Do you quiver at the end of the cruise when your bar bill arrives? Luckily, many contemporary cruise lines now offer different drink packages (or beverage packages) that could save you money. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) currently offers three different drink packages. You might be asking yourself, are Norwegian Drink Packages worth it?
Well, there are many factors that affect this evaluation. To provide you with everything you will need to determine if a Norwegian Drink Package is right for you, we have put together this Complete Guide to Norwegian Drink Packages.
Norwegian Drink Packages – Norwegian Escape in Tortola
The Basics of Norwegian Drink Packages
How To Buy a Norwegian Drink Package
All three Norwegian Drink Packages can be purchased starting 90 days before sailing. You can purchase them using the MyNCL.com account. You can also call NCL to purchase the plans over the phone.
Norwegian Drink Packages – Login into MyNCL.com
You can also purchase the NCL drink packages once onboard. However, the cruise line usually restricts this to the first few days of your sailing. You must buy the drink package for the entire duration of the cruise. If you buy it while onboard, you will be paying for the “remaining days” left of your cruise.
The Pricing of Norwegian Drink Packages
All Norwegian Drink Packages are priced on a per person, per day basis. For example, the adult soda package costs $7.50 a person, per day. Thus, for a seven day cruise the total package (pre service charge) is 7 x$7.50 = $52.50.
All drink packages are assessed an additional 18% service charge upon purchasing. So, the actual total cost of the soda package above is $61.95 ($52.50 + $9.45 service charge). Depending on the port and itinerary, additional VAT and port fees/taxes may also apply. If you are going to buy a drink package, we recommend doing so before you leave to avoid some of these potential added costs.
Purchase Your Norwegian Drink Packages Before Leaving to Enjoy Drinks at Sail Away
Currently, the Caps and Corks alcoholic beverage package is $59 ($69.62 with service charge) a person, per day. The Ultimate Beverage Package, the most inclusive program offered, is $79 ($93.22 with service charge).
All members of a stateroom must purchase the same drink package. For a family of four, if the two parents opt for the Ultimate Beverage Package or the Caps and Corks, then the two kids (staying in the same room or linked to the same reservation) must also purchase the Soda Package. This is one drawback of Norwegian Drink Packages as other cruise lines do allow select members in a cabin to purchase a drink package.
Everyone Sharing a Cabin Must Have a Norwegian Drink Package (Source)
Using Your Norwegian Drink Package While Onboard
There is no sharing of drinks bought on the drink package (i.e., you can’t buy a drink for someone else with your drink package). You are only allowed one beverage per transaction. If you go to the bar and both you and your spouse have the drink package, the bartenders will want to see both of your key cards.
Two Drinks Require Two Room Key Cards
You will receive a receipt showing the transaction and a zero balance, as long as your drink was covered in your respective drink package. While you have already paid 18% service charge (when you purchased the package), you are free to leave additional gratuities during any transaction.
Norwegian Drink Packages are good at all bars and lounges, as well as the complimentary and specialty restaurants. They do not cover drinks in the mini-bar (this goes for both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic packages), packages (e.g., buckets of beer), bottles of liquor, vending machines, gift shop drinks, or room service drinks.
Norwegian Drink Packages Work at All Indoor and Outdoor Bars
Reading the Fine Print
Drink packages are not available on Pride of America sailings or cruises that last two days or less. Norwegian Drink Packages are not available on chartered cruises either.
Starting in January 2016, all Norwegian Sky sailings include an Ultimate Beverage Package as part of the cruise fare. Thus, you do not need to purchase one prior to sailing.
All Norwegian Sky Cruises Include an Ultimate Beverage Package ©Norwegian Cruise Line
While Norwegian Cruise Line allows guests 18-20 to consume beer and wine (with a guardian’s written consent), they are not allowed to purchase an alcoholic beverage package.
Drink responsibly. NCL does reserve the right to deny patrons bar service and “to permanently or temporarily revoke the drinking privileges of any guest who violates Norwegian’s Guest Code of Conduct”. Everyone is on vacation to have a good time, just make sure you do not go overboard while using the drink package.
Enjoy One Drink at a Time with the Norwegian Drink Packages
NCL claims that the drink packages are “not refundable”. So, do plan accordingly before investing in one of the Norwegian Drink Packages. For extenuating circumstances like illness, we recommend addressing your situation with guest services while onboard.
Comparing the Different Norwegian Drink Packages
Norwegian Drink Packages – Soda Package
The most basic drink package is the Soda Package. This package starts at $5.50 ($6.49 with service) per person, per day for children under 13 and is $7.50 ($8.85 with service) per person, per day for adults.
Currently, NCL ships serve Pepsi soda products. The list of possible soft drinks (subject to change and to availability during your cruise) is listed on the NCL site as the following:
- Diet Pepsi
- Sierra Mist
- Diet Sierra Mist
- Ginger Ale
- Tonic water
- Club Soda
This plan entitles you to all you can drink soda at any of the bars and restaurants. You will receive a complimentary refillable mug to use at these venues. Or, you can just show your room key card at a bar, and they will give you a fountain soda in a plastic cup.
Cans of soda are not covered in this package (and start at $2.95). Other non-alcoholic beverages, like bottled water or bottled juices, are NOT included either.
A glass of soda is about $2.00. So, you need to drink at least 4 sodas a day (on average) to break even on this plan.
Given that there are no other non-alcoholic drink package options, this plan is for the die hard soda drinkers. Those with kids may consider this Norwegian Drink Package because it is easier to manage by giving your child the refillable cup.
