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Ultimate Guide to NCL Drink Packages | Are they worth it?

Considering the NCL Drink Packages and wondering what they cost? We travel on Norwegian cruise line quite a bit and have the low down on whether buying the drink package is worth it or not when cruising NCL. 

If you are thinking to take a NCL cruise in 2023 here is a guide with everything you need to know about NCL Beverage Packages (including a beverage package comparison) to help you decide what is right for you to buy the adult beverage package or even soda package. Happy cruising!

The Ultimate Guide to NCL Drink Packages

When we travel in a group on Norwegian cruises (like we recently did on the Norwegian Star) we always go for the NCL Premium Beverage Package which allows you to drink premium cocktails & spirits under $15 USD and a variety of beer and wine by the glass under $15 USD.

You can purchase this for $109.00 USD per person per day but we normally get it included as part of our cruise with their “Free at Se” a promotion which includes this drink package as a perk of booking. Sometimes, you can choose this perk or another perk that might suit you better like speciality dining or internet. This is not always offered and you need to look out for a “Free at Sea” promotion when booking your cruise if this is important to you.

If you don’t purchase a drink package on your cruise, what you will have access to is table water at the buffet, standard tea and coffee and some cordials at the buffet.


A great bartender called Rico on the Norwegian Star

When we travel on our own, we sometimes don’t get the beverage package as we don’t drink a lot normally but when we are traveling in a group and want to down a bit more grog, the NCL Drink Packages are really good value and save us a tonne of money while cruising.

Due to the affordable drinks packages, Norwegian cruises are a great cruise for young adults so if you are in your 20s/30s and thinking to book this cruise we would say, go for it!

Drink packages also make cruising a little more interesting as you can try a lot of different drinks. For example, if you are traveling on a girls trip and want to try quite a lot of different cocktails, it will be well worth your while having the beverage package.

Even if it is included in the “Free at Sea” package” the NCL Drink Packages are not exactly free (more of this later) as there is a 20% service charge/gratuity added to the package so you need to weigh up how much you will be drinking to determine if it is worth it to you.

There are also beverage package options available for the non drinkers in the form of a soda package which we will discuss below.

Keep reading to find out more about all the NCL Drink Packages that are available for purchase including the Premium Beverage Package, the Premium Beverage Package Plus and the Soda Package including a comparison of what you get in each.

FAQ on NCL Drink Packages

How old do you have to be to get a beverage package on NCL?

To get a beverage package OR to drink on Norwegian cruises in general, you need to be 21 years of age. This is the same rule no matter what country you are cruising.

This is the case as NCL are a US company and have adopted the same drinking age as the USA.

What is a “Free at Sea” beverage package perk?

Norwegian often offers promotions when you book your cruise called “Free at Sea” promos. This often includes getting a free Premium Beverage Package included in the price of your cruise.

As explained later, it is not entirely free as you still need to pay a service fee or gratuity on the price of the beverage package which is 20% of the usual price.

If I don’t have a”Free at Sea” beverage package perk, how much will it cost me for a beverage package?

Norwegian cruise line has 5 different beverage packages with all different prices:

  • Premium Beverage Package: $109.00 USD per person per day;
  • Premium Plus Beverage Package:$138.00 USD per person per day;
  • Hawaii Beverage Package (all ages) – Pride of America only: $109.00 USD per person per day;
  • Unlimited Soda Package: $9.95 USD per person per day;
  • Unlimited Starbucks package: $12.95 USD per person per day.
NCL drink packages

People enjoying the drink package on NCL Star. If you look closely they have “Blame it on the drink package cruise shirts

On top of this price, you will be subject to a 20% service charge on a daily rate on the price of your beverage package. 

Are there additional taxes on beverage packages?

Yes, if you order drinks while docked at a US port.

Is bottled wine included in any of the beverage packages?

No, bottled wine is not included in any of the beverage packages on NCL.

If you at a Platinum member, one of the perks is a bottle of wine included with a specialty dining meal.


A wine we enjoyed as part of being platinum members at Le Bistro French restaurant

Can I bring my own bottles of wine or champagne onboard?

Yes, you can but they will be subject to a $15 corkage fee per bottle of wine. This technically applies whether you drink the wine or not.

