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Jetty John

Free at Sea

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Been looking at an Alaskan cruise next year and Norwegian is running a "Free at Sea" promotion.  We would be looking at free "unlimited open bar", Wifi plan, and specialty dining (limit 5), excursion credits and reduced air fare to Seattle.   We are rookie cruisers and seems like a good deal but wondering if there is a catch? 

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The room is more expensive to get the perks.  You can book without the perks if you want to.  You do pay additional taxes on the beverage package. I am not a drinker so the beverage package isn’t my choice but it does work for most. 

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For the dining and drink packages, there is a 20% gratuity/service charge added based on the price of the package.

 

Don't get into an argument with anyone over whether it is a gratuity, a service charge, or a tip. Don't argue over how much (if any) goes to whom. Just decide if you want the promo or not. There are ways to skip the promo and the service charges and pay a la carte for drinks/specialty meals but those items will have an added 20%.

Edited by Two Wheels Only

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The catch is that it’s a marketing gimmick. None of these things are really free. They are rolled up into the cost of your cruise fare. “Included” would be a better term to use than free. 

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If you like the price and you find value in the amenities that are provided, buy it and enjoy a great vacation. 

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The service charge / gratuity on the drink package will cost you about $20 per day per person. On board a ship, mixed drinks are usually $8 to $15 or so (plus 20%), so drinking two or more drinks a day makes it a good deal. But if you're like us, and don't drink that often, then getting the drink plan "free" (plus $20 a day) is not a deal. 

 

We do like the dining options, though. They still cost you 20% of the the normal cost for the freebie, but I think it was $14 to $18 per person for the entire cruise when we had a three meal option. We felt that was a good deal. 

 

If you are planning to do the ship's excursions, then the excursion deal gives you $50 per cabin credit, so it does help. We usually plan our own excursions so this doesn't apply as much to us, but it would have when we first started cruising. 

 

I'm not sure the reduced air fare to Seattle is a good deal. Usually I find I can shop and get better air deals. If you're a person that does that regularly you will probably be able to do better on your own. But it can be a savings if your home airport lines up with one of the "most savings" offers. 

 

These deals have been going on for the better part of three years, uninterrupted, with only minor changes from month to month. Don't feel pressured to buy now because of the promos. But if you find a price, and you like the promos, go for it! Alaska is a wonderful place to cruise!

 

Cruise lines have draconian cancellation policies and almost never give you your money back, not even if an NCL crane at the port topples over and smashes your car, trapping you in it until the ship leaves. They are absolutely heartless and adhere strictly to the terms and conditions. Within the no-refund period you won't ever get your money back, so consider it gone at the time you make the final payment no matter what happens. If that bothers you, ask about trip insurance. If you're willing to take the risk then realize there are no refunds, no allowances, no pity, no nothing from the cruise lines. If you are an American, while in the US ports your regular medical insurance will cover you, but may not "on the high seas" between ports, and the shipboard infirmary charges like an ER at home.  Canada will not cover you while in a Canadian port, and they will charge you more than a US ER does. Even if I don't get trip cancellation insurance I always get trip medical insurance. Getting both will set you back from 5 to 8% of the total cost of the cruise.

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I did the drink package last week. If you have more than two drinks a day, it’s the best deal! The WiFi is slow, but if you need to stay connected and don’t stream, it can be a money saver. The $50 off excursion, one per port is probably the worst deal. 

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Insofar as Wi-Fi is concerned, follow the crew's idea. Go ashore and find an internet cafe or a bar/restaurant with Wi-Fi.

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I wouldn't bother with the air fare promo. You can do better on your own, and if you let them do it, you have no say in the airline, flights, time of day, or anything else.

 

Since you're rookie cruisers I will suggest you book your own air and go to Seattle at least a day before embarkation. Too many things can go wrong with travel when you fly "day of" embarkation. If you're going to go early, and have the time and interest, go several days early and tour the Seattle area. It's a lovely city with lots to see and do. 

 

As to the other promos: The drinks package is what it is. I'd get the specialty dining package as the best food is served in the specialty restaurants. As for the internet (mistakenly called "wifi") package...well, most people get it because they either need or want to be connected back to work/family during their cruise, or they want to post selfies as they cruise. You can buy internet connectivity by the minute, but there's nothing wrong with the "wifi" promo to give you a basic amount of connectivity. We find that's about all we need on a cruise, but then we don't want to be connected 24/7. 

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Go ahead and book. If you find a better Alaska deal before final payment date, you can always cancel and get your deposit back.

