Complete Guide to the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package

Our Complete Guide to Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Packages will help you decide if one is a good value for you in 2024.

norwegian cruise line specialty dining package viva los lobos featured photo

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 beyond your standard cruise fare. Further, the cruise line’s pricing has also transitioned to a la carte at many of these venues. Luckily, there is the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package (SDP) to help you save some money.

Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package

This package entitles users to dine at many of the for-fee restaurants on any NCL ship for one set price. The question becomes, is the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining package a good value? Given that each ship has an array of different restaurants, deciding on whether you should get the package might be ship dependent.

Once you have your cruise booked, you will want to examine the list of specialty restaurants on your ship. If there are two or more venues that look appealing to you, and you have the funds in your cruise budget, you should consider purchasing a specialty dining package.

Of course, if you booked your cruise during NCL’s Free at Sea promotion (which is pretty much constant nowadays), then you might have scored one of these packages for free. Though, it is important to note that guests will still be responsible to pay the additional 20% service charge for the package. The same is true for the “free” beverage package perk.

Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package

Through the specialty dining Free at Sea perk, a typical three to six-night cruise entitles guests staying in any cabin receive one specialty dining meal. On seven to 11-night voyages for those staying in an oceanview cabin or below, it’s also one meal. Guests staying in a balcony cabin or above on the same cruise length get two meals. On 12+ night voyages, oceanview cabins or below get two meals, while balcony and above get three meals. This perk applies only to the first and second guests on a reservation.

Related Post: What’s Included on Norwegian Cruise Line

Complete Guide to Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package (2024)

Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package Basics

You can purchase the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package pre-cruise similar to beverage packages using your My NCL account. You may also purchase the package once onboard the ship during the first two days of your sailing. For 3 and 4-day cruises, you can only buy the dining plan prior to sailing or on the first day of your cruise. If you choose to wait to buy the plan once on the ship, each package will cost slightly more money than if you buy ahead of time.

If you received the package for free at part of a promotion, you can always purchase an additional specialty dining package for extra meals. For instance, if you plan on dining at a specialty restaurant every night of your seven-day cruise, you would likely purchase a five or six-night meal plan to supplement the one or two-night plan that you received as part of the Free at Sea promotion when booking your cruise.

These specialty dining plans are available for all NCL ships. Published plans range from two to 14 days, though you can call NCL to inquire about pricing for cruises longer than 15 days. The total amount of meals cannot exceed the length of the cruise. When purchasing, you should plan the number of meals accordingly, as no refunds will be issued for unused meals.

norwegian cruise specialty dining package price chart

The Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package is available for purchase on an individual basis. Thus, you cannot transfer meals to other guests. If you wish to pay for someone else’s dinner, you will have to pay regular prices.

Specialty Dining Packages do not include beverages. Further, some premium menu items will incur extra charges. Additional entrée charges may also apply. Additionally, there is no discount pricing for kids’ specialty dining packages. The same dining package pricing is applicable to all guests ages two and older.

Further, a 20% gratuity will be added to all SDP purchased. As noted earlier, this same fee is applied even if you get the package for “free”.

Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package

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Using the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package

You can make reservations online for the specialty restaurants up to 90 days prior to your sail date. Reservations are not required but are highly recommended. Once onboard the ship, reservations will be subject to availability. Keep in mind, some restaurants are very popular among cruisers and do fill up quickly. Prime dining times also fill up quickly.

If your plans change, you can cancel your reservations 24 hours in advance with no charge (just remember any unused meals are not refunded).

In a la carte restaurants, the specialty dining package covers one appetizer, one soup or salad, one main course, and one dessert. If you want additional menu items, you will need to pay the a la carte prices. This limit does not apply to cover charge restaurants such as Moderno and Teppanyaki.

In restaurants where sharing amongst the table is encouraged (Food Republic and Pincho Tapas Bar and Sushi), a specialty dining package meal includes any four menu items (including dessert) per person. Across the board, all specialty restaurant items are eligible for the specialty dining package except for the Seafood Platter in Raw Bar.

