CruiseMates has an excellent article about free-style cruising for those of you who may be new to what NCL is doing - have a look at <http://www.cruisemates.com/articles/cruiseguide//ship-features/ncl-kalosh.cfm>
Eeeeeeewwwww, to "Free Style" cruising...
I'm about as far from being a High Class Snob as you can get.....But I just hate the idea of "Free Style" cruising....
Unless it is just an option.......and does not cause them to start charging extra for eating in dining rooms, having assigned seating, etc.........
I don't want to eat at an "All you can swallow" Buffet.
We usually travel with friends......and have had trouble getting seating together during "Open Seating" Meals.....
Also, I see this "Free Style" cruising will include using those "Vibrating Pagers" like a lot of restuarants are using these days. So yo can roam the ship untill your table is ready !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hmmmm, I guess this means they intend for us to tolerate Long waits for a table........and to pay extra for the privilige.....
Sounds like fun to me ??????
It just seems to me, to be a way to add extra charges that you won't see at the time you book that "Bargin Cruise"
Untill you see your charge bill when you get home...
1) there are no extra charges or fees as yet
2) you can arrange to eat with whomever you want
3) the only buffet lines are in the Lido for breakfast and lunch or on deck for lunch
4) there are no pagers
5) only 2 ships will be Freestyle in 2000
6) don't knock if you ain't tried it--people that have do like it
We just returned from the Majesty on Sun. Freestyle is up and running.
There are 2 main dinning rooms and 2 alternative restaurants, Le Bistro
and a pasta restaurant. LeBistro has the same menu all week, the pasta
restaurant changes daily. No reservations are taken for either place.
You must be seated by 10 PM for dinner. Tips are placed on you on -board
charge at 10 pre day per person.
I enjoyed the ship and the staff. Food in the main dinning rooms was not
as good as on other NCL ships I have been on, but it was good. Waiter
service is uneven. The good waiter is still there and if you get one the
meal goes great. If you get a poor waiter the meal can go bad. (This was
to be expected. I have had both bad and great waiters on regular seating
cruises with different lines. No line can have a wait staff were they
are all top notch. There is a bas apple in every bunch. Now we all get
to share them instead of just one table having that waiter. ) The
advantage of freestyle is you are not stuck all week with that bad
waiter. You can ask not to be seated in that person's section again. If
you like a waiter you can ask to be seated in his area. I never saw the
staff object to these requests.
I think that someone who has never cruised will love freestyle. I made use
of the flexibility. We never are the same time twice. We were able to
dine with several different people we met. Only us old hands with miss
having the special relationship that develops with a good waiter or the
friends made a a good table. But to get something you have to give up
something. Freestyle is no better or no worse than set seating. It is
There are a number of pros and cons which have been brought out on these boards but I don't think it is yet as bad as you have been led to believe. I understand that you can request the same table and waiter, as well as a specific time if you wish. However I don't know how well equipped they will be to handle such requests, especially if a large volume of guests arrive shortly before your reservation time. Could be like the negative aspects of your land-based restaurant experience where you spend an hour in the lounge waiting for your table and watching others who arrive after you being seated before you. You can have the tips adjusted if you are either dissatisfied or very satisfied with the service you receive, but I believe that the tips will be pooled and distributed among the wait staff which means that your poor waiter may receive the same amount as the best waiters. My primary objection to this is that tipping is now a negative option where you have to act to request an adjustment of the tip and it may not have the desired effect on the less than adequate servers.
I don't think free-style cruising will limit your menu choices except in those special restaurants which may have a limited menu (Italian, Oriental etc.)
There is a fear that Star's system of charging passengers for their meals according to the class of stateroom they have booked may be the next step at NCL.
It is a work in progress and it already it appears that Princess is considering copying some of its features. To me, not a pretty prospect, in many ways.
The menu changes daily in the main dining room.
What extra charges?
You CAN request and get assigned seating. And you can request and get the same waiter, etc. if you wish.
You can sit with your friends at the same table every night if you wish.
Tips are prepaid UNLESS you don't wish them to be. "Freestyle" means it is your choice.
And, finally, why are you so negative about everything NCL. Have you ever cruised on NCL?