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Thank you all for your replies.  We decided to wait as we don't like to rush into any deals, and the promo ended yesterday.  I'm sure some more good deals will come up.  Regarding the airfare, they offered up a $99 round trip fare from Sacramento to Seattle which is pretty good, but like you said, on probably on their itinerary. 

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1 hour ago, Jetty John said:

Thank you all for your replies.  We decided to wait as we don't like to rush into any deals, and the promo ended yesterday.  I'm sure some more good deals will come up.  Regarding the airfare, they offered up a $99 round trip fare from Sacramento to Seattle which is pretty good, but like you said, on probably on their itinerary. 

 

Each of their promos lasts 4-5 days then they extend it. They've been doing this for quite some time. The current promo has been extended 4-5 times and the only time you'll see something different is probably if they have a Christmas or New Years sale but based on NCLs history don't expect much. They'll throw in $1 deposits and call it a sale.

 

Also, to add on to what everyone else is saying...they cost of the beverage package isn't just the $20 per person per day. In order to qualify for the beverage package you have to book a category that is eligible which is usually $300-500 per person more then a sailaway rate. So the cost of the perks is the difference in pricing plus all the service charges. You can usually get 4-5 drinks per day AND buy a dining package and still come out ahead with a sailaway rate.

 

Lastly, tickets between Sacramento and Seattle are generally under $200 per person and a quick search found tickets as low as $140 on Alaska and Delta. I'd rather do that and know the exact times and itinerary rather then risk getting some flight that makes several stops and gets you in at 2am.

Edited by DaCruiseBug

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1 hour ago, DaCruiseBug said:

 

Each of their promos lasts 4-5 days then they extend it. They've been doing this for quite some time. The current promo has been extended 4-5 times and the only time you'll see something different is probably if they have a Christmas or New Years sale but based on NCLs history don't expect much. They'll throw in $1 deposits and call it a sale.

 

Also, to add on to what everyone else is saying...they cost of the beverage package isn't just the $20 per person per day. In order to qualify for the beverage package you have to book a category that is eligible which is usually $300-500 per person more then a sailaway rate. So the cost of the perks is the difference in pricing plus all the service charges. You can usually get 4-5 drinks per day AND buy a dining package and still come out ahead with a sailaway rate.

 

Lastly, tickets between Sacramento and Seattle are generally under $200 per person and a quick search found tickets as low as $140 on Alaska and Delta. I'd rather do that and know the exact times and itinerary rather then risk getting some flight that makes several stops and gets you in at 2am.

 

All good points.  Thanks, I'm learning a lot!

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On 12/17/2018 at 6:16 PM, fshagan said:

The service charge / gratuity on the drink package will cost you about $20 per day per person. On board a ship, mixed drinks are usually $8 to $15 or so (plus 20%), so drinking two or more drinks a day makes it a good deal. But if you're like us, and don't drink that often, then getting the drink plan "free" (plus $20 a day) is not a deal. 

 

We do like the dining options, though. They still cost you 20% of the the normal cost for the freebie, but I think it was $14 to $18 per person for the entire cruise when we had a three meal option. We felt that was a good deal. 

 

If you are planning to do the ship's excursions, then the excursion deal gives you $50 per cabin credit, so it does help. We usually plan our own excursions so this doesn't apply as much to us, but it would have when we first started cruising. 

 

I'm not sure the reduced air fare to Seattle is a good deal. Usually I find I can shop and get better air deals. If you're a person that does that regularly you will probably be able to do better on your own. But it can be a savings if your home airport lines up with one of the "most savings" offers. 

 

These deals have been going on for the better part of three years, uninterrupted, with only minor changes from month to month. Don't feel pressured to buy now because of the promos. But if you find a price, and you like the promos, go for it! Alaska is a wonderful place to cruise!

 

Cruise lines have draconian cancellation policies and almost never give you your money back, not even if an NCL crane at the port topples over and smashes your car, trapping you in it until the ship leaves. They are absolutely heartless and adhere strictly to the terms and conditions. Within the no-refund period you won't ever get your money back, so consider it gone at the time you make the final payment no matter what happens. If that bothers you, ask about trip insurance. If you're willing to take the risk then realize there are no refunds, no allowances, no pity, no nothing from the cruise lines. If you are an American, while in the US ports your regular medical insurance will cover you, but may not "on the high seas" between ports, and the shipboard infirmary charges like an ER at home.  Canada will not cover you while in a Canadian port, and they will charge you more than a US ER does. Even if I don't get trip cancellation insurance I always get trip medical insurance. Getting both will set you back from 5 to 8% of the total cost of the cruise.

I haven’t heard of trip medical insurance - l certainly would like to look into this — could you give me the site or any info?  

