Are you planning on taking a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line? Here are my 25 top Norwegian cruise tips to make the most of your vacation at sea. Learning the ins and outs of NCL takes a lot of experience and research – but you don’t have to do that. I’ve done the hard work for you!

From how to earn extra on board credit to secrets to find your way around the ship, I have lots of NCL tips for your upcoming Norwegian cruise.

Disclaimer: I may receive a small commission when you make a purchase from a link on this site, at no added charge to you. For more info, please read my Disclosure Policy.

1. Take advantage of Take Five/Free at Sea promotions

NCL often runs a Free at Sea promotion, sometimes called “Take Five”. Norwegian will offer you up to five free perks, depending on your stateroom category selection. Higher stateroom categories can choose more perks, so suite guests can usually choose all five, and inside cabin passengers can pick one.

The most common Free at Sea offerings are:

Some Free at Sea perks will apply to only the first two passengers booked in a stateroom, but others can be used by all of your cabin companions.

Want to learn all the ins and outs of this promotion? Norwegian’s Free at Sea: The Ultimate Guide explains everything you need to know to get the most out of NCL’s sale.

Bonus NCL tip: If the next higher stateroom category offers an extra Free at Sea pick, consider upgrading, especially if you’re thinking about paying for that perk anyway. Sometimes you can save money and cruise in an upgraded room!

2. Read the Freestyle Daily every evening

If you’re a seasoned NCL cruiser, you’ll know that the arrival of the Freestyle Daily in your stateroom each evening is a highly-anticipated event!

But if you’re new to Norwegian or new to cruising in general, you may be wondering what is the Freestyle Daily, and why is it so important?

The Daily is a newsletter that shares tons of important information for the next day. It gives a detailed list of all the day’s activities, along with a weather report, scheduled arrival and departure times on port days, and notifications of any changes to the itinerary. It also specifies the opening and closing times for restaurants, bars, and shops.

Why is reading the Daily so important?

Reading the Freestyle Daily thoroughly is important to keep you in the know – things can change on a cruise!

On my recent Bahamas cruise, the Daily mentioned that tender tickets for our stop at Great Stirrup Cay would be available the evening before, as well as in the morning, on a first-come-first-served basis.

Many other passengers didn’t read this and weren’t able to make it into a tender boat until late in the afternoon, after Open Call. Their plan for a day-long trip to the private island was reduced to only a couple of hours, all because they didn’t read the Daily.

You’ve probably seen news articles (or YouTube videos) about passengers who get left behind in port. A common reason why this happens? Cruisers didn’t know what time all-aboard was. The Daily always lists the all-aboard time for the next day’s port. Or, the departure time changed, and the cruisers missed the announcement in the newsletter.

Definitely set aside a few minutes each evening to read the Freestyle Daily. Any really important announcements and changes will be on the front page, so read at least that to avoid missing important information for the next day.

Bonus NCL tip: Pack a couple of highlighters to mark the activities you’re interested in on the Freestyle Daily. I highlight all of my “maybes” in yellow, and then update my “definites” with a brighter color.

3. Try The Haven if you want to splurge

Norwegian isn’t known for being the fanciest cruise line around. With their low-priced cruises and free perks, a Norwegian cruise can be very budget-friendly.

So, what if you’re used to a more elevated experience, but you have your heart set on one of NCL’s itineraries? If you’re accustomed to luxury (or you just want to upgrade your experience), you can have it all in The Haven.

A luxurious suite in The Haven on Norwegian Bliss (image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

What is Norwegian’s The Haven?

The Haven is an exclusive section located at the top of many NCL ships. With a private dining room, private lounge, and an exclusive courtyard and sundeck for Haven passengers, this is the ultimate VIP experience on a Norwegian cruise.

In addition to priority embarkation and disembarkation, guests receive 24-hour butler service, an exclusive concierge, and priority reservations.

How do you get access to The Haven on NCL?

