Here’s What You Need to Know About Norwegian’s Free at Sea in 2024

We detail everything you need to know about Norwegian's Free at Sea and Free at Sea Plus to help you make the right choice in 2024.

Norwegian's Free at Sea

Everything You Need to Know About Norwegian’s Free at Sea

What is NCL’s Free at Sea?

Norwegian Cruise Line frequently runs its popular promotion called Free at Sea. Norwegian’s Free at Sea offer entitles guests to free perks like drink packages, specialty dining, WiFi, kids sail free (or 3rd & 4th guests sail free), and more.

The number of perks that cruisers receive does vary based on the current sale and the stateroom category booked. Usually, guests can get up to 5 free perks with this sale. Occasionally, there are up to 6 perks if airfare is part of the current promotion.

For example, NCL’s Free at Sea previously offered guests who booked Studio, Inside, Oceanview, Balcony, or Club Balcony Suite rooms the ability to choose 2 free perks. Guests who booked Suites and The Haven received all 5 free perks. Recently though, guests booking most cabin categories can receive all 5 free perks. Now, that’s a good deal!

norwegian viva exterior

This promotion offers guests a more all-inclusive experience, where they will know the majority of their cruise costs upfront and not have to worry about the bill at the end of the cruise.

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It is important to read the fine print at the time of your booking as the terms of the promotion can change. For instance, some categories like Studio and Inside have only qualified for 1 perk in the past.

Further, the cheapest fares are usually “Sail Away” rates, or guaranteed rates. These rates are often excluded from the promotion.

All perks included in this offer have no monetary value. Thus, if you opt to decline any of the entitled perks (which you can), you will not receive a refund nor can you gift it to someone else.

Further, it can vary as to how many guests in the stateroom receive each perk. For instance, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea provides drink packages to all guests but dining packages only to the first 2 guests on the reservation.

Best Cruise Lines for Families - Norwegian's Free at Sea

This promotion can be combined with other offers being run by the cruise line like 2 for 1 deposits. It can also be combined with travel agent offers, like extra perks or onboard credit. This is one of the easiest ways to save money when booking a cruise.

You must select your Free at Sea choices at least 24 hours prior to sailing. Further, it is important to know that both 1st and 2nd guests in the stateroom need to pick the same perks.

See below for further clarifications on each NCL Free at Sea perk.

NCL’s Free at Sea Terms and Conditions:

  • Valid on 3+ night sailings
  • Free at Sea choice(s) must be selected at least 24 hours prior to sailing and cannot be changed on board
  • Offer is capacity controlled and can be withdrawn at any time
  • Singles paying 200% of voyage fare qualify
  •  All guests in stateroom must choose same offer
  • Government taxes, port expenses & fees, discretionary onboard service charges and/or gratuities are additional
  • Not applicable to chartered dates
  • This promotion is not applicable on the land portion of Cruisetours
  • Components included in this offer have no monetary value, are non-refundable and non-transferable
  • Norwegian Cruise Line reserves the right to cancel or withdraw this offer at any time

What are the Norwegian’s Free at Sea Perks?

Free Unlimited Open Bar Package

The most popular of Norwegian’s Free at Sea perks is the Unlimited Open Bar Package. This perk entitles guests 1-8 on the reservation a Norwegian Cruise Line Premium beverage package.

Do know that a 20% gratuity is added to all “free” beverage packages.

best cruise ship bars - Norwegian's Free at Sea

Guests under 21 years of age will get a soda package as a substitution, but only if they are the first or second guest on the reservation. If guests 3-8 are under 21 years of age, a soda package will not be given as a substitution.

The retail value of the Unlimited Open Bar Package is $109 per person, per day. The retail value of the Soda Package is $9.95 per person, per day.

Guests can upgrade from the free Open Bar Package (Premium drink package) to the Premium Plus drink package for $29 a day per person.

What does the Free at Sea beverage package include?

