The cruise industry slots each cruise company into one of four categories. Here are the definition and occupants of each category.
Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) is the smallest of the contemporary cruise companies in terms of number of ships and total passenger capacity, but they have a significant fleet with many ships of various ages and sizes. The line is currently building their first true mega-ship, the NCL Epic, to debut in May 2010. The ship is 153,000-gross tons, 4,200-passengers and the most innovative Freestyle Cruise ship to date. Currently under construction at STX Europe in St. Nazaire, France, the contemporary, balcony-rich, 19-deck ship will be 1,068 feet long, 133 feet wide, with a draft of 28.5 feet when completed in May 2010.
All of the cruise companie's entrée to anytime-style dining can be attributed to NCL's introduction of "Free-style dining" in the early 2000s. Free-style means guests can dine anytime they want to in any of several restaurant choices onboard. On NCL, free-style also means no mandatory dress codes, although they do suggest styles of dress on a few nights of each cruise.
PREMIUM CRUISE COMPANIES In industry jargon, Celebrity, Holland America, and Princess are considered to be premium cruise companies. Their ships are a bit more upscale in terms of food and service - though with some shopping, you might find cruises on these lines that cost less than some cruises on the contemporary cruise lines listed above.
Celebrity Cruises Celebrity ships deliver a taste of luxury. The atmosphere is slightly more elegant and refined than you will find on the contemporary companies. Celebrity attempts to deliver a more polished European style service, with well-trained and well-dressed staff and crewmembers.
The onboard experience is very traditional, with two pre-set dining times with passengers assigned to specific tables. There are also suggested dress codes each evening, and one is much more likely to see the dining room maitre d' ask guests to change their clothes if they are dressed inappropriately than on any of the other cruise lines mentioned so far in this article.
Celebrity is well known for its cuisine and restaurant designs throughout the fleet. All the ships have very elegant dining rooms, with refined furnishings and tableware. Alternative dining venues are a specialty, especially on the newest class of ship, the Solstice-class, which has five optional dining spots with service charges ranging from $5 to $25 per person.
The service is refined with guests most often addressed as "sir" or "madam" rather than by name. The staff on Celebrity takes their European style of service very seriously, however, and may seem a bit pompous to more casual Americans.
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