One of the most hotly debated cruise topics are drink packages. For one flat fee, these cruise ship drink packages offer cruisers the ability to make their cruise more inclusive. Still, whether or not you should purchase one of these beverage packages is an individual choice that depends on several factors. In this post, we complete an analysis to answer the question, “Is the Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Package Worth It?”.
Is the Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Package Worth It?
Basics of the Norwegian Cruise Line Premium Drink Package
The Norwegian Cruise Line Premium Drink Package was formerly known as the Ultimate Beverage Package. This is the standard alcohol package offered by Norwegian Cruise Line.
This is also the package that guests receive as part of the Free at Sea promotion.
All Norwegian Cruise Line beverage packages are priced per person, per day. When electing to purchase a package, you have to pay for the entire length of the cruise. You can not purchase just select days.
Further, there is no sharing of the package or using your package to order drinks for other cruisers. All qualifying individuals in the stateroom or additional staterooms under the same method of payment must purchase one.
Also, any guests under the age of 21 must purchase a soda package as a substitute.
The stated prices do not include the additional 20% service charge which is added when purchasing the package. Even if you receive a drink package with the cruise line’s Free at Sea promotion, you are still responsible to pay this 20% gratuity.
Exclusive: Norwegian Cruise Line Free at Sea Deals
The Norwegian Cruise Line Premium Drink Package is good almost everywhere. This includes all bars, lounges, restaurants, and the brand’s private island of Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas.
However, drink packages do not work at Harvest Caye, Belize.
Unlike the Carnival Cheers Program which limits you to 15 alcoholic drinks a day, NCL’s drink packages are truly unlimited.
No matter what package you purchase, you can order two beverages per person, per transaction. Of course, staff do have the right to refuse you bar service if you are intoxicated.
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You can purchase a Norwegian Cruise Line drink package online pre-cruise or once onboard the ship.
Everything Included (and Not Included) in the Norwegian Cruise Line Premium Drink Package
The Norwegian Cruise Line Premium Drink Package includes a variety of spirits, cocktails, and 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 Great Stirrup Cay.
Any items over $15 will receive a $15 discount; you will then need to pay only the difference.
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, or Ice Bars.
Unlike most other cruise lines’ drink packages, this alcoholic beverage package also does not include any premium non-alcoholic drinks. Items like bottled water, fresh squeezed juices, select Lavazza coffee beverages, and energy drinks are not included.
Further vending machine purchases and wine stations are not included.
Guests will receive a 20% discount to all bottles of wine purchased onboard with the Premium beverage package.
Analysis of the Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Package
This brings us back to the original question, is the Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Package a good value? That is a question that only you can answer based on your own drinking habits.
The Premium beverage package is currently priced at $99 per person, per day. This equates to $831.60 per person for a 7-day cruise (including 20% service charge). So, given that it does not include many non-alcoholic items, the Premium beverage package is priced well above its competitors.
To determine if the Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Package is a good value, there are a few scenarios we will consider.
To complete these analyses, we tracked all of our beverages consumed over a 7-day cruise. Then, we took the average prices for each drink category to determine how much we would have spent on drinks if we paid a la carte for each item.
The complete analysis is below.
|Bottled Water (500 ml)||$4.00||0||$0.00|
|Bottled Water (1 liter)||$5.00||0||$0.00|
|Other Non-Alcoholic Drinks||$5.00||0||$0.00|
In total, we drank 76 drinks that were included in the Norwegian Cruise Line Premium Drink Package. The total cost of all those drinks with service charge was $978.00 for the two of us.
Is the Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Package Worth Getting as a Free Perk?
The Free Open Bar is likely the top pick for many from Norwegian’s Free at Sea promotion. When selecting this “free” perk, guests will still need to pay gratuity. The 20% service charge for a 7-day cruise will cost each guest $138.60 for the Premium Beverage package. This gratuity is added to the total cruise fare at the time of booking.
Based on this cost, if you and your cabin mate will drink on average at least 2 alcoholic drinks/day, then the Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Package is worth getting as a free perk.
