Worth It? Complete Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Drink Package Guide

If you’re about to sail on a Norwegian cruise, then it’s likely that you’ve already seen mentions of the drink packages for sale. You might be wondering how they work and if they are worth the cost.

Lineup of drinks on Norwegian

Put simply, the packages make it easy to enjoy drinks on the cruise ship without worrying about a bill. You sign up for the package and pay one set daily amount. Then you can drink almost anything on the ship — and as much as you want — without having to keep track of your tab.

But while the idea behind the drink packages on Norwegian is simple, there is a bit of fine print that comes along with purchasing. Meanwhile, there are no doubt other questions that come up for many passengers thinking about buying a drink package.

To help you figure out if the drink package is worth it — and if you want to buy it for your cruise — we’ve answered some of the most common questions that come up with Norwegian’s packages.

What Drink Packages Does Norwegian Cruise Offer?

If you’re sailing on Norwegian and want an alcoholic drink package, then you have a few options.

The first package is the “Premium Beverage Package.” This is your classic drink package that every cruise line offers. For $99 per day (or free if chosen as part of the “Free at Sea” offer), you get a wide variety of drinks aboard the ship.

This includes beers, wines, cocktails, and sodas plus juices. In simple terms, you can get almost anything on the ship that’s priced less than $15 per glass. And unless you have premium tastes, your favorite liquors will be included.

The alternate package is the “Premium Plus Beverage Package.” Priced at $128 per day, this is Norwegian’s most expensive and highest-end package. It includes everything in previous package, but also high-end spirits like Glenlivet Single Malt and Johnnie Walker Platinum Label. You can also get a number of different bottles of wine with dinner, instead of just by the glass.

There is also a “Corks and Caps” package that includes soda, beer (both bottled and draft), and wine. If you’re not a cocktail drinker, then this package might be for you.

How Much Do The Drink Packages Cost?

Drinks on a table

Which ever drink package you cruise on Norwegian, you should expect to spend some cash.

The Premium Beverage Package runs $99 per person, per day. In addition there is a 20% gratuity that’s tacked on to that cost. That comes out to $118.80 per day. So for a 7-day cruise, you will spend $831.60 for a single person for the Premium package.

The Premium Plus Beverage costs $128 per person, per day. There is also the same 20% gratuity that is automatically added. For this package, you’ll spend $153.60 each day when the gratuity is added, for a total of $1,075.20 for a week-long cruise.

The Corks and Caps Package excludes liquors and cocktails, focusing instead of beer and wine. As a result, the price is a less expensive $65 per person each day. Again, the same 20% gratuity applies, for a total of $78.00 per person, per day. A 7-day cruise will see a total of $546.00.

What’s the Difference Between the Drink Packages?

While the drink packages are similar, they are not the same. Let’s start with the Premium Beverage Package, which is going to be the most popular on the ship.

This package provides drinks ranging from sodas to beers to cocktails to glasses of wine. What it doesn’t include are the highest-end spirits (but does have most liquors that are common to a bar). Also notably absent is bottled water, fresh-squeezed juices, and premium coffees like Starbucks that are served on the ship. However, if you’re wanting the package to drink beers, have some glasses of wine with dinner, or a margarita by the pool, then you’ll be covered.

For those who want pretty much anything on the ship, then you might be interested in stepping up to the Premium Plus package. Here, you get higher-end spirits included, as well as juices, bottled water, specialty coffees, even some bottles of wine when dining.

The Corks and Caps is the simplest of the packages. It offers sodas, juices, beers and wines. Anything beyond that is not included. So things like specialty coffees, bottled water, cocktails and liquors are not included.

What’s Not Included in the Drink Package?

As explained above, different packages will have different exclusions. Where you’ll find the most surprising exclusions is that the Premium Beverage Package doesn’t include things like Starbucks coffee, bottled water, fresh-squeezed juices, or energy drinks. These are included on the Premium Plus package.

Also, no packages include anything in the mini-bar or room service beverages.

Finally, the Premium Package and Corks and Caps have limits of up to $15 per drink. If you purchase a drink that’s more than $15 on the menu, you’ll be charged the excess over $15. Fortunately, this includes only a few drinks on the cruise.

Is Gratuity Included in the Cost?

Glasses of wine

Gratuity is not included in the headline price. On Norwegian, the drink packages carry a hefty 20% gratuity charge in addition to the base price. So for a $99 a day drink package, you’ll actually pay $118.80 per person. For the $128 drink package, you’ll pay $153.60 each day.

When you order your drink, however, the gratuity is already taken care of. There’s no need to tip additionally unless you simply want to show some more appreciation of the bar staff.

What If I Get the Drink Package Through the Free at Sea Offer? Do I Pay Anything?

Norwegian’s Free at Sea offer has proven popular, and the cruise line has continued to offer it for quite some time now. Put simply, the Free at Sea program gives you your choice of free perks, ranging from a free drink package to free Internet to free/discounted airfare.

If you get the drink package for free, just know that you will have to pay the gratuity on the package, despite the cost being free. In this case, the $99 Premium Beverage Package charge is waived, but the daily gratuity of $19.80 per person, per day still applies. So on a week-long cruise your “free” drink package would actually run $138.60.

Does Everyone in the Cabin Have to Purchase the Package If One Person Does?