In reality, they probably won’t charge you the corkage and simply put your bottles in “wine jail” until the end of the cruise.

If you find a nice bartender, you may not be charged the corkage fee but I would expect to pay it if you bring wine on the ship.

The average bottle of wine is around $40 to purchase on the ship so if your wine costs $25 or more + the $15 corkage it might not be worth it.

If you purchase a bottle of wine and you don’t drink the whole bottle, the staff are happy to cork it and put it away for your next dinner which is a great economical option if you are not a big drinker.

Can I bring my own bottles of spirits onboard?

No, bottle of spirits are not allowed on the ship. If you bring them, they will be likely detected in your luggage while going on the cruise and put in “spirit jail” until the end of the cruise.

We met some travelers who got very crafty and successfully got spirits on by putting the spirit inside their camel pack. For me, the embarrassment of them seeing me smuggle spirits in via a camel pack isn’t worth it plus I’m not that serious of a drinker to need it that badly.

Does the drinking package cost the same no matter the length of the cruise?

No, the cost varies depending on the amount of nights you are on the cruise. This is the case even if you are on a “Free at Sea” perk as the service charge/gratuity will increase.

What drinks are free on Norwegian Cruise Line?

The only drinks that are free are filtered water at the buffet, standard coffee, tea and some cordials at the buffet.

There is still an additional cost of a gratuity even if you get a “free at sea” perk and get a Norwegian Premium Beverage Package included in your cruise deal.

How much gratuity/service charge will I have to pay on the beverage package?

You pay a 20% gratuity on the value of the NCL drink package, regardless if you get it for free as a perk when booking your cruise.

For example, if you are buying the package direct, it normally costs $109.00 USD per person per day for the premium beverage package. That means for a 7 day cruise you will pay around $152 pp or around $22 pp a day in gratuity.

If you get the NCL premium beverage package included as a perk of your cruise, it means essentially if you are wanting to drink more than 1 alcoholic beverage a drink on your cruise (they usually cost between $10 – $15 USD a drink) it is worth it.

Is buying a drink package worth it?

It really depends on how much you are going to drink and if you are getting the package as a free at sea perk or paying the standard rate for it.

As stated above, drinks on NCL cost around $10 – $15 USD a drink for an alcoholic beverage.

If you are getting the free at sea perk where you get a beverage package included and just have to pay for the gratuity, you only have to drink more than 1 drink a day to make paying the service fee worthwhile.

If you are paying for the beverage package direct to NCL without a free at sea perk, you would have to be drinking 10 drinks a day so unless you are a very heavy drinker, I would not think purchasing the beverage package would be worthwhile.

Here is an example of a cruise on the Norwegian Prima we recently purchased from Iceland. As you can see, the cruise only rate was 858 Euros pp. If you want the Free at Sea upgrade which includes the beverage package, it increases the price to 1057 Euros pp. For clarity, the specialty dining is usually 1 paid restaurant per cruise and the internet package is usually 150 minutes (for a 10 day cruise, the amount increases per number of days at sea)

price of cruise with beverage package vs without

The total amount when you add in taxes etc came to 1716.20 Euros for two people without the beverage package or 2,114.20 Euros per person with the beverage package, a difference of 398 Euros for a 10 day cruise.

Is that worth it? Well, depends how much you are going to drink. We went with it on the Star and without it on the Norwegian Prima when it was just the two of us and we thought we would drink less.

Can just one person in a cabin purchase a beverage package?

No, everyone in the cabin must have the same package. You cannot mix and match UNLESS the person in the cabin is a minor in which case they will get the Unlimited Soda package.

We met a couple recently onboard where one person was a drinker and one wasn’t and it simply was not worthwhile for them to purchase the drinks package for this reason.

Does NCL Premium Beverage Package include bottled water?

No, it does not. You will need to get the Premium Plus Beverage Package to get unlimited still and bottled water at a price of $138 USD pp per day.

The bummer is the Premium Plus Beverage Package is never (as far as I have ever since) included in a free at sea promotion. Only the Premium Beverage Package is usually included in this perk. This means if bottled water is important to you, you will be up for quite a pretty penny.