In order to access The Haven, you need to book one of the Haven Staterooms. These luxurious accommodations range in size from the 2378 square foot Spa Suites for two, to the enormous 6694 square foot Three-Bedroom Garden Villa that can sleep up to eight people.

4. Know what’s included in the open bar drink package

The most popular Free at Sea perk among NCL passengers is the open bar package. But it’s not completely all-inclusive! Make sure you know what drinks are and aren’t included before you accidentally run up an expensive bar tab.

Before you use your Norwegian drink package, make sure you know what beverages are and aren’t included (Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

Norwegian’s open bar (also known as the Premium Beverage Package) is priced high ($99 a day plus gratuities) compared to other cruise lines. Even with this high fee, there are some drinks that you’ll be charged for when you have the package.

What’s included? Soft drinks, spirits, cocktails, wine by-the-glass and bottled or draft beer up to and including $15 are free with the package.

What’s not included in Norwegian’s Open Bar:

  • Beverages with a menu price over $15
  • Specialty coffee and tea drinks
  • Bottled water
  • Fresh-squeezed juices
  • Mini-bar beverages in your stateroom
  • Drinks from room service
  • Bottles of wine (you’ll get a 20% discount)
  • Beer buckets
  • Energy drinks
  • Drinks from vending machines

If you don’t think the drink package is worth it for you, you can still save money by ordering the Drink of the Day. Just check the bar menus for each day’s discounted drink.

Bonus NCL tip: If you chose Free Open Bar as a Free at Sea perk, NCL will let you upgrade to their Premium Plus Beverage Package for an additional fee. This package lifts many of the restrictions of the Premium Beverage Package.

5. Download the Cruise Norwegian app before you board

Before you head to the ship, be sure to download the free Cruise Norwegian app. Once you’re out at sea, you’ll only be able to download it if you use expensive internet minutes. Even if you don’t have an internet package, you’ll be able to use the app on board for free.

What can you use the Cruise Norwegian app for?

  • See the daily schedule of what’s happening on the ship
  • Book shore excursions
  • Make dining reservations
  • Review your on board account
  • Keep in touch with other guests on board

How to keep in touch with your cruise mates with the app

For a small one-time fee, you can also use the Cruise Norwegian app to message or even call your friends and family on board. You don’t need to purchase internet minutes to use this messaging service, but everyone you’d like to stay in touch with needs to buy the service to use it.

Bonus NCL tip: Messaging and calling work best when the app is open and your device is unlocked. That can use up battery power fast! Pack a small portable charger to make sure your phone or tablet stays charged.

6. Make the most of NCL’s loyalty program

Like many cruise lines, NCL has a loyalty program, Latitude Rewards, that provides perks for returning cruisers to keep them coming back. You’ll be enrolled in the program automatically after your very first NCL cruise.

What do you get with Latitude Rewards?

Latitude Rewards has six tiers of membership, with more perks available as you progress through the program. Passengers earn points for each cruise night, with double points for a stay in a Concierge-level stateroom, full suite or The Haven.

Bronze level (1 – 29 points)

  • Priority check-in at the pier
  • One bottle of sparkling wine per stateroom
  • 10% discount in duty-free shops on board
  • Free additional minutes with purchase of internet package
  • Free artwork for attending art auction
  • Access to the onboard Latitudes Rewards representative
  • Monthly Latitudes Rewards Insider offers 
  • Offers from Caesars Entertainment for casino patrons
  • Latitudes Rewards online newsletter

Silver level (30-54 points)

  • Invite to an exclusive cocktail party
  • 15% discount in duty-free shops on board
  • 10% discount on NCL shore excursions
  • 20% discount on photos
  • 15% discount on spa Signature Treatments on board while the ship is in port

Gold level (55-79 points)

  • 25% discount on photos
  • 20% discount on spa Signature Treatments on board while the ship is in port
  • One free carton of Just Water per member
  • 50% off 1 bag of laundry per member
  • Priority tender tickets (for tender ports)
  • Priority disembarkation (for U.S. Citizens – benefit varies for international guests)

Platinum level (80-174 points)

