For many cruisers, your bar bill can end up being a significant portion of your vacation budget! If you’re cruising on Norwegian Cruise Line, having an NCL drink package lets you pre-plan your drink costs so you’re not hit with a huge bar tab at the end of your cruise.
Norwegian offers a variety of drink packages for all ages, at various price points. But is an NCL beverage package worth it? I’ll explain what each package currently includes and how much it will cost for your cruise, so you can decide if you should buy one and which drink package is right for you.
Norwegian Cruise Line raised prices and changed drink package selection for 2023
NCL overhauled its beverage package selection for 2023, removing some fan favorites and adding a new tier. Norwegian also raised all drink package prices for the new year. Even if you’ve cruised NCL with a beverage package in the past, you’ll want to read carefully to see what’s changed!
All beverage packages increased in price
Beginning in January 2023, NCL raised the price of all drink packages by $10 per day. Although post-shutdown price hikes are becoming the norm, Norwegian already charged among the highest per-day costs for beverage packages in the cruise industry.
Many NCL cruisers choose a free drink package as part of NCL’s ongoing Free At Sea promotion, but gratuities aren’t included—and that per-day charge just increased as well.
Norwegian removed two popular drink packages
As part of the beverage package overhaul, NCL removed two of the most budget-friendly beverage packages from its portfolio: Corks & Caps and the Children’s Soda Program.
Wine and beer lovers might remember Corks & Caps—for just $65 per day, you could enjoy unlimited draft and bottled beer, wine-by-the-glass, and fountain sodas. That package has been scrapped, and the cheapest option for unlimited wine and beer now costs double the price.
Norwegian also removed the Children’s Soda Program from its options. As late as 2022, parents of kids aged 12 and under could pay just $5.95 per day to let each kid have unlimited fountain sodas.
For 2023, children and adults who want unlimited soft drinks have now been lumped into the same package, almost doubling the per-day price for kids!
NCL added a new drink package
All’s not gloomy on the Norwegian drink package front. The cruise line actually added a new tier that I’m sure will be popular with specialty coffee drinkers—Unlimited Starbucks!
This new Norwegian beverage package includes all you can drink from the onboard coffeehouse, for the price of just a couple of venti lattes. Read on for all the details!
For all of Norwegian’s drink packages, you can order an unlimited amount of any included beverages at bars and restaurants on the ship, but drink selection can vary by venue.
NCL drink packages available for 2023
For 2023, Norwegian Cruise Line offers five beverage packages:
- Unlimited Soda Package
- Unlimited Starbucks Package
- Unlimited Open Bar Package
- Premium Plus Beverage Package
- Pride of America Hawaii Beverage Package
As a guide, I’ve included how much each drink package costs in total (including gratuity) for a seven-day cruise. Note that packages are only available for cruises that are three days or longer. Pride of America Hawaii cruises have their own special drink package (detailed below), and other packages aren’t available.
These are the current drink packages for 2023, with updated pricing. Note that NCL adds a 20% gratuity to the price of all drink packages.
Unlimited Soda Package
Available for anyone age 3 and up, NCL’s Unlimited Soda Package costs $9.95 per day. Only fountain sodas are covered (including Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Sprite, ginger ale, tonic water, and club soda). Cans of soda are charged at full menu prices.
For a 7-day cruise, this drink package would cost ($9.95 x 7 x 1.2) $83.58
Unlimited Starbucks Package
New this year, NCL’s Unlimited Starbucks Package includes all your Starbucks favorites, from classic coffees and teas and Refreshers to Frappuccinos and other specialty coffee drinks.
The Starbucks drink package costs $12.95 per day.
For a 7-day cruise, this drink package would cost ($12.95 x 7 x 1.2) $108.78
Unlimited Open Bar Package
NCL’s Unlimited Open Bar Package (formerly known as the Premium Beverage Package or the Ultimate Beverage Package) costs $109.00 per day. The package includes spirits and cocktails along with a selection of soft drinks, juice, draft and bottled beer, and wine-by-the-glass.