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5 hours ago, DaCruiseBug said:

 

Each of their promos lasts 4-5 days then they extend it. They've been doing this for quite some time. The current promo has been extended 4-5 times and the only time you'll see something different is probably if they have a Christmas or New Years sale but based on NCLs history don't expect much. They'll throw in $1 deposits and call it a sale.

 

Also, to add on to what everyone else is saying...they cost of the beverage package isn't just the $20 per person per day. In order to qualify for the beverage package you have to book a category that is eligible which is usually $300-500 per person more then a sailaway rate. So the cost of the perks is the difference in pricing plus all the service charges. You can usually get 4-5 drinks per day AND buy a dining package and still come out ahead with a sailaway rate.

 

Lastly, tickets between Sacramento and Seattle are generally under $200 per person and a quick search found tickets as low as $140 on Alaska and Delta. I'd rather do that and know the exact times and itinerary rather then risk getting some flight that makes several stops and gets you in at 2am.

 

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Try Southwest - if they have their specials running - we’ve bought tickets from $39 each way SMF TO SEA.  Added bonus on Southwest is that you get TWO FREE checked luggages per ticketed person.  We have used Alaska Air so many times and are just so sick of the flight delays and constant late flights with not even an apology.  If you are a first time cruiser - I suggest using NCL - the don’t nickle and dine you for me very single thing and often for a slaughter higher price you can get many perks with the AT SEA incentives (can chose drinks, specially restaurant, other perks - you decide how many or how little will be best for your wallet! Once you cruise - it will be the way you will always want to vacation!!  Hope that helps.

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Another tip - ALWAYS ALWAY ALWAYS keep your medication AND jewelry with you - don’t put it in checked luggage.  If your flight is delayed or the luggage doesn’t make it on board the flight - you will still have medication with you and any valuable items.  Enjoy!  Safe travels!! 

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34 minutes ago, Blessinghs4travel said:

Try Southwest - if they have their specials running - we’ve bought tickets from $39 each way SMF TO SEA.  Added bonus on Southwest is that you get TWO FREE checked luggages per ticketed person.  We have used Alaska Air so many times and are just so sick of the flight delays and constant late flights with not even an apology.  If you are a first time cruiser - I suggest using NCL - the don’t nickle and dine you for me very single thing and often for a slaughter higher price you can get many perks with the AT SEA incentives (can chose drinks, specially restaurant, other perks - you decide how many or how little will be best for your wallet! Once you cruise - it will be the way you will always want to vacation!!  Hope that helps.

 

 

Furst off, NCL is a good first cruise I’m not going to argue that. Having said that, they are the cruise line that nickels and dimes you the most IMO. I mean, even bottled water isn’t included in the beverage package.

 

Also, Alaska has won the JD Power award for 8 years in a row and their on-time performance is quite a bit better then Southwest. But yes, I’d rather just choose who and when I want to fly. Don’t want to end up on Spirit or Frontier and get charged like crazy!

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On ‎12‎/‎17‎/‎2018 at 6:23 PM, Jetty John said:

Been looking at an Alaskan cruise next year and Norwegian is running a "Free at Sea" promotion.  We would be looking at free "unlimited open bar", Wifi plan, and specialty dining (limit 5), excursion credits and reduced air fare to Seattle.   We are rookie cruisers and seems like a good deal but wondering if there is a catch? 

 

You are getting unloaded on by all kinds of good hints and advice - now for the serious stuff - oh put away the

magnifying glass - no fine print here - - - LOL !

 

Well there are catches latches glitches gizmos in everything that NCL perks promotes advertised.

You are wise to inquire here at CC about those deals.

 

First off no matter how you are planning to get to the port for the cruise - consider arriving a day early and certainly

not hours before the ship sails away without you and your paid vacation. Where are you going to stay and how

much does it cost to go from the hotel/lodging etc. to the pier/port ?

 

Secondly flying to the port - consider if you have an affinity arrangement with an airline - burn some miles or round

toit qubits for a reduced fare. If in a weather prone area check the schedule for sufficient alternatives to get to the

ship on time. And remember to buy the fare at least 55 days or more in advance of the sailing - wait and buy at the

last moment and you will pay more much more - don't be in that catch category.

 

Third Insurance - anyone in your party have health issues ? It may cost like the dickens for a fully frills policy but

if and when you would need to use it - you will thank your lucky stars you have it and you are covered.