  • 30% discount on photos
  • 25% discount on spa Signature Treatments on board while the ship is in port
  • One free bag of laundry per member
  • Priority embarkation
  • Dinner for two at Cagney’s or Le Bistro with a bottle of wine (per stateroom)
  • Dinner for two at Moderno or La Cucina (per stateroom)
  • 30 free internet minutes (no purchase required)
  • Free chocolate-covered strawberries
  • Free behind-the-scenes ship tour
  • Concierge service to assist with specialty restaurant, entertainment, and shore excursion reservations

Platinum Plus level (175-699 points)

  • 15% discount on shore excursions
  • Two free cartons of Just Water per member
  • Dinner with ship’s officers
  • Priority restaurant and entertainment seating (subject to availability)

Ambassador level (700+ points)

  • Complimentary seven-day cruise (one-time benefit)

7. Get on board credit with CruiseNext

Already dreaming of your next cruise? Make sure that you make a CruiseNext deposit while you’re on board, and get on board credit that you can use right away! You can earn up to $500 in on board credit, and you don’t need to pick your next cruise right away.

How does NCL CruiseNext work?

CruiseNext deposits cost $250 each for inside through mini-suite stateroom categories. Deposits are $500 each for Concierge, suites and The Haven. You can purchase up to four deposits per passenger. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re committing to four cruises, though! Norwegian often runs promotions that allow you to double up your cruise deposits on a single cruise.

Once you make your deposits, you’ll get on board credit that you can use right away on your cruise. One deposit will net you $100 credit, two will get you $250, and three will get you $275. The program maxes out at $500 of on board credit when you purchase four deposits.

(Passengers on Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun are eligible for the CruiseNext Lite program, with $100 deposits and smaller on board credit amounts.)

CruiseNext deposits can be used within four years of purchase. This program is only available to passengers while on board a Norwegian cruise. You’ll be able to find the CruiseNext team in the Atrium of the ship.

8. Be ready for the washy-washy crew!

An outbreak of illness on board is the last thing a cruise line wants. Ruined vacations can quickly turn into a PR nightmare! Most cruise lines remind you to wash your hands or apply hand sanitizer before entering any of the dining venues.

Norwegian takes it a step further with their “washy-washy” crew! These jovial crew members stand in the entrance to each restaurant with spray bottles of hand sanitizer. They’ll remind you that you need to sanitize by singing “Washy-washy, happy happy!” at each guest, and then spraying your hands. Don’t try to ignore them, they will track you down!

Before my first NCL cruise, I had heard about the washy-washy people, and I frankly thought the idea sounded terrible. But they’re actually quite entertaining (especially when they follow oblivious passengers and make sure that their hands are sanitized!).

Plus, it’s reassuring to know that all of your fellow diners, especially at the buffet, have germ-free hands.

Read more: How to Avoid Getting Sick on Your Next Cruise

9. How to find your way around a Norwegian ship

Modern cruise ships are huge, and it used to take me a week to learn my way around a new ship. On a seven-day cruise, the trip would be over before I felt confident that I knew how to get from point A to point B without getting lost!

Over the years, I’ve learned some useful ways to get to know the layout of a ship so I can spend less time getting lost and more time having fun.

Before you get on board, download one of NCL’s handy Ship Guides and save it to your phone or tablet. You’ll often get a paper map when you’re issued your cruise card, but this is easier to read, and you’ll always have it on you.

If you’re directionally-challenged (like me), memorize whether your fave spots are forward or aft on the ship. Without having to look at a map, you can just peek out a window. The water will tell you if you’re going in the right direction! The ship will always be moving forward, so if you’re moving in the opposite direction as the ship, you’re heading aft.

Not quite sure where you are on the ship in relation to where you want to go? Head for an elevator bank. There’s often a map of the entire ship located on the wall near the elevators with a helpful “you are here” dot so you can orient yourself.

Bonus NCL tip: on many Norwegian ships, the carpets in the hallways feature a swimming fish pattern. Follow the fish – they’re always swimming towards the forward part of the ship!

