I love the sea. I love being a frequent floater. I also love most things NCL or Norwegian Cruise Lines. Why NCL? To me the free style cruising is perfect. I have no desire to get dressed up on a ship nor do I want to be seated at large tables at set dining times. With NCL I dine how and when (and where) I want. But there is a bunch more.
Notice the screen shot of the now “stock” sales offers from NCL (they have a countdown clock for the offer but every month the offer is basically the same). As long as you are not booking a really cheap cabin (including where NCL picks the cabin for you), you are able to get some or all of these offers when you book either via NCL or OTA (starting at TopCashBack) or even with Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
If you have never been on a ship you may not be aware that one of the biggest costs you can incur are for drinks. $10-15 per drink adds up quick for two people over a week or two at sea. The solution is their drink package that they call “Unlimited Open Bar” or onboard the UBP “Unlimited Beverage Package” stamped on your keycard. Anything under $15 is free and they build in the tip as part of this package (you do pay the tips upfront when you buy the package as part of your cruise i.e. that is NOT free). If drinks are priced more than $15 you pay the difference.
But NCL is taking this further and segmenting it. Next year I have only one cruise booked (well, so far anyway). But take a look at what is being offered to me from NCL:
NCL is now offering me, for about $35 per day (including tip charge), to upgrade my beverage package to include most of the drinks over the $15 point and even include some bottles of wine at your table.
First off I think this idea, as an NCLH shareholder, is really smart. There will be those who like a one price upfront offer and then not have to worry at all about what you order onboard i.e. no surprises the final day when you get your bill before you exit the ship. Personally I think it is too much money for what is being offered. Yes, I like Woodford Reserve much more than Jim Beam but in a mixed drink it is not that noticeable to me. When it comes to rums, vodka or gins the same thing goes – I just don’t care that much nor notice much difference.
Now when it comes to wines, that is another story. But even here, for my wife and I all-in, to pay an extra $70 per day for better wines is a bit steep. I would rather, now and then, pay the per glass up-charge for a better wine when I am in the mood (plus I often have onboard credits to burn anyway).
Another neat thing NCL does is offer a much discounted unlimited wifi package before you sail (beyond the free minutes included with the sale offer that is). For just over $20 per day to have unlimited high speed access is a good value (at least to me). With my Connectify I can share out the connection with my other devices (as well as my wife). The only downside about this is folks who did not know about the discount pre-sailing get really upset when they can not get the same price once onboard.
It is interesting to me to see how far NCL takes all of this. I really like the bid for upgrade offers (when I am not already booked in a suite or the Haven) and while I have not won one yet, I expect I will one day.
What do you think? Do you prefer prepaying for all you can to avoid price surprises? Would you buy either the standard or upgraded drink package if offered to you? What about onboard wifi – do you find it a “must have” or is ship time unplug time for you? – René
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