Any of these drinks with a menu price under $15 are included in the program. NCL has a list of brands included in the Unlimited Open Bar Package. However, not all ships carry all of the listed brands, and availability can vary by venue. Brands are subject to change.
The Unlimited Open Bar Package doesn’t include specialty coffee and tea drinks, bottled water, energy drinks, fresh-squeezed juices, and bottles of wine (although they’ll give you a 20% discount on certain bottles). Other exclusions are room service, mini-bar drinks, and drinks served in souvenir glasses.
If a drink costs $15 or more, you’ll be charged the difference plus a 20% gratuity on that amount.
For a 7-day cruise, this drink package would cost ($109.00 x 7 x 1.2) $915.60. If you choose this package with Free at Sea, it costs ($109.00 x 7 x 0.2) $152.60 for gratuities.
Premium Plus Beverage Package
NCL’s Premium Plus Beverage Package costs $138.00 per day. The package includes everything in the Unlimited Open Bar Package, but the $15 menu price cap is lifted.
In addition, specialty coffees and teas, energy drinks, fresh-squeezed juices, bottled water (still and sparkling), and select bottles of wine are covered in this package. Dining room wine lists have an asterisk next to bottles that are included in the package.
NCL also publishes a list of brands included with Premium Plus, so you can have an idea of which brands are complimentary with the package. Brands are subject to change.
If you have a free Unlimited Open Bar Package from the Free at Sea promotion, you’ll be able to upgrade to Premium Plus by paying the difference. Currently, you can upgrade for $29 per day plus the 20% gratuity charge.
For a 7-day cruise, this drink package would cost ($138.00 x 7 x 1.2) $1159.20.
Pride of America Hawaii Beverage Package
Sailing on NCL’s Pride of America in Hawaii? Your ship has only one beverage package available. But the good news is that it’s usually included for at least the first two passengers in a stateroom (and sometimes covers all guests depending on the promo)—you just pay the 20% gratuity.
The bad news? This drink package is also the only one available on Pride of America for kids and teens, and the sticker price is $109 per day. So if you’re sharing a room, you’ll be paying a bit more per day for their drinks. But, they can have some healthier options other than just sodas!
The Hawaii Beverage Package includes a variety of both adult and soft drinks. Wine-by-the-glass, beer, and liquor are included, up to $15 per drink. Other included options are fountain sodas, freshly-squeezed juice, bottled water (flat and sparkling), non-alcoholic beer, and specialty coffees (in the dining rooms only).
For a 7-day cruise, this drink package (gratuities only) would cost ($109.00 x 7 x 0.2) $152.60
Common questions about NCL drink packages
If you’ve never cruised with Norwegian before, or it’s been a while since your last cruise, you probably have some general questions about how the drink packages work. I’ll answer the most common ones here. If you have a question that I haven’t answered, just leave it in the comments and I’ll answer it.
Do you need to tip for drinks purchased with an NCL beverage package?
All drink packages cost an extra 20% gratuity on top of the list price. You don’t need to tip your bartender or server each time you order a drink with your beverage package—you’ve already pre-paid your tips.
That said, you can always add an extra tip for your favorite bartenders, if you choose.
Do you need to pay tax on your drinks?
When you’re out at sea in international waters, you don’t need to worry about paying tax on any of your drinks. But when you’re in port, some local authorities require cruise lines to collect tax on the menu price of any beverages you buy. Taxes are charged to your onboard account if you’re buying drinks one by one or using a beverage package.
The tax percentage varies by port, but it’s never a huge amount – generally somewhere between 5-10% of the cost of each drink. If a jurisdiction charges tax, it will be charged on each drink when the ship is in port and in its territorial waters.
Do NCL drink packages work on their private islands?