10. Learn how to make Freestyle Dining work for you

In the early 2000s, Norwegian pioneered the idea of dining on your own schedule, with only the people you want to have dinner with. Before this innovative idea took hold, you’d have a set dinner time, with the same group of people each night. Although this can be a great way to get to know new friends, not everyone wants to eat at the same time each night (or force conversation with strangers).

Enter NCL’s Freestyle Dining. You can eat where you want, when you want. If you and your partner are cruising by yourselves, you can have an intimate dinner for two without having to worry about making small talk.

Traveling with a group of friends or family? You can choose which nights you want to eat together, and when it makes more sense to split up.

The drawback? Most people tend to want to have dinner at around the same time. The main dining rooms have a limited capacity, so there can be a wait at peak times.

How can you avoid a long wait time for dinner on Norwegian ships?

Each group of passengers is different, so I won’t give you a specific time to avoid. But in general, older people and families with young kids tend to eat earlier.

If your cruise seems to be heavily populated with these demographics, planning for a later dining time usually results in a shorter wait for a table in the main dining rooms, or no wait at all.

If you want a better idea of how much demand there is for a table in any dining room, digital screens near the restaurants show approximate wait times along with the evening’s menu.

Can you make reservations for the main dining rooms on Norwegian?

Yes, you can absolutely make reservations for the main dining room! If you have a large party or you need a specific dining time because of a planned activity, this is a great idea.

You can make reservations on the NCL website before your cruise, but I usually just make my reservations on board when I have a better idea of which activities we’ll be doing. You can book on the Cruise Norwegian app or right at the restaurant’s host stand.

Bonus NCL tip: if you show up to a dining room and there’s a long wait for a table, often the host will give you a pager and a drink coupon for a glass of sparkling wine while you wait!

11. Don’t try to take (most) drinks on board

Norwegian is very strict when it comes to passengers carrying on their own beverages. In fact, you can’t take any drinks on board an NCL ship, with the exception of bottles of wine and champagne.

Each bottle is subject to a $15 corkage fee for a 750 ml bottle, and $30 for a 1500 ml bottle. Norwegian will charge you this fee regardless of where you consume the wine, even in your own stateroom.

NCL doesn’t allow any bottled water or soda to be brought aboard, with the exception of sealed, purified/distilled water for baby formula or medical devices.

Make sure you take a packable, reusable water bottle if you plan on drinking tap water (it’s perfectly safe to consume). Or, you can order cartons of Just Water before your cruise. The spring water in recyclable, plant-based cartons will be delivered right to your stateroom.

Read more: What Beverages Can I Bring On My Cruise?

12. Try O’Sheehan’s for casual dining round-the-clock

On most cruise lines these days, you’re not able to get much, if any food in the wee hours of the morning. Not so on Norwegian! Not only is O’Sheehan’s open 24/7, but they have some seriously good pub food (the wings are to die for!)

O’Sheehan’s is open around the clock for pub fare and Irish favorites

If you’re a night owl, this complimentary dining venue is the place to go after an evening in the nightclub, casino, or after a show.

O’Sheehan’s is a table-service restaurant that feels like an Irish-themed sports bar. Seating options include high-top bar tables and limited bar seats as well as booths and tables away from the bar area.

Menu options include pub-style snacks like chicken wings and nachos, along with burgers, soup, salad, and traditional Irish favorites like Shepherd’s Pie and Bangers and Mash.

Many Norwegian ships feature O’Sheehan’s, but don’t despair if your ship doesn’t! Most NCL ships offer a late-night dining option. Blue Lagoon, The Local, Sports Bar and Cadillac Diner are all open late.

Norwegian often claims that these venues are open 24/7, but in my experience they aren’t always. Check the Freestyle Daily for hours.

Bonus NCL tip: Try O’Sheehan’s in the morning if you want a quick breakfast without battling the crowds at the buffet. They have a breakfast menu with both hot and cold options.

13. How to do laundry on NCL

Many NCL ships don’t have self-service laundry and ironing rooms for guests (Dawn, Jewel, Pearl, Jade, and Gem do have this feature).

