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So your headed on a Norwegian Cruise Line cruise! To get ready for your seaside adventure, these tips for Norwegian cruises will be sure to set your expectations, give you some new ideas, and put you on the right path so you have the best trip!

With these Norwegian Cruise Line tips and tricks, you'll have the best cruise! These cruise tips include what to pack for cruises, which room to book, what to know about excursions, and more!
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Booking the Cruise

1. To “Free or Sea” or Not

Norwegian Cruise Line often has a deal called “Free at Sea” which allows for a 2nd guest to cruise for free, plus some other freebies including free unlimited open bar, free specialty dining, shore excursion credit of $50 per person, and more!

To qualify for Free at Sea packages, you need to select a qualifying cruise. When searching for cruises, look below the price for available offers.

view looking right on balcony on a cruise ship in Miami during the evening
Free at Sea gives lots of affordable options for staterooms and free guests.

2. Should you get a drink package?

When booking your cruise, you’ll want to consider if a drink package is right for you.

Let’s do the math. For example, for my 5 day cruise, the drink package was $99 per person. That equates to ~ $20 per day. Since drinks cost about $15-20 per drink, as long as you average one to two drinks a day, the drink package has paid for itself!

circular bar on Norwegian Cruise Line Encore on the Observation deck
If you’re planning on drinking more than 2 drinks a day, you’ll likely want a drink package on your cruise!

3. Tips for booking shore excursions

After you have the base cruise booked, you’ll want to start looking at shore excursions. This is when the ship ports and you get off the boat to explore the local area. Excursions can range from very active activities like hiking in rainforests, jumping off waterfalls, and kayaking, to very relaxed activities like a beach day.

No matter what your fancy, you’ll want to book excursions sooner rather than later because they can and will sell out.

Note that the prices for excursions vary as well. For my cruise, we saw excursions as cheap as $40 per person (for snorkel gear) and as expensive as $4000 for a private cabana rental.

long deck leading away from the cruise ship toward Jamaica port
Excursions are a great way to get a taste of the countries you visit on your cruise.

4. Budget for extra expenses

On that note, you’ll want to budget for these extra expenses and more before traveling. Some hidden expenses you may not realize include:

  • Shore excursions
  • Tips for excursion and ship staff
  • On board activities (often $15 per activity per person on NCL)
  • Spa treatments (minimum $200 for a 50 minute massage)

5. Understanding room types

I have only been on two cruises so I’ve only tried an interior stateroom and a balcony. From my experience, the balcony is 100% worth the extra cost.

I found that as an introvert, I could escape to my balcony to still enjoy the ocean and sunshine without the extreme crowds on the pool deck. Not to mention the stargazing was INCREDIBLE! We even enjoyed some pre-ordered room service breakfast from the balcony in peace.

Norwegian cruise line balcony room interior view
Our king balcony room was surprisingly spacious with ample storage!
@periodicadventures

Replying to @topgun0002 not to mention the stargazing at night from the balcony was incredible AND if you are prone to sea sickness the fresh air is really helpful! #cruisetips #cruisetravel #cruisetok #cruisetipsfortravellers #cruisetipsandtricks #balconyroomcruise #balconyrooms #cruiserooms #cruiseroom #nclcruises

♬ Smiles & Sunsets – ultmt. & Hz.

What to Pack for your Cruise

6. Magnetic hooks

One of the most fun cruise packing hacks is that the walls of your stateroom are magnetic, so you can purchase magnetic hooks to bring with you to help you stay organized in your unpacking.

I’d recommend hooks for any extra towels, toiletry bag, purses, or even jackets.

7. Power adapters

Don’t forget your chargers! And a little hack is that on Norwegian cruises in addition to typical US outlets, there are also European 220/230 volt outlets, so if you have a converter and adapter, you can bring that for extra charging power.

Some people even bring power strips, although I found the number of outlets plenty sufficient for my charging needs (two phones, camera, and Nintendo Switch).

8. Microfiber towels

On Norwegian shore excursions and at the pool, towels are provided for you. However, there is a $25 per lost towel charge so if you’re worried about losing your towel, opt to bring your own.

I personally prefer to travel with microfiber towels because they dry SUPER fast. I took mine all over Israel and it was a hit compared to everyone else’s standard bath towels.

9. Water shoes

My number one cruise packing essential. If there’s one thing everyone in my group was glad they brought, it was water shoes.

For our excursions we did a waterfall jumping and climbing activity and water shoes were a MUST. Not only that but locals were selling upcharged water shoes at the activity location so it saved us some money!

I love these water shoes because they look like tennis shoes and you can easily do light hiking in them to and from the water activities.

line of people in bathing suits climbing a waterfall in lush Jamaica jungle
Climbing on waterfalls is seriously only possible with water shoes!

