I will make this brief. My Wife and I looked at the Gem. The sail away rate was $429. That is called the X rate. X means no perks. Put another way, it is the rock bottom cheap price so no perks. NCL is VERY upfront about this. The rate that made us eligible for the drink package was $599. This, plus $270 for gratuities covers the drink package. The argument is that you have to pay extra for a room to be eligible. NO. You can buy a cheap guaranteed room OR upgrade yourself to a higher level of room. Therefore with a minimum level of room you become eligible for the package. This is no different than perks that require a "balcony or higher" booking to be eligible, as is frequently seen with "Free gratuity" promotion.
Literally if we wanted the drink package yes it would have cost us $600 more than just going with an inside guarantee. But there is value to picking your room. And besides, this misses a larger point. I have myself debated this, however I have concluded that the value is superb IF you want to drink. Look at it this way-a top line cruise, (Jewel class is so much more relaxed than their mega ships) for $599pp and $270 to drink all week. Name me any other line that offers that deal. I'll wait. Certainly not Royal. Carnival not close. Princess? Nope.
I have no problem with paying gratuities because the servers have to be funded. In business it is best to evaluate value more than semantics. The bottom line is if drinking is a joy for you, NCL is a fantastic deal. If it isn't it is really good, because their entry level pricing is the best of all the mass market lines. And they deliver on food, entertainment, and variety. So don't get into all that stuff about nickel and diming. It actually is not accurate. An NCL ship has every dining option of yore, plus free Asian fusion on some ships, plus an all night sit down restaurant, plus random free lido barbecues-in fact except for free room service, nothing much has been pulled from the passengers. And all you have to do is walk mid ship any time of day and get a sizable menu in lieu of room service. Then, order a drink. See where this is headed? I could not do a vacation anywhere in the world, all-inclusive, for the price NCL can offer. Maybe Dreams resort, with a special deal, maybe. But they won't have Jersey Boys. Believe that.
Sometimes we prefer more sedate, so we don't go NCL. Sometimes we want Vegas with none of the strip, so we do. But don't get into your head NCL isn't a great value. Just know the requirements ahead of time, book, and relax.
Have the will to chill!