Also, cruisers can use a specialty dining meal credit for entertainment-based restaurants on select ships for an additional surcharge. To reserve a spot at an entertainment-based restaurant, visit NCL’s online “Entertainment” section or visit the box office once onboard.

norwegian cruise line specialty dining package viva los lobos

There is no maximum to the number of meals that can be redeemed each day.

You may be wondering how the restaurants will know that you have a dining package. When you check in with the hostess at the restaurant, they will scan your card to see if you have a meal plan. Then, they will ask if you want to use a meal credit from your Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining package at the venue. Of course, you always have the option to pay a la carte. This option comes in handy if, for example, you are only popping in for a few appetizers or for dessert.

Still, you will still have to sign a receipt at the completion of dinner even when using a meal credit from your specialty dining package. It will detail the prices of the meal and your (most likely) zero balance.

Related Post: What You Should Know Before Taking a Norwegian Viva Cruise

Where Can You Use the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package?

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, Pincho Tapas Bar, Q Texas Smokehouse, The Raw Bar, seafood, sushi, and Teppanyaki.

Cagney’s is NCL’s signature steakhouse serving up tender cuts of beef. Luckily, this staple venue is on all ships in the fleet.

Food Republic is one of our favorite restaurants on Norwegian Cruise Line. This tapas restaurant serves up flavors from around the world. It can be found aboard Norwegian Bliss, Escape, Encore, Joy, Prima, and Viva.

La Cucina is NCL’s Italian restaurant serving up classic Italian dishes in a rustic setting. This restaurant is on all ships in the fleet except Norwegian Encore, Spirit, Viva, and Prima.

Le Bistro is another Norwegian Cruise Line staple. This upscale French restaurant is the perfect spot to celebrate a special occasion. Luckily, Le Bistro can be found on all ships in the fleet except Pride of America.

Los Lobos is NCL’s take on a Mexican cantina. This specialty restaurant is on Norwegian Encore, Bliss, Dawn, Sun, Prima, and Viva.

Moderno Churrascaria is an all you can eat Brazilian Steakhouse. It starts off with an impressive salad bar, followed by a wide selection of slow-roasted meats carved tableside. This venue is located on Norwegian Breakaway, Dawn, Epic, Escape, Gem, Getaway, Jade, Jewel, Pearl, Star, Sun, and Pride of America.

Onda by Scarpetta is Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest Italian restaurant. This venue replaced La Cucina on Norwegian Encore and Norwegian Spirit. From our experience dining here, we’re happy to report that the food is fabulous! In addition to those ships, Onda is also located on Norwegian Prima and Viva.

Pincho Tapas Bar offers a menu of shareable small plates inspired by Spain’s culture and cuisine. Sadly, this unique venue is only on Norwegian Escape.

Q Texas Smokehouse is a casual specialty dining experience offering up some of the best BBQ at sea alongside live country music. Q Texas Smokehouse can be found on Norwegian Bliss, Encore, and Joy.

The Raw Bar is located adjacent to Ocean Blue on Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway. This casual bar-top is the perfect place to grab some drinks and seafood small plates.

Teppanyaki is a fan-favorite Japanese restaurant on most NCL ships. This dinner and a show hibachi experience is sure to provide an unforgettable dinner for the entire family. Teppanyaki (or its newer counterpart Hasuki) is found on all Norwegian Cruise Line ships except Norwegian Sky.

Wasabi & Sushi is a contemporary sushi and yakitori bar offering traditional Japanese cuisine. Wasabi is on Norwegian Breakaway, Epic, and Getaway. Further, Sushi Bar is its older counterpart on Norwegian Dawn, Gem, Jade, Jewel, Pearl, Sky (Pinnacle Lounge & Sushi Bar), Spirit, Star, Sun, and Pride of America. On Norwegian Prima and Viva, the sushi bar is called Nama.

Room Service, SWIFT, Starbucks, District Brewhouse, The Bake Shop, Coco’s, Dolce Gelato, special occasion/holiday menus, and select entertainment-based meals are not included in the specialty dining package. Also, the package does not apply to Harvest Caye restaurants.

