NCL bans bottled water, soda

Effective July 15, passengers on Norwegian Cruise Lines will no longer be allowed to bring their own beverages to consume while they sail and will instead have to purchase their drinks on board.

Although guests are currently allowed to bring bottled water, juice or soda in limited quantities, with some minor exceptions that will not be the case after mid-July. In a statement on its web site, the cruise line cites security concerns for the change in policy.

Norwegian Pearl departs Seattle
Norwegian Pearl departs Seattle
“This revised policy brings the company in line with other best practice travel security protocols and reduces the need for individual time consuming screening and package inspection of large volumes of beverages,” the statement said in part.

Guests will be allowed to bring “[P]urified or distilled water in factory-sealed containers for use in conjunction with medical devices or for the reconstitution of infant formula,” and guests over 21 will be allowed to bring”[F]ully sealed wine bottles aboard subject to screening and a corkage fee.” Open beverages of any kind must be consumed or discarded at the security check-point on the day the ship embarks and upon returning to the ship at any port of call.

As do most cruise lines, Norwegian offers on-board beverage packages but the cost is higher than many competing cruise lines. Norwegian offers a beer and wine package for $59 per day plus an 18 percent gratuity, while its unlimited beverage package is $79 per day plus gratuity for drinks up to $15. And even the “unlimited” package has limits; it specifically excludes “bottled water, fresh squeezed juices, select Lavazza coffee beverages [and] energy drinks,” among others.

On our recently completed Princess cruise, the all-inclusive beverage package was $49 per person per day, plus a 15 percent gratuity, for a total of $56.35 per person. That included all beverages with a per-drink price of $10 or less and included both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The price of Royal Caribbean’s packages varies based on the itinerary but an RCCL representative told TheTravelPro that the line’s all-inclusive package averages about $43 per person per day, plus a 15 percent gratuity.

In addition to the cost of the packages, Norwegian requires that all guests staying in the same stateroom must purchase the same package (subject to age restrictions). Both Princess and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines allow packages to be purchased by individual guests.

Norwegian’s decision has sparked a torrent of comments on social media from the line’s customers. Some accuse the cruise line of “nickel-and-diming” its passengers while others point out their frustration is not about the money but about their inability to get sparking water or Coca-Cola products on board the ships, which only serve Pepsi products.

Whether other lines follow suit or Norwegian reverses its policy, as it did with the policy it instituted in May of last year prohibiting guests from taking plates of food from the buffets back to their staterooms, remains to be seen.

Princes Cruises is owned by Carnival Corporation (NYSE:CCL), which also owns AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Holland America, Seabourn and others. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (NYSE:RCL) and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NASDAQ:NCLH) are individual entities.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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