Hello everyone and thanks in advance for your help.
My wife and I are contemplating a cruise next fall. Actually it will most likely be my parents, sister and husband, and my wife and me. Originally it was my intention that just my wife and I go. The others thought it would be great to all go. We all were thinking of an October 08 Pacific Mexico sailing. And then the debate started: which line?
My wife and I enjoy traditional dining, but are willing to try freestyle dining. My wife's only cruise was on the HAL and I've been on one Celebrity and two HAL sailings. We like the whole cruising expereince. We enjoy formal nights. As we don't care to be around rowdy drunk people, we don't think we would enjoy Carnival.
My parents have been on about 17 cruises inlcuding Princess, RCCL, NCL, and several HAL sailings. They are in their 70's and want a quiet cruise. They did not like the NCL experience.
My sister has been on about eight cruises to include Disney (Big Red Boat), Carnival, Renaissance, Princess, and NCL sailings. I think she's been on three NCL sailings. She loves freestyle cruising. She considers it a 'flexible' experience because she is a 'flexible' person. She thinks its the only way to sail.
So my wife and I are deluged with opinions. We've read people's opinions. Based on that here is what we've learned and can some of you give me some unbiased feedback. No one wants to spend money and time (which we are very short on) on a cruise expereince they don't like.
My experience on a traditional dining cruise is that I can eat in the dining room at an assigned time, the specialty dining room at a reserved time, the buffet at any reasonable dinner time, and room service at any reasonable dinner time. My wife and I have done all of these and have been happy. We did have to wait ten minutes for the reservation. In the dining room and restaurant you are asked to dress to the night's dress theme. At the buffet you can wear anything except swim wear. And in your room you can be naked.
My impression on a freestyle dining cruise is that I can eat at one of several restaurants mostly at a reserved time and sometimes on a walk in basis for early or late dinner hours. I understand that there is no dress code in any dining venue.
I have heard:
1.) That to eat in the popular restaurants I will need to make reservations very quickly upon boarding. If this is true, it seems restrictive to have to plan out my week on the first day.
2.) Even with reservations I will most likely have to wait ten to twenty minutes for a table during peak dinner hours.
3.) NCL food can range from mediocre to excellent, but it will depend on the specialty cost of the restaurant.
4.) If my wife and I dress in a tux and an evening gown, we will be the only ones.
5.) NCL offers a wide range of cuisines on every night.
So here are my questions:
1.) If all six of us eat together what range of choices do we have on the menu in one restaurant?
2.) If it's freestyle to everyone, which nights are formals nights or are they elimnated?
And here are my dumb questions.
1.) How easy it to change reservations mid way through the cruise?
2.) If meals are freestyle, are the shows and activities? Do I need to schedule the meals around the shows?
And for the slanted question:
3.) I've watched the NCL commercials and they portray NCL as a cruise line that has no schedules to follow. Now this seems silly; can I attend a yoga class at anytime or get on and off the ship at anytime or attend a show at anytime or go to the disco at anytime? Can I dress anyway I want at anytime (short of nude or disgraceful)?
My conclusion without sailing on NCL is:
1.) The only freestyle element is the dining and whether to dress formally or casually each night.
2.) To dine in the finer venues I have to accept whatever dining times are available when I make reservations and I have to accomplish this early in the cruise.
3.) The buffet and room service have the same rules as traditional dining style cruises.
My sister told me, excitedly yes, isn't it great, it's really a awesome for a flexible person. (She accuses me of being very rigid.)
I thought wow, I'm not seeing it. I want to relax and not have to write on my hand what day of the week it is and when and where I'm eating that day. I'm thinking too much stress, I'm on vacation.
I like the idea of being able to change my dinner time and venue each night, but it doesn't seem like it really works that way. It seems like I need to make all my choices on the first day and stick with them or eat in the buffet.
I've never been dissappointed in the dining room on sailings that I've done. I have been failed to be wowed on occasion, but I wouldn't expect any different on any other line. I'm flexible and can accept the same dining room each night and I do like having the same wait staff all week.
I think I would enjoy a greater variety of cuisines throughout the cruise, but I think newer ships on other lines are offering an increased variety of cuisines in theme based restaurants.
OK, now that I've written a novel - sorry - Please debunk my non-truths. Please releive me of my incorrect perceptions.
I know a lot of people really like NCL and freestyle cruising. Please tell me why.