Of course, this number of drinks varies slightly based on your drink preferences. The average price for beer is around $7.50, and the average for a glass of wine is $9. Most mixed drinks range between $10-$12.
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Using our numbers, we saved $700.80 total on alcoholic beverages during our 7-day cruise by timing the booking of our cruise with the frequently run Free at Sea promotion.
Is the Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Package Worth Buying?
If we had purchased the Norwegian Cruise Line Premium Drink Package out of pocket, it would have cost us $1663.20 total. Only spending $978 on alcoholic drinks over the course of the week, we were a far cry from reaching the break even point.
In fact, we would have actually lost $685.20 compared to just paying out of pocket for all our alcoholic beverages.
So, unless you and your cabin mate can consistently drink 11+ alcoholic beverages a day, then it would not be worth buying the Norwegian Cruise Line drink package.
Of course, convenience is one of the perks we like about having a beverage package. Though, given that many non-alcoholic drinks, like bottled water and specialty coffee, are not included in this package, it wouldn’t make sense for us to purchase it out of pocket.
Luckily, the cruise line runs the Free at Sea promotion so frequently that we don’t really ever have to worry about this scenario.
Is It Worth Upgrading the Norwegian Cruise Line Premium Drink Package to the Premium Plus Package?
A relatively newer offering, the Premium Plus beverage package is the most all-inclusive option of the NCL drink packages. Though, it does come at a higher price point.
The Premium Plus beverage package is currently priced at $128 per person, per day. This equates to a full retail price of $1,075.20 for a 7-day cruise (including 20% service charge).
This drink package includes everything in the Premium beverage package, along with other higher end offerings. These additional inclusions are freshly squeezed juice, bottled water (flat and sparkling), energy drinks, non-alcoholic beer, wine dispensers, and specialty coffee. For a full list of included beverages, see here.
Another upgrade to this plan is the availability of select bottles of wine at dinner. For non-select bottles of wine (champagne and sparkling included), “Wine and Spirit Experiences”, tastings, and flights, guests will receive a 40% discount.
This beverage package is available as an upgrade to the Free at Sea Premium beverage package option. Cruisers can upgrade by paying the difference in the retail package price ($29) in addition to associated service charges ($34.80 total per person, per day).
Essentially, you will need to decide if you will drink at least $29 a day per person of the additional inclusions. When considering this option, it is important to note that NCL offers cruisers the ability to purchase a 24-pack of 1L bottles of water for $44.95 on the online cruise planner.
Generally speaking, we each drink about 2 non-alcoholic specialty drinks a day plus bottled water. Thus, purchasing a case of water at $44.95 ($6.42 broken down per day) and 2 specialty beverages at $9-10 total, we would not reach the $29 per person, per day fee associated with upgrading.
Of course, if you plan to drink more non-alcoholic specialty drinks or like bottles of wine, then this upgrade might be worth it for you.
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Recap: Is the Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Package Worth It?
As you can see from the different scenarios provided above, the Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Package is likely worth it if you are receiving it as an included Free at Sea perk. Though, it is not likely worth it to purchase out of pocket unless you plan on consuming a considerable number of alcoholic beverages a day.
Further, there are several other factors you should keep in mind when determining if you should buy a beverage package on a cruise.
Depending on your ports of call and number of sea days, as well as your hours ashore, you may receive better savings (or less) on your voyage. On port intensive cruises, like the Mediterranean, you might find yourself spending long days ashore.
This means less time on the ship to take advantage of that drink package. On the flipside, if you are visiting NCL’s private island of Great Stirrup Cay on your cruise, this gives you more opportunity to use the package while enjoying some fun in the sun.
Ultimately, you need to know your own drinking habits (and your cabin mate’s). It’s easy to go overboard if you are just trying to get your money’s worth from the drink package.
Do you usually purchase beverage packages when you cruise? Do you think the Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Package is a good value? Drop us an anchor below with your analysis of this beverage program.