10. Sunscreen and aloe

If there’s one thing I hate when traveling, it’s spending a ton of extra money on essentials because you have no other option. For me, that’s always sunscreen and aloe.

I once went to a spa staycation where I forgot my sunscreen and they charged $25 for a small bottle! Better than skin cancer, I guess 🙃

On your cruise, you’ll want to pack sunscreen and aloe so you don’t need to buy any on the ship. If you’re flying in, pack it in your check bag to avoid the 3.4 oz TSA rule.

If you’re carrying on your bag, I recommend hitting up a Target or Walmart on the way to your cruise to stock up on the essentials before boarding the ship.

11. Seasickness prep

Unfortunately, if you’ve never been cruising you won’t really know if you get seasick until you’re on the boat. That said, it helps to prep for the worst.

I recommend packing some Dramamine and these acupressure bracelets that help recalibrate your senses.

12. Walkie talkies

This is the one thing I wish we had packed and I know it sounds silly. But listen, Norwegian cruises charge ridiculous amounts for WiFi making communication between parties of your group difficult.

For some reason, within their app, there’s no option to message other people with the app. Yes, I agree, that’s dumb.

But with walkie talkies, you’d always be able to contact your group!

13. All the right documents

On a more serious note, be sure you pack all the documents you need for checking in with Norwegian and also for disembarking at each destination on your itinerary.

On my cruise, we only needed our passports. However, given the times, you may need a vaccine card. Norwegian will send you paperwork upon confirmation of your cruise booking that has specific country document requirements.

14. Ziploc bags

When you book your excursions, you’ll notice that some of them have meal options and some noticeably do not. However, even without meals, the excursions can last hours.

Because of that, it helps to pack snacks so you can recharge on the go. Further, it’s even more helpful if you pack Ziploc bags ahead of time so you can snag and pack items from the buffet like muffins, croissants, and cereal.

15. Poo-pourri

Okay sharing a small cabin means you can hear and smell everything. Pack a small bottle of poo-pourri so no one feels self-conscious and everyone’s nose gets some relief from the inevitable.

Tips for a Smooth Check-in and Arrival

16. Arrive a day early

This tip is tried and true. No matter when you set sail, you want to arrive to the port city one day early. The purpose of this is to allow for any delays in flights, transportation, or anything out of the blue.

If you arrive on time without any delays, it also allows you to explore the port city a bit ahead of time. There are even excursions you can book if you want to go on a guided activity.

Related read → Things to do in South Beach, Miami for couples

17. Check-in online ahead of time

Norwegian has an online check in system that you can use ahead of time to speed up the check in process. You’ll answer some onboarding questions, upload your documents, and watch the necessary safety videos.

That way, when you arrive to the check-in counter before boarding, they already have everything they need and can get your room keys.

18. Know what is (and isn’t) allowed on board

Before checking in, there is a security check complete with X-ray scans of your bags and a metal detector you must walk through.

Be sure you know what you can and cannot bring on board. For example, bringing alcohol on a cruise is not always straight forward. On Norwegian cruises, you can not bring alcohol, but you can bring a bottle of wine or champagne where a “corkage fee” applies of $15 for a 750 mL bottle and $30 for a 1500 mL bottle.

You also cannot bring unsealed food items, steamers, drones, or candles.

@periodicadventures

To calculate if a drink plan is worth it, take the cost of the plan divided by the number of cruise days. Thats how much you’d need to spend on drinks every day for it to be worth it. So assuming a drink is $15, you can figure it out! #cruisetips #cruisehacks #cruisetravel #cruisetraveling #cruises #cruise #cruisetok #cruisetip #cruisetipsfortravellers #cruisetipsandtricks

♬ If We Ever Broke Up – Mae Stephens

19. How to drop off your bags

When you arrive at the port, it’s a bit chaotic. Everyone is arriving. There are lots of cars and staff running around.

You can bring your own bags aboard, but it is infinitely easier to drop off your bags to have them delivered directly to your stateroom.

Locate the proper staff, usually surrounding carts of luggage. They will need your stateroom number and the number of bags, upon which they will tag your luggage and take it away.

When you arrive at your stateroom, the bags will be there!

You are expected to tip the staff who handles your bags, but given the convenience, I’d say it’s worth it!

woman laughing on a cruise with large window behind her
Stress free!

20. Download the NCL app

Before you set sail, you’ll absolutely want the NCL app. It has everything you need to have a smooth cruise including restaurant, on board activities, and excursion reservations, plus the ship’s daily itinerary.

It does need WiFi to operate but, Norwegian does provide free WiFi for app access only.

21. Boarding day discounts

When you first arrive on board, if you’re interested in shopping or in the spa, you can get a boarding day discount on items and services.