All Norwegian ships do all offer laundry service with a fee per bag. If you choose to send your laundry to be cleaned, remember that they use industrial washers and dryers so it’s not suitable for delicate clothes that could shrink or otherwise be damaged by heat.

Save money on NCL’s laundry service

Keep an eye on your Freestyle Daily for a flyer for discounted laundry or pressing service. On my most recent Norwegian cruise, there was a flyer for 50% off pressing in the first day’s Daily, and a flyer for a bag of laundry washed, dried, and pressed for $19.95.

The discount flyers will note exactly when you need to have your laundry ready and what day it will be returned. Read this carefully, because the discount is only available for the time period it specifies.

Order an iron and ironing board

If your ship doesn’t have a laundry room, you can ask your room steward to deliver an iron and board to your room. They’ll drop them off and pick them back up after about an hour.

Learn more about How to Prevent Wrinkled Clothes on a Cruise

14. Save money with a specialty dining package

If you didn’t choose a specialty dining package as part of a Free at Sea promotion, you can still purchase a discounted package. If you plan on eating at least a few dinners at specialty restaurants, it really pays off to bundle it into a package.

NCL’s specialty restaurant menu items are priced à la carte, and without a package you’ll have to pay for each item individually.

Prices vary by restaurant, but as an example, Le Bistro‘s main courses are priced in the $20-40 range, starters are about $8-14, and desserts are $5-14. With a dining package, your entire meal is covered in the price.

You can purchase 3- to 14-day specialty dining packages online (call NCL for packages over 14 days), and your cost per meal decreases the more days you purchase. For example, a three-day package will cost $33 per meal, but a 14-day will cost just $15.65 per meal.

Bonus NCL tip: Dining reservations open 90-120 days before sailing depending on the cruise. Book your specialty dining reservations at least a few weeks (if not earlier) before your cruise to make sure you can choose the restaurants and dining times that work for you.

15. How to make sure you get a (good) seat for shows

NCL offers a variety of evening entertainment shows, including comedy, magic, and Broadway-style productions. Most are free, and offer first-come, first-served seating. If you want your pick of seats, show up 15-30 minutes prior to the show (the earlier the better). The popular shows can fill up fast!

One caveat: if you would rather your fellow passengers not be angry with you, don’t send one member of your party to reserve a block of seats. This is a huge breach of cruise etiquette! If you want seats together, your entire party needs to show up early and sit in them.

If you’d like to see a show that requires tickets, such as one of the Illusorium dinner shows, some can be booked online before your cruise, and some need to be booked on board. Check the entertainment section of your online cruise planner for specifics.

For shows that require tickets, you can often book premium seating for an additional charge.

16. Head to the rides during off-peak hours

Are you booked on one of the newer Norwegian cruise ships? From go-karts to waterslides to 3D simulation rides, NCL’s megaships have lots of activities for all ages. But the larger ships also have more passengers lining up for the best attractions!

How can you enjoy these experiences without wasting your precious vacation time standing in long lines? Plan to visit during off-peak hours, when most of the other passengers are off doing something else.

  • Eat dinner late, and ride during the typical dinner hours. You’ll beat the crowds for your favorite rides and the dinner rush.
  • Stopping in a port that you don’t care to visit? Stay on board and you’ll have the ship (and the rides) to yourself.

Bonus NCL tip: You can make reservations for some rides, like the go-karts on Norwegian Joy, Bliss and Encore. Make sure to reserve early (via your stateroom TV), because spots can fill up quickly.

17. Take advantage of the kids club

If you’re cruising with your kids or grandkids under age 18, one of the first things you’ll want to do on embarkation day is to sign them up for the kids club. NCL’s youth programs offer tons of supervised activities by age group, and the drop-off programs are free during the day for ages 3-17.

