NCL Free At Sea Specialty Dining Explained

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This is a guest post by Kate Holroyd.

When you book a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line, you’ll have the option of some Free at Sea packages. One of those packages is for speciality dining.

But what do you actually get? And how does it work? I’ll explain all…

The sophisticated interior of La Cucina restaurant on the NCL Bliss, featuring a luxurious dining area with beige and navy blue chairs, elegantly set tables, and ornate circular chandeliers, creating an inviting atmosphere for guests.

How Many Meals Are Included in NCL Free at Sea?

If you choose NCL’s Free at Sea, you get 1-3 speciality dining options included, depending on the length of your cruise and your cabin choice. You can choose any of the speciality restaurants onboard your ship – there are no restrictions on which you can dine at. 

One of the many reasons we love to use NCL as a family is the flexible dining; there are many options included in your cruise fare. And with the Free at Sea you get extra speciality options included for the first two guests in the cabin.

Here’s how many meals you get included with Free at Sea:

  • Cruises of 3-6 nights – 1 meal
  • Cruises of 7-11 nights in a Studio, Inside or Oceanview – 1 meal
  • Cruises of 7-11 nights in a Balcony or above – 2 meals
  • Cruises of 12+ nights in a Studio, Inside or Oceanview – 2 meals
  • Cruises of 12+ nights in a Balcony or above – 3 meals

You can also upgrade to Free at Sea Plus to get an additional 2 meals.

When we sailed on Norwegian Getaway this summer, we opted for the Brazilian restaurant Moderno. We gorged on the amazing small plates and wonderful sizzling meats as they’re brought round to you on a skewer.

A person slicing a skewered piece of succulent meat at Moderno restaurant on NCL Getaway, capturing the essence of Brazilian steakhouse dining with a view of the ocean through the window.

Dining with fussy children isn’t a problem, as there is a kids’ menu available too. We dined as a couple though, to make the most of the experience – thank goodness for the kids club, Splash Academy!

Vibrant children's playroom at Splash Academy on NCL Getaway, featuring colorful bean bags, interactive games, and whimsical decorations, providing a fun and engaging space for young cruisers.

For our second choice, we opted for the Italian, La Cucina. We simply paid for the meals the kids ate as they joined us this time. It’s an a la carte option, there’s not a flat surcharge.

As you can see on the receipt, it would have been a meal over $140 if not for the Free at Sea.

Two receipts from La Cucina on the NCL Getaway show a selection of purchased items, including a Margherita Pizza and various entrees, with an added gratuity note and a promotional message encouraging guests to enjoy the Norwegian Getaway and to spend $500 free onboard.

We loved the food and the service was epic, a fantastic option for the final night of the cruise – family dining at its best. 

You have the flexibility of choice with the Free at Sea; as long as there’s availability, you can eat in any of the speciality restaurants with this add-on. It really is exceptional value to be able to add your drinks and some extra special meals. 

How Does Free at Sea Speciality Dining Work?

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Free At Sea dining packages apply to the first two guests on the cabin booking. You reserve your dining choices online using the cruise personaliser, up to two meals in any restaurant, and they’ll show up on your onboard account at $0.

You can reserve any of the restaurants, and there are no restrictions on the time you can have your table. It’s not like an early-bird special.

The guests using the speciality dining offer on NCL’s Free At Sea must dine together, and if someone fails to attend or declines to use it, it’s non-transferrable, non-refundable and has no monetary value. 

However, when we sailed on the Norwegian Getaway this summer, they were exceptionally accommodating when we missed our reservation! You know when you’re away, you don’t wear a watch, or even know what day it is – that’s what happened. Guest Relations were wonderful and allowed us to book an alternative for no extra charge. We can’t guarantee they would do this every time, but they showed us wonderful customer service by doing this – no fuss.

How to Reserve Speciality Dining on a Norwegian Cruise

You pre-book your speciality dining reservations on the Manage My Booking part of the NCL website when you are able to check in, which is 21 days pre-departure.

Free at Sea choice(s) must be selected at least 24 hours prior to sailing and cannot be changed on board. 

I suggest you book as soon as you can. As experienced cruisers will know, availability is limited, and you want to make sure you get the restaurants you want. We booked as soon as we could to get Teppanyaki, which is extremely popular with NCL guests.

The lively Teppanyaki dining area on NCL Getaway, featuring large communal tables with built-in grills, dark wooden chairs, and vibrant Asian-inspired decor, ready for an interactive culinary experience.

Unfortunately, we missed one of our reservations (it’s really easy to lose track of the days on a cruise!), and NCL were really good about it, even allowing us to re-book the meal at another time with no cost penalty. 

Final Word

Choosing Free at Sea with NCL is a great way to enjoy the varied speciality dining restaurants on your ship. While you get plenty of fantastic food in the restaurants already covered by your cruise fare, the chance to enjoy something fun and different shouldn’t be passed up.


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1 thought on “NCL Free At Sea Specialty Dining Explained”

  1. Husband holidayed last month on Norwegian Star. The Tepanyaki dining experience was poor. Not much theatre from the chef, not fillet steak and a rushed meal to get two sittings in the same evening. He was disappointed by the meal experience.

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