Is NCL Priority Access Worth It Or Not?

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Sometimes, cruise lines will offer additional benefits in the form of a package. You can choose to book the package or not, and you’ll have a fantastic cruise regardless, but the added extras might be something that just makes your holiday that extra bit special.

NCL Priority Access is one example – it’s a bundle of features you can buy for your cruise, provided you’re quick off the mark, as it can sell out. But what exactly is it and what does it get you?

Read on to find out.

NCL cruise ships

What is NCL Priority Access?

NCL Priority Access is a package deal you can book if you have an NCL cruise. It includes a selection of features that are mostly related to ‘priority access’, but there are a few other benefits that are nice to have as well.

Here’s What’s Included With NCL Priority Access…

NCL Priority Access gives you six perks:

  • Streamlined Embarkation
  • Faster Tendering
  • Quicker Debarkation
  • Complimentary Breakfast in Bed
  • $50 Spa Credit
  • Complimentary Canapes

Let’s look at each of these in more detail so you can see if it’s worth it or not…

1. Priority Check-In

One of the biggest perks with NCL Priority Access is the streamlined embarkation process.

In theory, having NCL Priority Access should mean you get through “security, check-in and boarding” faster so that you’re one of the first people onto the ship and can start relaxing right away.

An old man on NCL cruise ship relaxing through a cup of coffee and a magazine

In reality, it doesn’t seem to run very smoothly. There are meant to be priority lines for security and for check-in, but these vary, and sometimes are non-existent.

There are a lot of reports of disgruntled passengers who’ve either queued with everyone else, or had the wrong communication sent out, or had issues during check-in.

"No priority embarkation…the staff had never heard of PA."
Source: CruiseCritic

Check out this video review of Priority Access for a similar experience, where an issue meant that the guests were held up for over 20 minutes and watched regular customers checking in:

2. Priority Tenders

If your cruise calls at a tender port, you can be one of the first onto the tender boats with Priority Access. This means you’ll have more time ashore, and can really make the most of those ports of call. It’s handy if you’ve booked third-party shore excursions too, since it guarantees you won’t miss your set-off time.

NCL cruise ship viewed from a tender boat

Of course, this all depends on your itinerary and how many tender ports you have. Many cruises won’t have any, and so it’s a redundant benefit – you don’t get off the ship any faster if it is docked.

If you do have a tender port, and you’ve paid for Priority Access, you’ll be sent the information to your stateroom so that you know where to meet and when, if you want to get one of the early tender boats.

3. Priority Debarkation

The other ‘priority’ themed perk you get with Priority Access is debarkation at the end of your cruise. If you’ve never cruised before, you might be wondering why this is a perk – why would you want your holiday to end sooner?

Two men on NCL cruise ship looking at the sea

But with up to 4,000 people trying to get off a cruise ship and potentially all travel to the airport, being first off can have its advantages.

Suggested read: Here’s How Long It Takes To Get Off A Cruise Ship

You’ll get priority luggage tags sent to your stateroom before you’re due to leave the cruise. You can then choose ‘Easy Walk Off’, where you take your own bags off the ship on the last day, or you can select an early debarkation group, where you’ll meet at a lounge and be escorted off the ship to find your bags.

This is a useful perk but again, can be hit-or-miss in terms of organisation, according to some passengers in cruise forums.

“Priority debarkation made leaving much more relaxed and less stressful than other cruises we have been on.”
Source: CruiseCritic

4. Priority Access Breakfast

This perk is an interesting one, because the way NCL words it on their own website is a little bit misleading.

Couple on NCL stateroom talking over breakfast in bed

Officially, the perk is described as the following:

“Wake up to the wide selection of complimentary breakfast favourites from our room service menu every day of your cruise.”

Except that the continental breakfast items that are included in the perk are already complimentary – you don’t have to pay for them.

What you do normally have to pay for – and what the perk is actually giving you for free – is delivery.

