Everyone has the same question: are NCL Free at Sea shore excursions really free? It's not difficult to figure out why there are so many questions about the Free at Sea promotion and in particular about the shore excursion credit perk. If it seems like the entire promotion should be written in fine print, you're not alone. The bullet points may be exaggerated and the fine print voluminous, but with a clear understanding of what is included, Free at Sea is a great bonus for booking a cruise with Norwegian. The first huge fine print find: Free at Sea is not available for guarantee or sail away categories.
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When you think shore excursions, what comes to mind? I enjoy three types of excursions: activities that allow me to see the location and interact with people who live there, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and observing how local products are made. You may enjoy beach excursions, swimming with dolphins, or extreme activities like zip-lining or parasailing. Whatever your ideal excursions are, they add to the over all cost of the vacation. No wonder, then, ads and other promotional materials with the words NCL Free at Sea shore excursions is an intriguing offer.
People who haven't been on a Norwegian cruise read that and may think all their off-ship activities are going to be included especially if they've seen ads for river cruises which often include the excursions. If this is what you're thinking I'm sorry to say you're about to be disappointed.
Instead of free shore excursions in every port you'll get a $50 credit toward shore excursions in every port. To be fair, if you choose an excursion for less than $50 it will be free (and if you schedule it right you could use the balance toward another excursion). But a lot of the popular excursions cost more than $50. I said I'm still a fan of this Free at Sea promotion because $50 off in every port is still a great way to save money on an activity you were going to do anyway. Think about it, how many people do you know who clip coupons and drive to multiple stores for a $.50 savings on a bag of chips? This is saving up to $50 per port!
Still, it's easy to see how someone could be frustrated. The hits keep coming, too. It's a shore excursion credit in every port for guest number one in each stateroom. You're still saving up to $50 per port, but unless there is a sale on the day you book excursions, guests two (and beyond if you're sailing with more than two people in your stateroom) get no additional discount.
If you're hoping to outsmart the NCL Free at Sea shore excursion promotion, all the ideas that might come to mind have been written into the terms and conditions. For example, if the excursion is canceled by NCL or the vendor for any reason or you decide to cancel yourself you will get a refund in the amount you actually paid, not including the $50 shore excursion credit. Loophole closed.
Maybe you're thinking, "I don't want to do any excursions in one of the port cities, I'll just apply the shore excursion credit to my cabin mate or sell it." Or "I'll divide the credit by the number of people in the room so we all save a few dollars." Those great ideas are not allowed either. Denied.
Of course, you're not trying to pull one over on NCL, but maybe you'd like to rent snorkel gear or other equipment when the ship stops at Great Stirrup Cay or Harvest Cay and want to use the shore excursion credit to pay for those items. You can't do that, either. Sorry.
But wait! How about using the $50 on a pre- or post-cruise tour? That must be allowed, right? You'd think so, but no.
Here's the thing. Even with all the fine print and limitations, this is one of my favorite Free at Sea offers because it offers real savings. Your initial expectations may not be met, but shifting those expectations should make you feel better about saving money in each port.
About the Author
Joel is a co-owner of JJ Travel Associates (a Dream Vacations franchise), blogger-in-chief at JoelKnowsTravel.com, lover of all things travel (especially UNESCO World Heritage Sites), wannabe comedian, and the person you should call if you're thinking of planning a vacation.