Everything to Know About Norwegian’s “Free At Sea” Sale

The sale is one of the most appealing out there. Book a cruise and get any number of free perks on your Norwegian cruise. Maybe you select free drinks for the duration of your trip. Or maybe you go with free wi-fi… or having your friends and family sail free… or free/discounted airfare to the cruise port.

As of right now, Norwegian Cruise Lines is offering up to six free perks with its “Free At Sea” sale for your cruise:

  • Unlimited open bar
  • Free specialty dining
  • Free shore excursions
  • Free wi-fi
  • Friends and family sail free
  • Free airfare

Norwegian has been offering some version of the sale for some time now. And anecdotally, it’s one of the most appealing sales out there. Who doesn’t want to get free drinks or free specialty dining tacked onto their cruise? In fact, it promises to take away so much of the nickel and diming that seems to be creeping into cruise fares these days.

But while the sale sounds mouth-watering, there are definitely some things you will want to know before you purchase your fare in order to get the best deal… and avoid any surprises.

Norwegian Cruise Lines funnel

Perks Depend On Your Cabin

First things first, while the headline for the sale says you can get all the perks with your cruise, the number of freebies you can select depends on the type of cabin that you select.

Pick a studio or inside cabin and you only get to pick one free perk. Oceanview, balcony, and mini-suites get to pick three offers, while Concierge, suites, and The Haven cabins get to select all the perks.

Sometimes the cruise line runs deals where you can pick more perks for the cabin you select. For example, as of this writing balcony and mini-suite cabins get to select all six perks instead of just three.

Just know that before you get excited about all the perks, there is a chance you’ll have to pick from among several… and it can be a tough choice.

Rooms Without Perks Are Less Expensive

One of the things you might not realize is that you can purchase cabins on the ship without the perks offered. Why would you want to do that? We’ve found these cabins are actually cheaper than buying the same level of cabin as part of the sale.

Take a balcony cabin we found for 7-day cruise, for instance. The price per person for a “Sail Away” balcony (not part of any promotions and the cruise line picks your room) was $999 per person. But the traditional balcony cabin option that’s part of the sale was $1,349. That’s $350 more per person, or $700 more in total. For that price difference, you get the perks and get to choose your actual cabin on the ship. Still, that’s a big price to pay extra for the same type of room.

You Still Have to Pay Gratuity… Even on Free Things

One of the biggest draws to the Norwegian sale is that you can get free open bar on your trip. With the price of alcohol on a cruise being high (think $10-12 for a cocktail or about $6-8 for a beer), having free bar can be a huge money saver. Meanwhile, Norwegian charges $99 for an unlimited drink package. On a 7-day trip, that’s hundred and hundreds of dollars you’re saving.

But with the free drink package (as well as other things like specialty restaurants), you are still on the hook for gratuities. With Norwegian, that’s an automatic 20% on the value of the package, or $19.80 per person, per day. For two people, that’s $39.60 each day. On a 7-day cruise, you’ll end up paying nearly $300 in gratuities for your “free” drinks.

Understand the Terms

In general the perks from Norwegian are straightforward, but there are some terms you should know about. For instance, we’ve mentioned that gratuities are still charged even on free perks. If you take advantage of the friends and family sail free perk, for instance, you will still need to pay gratuities like any other passenger. Other things to know include that the free specialty dining perk is for a handful meals (3 per person for a 7-day cruise, for example). And the free wi-fi offer is for only 100 minutes on cruises less than seven days or 250 minutes for trips of seven days or more. It is not unlimited.

For the full terms and conditions of the offers, you can click here.

Airfare Is Only Free Sometimes

One of the big draws of Norwegian’s perks is the free airfare offer. But as you might expect, there are some caveats when it comes to free flights. Most notably, airfare is only free for certain cruises and from certain airports. Say you live in Austin, Texas. In this case flights to a cruise departing Miami are actually $99, while flights to a New Orleans cruise are free. Likewise, flights to Seattle for an Alaskan cruise run $199 per person. What you pay depends on where you live and where you’re flying.

It’s still a definite discount, but just know that not every flight is free.

You Don’t Have to Select a Perk If You Don’t Want It

With the extra cost of some perks like free drinks, there can actually be a disadvantage to having it included on your cruise if you don’t use it. That’s ok. When you book you don’t have to take advantage of every single perk that’s offered. You have the option to select from the list of options, up to the amount of perks that are included with your cabin type.

Do the Math Before You Buy

For many people, selecting the free perk offer is a no-brainer, and they will end up saving money. But remember that you’ll pay more for the cabin if you book the sale. Fares can be hundreds of dollars cheaper without the sale.

But if you aren’t a big drinker or plan to drive to the port, or don’t care about shore excursions, it could be that buying the cheaper cabin is worth it for you. After all, you’ll have to pay gratuities on the drink package, still have to pay for some flights, and pay gratuities on specialty restaurant dining.

Do the math before you blindly go with cabin offering the free perks.

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  1. Please Beware, If you take the “Free” drink package you will be charged the $19.80 per day regardless of weather you drink or not, we do not drink. When I asked for a refund of the $200 gratuities Norwegian now says it is a service charge and not refundable. So the “Free” drink package cost us $200, IMO very dishonest and misleading.

    Also they advertise a Bingo with a $5000 prize. AFTER you buy the tickets then then tell you the “RULES” You have to get a full card in 47 or less numbers to get this prize. It has about the same odds as getting struck by lightning.

    At this point if you are considering a cruise with this company please investigate their claims carefully.
    This is my 4th cruise and the first with Norwegian while the entertainment and food were decent their business practices are very suspect .

  2. I bough the cheaper inside cabin and got 2 free perks and 50 dolars OBC. The gratuities are included we don’t have to pay more. https://www.ncl.com/es/en/free-at-sea
    “Offer is applicable to all categories including IX, OX, BX and MX (Sail Away Categories).”
    “20% gratuities on the retail value of the Premium Beverage Package ($19.80 USD per person per day) and/or Soda Package ($1.59 USD per person per day) are included.”

    • Looks like you’re booking a cruise in Europe. For U.S. departures, there is still the $19.80 in gratuities you have to pay:

      “Guest is responsible for 20% gratuities on the retail value of the Premium Beverage Package ($19.80 per person per day) and/or Soda Package ($1.59 per person per day) prior to cruise.”

  3. What a joke, only get the one free perk when you book inside cabin, if you do not buy the least expensive inside cabin. If you upgrade (pay more) you could get the one free perk of $50 per cabin.
    Just spoke to Norwegian on the phone, to get the correct information. I Asked about the cost to use the bowling alley on the pearl, which I saw on a review from a past guest was $5. But this rep told me there is no bowling alley, now I am confused. Any body got any more interesting tips around things we should know about before we sail. Love to hear from you.

    • Been on the Pearl 5 years ago. Yes they have a bowling alley. I believe 4 lanes only. Line to use it was crazy. Not worth it. Also this ship had very few bars and lounges. They used the space to put in many specialty (pay extra) restaurants. I’d never go back on the Pearl.


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