Visit the shops and the spa to learn what offers they are running and don’t wait because they’ll be back to regular prices the next day!

spa on a cruise ship with rows of laid back chairs and heated stone chairs
The spa may be expensive, but on boarding day, you can get discounted services!

22. Turn off cell data

Before you set sail, make sure you turn off your cellular data or else you may end up with a ton of roaming charges!

23. WiFi for running the app

Check out the WiFi situation while you’re still in your port city so that you have cellular data as a backup while learning the ropes.

Norwegian offers free WiFi to access their app. Anything beyond the app, you’ll have to pay for.

24. Unpack

You would not believe how clever cruise staterooms are in making use of the space provided. Every space in the room is utilized. There are cabinets and storage drawers hiding everywhere so you truly can unpack!

We split the space so one of us used the closet shelves and the other used the cabinets under the TV. Then we put both our suitcases upright in the closet.

View from balcony room on NCL
Balcony rooms are the way to go!

Tips for Your On Board Experience

25. Your holy Bible: the Freestyle Daily

Each day your stateroom will be turned down and you’ll receive a Freestyle Daily, NCL’s newspaper with the daily itinerary, information on your next destination, and general info about dining, WiFi, and more.

While you can see the same information on the NCL app, the Freestyle Daily usually has the most up to date information. It can be helpful to plan out your next day’s activities.

Take a picture of it so you can refer back to it without carrying it with you!

Freestyle Daily newsletter with schedule of activities shown on open page
This is the master schedule for each day found in your Freestyle Daily newsletter.

26. Scout out the activities

Before you get settled too much into the ship, you’ll want to scout out the activities on board to see if there are any you want to do.

For example, I sailed on the Norwegian Encore and we had laser tag, go karts, and VR escape room activity.

Unfortunately, we decided too late that we wanted to try the VR experience and it had booked completely up.

Young man go karting on the top of a cruise ship
Go karting was fun to watch too because you could use toy guns to shoot the karts to give them a speed boost.

27. Where to add/change activities

Speaking of activities, there are many locations on board where you can add on activities or change your reservations.

You can do this from the NCL app, your stateroom’s TV, the guest services desk, or even the TV’s around the ship located near the elevators.

When you add on activities, the surcharge will be charged to your room (typically $15 per activity).

28. Make a must-do on board list

While you’re touring the ship, start a note on your phone of what you absolutely must-do while on board. Do you want to visit the gelato shop? Do the wine tasting? Ride the “overboard” water slide?

Whatever your fancy, don’t miss out because you forgot what the options were or didn’t prioritize your time properly!

Large snake creating a laser tag arena
This was the laser tag arena on the NCL Encore!

29. Plan for shows early

You may sense a theme here. If there are on board activities you want to do, plan for them early. That holds for shows too. You do need to get tickets to shows if possible or if a show is not ticketed, get there early, because there are still capacity rules to follow.

For example, I tried to go to a Beatles show but it reached capacity even 30 minutes early!

Reggae band performing on a cruise ship indoors
Entertainment can get crowded so it’s best to show up early to get a spot!

30. Have a meet up spot

If you’re in a larger group where your rooms are not right next door to each other, before everyone split’s up, designate a meet up spot. This can help you find each other since communication can be tricky!

We opted for the restaurant located in the center of the ship, just to give you an idea.

31. Write down room numbers

Another way to stay on top of your group’s communication is by using the in room phones to call each other. You can even leave voicemails to let people know where you’re going.

However, in order to do that, you’ll need to know everyone’s room numbers. Keep a note in your phone with this info so you can access it every time!

32. Stay on top of time zone changes

If your cruise travels across different time zones, here are a couple tips so you stay on top of it!

First, your stateroom attendant will typically put a “time zone change” card in your room or on your door to notify you when it is happening. If you don’t see a card, you can always check the NCL app for the ship time, which will always reflect any time zone changes.

woman in green bathing suit posing in front of Konoko Falls in Ocho Rios Jamaica
Don’t miss your excursion because you missed a time zone change!

33. Bring your room key everywhere

One note on room keys. You’ll want to keep your room key on you at all times. You use it for EVERYTHING. You’ll use it to check in to dining reservations everywhere, to get your drinks, to sign in for activities, and to pay for extra snacks like gelato!

You’ll even use it to get on and off the ship when you port.

If you do lose the key, head to the guest services desk to get it replaced.

Tips and Tricks for Excursions

34. How to get free towels

When you get off the ship for your excursion, Norwegian has a free towel station set up right off the ship on the port. Grab as many as you need, but remember to drop them off back at the tent when you’re done otherwise you’ll be charged $25 per towel.

This is the same system for pool towels.

35. Bring cash

For your excursion, make sure to bring a little cash so that you can tip your driver, guide, photographers, or whoever will be providing a service to you.

