NCL Upgrades its "Free-Style" Service By Paul Motter December 21, 2007
NCL announces quality enhancements to its already unique Free-style cruising service.
When NCL first announced its trademarked "Free-style" service on its ships, the cruise industry was already ripe for changes in what was becoming known as an over regimented vacation experience. The company was the first "contemporary cruise line" to introduce "anytime" dining in its regular dining rooms as a start to its freestyle service, and then followed up by adding as many as 10 additional alternative dining venues to its new ships.
The first NCL ship to be built from inception fully in the freestyle manner was Norwegian Sun in 2001. With the introduction of five new ships this decade, NCL now has not only implemented freestyle cruising throughout its entire fleet, but it also has the youngest fleet in the cruise industry.
What is freestyle cruising? In a nutshell, it means relaxed dress codes, the option of several dining venues for each passenger every night (some of them carry an extra service charge, but some do not) and less regimentation in standard cruise ship procedures such as embarkation and disembarkation.
The first phase of purpose-built freestyle ships was known within the company as F1. NCL is now introducing what they are referring to as F2. This new initiative features significant enhancements in its onboard experience and will begin rolling out immediately with the goal of having them largely implemented by the summer of 2008.
The enhancements include a significant investment in the total dining experience, upgrading state rooms across the entire ship for each ship in the fleet, a whole new range of onboard activities for guests of all ages and special additional recognition, service and amenities for all balcony, suite and Villa guests.
The ability of NCL to offer these new enhancements can be directly attributed to the infusion of $1 billion by Apollo Management, which was announced six months ago. The enhancements are based upon quantitative and qualitative feedback from both guests and travel agent partners.
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Here are what the new freestyle 2.0 enhancements will include:
An increased investment in food of $50 million before delivery of the first F3 ship, equating to a 20 percent increased investment in food per passenger per day plus major fleet-wide capital investments;
Lobster Galore -- Lobster in the main restaurant on multiple days and in one restaurant every night of the cruise;
A signature specialty dish in every restaurant (i.e. 48oz Porterhouse in the steak house, chocolate fondue tower in the action station restaurant)
An enhanced nighttime dining/ambience in the action station restaurant with table cloths, muted lighting and enhanced service;
One or two alternative restaurants open for lunch on sea days;
A new and expanded room service menu;
A "bubbly welcome" -- a welcome aboard glass of bubbly for everyone;
A Taste of Freestyle on embarkation day -- samplings from all of the specialty restaurants;
A major hardware investment to bring all buffets to Norwegian Gem/Norwegian Pearl "action station restaurant";
An investment in back of house to refine the reservations process and system.
An upgrade in bedding and sheets, pillows, duvets;
An upgrade in towels and bathrobes;
An upgrade in in-room amenities including coffee maker and expanded TV offerings;
Addition of sofa beds to suite categories.
Balcony and Mini-Suites:
A distinctive colored key card for ship wide recognition;
An "at your service" hotline;
A separate check-in for balcony and mini suite guests;
A personal escort to stateroom;
Suites and Villas:
All suites and villas to have concierge and butler service;
Welcome champagne in suite/villa;
Upgraded canapés every day;
Private breakfast/lunch in Cagney's Restaurant;
An exclusive concierge lounge;
Priority restaurant reservations;
Dedicated Butler presence in the Courtyard (Available only to Villa and Owners Suite Guests);
Private breakfast/lunch in the Courtyard (Available only to Villa and Owners Suite Guests).
An enhanced educational, entertainment and lifestyle program -- NCL "U";
A range of new classes such as Improv, organic cooking, bartending, sommelier, etc.;
An enhanced Health and Wellness program;
An enhanced Pool Deck experience;
Entertainment taken upscale;
Drink flags on all deck chairs;
Pool of indulgence -- Evian spritz, cold towels, etc.;
Quiet zones and times.
Past Guest Latitudes Program
A new program with various tiers rewarding both spend and frequency;
A new range of tangible, meaningful and deliverable benefits;