Norwegian Drink Packages – Caps and Corks Package
For adults who like beer and wine, but not necessarily other liquor, the Caps and Corks package was designed for you. For the cost of $59 a day, per person ($69.62 with service), you can indulge in an unlimited selection of beer, draft beer, and wines priced at $15 or less. Soda is also covered in this plan; although, you will not get one of those refillable souvenir mugs.
Almost All Wines are Included in this Norwegian Drink Package
Bottles of wine are not covered, but you do receive a 20% discount on any bottles purchased at a bar/lounge or at dinner. Wine flights at Cellars are also not covered in the Caps and Corks Drink Package, nor are the automatic wine dispensing machines found throughout the ship.
Special events-such as onboard wine tastings, mixology classes, or liquor tastings-will not be covered in this plan either. You will need to purchase those separately.
These Machines are Not Covered in the Caps and Corks Norwegian Drink Package
Any glass of wine or beer over $15 is not included, but you will receive a $15 discount on the drink, paying only the difference. For example, the Vidal Inniskillin Ice Wine is $17.50. With the drink package, you would have to pay the $2.50 difference, plus 18%, so you would be charged $2.95 to have this dessert wine. Cocktails or liquor based drinks are not covered in this package; you will need to pay the full amount of the drink if you purchase one.
Cellars Wine Bar
On our recent Norwegian Escape Caribbean sailing, most beers cost between $6.50 and $6.95. If you are a beer drinker, that means you need to average about 9 beers a day to break even with this plan. Wine prices (per glass) ranged from $8.50 to $13.95, but most wines are priced at either $8.95 or $9.95. At these prices, it takes about 6-7 glasses a wine per day to break even. We are not wine connoisseurs, so we are not sure about the quality of the wines offered, but you can see the bar menus to get a sense of which labels might be offered on your cruise.
Can You Drink 9 Beers a Day? ©Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Drink Packages – The Ultimate Beverage Package
As the name implies, this package is the most encompassing Norwegian Drink Package available. It covers all sodas, beer and wine, and cocktails priced up to $15.
It still has all of the restrictions of the other drink packages. Namely, no bottles of wine (and in this case, no bottles of liquor either), no mini-bar purchases, or no room service is included. No special events are covered or onboard package deals. Same as the Caps and Corks package, if a drink costs more than $15, you only have to pay the difference of the drink (plus gratuity).
20% Discount on Bottles of Wine with the Ultimate Beverage Package ©Norwegian Cruise Line
The Ultimate Beverage package is $79 ($93.22 with service charge) per day. So, while it includes the most, it is also the most expensive and still does not include bottled waters, specialty coffees, energy drinks, or specialty juices.
Specialty Coffees Are Not in Included in the Ultimate Beverage Package
Most specialty cocktails are priced between $8.95 and $11.95, with many popular drinks being priced at $10.95. If you only drink cocktails, you would need to consume about 7-8 of them a day to break even on this plan. Depending on your drinking habits, you could vary the different included beverages to reach the daily costs.
These Drinks of the Day are Priced at $7.95
For instance, here is a breakdown of drinks we had on a typical sea day on Norwegian Escape:
|During the Day|
|1 Drink of the Day (Cherry-Lime Aid)||$7.95|
|1 Boat Drink at Chill Bar||$11.95|
|1 Margarita at 5 O’Clock Somewhere||$10.95|
|2 glasses of wine at dinner (2 * 9.95)||$19.90|
|1 cocktail Prime Meridian Bar||$10.95|
|1 cocktail at comedy show||$10.95|
|Service Charge 18%||$13.08|
As you can see, we came close to the actual dollar amount of the drink package, but we did fall a bit short. In fact, if we were to purchase the drink package for the two of us, based on current costs, the drink package would be a total of $1305.08. To purchase all our drinks consumed during our 7 day cruise would have cost $922.08 (with service charges). A difference of – $383.00.
Making the Most of Norwegian Drink Packages
While the prices of the Norwegian Drink Packages are higher than comparable plans offered by other cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International, NCL has recently been running promotions in which the Ultimate Drink Package is a free perk with booking.
Free at Sea Promotion Options (See NCL.com for Current Offers)
Depending on when you book and your itinerary, you might be able to get the Norwegian Drink Package for free. For our cruise, if you booked an ocean view cabin (which was about $150 more per person vs. an inside cabin) or higher, you got to choose a free perk. We obviously chose the Ultimate Beverage package. Note, none of the ocean view rooms were midship, so we ended up purchasing a balcony for about $220 more per person than a comparable inside cabin.
Getting a Balcony Meant We Got a Free Norwegian Drink Package
Looking at the value we got from the free Norwegian Drink Packages, it was a smart upgrade. While we didn’t drink enough to cover the costs of “buying” the drink package, going with a better cabin to get the free perk (the drink package) was surely a better investment all around. We did still have to pay the 18% service charge even though we got the package as a free perk, but we still saved hundreds.
Compared to the other perks, which typically include a specialty dining package, 250 minutes of internet, or onboard credit towards shore excursions, the Norwegian Drink Package is the best deal regardless of how much you drink.
So, Are Norwegian Drink Packages Worth it?
Are Norwegian Drink Packages worth it? Based on our alcohol consumption, they are not a good value if you are paying the full price of the package. But, if you get the package as a complimentary perk with your room, or a modest cabin upgrade, then yes, the drink packages are a great value.
Do you think the Norwegian Drink Packages are a good value? How did you make out with a drink package? Drop us an anchor below to tell us your experiences with these packages on an NCL sailing.