Yes. Obviously you don’t have to purchase a drink package at all. But if one person in the cabin does, then everyone will have to as well.

Likely as a way to limit the sharing that would otherwise go on, Norwegian requires all adults in the cabin to purchase the beverage package if one does. Obviously this can get pricey, especially if the other person isn’t interested in alcohol or can’t drink.

If you have a situation where one person wants the package and the other person doesn’t, then we suggest giving the cruise line a call to explain the situation. They may not be able to help but we have heard stories on some cruise lines of being able to offer leniency on buying the package if you explain your situation. We would especially think a health situation (such as one person being pregnant) would help aid your case on not having to buy two drink packages.

What If I’m Traveling With Kids and Buy the Drink Package?

If you are traveling with kids and want to purchase a beverage package, then a similar rule applies in that they have to buy a package as well. In the case of kids under 21 years old, they are required to get the soda program, which runs either $5.95 per day or $7.95 per day, depending on their age.

How Do I Buy the Package?

Buying the package is easy. Before your trip you can purchase the package online through your account. Don’t want to do that? You can also call the cruise line and get the package ordered so that you can enjoy it once you step on the ship. Finally, you can order the package on the ship once you arrive.

Can I Share Drinks?

No. It’s tempting to think that one person will simply buy the expensive package and then slip their partner drinks when they want them. This is against the rules.

How will the cruise line be able to tell if you are sharing? Truth is that it can be hard for them to catch unless you are simply at the bar and loudly tell someone you will buy them a drink. This is likely why Norwegian Cruise Lines makes all people in a cruise cabin buy the package if one person does. It minimizes the problem of sharing between people.

Do I Have to Buy the Package for the Entire Cruise?

Yes. It would be nice if you could simply buy the drink package on the days you wanted it. Want to take a break from drinking for a day or plan on being in port and away from the ship? We wish you could not have to pay for the package on days like these.

Instead, you must purchase the drink package for the entire cruise — not just select days. 

How Many Drinks Can I Buy a Day?

Tiki glass

Some cruise lines put limits on the number of drinks you can purchase in a day with the drink package (notably Carnival limits passengers to 15 alcoholic drinks in a 24-hour period). We’ve heard of no such limit for Norwegian. Searching through the terms shows no mention. However, if you are obviously inebriated, don’t be surprised if the bartender refuses to serve you.

This unlimited rule applies to both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. So you can also buy as many non-alcoholic beverages as you want. 

How Many Drinks Can I Buy at One Time?

Norwegian allows those with the drink package to order two drinks at the same time. Want a beer and a margarita? Or just simply want to try a couple of glasses of wine? Or maybe you just don’t want to have to get up to get another beer after you finish the first one. No matter, you can get two drinks in one transaction.

Does the Package Work on Harvest Caye and Great Stirrup Cay

Norwegian Cruise Line has two private islands — Harvest Caye and Great Stirrup Cay.

On Harvest Caye there are a number of bars and restaurants, but even though the island is run by Norwegian, the drink package will not work here. You have to purchase any beverages out of pocket. Of course, you could always head back to the ship while docked and get a drink, but that’s a long walk.

That said, the package does work on Great Stirrup Cay. Like Harvest Caye, the island has a number of bars for you to enjoy, and it’s a nice perk that the package extends to the island. This is a great way to help you get your money’s worth even if you aren’t on the ship.

Is Norwegian’s Drink Package Worth It?

Of course the big question is whether or not the Norwegian drink package is worth it. The answer to that depends a lot on your personal habits when you’re on vacation.

Here’s some general details on whether you’ll find the package worth it for you…

First, consider how you drink when you are on a vacation. For example, some people don’t feel like they are on vacation unless they have a drink in their hand. Others may drink heavily here and there, but like to take breaks on some days. The thing to remember is that you pay for the drink package each day of the cruise. So if you like to drink but also take breaks on some days, then you might not get your money’s worth.

Second, you want to factor in whether or not the second person in the cabin will have to buy the package and if they will use it. Say a husband wants the package but has a wife who barely drinks. In this case, you may not get your money’s worth as it is essentially paying twice for one drink package.

Finally, you want to run the possible math on how much you’d spend with the drink package versus without the package.

At $99 ($118.80 with gratuity) per person, per day, Norwegian has one of the most expensive packages around. But many people get the package for free with the Free at Sea offer. No matter what you pay, it’s important to have a handle on what you’d spend and compare it to the drink package price.

On the ships, beers run $6-8. Wine runs $10-15 a glass, and cocktails run $12-15 each. If you’re paying full price for the drink package, you can see that you have to drink a considerable amount each day to breakeven.

If you want some help in estimating what you’d spend, see our Cruise Drink Package Calculator here. It will give you an idea of how much you’d spend on everything from water to soda to beer to cocktails and compare it to the package price.

Have more questions about the drink package? Let us know in the comments below.

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Worth It? Complete Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Drink Package Guide


  1. If you get the “Free at Sea” Premium Drink package, can you UP-grade it to the Premium PLUS package on-board? i.e., pay the difference from $99/day to $128/day or do you have to “start over”?

    • We just called the cruise line. You can book the Free at Sea and then once on board you can arrange to upgrade to the Premium Plus and pay the difference between the two (plus gratuity).


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