The NCL “free drink package”, which is provided as part of the NCL Free at Sea promotion, includes the following beverages:

  • Select premium cocktails & spirits under $15 USD
  • A variety of beers and wines by the glass under $15 USD
  • 20% off all bottles of champagne and wine
  • Unlimited soft drinks and juices

The Premium beverage package includes a variety of spirits, cocktails, wines by the glass, and bottled or draft beer up to $15. Further, this package includes unlimited fountain soda and juices at all bars, lounges, restaurants, and the private island of Great Stirrup Cay (though not Harvest Caye).

Norwegian's Free at Sea

Any items over $15 will receive a $15 discount; you will then need to pay only the difference.

Further, eligible guests are entitled to two beverages per person per transaction.

The Premium beverage package does not include room service, ship specific promotions or beer buckets, designated Super Premium brands, bottled wine or liquor, or mini bar purchases. For a list of included brands, see here. It also does not include Wine and Spirit Experiences, tastings or flights, Starbucks, Ice Bars, and wine stations.

Unlike most other cruise lines, premium non-alcoholic drinks are not part of this beverage package either. Guests will still need to pay extra for items like bottled water, fresh squeezed juices, specialty coffee beverages, and energy drinks. However, guests will receive a 20% discount on bottles of wine, Wine and Spirit Experiences, and tastings or flights purchased onboard the ship.

Guests who choose to upgrade to the Premium Plus beverage package can enjoy all of the previous inclusions in addition to the following beverages.

  • All top-shelf cocktails & spirits
  • All beer, champagne, and wine by the glass
  • Select premium bottles of champagne and wine with dinner and 40% off all other bottles
  • Unlimited soft drinks and juices
  • Unlimited still & sparkling bottled water
  • All Starbucks coffee & specialty drinks
  • Energy drinks

Free Specialty Dining

Norwegian Cruise Line is known for its Freestyle approach to dining. This means no set dinner times, table arrangements, or main dining room. Instead, the cruise line offers a variety of dining options.

While there are several complimentary options, many of the dining venues do charge an additional fee. 

Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Packages - Norwegian's Free at Sea

Luckily, there is the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package (SDP).

This package entitles users to dine at many of the for-fee restaurants on any NCL ship for one set price. More importantly, this specialty dining package is commonly one of NCL’s Free at Sea perks.

The specialty dining package perk is only applicable to the first two guests on the reservation who are at least 2 years old.

At the cruise line’s signature Cagney’s Steakhouse and Le Bistro, you can order as many starters, sides, and desserts as you want. However, you can only order one entree. You will need to pay a la carte pricing for any additional entrees.

Further, a SDP meal in Food Republic, Pincho Tapas Bar, and Wasabi includes 4 menu items per person.

Room Service, Starbucks, The Bake Shop, Coco’s, Dolce Gelato, specialty items in the Asian restaurant, Jazz Brunch, or Wine Lovers and Murder Mystery lunches are not part of the specialty dining package. Beverages are also not included.

Additionally, cruisers can use a specialty dining meal credit for entertainment-based restaurants for an additional surcharge (like Cirque Dreams). However, if you wish to use a SDP meal credit, you will need to wait until you are onboard the ship to book.

Of course, even if you receive the package for free at part of a promotion, you can always purchase an additional specialty dining package for extra meals.

Prior to your sail date, you may receive promotional offers to upgrade your dining package with additional meals for a discounted price.

How many meals are in Norwegian’s Free at Sea?

The number of meals received is based on both the length of the cruise and the stateroom category booked.

Guests receive the following:

  • 1 meal for 3-6 night cruises regardless of cabin category
  • Balcony and above will receive 2 free meals for 7-11 night cruises
  • Guests on 7-11 night cruises who book a studio, inside, or oceanview will only get 1 free meal
  • On 12+ night cruises, guests get 2 meals for studio, inside, and oceanview or 3 meals for balcony and above.