36. Pack snacks

Snacks are crucial! When booking excursions, check if your itinerary comes with a meal option or not. If not, you absolutely will want to pack snacks. Some excursions take 6-8 hours and if no meal option is provided or included on the itinerary, you’ll need some snacks for a pick-me-up.

This is why packing Ziploc bags can be so helpful!

Low quality photo, high quality memories!

37. Try the on board activities

While excursions are a fun way to get a taste of a destination, it’s also a perfect time to relax on the cruise ship or do the things that are usually really crowded.

For example, the waterslides on my cruise ship were always backed on days at sea. However, on port days, when everyone was off the ship enjoying the stop, the waterslide lines were nonexistent!

This can also be a great time to book a photo session on board, try out a normally crowded specialty dining restaurant, or enjoy the jacuzzis more privately.

Dining Tips

38. Make dinner reservations early

I cannot stress this tip enough. Dinner reservations will fill up quickly so it’s best to make your choices early!

We often tried to make dining reservations the morning of, and sometimes that left us with some not so great dinner times like 5:00 or 8:45pm.

s'mores brownie on a NCL cruise
Not only were the menus consistently offering great options, but everything was truly delicious!

39. Dining room menus are the same

On Norwegian cruises there are a few main restaurants that are free. It’s important to know that the menus between these restaurants are identical but vary each day. Meaning on Mondays, each restaurant has the same menu. On Tuesday, the menu changes but each restaurant still has the same menu as one another.

That means there’s no incentive for visiting one restaurant versus another aside from the décor and vibe.

I recommend trying each one out just to see which you like best!

40. Make early reservations for specialty dining

As with regular dining, for specialty dining you’ll want to make reservations even earlier! We booked ours during excursion booking ahead of the cruise about one month out.

Even then, we were left with some early and late dinner times because all the prime times were already taken.

41. Leftovers are (sadly) impossible

Leftovers are not a thing on cruises. That means in your room, you won’t find a microwave and at restaurants and the buffet, you can’t get any to-go boxes.

We had the teppanyaki Japanese food and couldn’t possibly finish all our food. After asking for boxes, they said they could put the food on a plate and send it to our room.

Still, the plates didn’t fit in the room’s mini fridge. I put my fried rice in a glass cup.

You might be wondering where all the food waste goes and we learned that they make fish food with it by dumping it out the back of the ship into the ocean.

42. How to get late night snacks

For late night snacks, there will be at least one restaurant on board that is 24 hours. You can also order room service, which is often included.

43. Pre-order breakfast

One of my favorite things we did on our cruise was pre-order breakfast. We had a door hanger card in our room where we could fill out what breakfast items we wanted and at what time.

We placed the filled out placard on our door at night before going to bed, then in the morning at our denoted time, the breakfast showed up!

We were able to enjoy it from our balcony in peace. There was a surcharge of $4.95, but it was so worth it for that intimate experience.

Breakfast on the balcony on Norwegian cruises
You can’t tell me this isn’t the best breakfast view!

Leaving Your Cruise

44. Consider self-assist disembarkation

When your cruise has come to an end, the disembarkation process can be a bit overwhelming. There are multiple exits on the ship but staff members will guide you.

One tip is to do a self-assist disembarkation. This means that you carry your own luggage off the ship. Having them handle your luggage when boarding the ship is helpful, however, when getting off, it just complicates the process. You’re assigned a color and each color leaves at a different time.

For self-assist, you can leave at your leisure and you don’t need to worry about locating your luggage in the masses after disembarking.

Self-assist also means you have more control over your timing, which is especially helpful if you have a flight to catch.

Disembarkation on a cruise is easy with self-assist
This was our morning disembarkation view! Stunning!

45. Breakfast in the morning

My final tip is about grabbing a final complimentary breakfast in the morning. The buffet will likely be closed, but at least one of the general dining rooms will be open. Don’t forget to grab a final free meal before heading out.

The 24 hour diner did close on my ship (the Norwegian Encore) because it was used as a queue area to funnel people off the ship.

You don’t need to make breakfast reservations, but the earlier you show up the more likely you won’t have to wait to be seated.

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These 45 tips for your cruise on Norwegian cruise line will ensure you have the best cruise! These tips include what room to book, info on drink plans, the best activities on board, and what to pack for your cruise.
These 45 NCL tips are crucial for you to have the best Norwegian cruise!
With these Norwegian Cruise Line tips and tricks, you'll have the best cruise! These cruise tips include what to pack for cruises, which room to book, what to know about excursions, and more!
Click here to read these super helpful 45 tips for Norwegian cruises including what to pack, where to eat, how to get in to shows, what rooms to book, and the best things to do on board.

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Recent PhD graduate and hyper-planner of Periodic Adventures, my goal is to share travel inspiration, budget tips, detailed guides, and fun travel stories!

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