If you’re stopping for the day at one of Norwegian’s private islands, drink packages are accepted at Great Stirrup Cay but not at Harvest Caye. Wondering why? NCL developed Harvest Caye in partnership with the government of Belize. Part of that deal specifies that visitors must pay for food and drinks ordered on the island.
How old do you have to be to buy an alcoholic beverage package on NCL?
Passengers need to be at least 21 to purchase an alcoholic beverage package on Norwegian cruises worldwide. Guests aged 18 to 20 can purchase alcohol on round-trip cruises in Europe and Australia. 18-to-20-year-olds can buy wine and beer on some cruises sailing from the US with the signed consent of an accompanying parent.
However, you still need to be 21 to have a drink package that includes alcohol, even if you’re old enough to drink on the cruise.
Norwegian, like many cruise lines, has been cracking down on passengers sharing their drink packages. Because of this issue, if one guest on a reservation buys a drink package, the other guests must as well. Passengers under 21 would be required to buy a soda package.
Exceptions can be made in certain circumstances. If you’re pregnant, have a medical condition, a history of substance abuse, or have religious beliefs that don’t allow you to drink any alcohol, contact NCL to ask for an exception.
How do you buy a Norwegian Cruise Line drink package?
Many Norwegian cruises offer their Free at Sea promotion, and the most popular perk for cruisers is the drink package. But if you don’t have Free at Sea (or you chose another perk), you can pre-purchase a drink package, starting 90 days before sailing, on your MyNCL account.
You can also buy a drink package on board the ship, but this option will usually only be available for the first couple of days of the cruise.
Can you buy a drink package for certain days of the cruise?
Although it would be nice to pick and choose which days you have a drink package (like sea days only, please!), once you buy a package you need to pay for each remaining day of your cruise. Take this into consideration if you have a lot of longer shore excursions when you won’t be on the ship to use the package.
NCL drink prices for 2023: how much are drinks on a Norwegian cruise if you buy them individually?
Based on recent menu prices, specialty coffees on ships with a Starbucks are in the $3-6 range. Fountain sodas are about $3.
Many wines-by-the-glass are in the $8-9 range, up to about $27-31 for higher-end selections. Beer is about $7-9 per glass. Cocktails from the bar menus are generally $9-15 (but ultra-premium liquor can cost significantly more).
Is there a limit to how many drinks you can get per day with an NCL beverage package?
Unlike some cruise lines, Norwegian doesn’t currently have a limit on how many drinks you can have per day with any of their packages. Obviously, you should be safe and drink responsibly! But as of right now there’s no set limit. They do have a limit of two drinks per person per order, which is helpful to know when there’s a long line at the pool bar.
Is it worth it to get a drink package on NCL?
Honestly, it all depends on how much you think you’ll be drinking. Norwegian’s alcoholic drink packages are among the most expensive in the cruise industry, so the expense can be significant if you’re paying out-of-pocket. If you’re sure you’ll only have a couple of drinks each day, it’s a far better deal to just pay as you go.
When you choose the Unlimited Open Bar Package as a Free at Sea perk, you’ll only be paying the gratuity (about $22 per day). Drinking just one soda with lunch, an afternoon cocktail by the pool, and a glass of wine with dinner, you’ve had your money’s worth for the day.
If you’re a soda drinker, the soda package can be a money-saver. Know you’ll want to order at least two or three soft drinks each day? Then it really makes sense to buy this package.
Want to learn more about cruise line beverage packages? Read my article Are Cruise Drink Packages Worth It? to learn more.
Don’t forget to check out these resources before your Norwegian cruise:
- 25 Norwegian Cruise Tips You Need to Know
- Norwegian’s Free at Sea: The Ultimate Guide
- How to Get Onboard Credit for Owning Norwegian Cruise Line Stock
- Ultimate Guide to NCL’s Great Stirrup Cay
Have you bought a drink package on a Norwegian cruise? Did you think it was worth it? Let me know in the comments below!
