(7:23 p.m. EST) -- Beginning in March 2019, cruisers booked on any Norwegian Cruise Line ship will be able to purchase a new beverage package catering to those who prefer top-shelf liquor and a wider selection of wine, beer, cocktails and soft drinks.
The Premium Plus Beverage Package -- now available on select ships as part of a pilot program -- will cover all drinks by the glass, with no price cap; still and sparkling bottled water; energy drinks and specialty coffee; select wines by the bottle when dining; and 40 percent off all other bottles of wine, flights, tastings and other experiences, all for the price of $128 per person, per day (plus a 20 percent gratuity).
Norwegian will roll out the new package fleetwide on March 9. Also on this date, the line's Ultimate Beverage Package will be renamed the Premium Beverage Package.
While the Ultimate Beverage Package price will stay at $99 per person, per day (plus a 20 percent gratuity), some drink inclusions have been revoked. (Cruise Critic members on the Norwegian forums also report select drink prices have been raised.) A spokesperson for Norwegian told Cruise Critic it recently reversed a decision to exclude Grey Goose and Grand Marnier from the Ultimate Beverage Package.
"As recent changes to our beverage program caused some disappointment, we have made adjustments which we hope demonstrate our deep commitment to guest satisfaction" the spokesperson said. "Customer favorites including Grey Goose and Grand Marnier have been reintroduced into the Ultimate Beverage Package, which provides guests with unlimited beverages up to $15 per glass during the entirety of their cruise."
Norwegian's other beverage packages will remain the same. Beverage packages must be purchased by all passengers not only staying in the same cabin, but also on the same reservation.
Cruise Critic members have been expressing their disappointment on the forums, in response to the new beverage package test on select ships:
300dtc posted: "They already have the highest price for the beverage program at sea and after years of people asking to include water they are going to upcharge certain alcohols that were included and call them super premium?"
Added ziggyuk: There is nothing wrong with increasing prices, things go up and that cost has to be passed on. What is wrong is increasing prices without increasing the allowance pro rata, if this was done right it would be seamless to customers.
"It does not matter if it's a small amount or a large amount, if you have paid for something, you should get it! as it stands, many premium drinks have now been removed post cruise purchase, this is a rip off!"
Other Cruise Critic members remain neutral:
Said Sea saw 56: "The new Premium + package looks more appealing than the old UBP since it includes bottled water, specialty coffees, fresh juice....and all beverages with no price cap … Just a shame that they are making the traditional UBP a package that excludes so much."
In a similar vein, kfnesq highlighted the wine discount as a potentially attractive feature for oenophiles: "As a wine drinker, I am curious to eventually hear from anyone taking advantage of this, specifically what bottles are already included. And 40 percent off any bottle isn't terrible, honestly, unless all the bottles are awful...."
Momofmab also shared her thoughts: "We all know that cruises and alcohol go hand-in-hand. Alcohol prices have steadily risen and cruisers continue to pay it (and then endeavor to get their "money's worth" consuming whatever the number of drinks per day it takes to "stick it to the man" for charging an insane amount for alcohol that you can get for a fraction of the price on land)."