Splash Academy, for kids ages 3-12, on Norwegian Breakaway (image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

Guppies Program for babies and toddlers

If you have a baby or toddler from six months old through two years, Norwegian’s Guppies Program offers open play as well as hosted activities. It’s not a drop-off program on most ships (only the Norwegian Escape has a drop off Guppies Nursery, available for an added charge) so a parent will need to stay with their child.

With the exception of Guppies Nursery, this is a free activity and you won’t need to register your baby or toddler for the program. Check the Freestyle Daily for locations and times.

Splash Academy (age 3-12) and Entourage (age 13-17)

Splash Academy offers supervised activities by age group, while Entourage has a mix of organized events and hangouts. Both programs are free during the day, but a small meal fee does apply on port days if you’re not planning on picking up your child for meals.

Late Night Fun Zone

For a small added charge, the Late Night Fun Zone crew will supervise your kids aged 3-12 in the evening. Perfect if you’re planning to hit the casino or nightclub, or just relax in a lounge! It’s open from 10:30 PM until 1:30 AM, but make sure to register the kids early; they’ll shut down early if no kids are registered.

Bonus NCL tip: If your teen would never want to participate in a kids club, encourage them to at least show up on the first day. It’s the best way to meet other kids their age to hang out with early in the cruise, even if they never plan on doing any of the organized activities.

18. Book your spa treatments on the right days to save money

Spa treatments on cruise ships can be pricey, but there’s a way to get a discount on NCL’s spa services. The spa staff wants to fill all of their open time slots, but most people book massages and facials on sea days.

Save money by booking a massage on a port day (Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

The spa will usually offer a discount to encourage passengers to book during off-peak hours, usually embarkation day and days when the ship is in port. Watch the Freestyle Daily for discounts and free add-on services when you book.

Some services can also be booked at a discount when you purchase a package or series of treatments.

Bonus NCL tip: Visit the spa on embarkation day for tours, extra discounts, and to enter their raffle for the chance to win free services.

19. Limit your kids’ spending

If you’re worried that your kids will decide to go on a shopping spree or go nuts at the arcade, you can set a spending limit on their cruise cards. The best way to do this is by setting up a cash account for them at the purser’s desk.

Set a spending limit on your kids’ cruise card. They can have the freedom of buying their own treats without spending too much money (Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

With a cash limit on their cruise cards, your kids can still have the freedom of buying occasional treats and souvenirs without racking up a huge bill. Plus, it can help them learn how to budget their spending money over the entire cruise.

20. Bring a white outfit for the theme party

Most NCL cruises have a theme party one night where most guests wear a white outfit. The party goes by various names; I’ve seen it called the White Hot Party, Glow (you’re encouraged to add neon accents), or Caliente, but they’re all essentially the same event.

Usually, there’s a family party for all ages so the kids can be involved as well, but it often starts pretty late. On our last sailing, the Family Glow Party began at 9 PM. The main party will begins later on the pool deck, and then it moves to the nightclub.

Bonus NCL tip: If you show up early, the crew usually hands out glow sticks and accessories, but they go fast! Or, just pack your own to add to the fun.

21. Be careful when bidding on cabin upgrades

After you make your final payment for your cruise, you may get an email asking if you want to bid on a stateroom upgrade. NCL’s Upgrade Advantage Program will allow you to switch to a higher-category stateroom if you’re the winning bidder.

Sometimes you can get a bargain on a better room, but other times it may not be worth it. If you win, you’ll be switched to a guarantee stateroom, so you won’t be able to choose your room location. Your perfectly-located inside stateroom might be exchanged for an obstructed oceanview right near the nightclub!

If you bid too high, you could end up paying even more than if you had just booked the higher-category room in the first place. You also won’t receive any additional Free at Sea perks that you’d normally receive with the new cabin category.

My tip? Only bid an amount you’re comfortably willing to spend for any stateroom in the upgrade category. If you wouldn’t be happy with the worst room in the category, don’t bid at all.

22. How to get cash during your NCL cruise without paying high fees

If you need a small amount of cash during your Norwegian cruise, there are always ATMs available on the ship, as well as in port. But those ATMs charge high fees, and most banks will hit you with another fee for using another bank’s machine. It can get pricey fast, especially if you just need a small amount of cash for tips, food or souvenirs in port.