See the below chart for the specialty dining breakdown.

norwegian cruise free at sea specialty dining chart

Additionally, guests must pay a 20% gratuity on the retail value of the Specialty Dining Package prior to their cruise.

Cruisers can use Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Packages at most specialty venues. These include Cagney’s Steakhouse, Food Republic, La Cucina, Onda by Scarpetta, Le Bistro, Los Lobos, Moderno Churrascaria, Ocean Blue, Bayamo, Pincho Tapas Bar, Q Texas Smokehouse, The Raw Bar, and Teppanyaki.

Free Shore Excursions

Another common perk of Norwegian’s Free at Sea promotion is free shore excursions. If you are new to cruising, you may not know the lingo.

The term “shore excursion” can refer to any number of different activities that occur at each port of call. Cruise shore excursions occur off of the ship and are completed during the hours you are docked at the port.

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Shore excursions give cruisers the opportunity to maximize their time ashore while eliminating some of the leg work of planning (tickets, transportation, etc.) for a DIY tour. These tours are usually designed to highlight the best attractions that the area has to offer.

NCL’s Free at Sea free shore excursions offer qualifies the first guest only on the reservation for a credit of $50 per port.

Guests can use this credit to purchase any tour offered by the cruise line. If the tour is less than $50, no refund will be issued. If the tour is more than $50, the guest will be responsible to pay the difference.

Latitude member discounts are combinable with this perk. Though, the $50 shore excursion credit does not apply to equipment rentals in Great Stirrup Cay or Harvest Caye ports of call. Pre-cruise and post-cruise land tours are not eligible for this promotion.

The retail value of this perk is based on the number of ports of call scheduled for your itinerary.

Free WiFi

Another one of Norwegian’s Free at Sea perks is free WiFi and again, the value of this perk is based on the length of the cruise. While Norwegian Cruise Line does offer an unlimited internet package, guests will only receive a certain number of minutes with this free perk.

NCL’s Free at Sea WiFi perk provides:

  • 75 minutes per person for 3-6 Day Cruises
  • 150 minutes per person for 7-11 Day Cruises
  • 300 minutes per person for 12+ Day Cruises
cruise ship internet

These minutes are per person, not per stateroom which is an improvement from the past. They apply to the first and second guests in a cabin, meaning that bookings will receive two logins per stateroom.

Of note, internet packages are not available on Great Stirrup Cay or Harvest Caye. Further, these minutes can only be used on one device at a time.

It is important to know that while cruise ship internet is getting faster, it may never be as reliable as your internet back home. Cruise ship internet depends on satellite connections and geographical location. The ship’s distance offshore as well as interference from landscapes and weather can all cause variable cruise ship internet speeds.

Thus, you should be able to use these internet minutes for basic tasks like checking email and posting on social media. However, you shouldn’t plan on using these minutes for streaming purposes (though you may be able to stream depending on the ship’s connection strength).

Like the previous perks, you can always upgrade your WiFi package. Cruisers often receive promotions to upgrade at discounted rates prior to their cruise.

The standard price for the Unlimited WiFi package is $29.99 for one device per day. The Unlimited WiFi with streaming package is $39.99 for one device per day. A second device can be added for an additional $15.99 per day for an Unlimited package, and $25.99 per day for the Unlimited Premium package. A 4-device package is also available.

Free 3rd and 4th Guest

This Norwegian Cruise Line Free at Sea perk is exactly what it sounds like. This promotion is also sometimes called Kids Sail Free. Basically, this offer is valid for guests 3-4 sharing a stateroom with guests 1-2 paying the full fare.

This offer is only applicable on select sailings. Thus, popular times of the year like school breaks and holidays are not usually part of the promotion.

If there are guests 5-8 in a reservation, those guests will pay prevailing fares.

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Free Airfare for 2nd Guest

This offer is valid on select 7+ night sailings only. With this perk, the second guest on the reservation flies for free when buying airfare for the first guest. Offer is not applicable to guests 3-8 on the reservation.

