Norwegian Cruise Line Warns Guests of Additional Charges

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) recently sent a letter to guests, alerting them to a significant hike in costs for sailings in Spanish waters or departure from Spanish ports.

This move will affect all boutique purchases, now with a Value Added Tax (VAT) added to the onboard pricing. All food and beverage purchases, including unlimited open bar and specialty dining packages, will also incur VAT.

What does it all mean? Those who have spent hundreds of dollars or euros on all-inclusive beverage and dining packages will still be handed a bill at the end of the cruise. 

Spanish VAT Will be Added to Your Bill on NCL

Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that guests sailing onboard its ships out of Spanish ports, such as the hugely popular Barcelona cruises or even cruises sailing through Spanish waters, will see VAT added to their bill at the end of the cruise. 

All purchases in the onboard shops will incur a 21% VAT, while all beverage and dining purchases will incur a 10% VAT charge.

The notice was sent to guests and travel partners and outlined the changes in onboard costs. Guests who opt for the popular Free at Sea packages, including all-inclusive drinks packages, will still find themselves paying an additional tax for every drink purchased while the vessel is in a Spanish port or sailing in Spanish territorial waters.

This puts a damper on the all-inclusive experience and raises questions about how NCL plans to market such packages in the future. 

Norwegian Epic Cruise Ship
Norwegian Epic Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: zkolra / Shutterstock)

The value-added tax that Norwegian Cruise Line is passing on to guests comes from a new law that the Spanish government passed, which aims to ensure guests onboard ships in Spain pay the same taxes as those who vacation ashore. 

The letter from Norwegian states: “Due to local tax regulations, please note that a 21% Spanish VAT will be added to applicable retail items purchased on board for sailings departing from Spain and calling to European port cities. 

Additionally, a 10% VAT will be applied to all food and beverage purchases made onboard, including purchases made under our Unlimited Open Bar or Specialty Dining packages, for certain sailings departing from Spain or any European itinerary while in Spanish waters.”

With cruise tourism accounting for a significant portion of Spain’s tourism industry, these new regulations mark a crucial turning point in how the industry operates within the country. It’s an issue that affects the experience of guests aboard Norwegian Cruise Line and impacts the broader cruise industry’s relationship with one of Europe’s major tourist destinations. 

Spain’s Relationship with Cruise Tourism

Barcelona, along with Civitavecchia and Southampton, has emerged as one of Europe’s cruise industry strongholds over the past two decades. The city became one of the largest homeports in the Mediterranean, attracting 2.7 million cruise guests in the 2022/2023 season. Yet, this surge in tourism has come with its challenges.

Cruise lines have operated in European waters for many years with minimal regulatory intervention. However, there’s been a recent…

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