What do you do if you forgot to take enough cash on the cruise? Hit the casino! You can transfer money on any slot machine from your linked credit card to your casino account. Cash out your balance to a paper ticket, then cash the ticket at the casino cashier’s desk.

As of 2020, NCL charges $3 per $100 that you transfer from your cruise card. Depending on your bank, this trick could cut your ATM fees in half if you just need to take out a small amount.

23. Don’t wait until the day of your cruise to print your cruise documents

Even if you check in online for your cruise super early, you won’t be able to print your cruise documents until about five days before your cruise. At that time, you’ll need to print several documents for your cruising party, as well as a paper bag tag for each piece of luggage that you plan to check at the port.

If you’re traveling before your cruise, you might not have easy access to a printer during those last few days. If you’re able to find a spot to print them out, it will make your check-in process at the port faster and easier.

Be aware that Norwegian is required to close out the ship’s manifest before the cruise, so you won’t be able to access online check-in (or your documents!) at any time on embarkation day.

What if you aren’t able to print your documents before your NCL cruise?

If you can’t print your documents before your cruise, make sure you know your stateroom number. You won’t be able to find it on NCL’s website on the day of sailing, so make a note of it as soon as your room number is available.

Security at the port will be able to look up your reservation on their manifest with your ID, and the porters will have spare bag tags where you can write your cabin number and last name.

24. Pick a cruise that stops at Great Stirrup Cay

If you’re looking for the ultimate beach day, book a cruise that includes a stop at Great Stirrup Cay. Norwegian’s 268-acre private island is located in the Berry Islands of the Bahamas.

An aerial view of Great Stirrup Cay, NCL’s private island in the Bahamas (image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

What is there to do at Great Stirrup Cay?

In addition to its white sandy beach, Great Stirrup Cay has tons of watersports and activities for cruisers to enjoy (at an additional cost). You can rent a wave runner, try stand-up paddleboarding, parasail across the sky, or rent a float to just relax on the waves.

Shore excursions are available, including snorkeling at coral reefs or an underwater sculpture garden. You can also take a boat ride to nearby Treasure Island to visit their own group of swimming pigs.

If you want to stay out of the sun, cabanas and villas are available to rent, as well as beach clamshells.

Food and drinks at Great Stirrup Cay

There are several restaurants and bars available to passengers on the island, and yes, your drink package is accepted at Great Stirrup Cay!

Most dining venues on the island are complimentary, including the newly updated beach buffet, Jumbey Beach Grill, and Abaco Taco. There are three bars, including a Bacardi bar and a Patrón bar.

Bonus NCL tip: Pick up your tender tickets the day before you visit Great Stirrup Cay to make sure you can get an early tender time. All of the restaurants and bars close in the early afternoon, and you won’t want to miss out.

Read more: Ultimate Guide to Great Stirrup Cay

25. Avoid sitting near the buffet

To be honest, the buffets on NCL aren’t known for having amazing food. I try to avoid their buffet as much as possible, and I love buffets! There’s always at least one main dining room open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the food is significantly better.

But if you’re in a hurry and need food fast, or just want a quick snack, the buffet can be an option in a pinch. Beware though, it will be very crowded! Whatever you do, don’t try to find a table near the buffet itself. The area in front of the buffet station is where most people choose to sit, and finding a table can be incredibly frustrating.

Instead, head to the one of the far ends of the buffet seating area, and you’ll often find plenty of free tables. As a bonus, it’s usually a bit quieter as well. Or take your plates to another area of the ship, even back to your room! There are no rules about where you need to sit to eat your meal.

Have you cruised on NCL? What are your favorite Norwegian cruise tips? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


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About the Author

I’m Carrie Ann, and I’m a complete travel junkie. A former flight attendant, I can pack an amazing suitcase in minutes flat. When I’m not cruising, I’m researching my next adventure (actually, I’ve been known to research cruises while cruising).

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