la crate so he will be charged but I will stay on the plan.

    Do you know how much the meal plans are if they are bought onboard versus before we sail? I know it us 118.00 pp including gratuities if we buy before we sail for the 3 day plan