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Is the Norwegian Cruise Line Specialty Dining Package a Good Value?

For illustrative purposes, let’s say we’re taking a seven-night cruise and want to purchase a four-meal specialty dining package which costs $169 per person. With the 20% service charge, this comes out to $202.80 per person, or $405.60 for the two of us. This comes out to $50.70 per person, per meal or $101.40 per meal for two people.

If I go to Cagney’s and get one starter ($19), a soup ($11), a filet mignon ($31), a sauce ($3), a side ($9), and a dessert ($13), it would currently cost around $86.

For my next specialty dinner, I might choose teppanyaki which is currently $59 per person.

At Onda, I might order burrata ($16), tagliatelle ($31) or veal milanese ($45), roasted carrots ($9), and panna cotta for dessert ($12). That comes out to $68 to $82.

For my fourth meal, I might go for Q Texas Smokehouse and get lone star chili ($8), pork spare ribs ($21), corn on the cob ($5), and pecan pie ($8). That adds up to $42.

Norwegian Encore Restaurant Menus and Dining Guide

Remember, with the specialty dining package these four meals would cost $202.80. If I purchased them individually without a package, it would be at least $255. Keep in mind that the menu choices I used as examples were middle-of-the-road as far as pricing went. Just using my examples, this is over a $50 savings. Your savings mileage will vary depending on which package you purchase, which restaurants you dine in, and which menu items you choose.

Given my restaurant selections and choices in this example, Cagney’s and Onda were the best value. In contrast, Q Texas Smokehouse provided the least value, and actually would have been cheaper to pay a la carte.

When considering purchasing a specialty restaurant package, remember that if you have Free at Sea, chances are you automatically will receive at least one free specialty dining meal. Look at the specialty restaurants on your ship and decide which ones are a must for you, and then choose a specialty dining package (or not) based on your preferences.

To help, consider reviewing our most recent NCL specialty restaurant menus article to determine if getting the package is the right choice for your next cruise.


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 share your experiences using these plans on NCL ships.

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 Bucolo
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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?

      We booked on Primo,sailing in March for 7 days. 2 Specialty meals included and didn’t purchase any add on. Thanks for all the info as we haven’t sailed in 8 years or so. Everything has changed and we loved room service to start our day off with that big pot of coffee sitting on the balcony. Hubby might have to be the runner for the morning coffee now. I’ll have to read up on all the extra $$$ I might spend.

    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.

      Can you add 2 more specialty dining base on member benefits ( platinum) on top of the free 2 specialty dining at NCL? Thanks,

    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

    So when you have dinner at a specialty restaurant, you can have more than just a starter, main and dessert? Let’s say you want to sample a few extra dishes, is that at no extra cost?

    Why isn’t anyone mentioning on-line the NCL Stop Sale on all reservations for Dining and entertainment on some NCL cruises right now? I booked a Dec 5th NCL cruise over 3 months ago & it stated that with a Club Balcony Suite, I could start making reservations 125 days prior to the cruise. I could not and was told there was a ‘stop sale’ on reservations. I eventually found the NCL FAQs now said “90 days” before the cruise date. Nope. Reservations were not available when I checked. I called & no go. I thought, maybe because you used to have to pay full fare 120 days before the cruise, it was when you could also make dinner reservations. Now, you don’t have to pay until 60 days before the cruise. I checked at 65 days, 60 days and now it is less than 60 days, but I still can’t make a reservation. The customer svc reps say, “Well, the ship is only at 60% capacity, so you should not have a problem getting a reservation.” Except everyone is getting at least 2 night SDP, so more people will be making reservations. And, the night we depart is my birthday and I just want to know I have a special dinner that night. But she couldn’t help me. I am a bit annoyed that NO WHERE does it say anything about this.
    Have you guys heard anything?

    My husband and I do not eat as much as we used to eat! I have checked with Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise line and both have told me it is absolutely fine to share a meal as long as you both have the speciality dining package.
    It would have been helpful to have this in writing for the host. While the restaurants honored this clarification, an official letter from cruise line would have given the hosts a much needed peace of mind.

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