Norwegian Cruise Line, also known as NCL, have changed their pricing structure a few times in the last few years, but their latest update, which allows you to go effectively all-inclusive via the Free at Sea promotion is by far the best change they’ve made, and I for one am hoping it is a permanent one.
Previously, solo travellers like myself were paying a heavy supplement, as guaranteed cabins were not available in the studio category. We were paying the all-inclusive supplement, whether or not we wanted the drinks and the other things thrown in. If you didn’t want the drinks package, and were able to share with someone else, a guaranteed inside was a positive bargain in comparison.
Now however they have gone to a much fairer and more sensible approach to pricing. There are still guaranteed cabins in the higher category, but the studios no longer automatically have that all-inclusive supplement tacked on whether you want it or not. If you want to add on drinks (or any of the other deals), you can do this at a set price, which compared to the daily price of the Premium or Ultimate Drinks Package of old, is a bargain.
The majority of cruises will pay £99 (the price varies on the length of the cruise, but the majority of the cruises will fall under this price) for a choice of two of the following offers:
- Drinks package – including soft drinks, spirits, cocktails, wine by the glass and bottled or draft beer – all under the price of $15 per drink (for more expensive drinks there is an additional supplement). The gratuities are included for all your drinks.
- Specialty dining – depending on the length of your cruise, you can dine at a certain number of the specialty restaurants with no additional charges. Gratuities for speciality dining is also covered. m
- Shore excursion credit – $50 per port is included, and if you are planning on lots of sight seeing, this can be a great way of saving money.
- Wifi – you can opt for a wifi package if staying in contact is more important.
- Reduced fares on a third or fourth passenger in a cabin.
For someone like me, who doesn’t really drink alcohol, but who might have a couple of cocktails whilst on holiday, but who would normally buy the soft drinks package anyway, the drinks package is a no-brainer. I used to always opt for the specialty dining package, however now I am a Platinum Rewards member, I get a meal for two at two of the specialty restaurants anyway, so I will be using shore excursion credit on my next trip.
A lot of people ask me why it is called Free At Sea if you are paying for it, and the honest answer is that I am not entirely sure, however by opting for the Free at Sea package, you are effectively ending up with a next to zero bill at the end of your trip (apart from shopping) and so I guess that gives you freedom.
How to get the most out of NCL Free at Sea
Unless you are only going to be drinking tap water on your cruise, I would recommend the drinks package. The availability of soft drinks means that for me it is a no-brainer. I may end up having a few more cocktails on holiday than I would normally, but it’s not costing me anything extra.
I have been on the Norwegian Epic around Europe several times. I usually go as I love the ship and the facilities, and being in Europe, it is easier and cheaper to get to the ship. I have done that itinerary and those ports so many times now that the last time I did it, I didn’t even get off the ship. An empty ship in port is quiet, relaxed and chilled. There’s also no queue for the waterslides! In this instance, I therefore chose the specialty dining package (Cagney’s in particular is exceptional). On my holiday this year, I have those two free meals at specialty restaurants as part of my Latitudes Rewards, so I don’t need more. I am however planning on going ashore so I have opted for the Shore Excursion credit. If I wasn’t planning on going ashore, I may have opted for the wi-fi package, but either way there are plenty of options.
Think about where you are going and what you want to get out of your trip and that will help you to decide which of the offers to use.
How much does Free at Sea cost?
NCL Free at Sea pricing is based on the length of your cruise. It is only charged on the 1st and 2nd person in a stateroom though.
|Length of Cruise||Price for Free at Sea|
|1 – 6 Nights||£49|
|7 – 9 Nights||£99|
|10 – 13 Nights||£149|
|14 – 17 Nights||£199|
I would definitely recommend opting in to this offer, as you will easily make your money back, and much more!