The fee will be “up to $9.95” per delivery, though expect to pay that most of the time. So, with Priority Access, you don’t have to pay this delivery fee for breakfast, though you do for other room service items.

It does cause some confusion:

“Isn't the standard room service (continental) breakfast already free?  Or has that changed?”
Source: CruiseCritic

How good a perk it is depends on how often you want to eat in your stateroom – some people love it, while others prefer to be up and about, getting breakfast in the buffet restaurant or Main Dining Room before a day exploring the ship or the port.

5. Priority Spa Credit

One of the other benefits you get with NCL Priority Access is $50 of spa credit.

Two women being massaged on NCL cruise ship

On the one hand, it’s quite a good perk, since you get $50 of spa credit per person – even though you pay for Priority Access on a per-stateroom rate. So that’s good, since you don’t need to split the $50 between you.

The downside is that it can only be used on body or facial massages lasting at least 50 minutes, and only on days when the ship is in port – meaning you have to sacrifice time you could be spending exploring your destination.

The reason for that is because these days are less busy in the spa – they want guests to pay full price on sea days, since there are usually enough people onboard who are willing to.

And you also need to consider that body and facial massages don’t come cheap –  these example spa prices from Norwegian Joy show that you’ll be paying around $200+ for a face massage, and between $200 and $400 for a body massage.

So are you getting $50 free, or are you being incentivised to pay at least $150 extra?

6. Priority Access Canapes

The final perk you get as part of Priority Access is canapes, which will be served to you on the second night of your cruise.

You don’t get to choose the canapes though, so you have to hope that you like them. A lot of people don’t…

“I wonder if anyone actually enjoys them.”
Source: CruiseCritic

How Much Does Norwegian Priority Access Cost?

When buying NCL Priority Access, you pay a single fee for a cabin, and it depends on how many days you’re sailing.

  • 3 to 5 Days – $129 per cabin
  • 6 to 9 Days – $199 per cabin
  • 10 to 15 Days – $279 per cabin
  • 16+ Days – $329 per cabin

If you book it, you can cancel before you board, and a refund will be processed to your original payment method. However, as soon as you board the cruise, you are no longer able to cancel.

That makes sense, considering one of the biggest perks is priority boarding, when it works. It wouldn’t be fair to use it and then cancel once you’re on the ship.

Remember – NCL Platinum Members Get Priority Boarding

Members of NCL’s Latitudes loyalty programme who have reached Platinum status already get priority boarding as part of their perks list. They also get priority tender tickets and priority disembarkation, as well as 25% off spa treatments on port days – which may be worth more than a $50 credit.

So, if you’re an NCL Platinum member you absolutely should not buy NCL Priority Access unless you want the extra $50 spa credit and you think the complimentary room service breakfast and canapes are worth the additional money you pay.

NCL Gold members get 20% off spa treatments along with priority tender tickets and priority debarkation, but they don’t get priority embarkation.

Norwegian Jewel

So, Is NCL Priority Access Worth It?

There’s no simple answer on whether NCL Priority Access is worth it, even though most people on cruise forums will tell you that it’s not.

It’s true that priority embarkation can sometimes be a bit of a mess, but it does work for some people, and if you’re clear about it when you get to the port, you should be able to cut some of the bigger lines.

Plus if you’re travelling with someone else and you had planned on booking massages already, getting $50 off each isn’t a bad deal, especially if your cruise is 5 days or fewer and so you’ve only paid $129 anyway – that’s already $100 of value you’ve recovered.

You do need to check your itinerary though, to see if you have tender ports or not.

And then it depends on how many days you’d use the complimentary room service deliveries – at almost $10 a day, you can quickly recover more of the value too.

So whether it’s worth it depends on if you’ll book a massage and if you’ll enjoy breakfast in bed. The canapes aren’t really worth it, from the sounds of things, and the actual ‘priority’ part of the package may be a gamble, so it’s up to you whether you want to take the risk.

Honestly, this isn’t something I would buy myself.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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