Generally, guests must make the reservation more than 75 days prior to sailing to qualify. Further, this air offer applies to economy, round-trip flights from select departure gateways only.

Solo traveling guests will receive 50% off Norwegian Cruise Line’s promotional airfare pricing each way.

Airline-imposed personal charges such as baggage fees are not included and are paid directly to the airline.

Terms and Conditions:

  • For Domestic flights, airfare will include a maximum of one connection when possible; air schedules permitting
  • For International flights, airfare will include a maximum of two connections when possible; air schedules permitting
  • If flying from the West Coast to the East Coast of the U.S., guests may receive an overnight flight
  • For cruises concluding on the East Coast of the US, guests may receive a flight that departs up to 10:30 p.m.
  • For cruises concluding on the West Coast of the U.S. with guests returning home to a city located on the East Coast or central U.S., guests may be reserved on a flight that departs up to 11:59 p.m.
  • Guests embarking or disembarking in PortMiami may be reserved on flights arriving or departing at Miami International Airport (MIA) or Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
  • Guests embarking or disembarking in Manhattan Cruise Terminal (New York City) may be reserved on flights arriving or departing at LaGuardia Airport (LGA), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), or John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • Guests embarking or disembarking in Quebec City may be reserved on flights arriving or departing from Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL) to ensure the most convenient schedule

Does Norwegian’s Free at Sea include gratuities?

NCL’s Free at Sea promotion does not typically include gratuities as one of its perks.

The current rates for NCL cruise gratuities are as follows:

  • $25 for guests staying in the Haven and Suites
  • $20 for all other staterooms, Club Balcony Suites and below
Norwegian Bliss - NCL Free at Sea

Is Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free at Sea Good for All Itineraries?

Generally speaking, NCL’s Free at Sea is applicable to all sailings of 3 nights or greater. Chartered sailings and land portions of Cruisetours are the exceptions.

Hawaii sailings offer a slightly modified Free at Sea promotion.

The Hawaii Beverage Package is applicable to Pride of America sailings only, for guests 1-8 on the reservation.

This package includes a variety of beverages up to $15. It also includes fountain soda, freshly squeezed juice, bottled water (flat and sparkling), non-alcoholic beer, and specialty coffee in the dining room only. The package does not include specialty coffee outside of the restaurants, room service, mini bar purchases, or vending machines.

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NCL’s Disclaimer: “The purchase of any alcoholic drinks within the Hawaii Beverage Package may, in certain individual circumstances, be restricted in accordance with Hawaii’s Intoxicating Liquor Law and applicable local rules and regulations.”

Retail value of the Hawaii Beverage Package is $109 per person, per day.

Like the traditional Free Open Bar perk, guests sailing in Hawaii need to pay the 20% gratuity on this “free perk.”

Is Norwegian’s Free at Sea Really Free?

Some of Norwegian’s Free at Sea perks are truly “free” while some are not.

In terms of the Free Open Bar, guests will still need to pay gratuity on this “free” perk. The 20% service charge for a 7-day cruise will cost each guest $152.60 for the Premium Beverage package. The Soda Package gratuity is $1.59 per person, per day. This gratuity is added to the total cruise fare at the time of booking.

Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Packages

While this is a great value, it is still a considerable amount to pay for a “free” perk. Thus, you can choose to opt out of the drink package if offered all 5 perks. If offered two perks, you could choose 2 alternate instead. This is especially applicable to guests who do not drink alcoholic beverages.

Further, if you enjoy specialty coffee or want bottled water, you will have to pay extra to upgrade to the Premium Plus beverage package, or can purchase them a la carte.

Similarly, guests need to pay gratuity on the specialty dining package as well. This 20% service charge is $11.80 for a 7-11 day cruise in a studio, inside, or oceanview room. The gratuity is $19.80 per package for balcony and above cabins.

This does not include any additional tips that you would like to provide to your waitstaff.