 

Fourth about all the perks promos gitchas gotchas catches - break down the cost to just the fare for the cabin

with no bells buzzers whistles and then individually add back the perks that interest you. Compare that with the

whole program NCL is offering. Also you know about Inside Cabins - Ocean Views - Obstructed View - Balcony -

Mini-suites - Suites - Havens classed cabins ? Some categories of cabins have the perks and promos built in

these are the Suites. There will be gratuities like death and taxes NCL adds a DSC Daily Service Charge on each

person in the cabin - you can pay for this in advance with a slight discount - in a suite or better class cabin it will

cost more. Other than that the basics of food beverages and entertainment are included -

Food in the Specialty restaurants extra unless you have purchased a package SDP Specialty Dining Package -

Alcohol soft drinks beer wine are extra unless again you have purchased the UBP Ultimate Beverage Package

or Soda (soft drink) package - coffee in the Buffet your cabin and restaurants is complimentary - in a specialty

coffee shop (Starbucks) it is extra and not included in any package.

There are Shore Excursions Internet time that have a cost factor -

There are some entertainment venues on the larger ships that have a fee.

The recent FREE 5 or 6 items may include some or all of these - compare the basics to the frills and see what

fits your personal budget.

 

In closing don't forget the trip home too !

 

More Questions - feel free to come back for more really FREE advice and helpful hints - there is no better forum in

the cruise business ! - That will be $00.0005 cents please Gotcha and you thought there were no Catches !  LOL !

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5 hours ago, Blessinghs4travel said:

I haven’t heard of trip medical insurance - l certainly would like to look into this — could you give me the site or any info?  

 

There is a trip insurance board here on Cruise Critic. My go-to vendors for trip or trip medical insurance are tripinsurancestore.com (agents there help you) or for self-service insuremytrip.com.

Edited by fshagan
grammar

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13 hours ago, Jetty John said:

Thank you all for your replies.  We decided to wait as we don't like to rush into any deals, and the promo ended yesterday.  I'm sure some more good deals will come up.  Regarding the airfare, they offered up a $99 round trip fare from Sacramento to Seattle which is pretty good, but like you said, on probably on their itinerary. 

I would book when you find a deal you can live with.  Don't wait for some crazy deal, it really doesn't work that way unless the date you are looking for is underbooked and usually its on short notice.  9 times out of 10 you will lose if you wait, assuming you had a good deal already.  As far as perks, the big problem with sail away is it is guarantee room.  You don't get to pick location, and to me that is a deal breaker.  If you don't mind, its fine, you may luck out or choose to bid on an upgrade and luck out.  

As far as perks, they are not that big of a deal unless you are a heavy drinker.  The rest are worthless for what you pay.   If you have at&t you are better off getting a wireless at sea package with them instead of the wifi.  

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8 hours ago, fshagan said:

 

There is a trip insurance board here on Cruise Critic. My go-to vendors for trip or trip medical insurance are tripinsurancestore.com (agents there help you) or for self-service insuremytrip.com.

 

7 hours ago, resetjet said:

I would book when you find a deal you can live with.  Don't wait for some crazy deal, it really doesn't work that way unless the date you are looking for is underbooked and usually its on short notice.  9 times out of 10 you will lose if you wait, assuming you had a good deal already.  As far as perks, the big problem with sail away is it is guarantee room.  You don't get to pick location, and to me that is a deal breaker.  If you don't mind, its fine, you may luck out or choose to bid on an upgrade and luck out.  

As far as perks, they are not that big of a deal unless you are a heavy drinker.  The rest are worthless for what you pay.   If you have at&t you are better off getting a wireless at sea package with them instead of the wifi.  

 

7 hours ago, resetjet said:

I would book when you find a deal you can live with.  Don't wait for some crazy deal, it really doesn't work that way unless the date you are looking for is underbooked and usually its on short notice.  9 times out of 10 you will lose if you wait, assuming you had a good deal already.  As far as perks, the big problem with sail away is it is guarantee room.  You don't get to pick location, and to me that is a deal breaker.  If you don't mind, its fine, you may luck out or choose to bid on an upgrade and luck out.  

As far as perks, they are not that big of a deal unless you are a heavy drinker.  The rest are worthless for what you pay.   If you have at&t you are better off getting a wireless at sea package with them instead of the wifi.  

Thank you for the info!  I truly appreciate it!  It will come in handy for many trips I’m sure!!

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On 12/19/2018 at 4:30 PM, Suite Heart said:

Insofar as Wi-Fi is concerned, follow the crew's idea. Go ashore and find an internet cafe or a bar/restaurant with Wi-Fi.

 

We actually look for clusters of crew members on their devices when we get off the ship as an indicator of a cheap/ free and reliable internet connection!

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Always remember that "free" wifi anywhere is subject to the operator taking and selling your personal data being transmitted over their wifi. Cruise passengers are easy pickings for hackers looking for some easy money. 

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