Memo to Norwegian Cruise Line fans: Maybe it's time to quit drinking.
The world's fourth-largest cruise line this week announced plans to hike the cost of its top-tier drinks package to an eye-popping $138 per person per day, effective Jan. 1 — the highest level for a drinks package ever seen in the cruise industry.
The Premium Plus Beverage Package, as it's called, currently costs $128 per person per day, already far higher than the top-tier drinks package at any other major cruise line.
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Other major cruise brands including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Princess Cruises sell their top-tier drinks packages for around $60 to $90 per person per day.
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The new $138-per-person rate for Norwegian's Premium Plus Beverage Package, notably, doesn't include the automatic 20% gratuity charge that the line adds to all drinks package purchases — itself one of the highest such levies in the cruise business.
With the gratuity charge included, the effective cost of the Premium Plus Beverage Package will be $165.60 per person per day come Jan. 1. That works out to $1,159.20 per person for a typical seven-night cruise.
Most other major lines add an 18% gratuity charge to drinks package purchases.
As is typical for top-tier drinks packages at major brands, Norwegian's Premium Plus Beverage Package is a flat-fee package that can be used to order a wide range of beverages by the glass including top-shelf spirits, cocktails, beer and wine, as well as specialty coffee drinks, bottled water, soda, juices and energy drinks.
Related: The ultimate guide to Norwegian Cruise Line
In one notable difference from many other drinks packages, it can also be used to order select premium bottles of Champagne and wine. There’s a 40% discount on other bottles of wine as well.
In addition, Norwegian's Premium Plus Beverage Package has no drink cost limit. Many other lines only allow passengers with the drinks package to order drinks that cost up to a set dollar amount, often $15.
As part of its drinks package price hike on Jan. 1, Norwegian will also raise the cost of a less-expensive drinks package it offers that has a $15 cap on the price level of drinks that can be ordered. Dubbed the Unlimited Open Bar Beverage Package, this less-pricey package currently costs $99 per person per day. It'll cost $109 per person per day starting on Jan. 1.
Norwegian also offers a less expensive Corks and Caps Wine and Beer Package that costs $65 per day and only includes beer, wines by the glass costing up to $15, soda and juices. The price for that package won't change on Jan. 1.
Related: I've been on nearly every Norwegian ship afloat; here are my 1st impressions of the new Norwegian Prima
None of the packages include drinks from in-room minibars or ordered through room service.
A spokesperson for Norwegian told TPG the line didn't have a statement on why it was hiking its drinks package costs. However, many cruise lines in recent months have cited growing expenses caused by the soaring rate of inflation in North America and other places they operate as something they are hoping to offset with rising onboard and ticket revenue.
Like many cruise lines, Norwegian has a rule that if one passenger in a cabin purchases a drinks package, everyone in the same cabin, as well as other cabins tied to the same method of payment, must purchase the package, too. Children are charged for a less expensive, nonalcoholic package in such cases.
The rule is meant to stop multiple passengers traveling together from all sharing a single drinks package.
Norwegian also doesn't allow passengers to buy a drinks package just one day at a time. If they buy it, they must buy it for an entire sailing.
As a result of such rules, the typical passengers buying Norwegian's Premium Plus Beverage Package will face a bill of $2,318.40 per cabin for a seven-night cruise starting on Jan. 1, assuming two people are staying in a cabin, as is usually the case.
Still, many passengers who purchase a drinks package on Norwegian ships will not pay such a high amount. That's because a growing number of Norwegian's customers are getting the line's Unlimited Open Bar Package for free when booking a cruise as part of the line's frequent Free At Sea promotions.
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