Norwegian's Free at Sea

In terms of the free shore excursions, the $50 credit per stateroom will not cover much. So, you will likely need to pay extra to cover the costs of shore excursions.

Of course, if you planned on booking shore excursions anyway, this is free money. Although, if you are booking them just to utilize the credit, it will likely cost you extra.

When taking advantage of the Friends and Family Sail Free perk, you will still need to pay the Government Taxes, Fees, and Port Expenses for “sail free” guests. These fees vary based on the itinerary but will likely cost $200+ each guest.

One final thing to consider. Cheaper room categories might qualify for less perks, but they are CHEAPER. If you are paying more money for a higher room category just to score the free perks, you will need to determine if it is worth it for you.

What Perks Should I Pick from Norwegian’s Free at Sea?

What perks should I pick from NCL’s Free at Sea? This is one of our most frequently asked questions. Of course, this only becomes a consideration if you are not receiving all 5 free perks as part of the promotion.

So, let’s review retail values of each perk based on a 7-day cruise.

  • Open Bar- $763 per person
  • Specialty Dining- $99 per person for 1st and 2nd guests ($59 for lower room categories)
  • Shore Excursions- $50 per port, per stateroom
  • WiFi- not exactly comparable because purchasing outside of Free at Sea is an unlimited per-day package, which starts at $29.99 per device, per day

Based on retail value, choosing the Free Open Bar is a no-brainer for most. It will save you the most money on your cruise, but only if you drink alcoholic beverages.

Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Packages

Remember, as mentioned above, you are still paying the gratuities on this package. Thus, if you don’t think that both guests will drink at least $150 or so in alcoholic beverages over the week (say 2 drinks/day), then you probably shouldn’t opt for this perk. Or, you might decline this perk if you are given all 5 offers.

If you are sailing with family, the 3rd & 4th guests sail free is the other obvious choice. This perk will save you hundreds of dollars as well.

The other 3 perks are much closer in value. So, it really comes down to your preferences. We usually opt for the specialty dining as we enjoy NCL’s specialty restaurants.

Previously, NCL’s internet was slow when compared to other cruise lines. However in 2023 the line implemented Starlink satellite broadband internet, which has proven faster and more reliable so far. That could make choosing wifi an attractive option if you want to get online every so often but won’t need much internet access throughout your voyage.

If you are planning to book shore excursions in multiple ports, the shore excursions perk might be a good value. However, if you plan to stay on the ship at some ports or have a lot of sea days in your itinerary, this might not be the best option.

Norwegian's Free at Sea - Pool Deck of Norwegian Encore

Further, you don’t need to book shore excursions through the cruise line. You could wander the port on your own or purchase cheaper and often more authentic experiences through local tour providers.

If given 2 free perks, we always pick the drink package and dining package. But since it has become the norm for NCL to offer all five perks to pretty much all stateroom categories, chances are high that you won’t even have to choose.

Is Free at Sea worth it?

The answer to this question should be based on your own personal habits. However, the answer is typically yes. If you will likely purchase any of these perks, it is probably cheaper to opt for the Free at Sea promotion.

Remember, if you don’t think you will break even on the gratuity aspect of the drink package or don’t want the dining package, you can opt out and still get the remaining perks.

If you don’t care about alcoholic drinks or specialty dining, or your room location, you can certainly save money with a Sail Away (guarantee) rate.

Norwegian's Free at Sea

What is Free at Sea Plus?

Norwegian’s Free at Sea Plus is an upgrade from the promotional Free at Sea package. Guests can upgrade their free perks to a more premium level for $49 per person, per day.

The Free at Sea Plus package includes:

  • Premium Plus beverage package for Guests 1&2
  • Two additional specialty dining meals for Guests 1&2
  • Additional $50 shore excursion credit per tour for Guest 2
  • Unlimited WiFi (no streaming) for Guests 1&2

If the second guest on the reservation is a child or you are cruising solo, see here for variations to this Free at Sea Plus package. Of note, the upgrade price will be cheaper for the 2nd guest if under 21 years old ($29). It is also cheaper for solo travelers ($42).