Norwegian cruises are now offering a bottled water package which costs $19.95 for 6 one litre bottles, $34.95 for 12 and $49.95 for 24 bottles. If you just want to pay as you go, bottled water sets you back around $6 USD a litre. The brand they are selling is called “Flow” which is meant to be alkaline spring water. I tried it and it wasn’t my favorite bottled water I have ever tasted but it was better than the filtered water from the buffet.

You can fill your own water bottle up at the buffet. You aren’t allowed to put the bottle under the dispense but you can transfer glasses into your own bottle.

ncl water package

Can you get frozen drinks in any of the NCL beverage packages?

Yes, you can get frozen drinks in the Premium Beverage Package, Premium Plus Beverage package, and the Hawaiian Beverage Package.

They are not included in the soda package however, there are non alcoholic frozen beverages available. If you are on a Premium Beverage Package and your child has a soda package but wants a non alcoholic frozen beverage, you can simply get one for him or her on your card.

What happens on the Free at Sea perk if the second guest is a minor?

If you have the Free at Sea promotion and your second guest is a minor, they will get the soda package and you will pay the service charge on that package. That only applies if the second guest is a minor.

NCL Beverage package comparison

beverage comparison ncl cruise

NCL Soda Package

A great option for non drinkers or children, the NCL Soda package will only set you back $9.95 per person, per day plus 20% gratuity.

This is a really good option if you like a soda like a coke or lemonade or even a soda water with lime (my personal favorite).

Each soda will set you back around $3-4 USD per drink so if you regularly drink over 3 sodas a day the Nowegian Soda package will be a good option for you.

For a 7 day cruise the soda package will cost $69.65 plus a $14 gratuity.

If you are a non drinker and don’t purchase the NCL Soda package or have a free at sea perk, you will be limited to filtered water, standard coffee, tea and cordials at the buffet.

unlimited soda package

NCL Premium Beverage Package

This is the most popular beverage package on NCL cruises largely because many guests get this included as part of a free at sea promotion, where they don’t have to pay the cost of the beverage package and just pay the service fee.

NCL Premium Beverage Package costs $109 per person, per day, plus a 20% gratuity. 

One of the best tips we have is to try to get it included in one of Norwegians “Free at Sea” promotions when you book your cruise as then you are only paying the 20% service charge which is $152 pp for a 7 day cruise or around $22 pp a day in gratuity.

As a general rule, you can order on this package any alcoholic drinks or sodas under $15 in value. This gives you quite a lot of choice. We have never felt that we couldn’t find a drink we liked for this value.

What I personally thought was a bit poor was that specialty coffee like Starbucks and energy drinks, even if they were under $15 value were not included in this package. Bottled water is also not included as well as anything in the mini bar and room service is subject to an additional fee.

premium beverage package ncl

Click here for NCL’s updated ncl drink package list of what is included in the Premium beverage package

As you can see based on the graphic above, the NCL Premium Beverage Package includes a wide range of options.

There are also many wines and beers that you can find of the ship that aren’t listed here but are included.  For example, we found out on our recent cruise on the Norwegian Star that Guinness beer is able to be ordered only from the Irish pub and is included in the NCL Premium Beverage Package which was a bit of a win for my husband and Dad.

If it’s under $15 you are generally okay to order it but if in doubt, the bartenders are always happy to help out.

If you want a drink over $15 in value, you can simply pay the difference. For example, if you want a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne that is $35 in value, you would pay $20 out of pocket plus 20% gratuity extra on the additional $20.

You can find the full terms and conditions of the Premium beverage package here.

NCL Premium Plus Beverage Package

If you have a taste for finer wines, champagne and spirits for example Veuve Clicquot champagne, you may want to look into Norwegian cruise lines’s Premium Plus Beverage.

This costs $138 per person, per day plus a 20% gratuity. As far as I have ever seen, it is never included in the Free at Sea promotion so you will looking at spending this money if the finer things in life are important to you.

What is great about this package is that Starbucks specialty coffees, energy drinks as well as bottled water is included. This means you can drink as much Starbucks and bottled water until your hearts content on the cruise with this package.