Liked this post? Pin it for later!
- Carnival Firenze Inaugural Season Opens For Bookings - March 23, 2023
- Princess Cruises Announces Lavazza as Official Coffee Partner - March 23, 2023
- Disney Cruise Line Announces Inaugural Sailings to Lighthouse Point - March 23, 2023
Tuesday 14th of February 2023
We're sailing on the NCL Bliss, and have purchased the unlimited open bar package with free at sea. I'm not much of an excursion person, and was curious to know if my drink package still allows me to take advantage of the open bar while we're docked in ports. Everything i've read so far on the free at sea is that the drinks are only "free" while sailing, and not while docked. Thanks!
Wednesday 15th of February 2023
Hi Julia, the drinks with Free At Sea's open bar are definitely free aboard the ship regardless of whether she's sailing or docked in port. However, you'll need to pay tax on the menu price of each drink when you're not in international waters (like when you're in port). But the tax charges, which vary by jurisdiction, are usually very minimal. Happy cruising!
Friday 27th of January 2023
Hi going on NCL Pride of America in March 2023. As we are in port everyday at a different Hawaiian island. Do we have to pay extra tax if we have purchased the drink package? If we happen to stay on board. Just so you know we also received free gratitudes in the deal. So wondering if there’s any hidden costs so I can budget. Thank you.
Sunday 29th of January 2023
Hi Susan, excellent questions! If you've already purchased the Hawaii beverage package, you'll have already paid the gratuities for the package at checkout. (The free gratuities you received as part of your package are crew gratuities, not drinks gratuities - you can read more about that in my post What You Need to Know About Cruise Gratuities)
As for taxes on your drinks, you won't need to pay anything extra when you're sailing in international waters. But whenever you order a drink while you're in territorial waters (like if you stay on the ship as you mentioned, or whenever you're within about 12 nautical miles from land), local taxes on the menu price of each drink you order will be charged to your onboard account.
My rule of thumb to figure out when you're sailing in international waters is if the onboard shops and/or casino are open, you're all set and won't be charged tax on your drinks :) Hope this helps, and have an amazing time on your cruise!
Sunday 14th of August 2022
What is included in the adult beverage package that is included as a perk on NCL Escape?
Tuesday 16th of August 2022
Hi Judy, when you choose the drink package as part of your Free At Sea perks on any NCL ship, you'll get the Premium Beverage Package (scroll up to read my complete description of the package). In a nutshell, the package includes any drink $15 and under, with some exclusions like boxed water, specialty coffees, and fresh juices.
Sunday 31st of July 2022
Can you preorder beers for your room so you have them before your cruise starts
Monday 1st of August 2022
Hi Debbie, you can pre-order beer, wine, spirits, and/or mixers to be delivered to your room on embarkation day. However, just like any room service drink orders, you'd have to pay full price. It's not included in any drink package. Thanks for the question!
Tuesday 19th of July 2022
Going with group on Escape. We have the drink package. We're thinking of upgrading to Plus package, mainly for sparkling water and coffee. Noticed that it said some bottles of wine in dining room. Is that with any meal? Including specialty. Also one per person? Or one per meal? One per day? It's not very clear. Thank you
Thursday 21st of July 2022
Hi Jane, great question. NCL often isn't very clear with their drink package policies! I've been able to order bottles of wine both in the MDR as well as in specialty restaurants with the Plus package. I've only ordered them at dinner, but there's nothing in their policy that says you can't also use the benefit at lunchtime. You'll just need to look for the notation next to the allowed bottles on the wine list (If I remember correctly, they mark them with an asterisk).
I love this benefit because (in my experience) wine service by the glass in the MDR is notoriously slow, and ordering a bottle means you'll actually be able to enjoy a second glass before dessert is served :D
They don't have limitations per person/meal/day, within reason. If you can't finish the bottle, your server can re-cork it and save it for your next meal - even if you're planning to dine in a different venue.