Paul you said it all in this statement:
"The truth is that we all pay for shipboard entertainment - it is built in to the cruise fare."
And this should actually be the case of all the food on board too. That is one reason we won't go to any of the extra pay resturants on any ship.
The fact is who ever is truely responsible for the design of the Epic really screwed up with making the entertainment rooms so small that the passengers can not see the shows.
NCL "Freestyle" is really anything but since if you want to eat anyplace other than the MDR you need a reservation and that is not freestyle in my book that is more regeminented than having a set dining time, as you can always not go to the main dining room but rather the buffet and eat just as good.
We have yet to ever consider booking a themed cruise because of the higher price so it would really have to be something for us to do that. And from all that we have seen a lot of the group cruises are also more expensive and what do you get for the extra, a obc that you are really paying for and a party that you are paying for.
These things go hand in hand for us. We don't have a big budget for cruising so we have to make sure we get all we can for our money. We will pay for excursions otherwise we would not be able to see much of wherever we are cruising to. And that to us is more important than paying for shows or dining.
Caribbean Trip Reports
Star Princess 2005, Sun Princess 2005
Caribbean Princess 2006, MSC Lirica 2006 , NCL Pearl 2007, Majesty of the Seas 2008, Carnival Destiny 2008, MSC Lirica 2009, Carnival Valor 2009,Carnival Legend 2010, Carnival Liberty 2010,Carnival Fantsay 2011,Carnival Valor Feb 2012, MSC Poesia Dec 2012, MSC Poesia April 2013, Carnival Legend Nov 2013, MSC DIVINA Jan 2014, MSC Divina Oct 2014