Further, if you want streaming WiFi, you can upgrade the Free at Sea Plus WiFi to streaming for $10.80 per person/day.

Terms and Conditions:

  • Available on 3+ night sailings except charters
  • Available fleetwide except on Pride of America
  • Applicable to all stateroom categories except Sail Away rates
  • Offer is capacity controlled
  • Solo travelers are not entitled to additional shore excursion credit

Is Free at Sea Plus worth it?

So, with this new perk, it comes down to whether it is worth it or not to upgrade. Should you upgrade from the “free” Free at Sea promotion to the Free at Sea Plus package?

Once again, this is an individual decision. Basically, you will need to decide whether you would spend more than $49 per person, per day on these extra perks.

When looking at the shore excursion credit alone, it would not be worth it as the $50 is only for port days.

When looking at the two additional specialty dinners alone, it would not be worth it either. This package is $99 (or less than $15 per day). Not to mention, you can often score a dining package upgrade on the Free at Sea at a discounted price.

In terms of WiFi, the Unlimited WiFi (in the Free at Sea Plus) is only $29.99 per day to purchase.

Looking at the drink package alone, guests can upgrade to the Premium Plus package for $29 per day.

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So, generally speaking, if you plan to purchase the drink package upgrade and at least one other perk, then Free at Sea Plus is probably worth it for you. If you are interested in two perks, but one of them is NOT the drink package, it’s probably not worth it. Likewise, if you only want one perk it is not worth it either.

For us, we enjoy the added benefits of the Premium Plus drink package, like Starbucks and bottled water. We also enjoy NCL’s specialty restaurants and would upgrade our WiFi package anyway. Thus, the Free at Sea Plus makes sense for us and helps to save us money.


What are your favorite Norwegian’s Free at Sea perks? Do you find upgrading to the Free at Sea Plus a good value? Drop us an anchor below to share your experiences cruising with NCL.

Heidi is a physical therapist by profession, cruise enthusiast at heart, and Princess all the time! She is a self-confessed thrill seeker, obsessive planner, and over-packer. She is always looking for the latest and greatest adventures onboard and ashore, enjoys researching top things to do in ports of call, and loves dressing up for formal nights.
Heidi Bucolo
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  1. We’re doing one of these cruises next summer, and it’s me and my husband, and two kids under 18. When I asked about the free drink package, they said my husband and I (guests 1&2) will receive the premium open bar package, but the kids (guests 3&4) will NOT receive the soda package free. They told me that the free soda package only applied if the minors are guests 1 or 2. ?

    Of course, now I’m wondering if I could switch my husband to be guest 2 and make my teen guest 2 for his soda package, since guest 3 over 21 still gets the premium bar option free.

    This makes no sense to me.

      I mean change my husband to guest 3 and my kid to guest 2.

      Or book two staterooms. My family is 2 adults, 2 children. We booked two rooms, each with one adult and one child. The cruise itself cost about $150-200 more, but we’re getting two free airfares instead of one, and everyone gets a drink and upgraded dining package… not to mention twice the cabin space!

    Thank you for your detailed description. If I’m traveling with my 17 year old daughter in a balcony room and upgrade to Free at Sea Plus, will she be able to order Starbucks, energy drinks, bottled water or just the soda package? I can’t get an answer from NCL.

    Thank you for all info. It was very helpful. If you don’t drink alcohol, do they let you substitute that option for another 2 specialty meals? Also, how do you opt out of alcohol pkg if you get 5 free upgrades? My cruise free at sea pkg was just added. I didn’t see a choice to opt out??

    Beverages are not included at the specialty dining venues? even if one has the free at sea dining package and the beverage package?

    The info you provided here is priceless. Thank you so much –

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