You should calculate how many top quality beverages you can consume in a cruise to work out if NCL’s Premium Plus Beverage is worth it or not for you. If you have the Free at Sea Premium Beverage Package, it may be more worthwhile to add a Starbucks or water package to your room and pay for the increased price of drinks. As noted above, you will pay the amount over $15. It is important to do the maths to work out what is the best option for you.

NCL’s Premium Plus Beverage is NCL’s top quality beverage package which includes the best quality champagne, wine and spirits on the ship.

NCL premium beverage package vs premium plus? Basically you can order whatever you like on the Plus package including Starbucks and bottled water. It does not include room service or mini bar and no package does this.

NCL Premium plus Beverage Package list

NCL Premium plus Beverage drink package list

Can you upgrade the NCL Premium Beverage Package to the Plus Package?

Yes, you can which might work out the most economical for you. There is a new program called NCL Free at Sea Plus which costs $49 per person daily, plus gratuities to upgrade from the NCL Premium Beverage Package to the Plus Package.

You can only do this if you are sailing for 3 days or more.

Whether the upgrade is worth it or not depends on how much you are going to drink on the ship and what you are going to drink. It’s always good to do the maths so Norwegian doesn’t win 😉

For example, Veuve Clicquot champagne that is $35 a glass, you would pay $20 out of pocket plus 20% gratuity, you would need to want to consume more than 2 of these a day to make it more economical to upgrade your package rather than just pay the difference.

The other benefit the Free at Sea Plus comes with two additional dinners at specialty dining restaurants for guests 1 and 2 and unlimited Internet (no streaming). If you purchase two additional dinners at specialty dining restaurants onboard it will cost you $100 each person.

If you were going to do this in any event, it really lowers how much Veuve Clicquot champagne you have to consume to make the upgrade worthwhile.

NCL Hawaii Beverage Package

This beverage package only applies to the Norwegian Pride of America sailings so it is a very specific beverage package that cannot be used on every cruise.

This package is very similar to the NCL Premium Beverage Package, it costs $109 per person, per day, plus 20% gratuity.

Like the regular NCL Premium Beverage Package, you get unlimited beverages up to $15 in value.

It is also included as one of the Free at Sea perks. It is slightly better value than the regular NCL Premium Beverage Package as it does include bottled water and specialty coffee in dining rooms as well as freshly squeezed juices.

You do get better with this beverage package however, Hawaii sailings tend to be at a higher price point as a whole so if I was to guess, NCL feel they need to offer slightly better value on this cruise in order to be competitive with other lines.

The Hawaii beverage package still goes not include mini bar items or specialty coffee outside restaurants like for example at the Starbucks store.

hawaii beverage package

Click here for NCL’s updated list of what is included in the Hawaii beverage package

Unlimited Starbucks Package

Of course NCL also has a package for the specialty coffee lovers.

For $12.95 per person per day plus 20% gratuity added to the total cost you can get unlimited specialty coffee from the onboard Starbucks store. This adds up to $90.65 for a 7 day cruise plus a service charge of 20% on top.

It is includes all drinks served at Starbucks but excludes bottled water and food served there.

This package is only available on ships which have Starbucks onboard.

Like the rules with all Norwegian beverage packages, everyone in the cabin over 18 must have the same package so you cannot just buy it for 1 person and order drinks for everyone, unfortunately.

Starbucks coffees tend to sit around $5 USD per coffee onboard so you would need to be drinking more than 2 per day to make this package worthwhile. I really like coffee but I would be absolutely buzzing on 3 coffees a day. If you want more speciality drinks like Frappuccino, the value gets slightly better.

Should you get one of NCL’s beverage package?

This question is really an individual decision and it depends entirely on how much you intend to drink onboard.

If you are cruising with a group of friends and plan to go wild, getting a drinks package is very worthwhile especially if you can score one as part of Norwegian’s free at sea promos and just have to pay the gratuity. 

On the other hand, paying the gratuity which is around $152 pp for a 7 day cruise is not worth it if you plan to only drink a few glasses of wine on board. In this case, I would advise just buying a few bottles of wine at dinner.

If you can’t find a free at sea promo and just want to have a think, drink packages are possible to be purchased on embarkation day.

So let us know, do you or will you purchase a NCL Drink Package? And if you have already sailed with NCL – what did you think? Worth it – yay or nay?


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