I agree with you. Just got back from the Boston/Bermuda and I loved the freestyling dining. I've cruised before and I don't like being held to a particular hour to dine. It was only the second cruise since Freestyle dining was implemented and all seem to go very smoothly. We dined in the Four Seasons dining room 4 nights (basically those nights we decided to get out of shorts for dinner) the other nights we had the buffet. Both were equally good. We requested the same table each night and got excellent service from our waiter and bus boy and there was never any waiting for a table whether it was at 6:30 or 9:30.
I didn't care, however, for the way NCL imposing a $10/day/pp charge on my account, espcially the way the gratuity was divided. I filled out a form, changed the distribution and amount without any problems.
I can't speak on Voyagerfl's negative thoughts but I will express my own concerning NCL. A line that I believe will follow in Premiers footsteps although not as drastically. Before the question is asked, YES, I have sailed NCL, in fact was once my favorite cruiseline. I have sailed the Skyward ( our honeymoon in fact in 1984 ), Starward, Seaward, Dreamward (twice) before stretching, Norway ( before added deck ). I have also toured and dined on Sky when she was in NY for inaugural. I therefore feel I have some basis for my thoughts on NCL and why I think they are destined to extinction or takeover.
NCL ownership/management has been drifting hither and dither for several years now seemingly rudderless but constantly making the wrong moves. First I believe that cruising's popularity stemmed from having a painless and different vacation experience. What I mean by that is that an almost all inclusive pricing strategy ( tours, drinks and spas always an added charge but no nickle and diming on the small stuff at least ) and an absence of having to spend time contemplating where to go, what to do, having a mix of regimented shows and the ability to partake or not. Sleep in and get room service or get out there for morning arobics, whatever. Spend the day in shorts reading a book or touring an island and then experience the magic of the ship turning into a fashionable evening resort.
Since money is the bottom line of any business the cruise industry has continued to attempt to grow and service more numbers. To do so the mega ship was born. Simple reasoning is that if you carry more passengers the revenue derived increases more than the added cost of operation.
NCL instead of planning for this made stop gap measures. They added a deck to the Norway years ago. Since ship size remained the same they merely added more passengers without the ability to add more passenger service because of design limitations. They simply crowded more people onboard and in many instances overtaxed their ability to handle the larger numbers. Then they designed two new ships, the Dreamward and Windward and witin a short span ( about 5 years I think ) stretched them, again to accomodate more passengers yet provide only limited larger areas for service. Holding such things as chocolate buffet in a hallway and necessitated cramped and crowded lines. Buffets areas in regular dining area and such since they eliminated pool area buffets and stuck a tiny buffet area without adequate seating as an offshoot of the Sports bar for those that would simply like to have a hamburger or a hotdog.
Then they added a $2 service charge for room service ( after a couple of years finally eliminated ) then started with added charges for " special dining " and so forth. Yes all the lines are following to some degree and NCL is not alone of course. Onboard revenue becomes more important each year as bargain hunters look not at overall expense but simply at quoted specials. You too can cruise for $199, well actually you can't. Premier can tell you that.
Freestyle cruising is yet another attempt to get to a mass market, quanity versus quality. So who wants freestyle cruising in my humble opinion? The guy that doesn't want to bother getting dressed for dinner? The person that moans that they must put on a tie? Well that's all well and good but I have to ask, will those same people really want to come onboard ships time and time again? As cruisng gets closer and closer to the routine land experience in travel, ordering by TV, paying for an ice cream cone, having a different waiter each night and so forth why bother doing it on a resort that rocks with the sea movement? And how happy are such people going to be when they find that thier $199 cruise actually costs them more and more while onboard?
As cruising becomes more and more like any mainstream vacation where is the lure? In the meantime the people devoted to what the concept of cruising was originally become more and more unhappy about the mass market strategy's will they continue to cruise or simply pick out suitable and comparable land vacations?
George, I do not know what you missed over the last 10 months but NCL has already been aquired. There is no more stop gap measures to make NCL profitable. NCL was very profitable in 1999 and will be even more profitable in 2000. In December Carnival tried to purchase NCL for 1.9 billion Dollars including Dept and was rebuffed. Than Came Star Cruises a very profitable Asia Cruise Giant(Picture of Logo enclosed) and Purchased NCL for 2.1 Billion Dollars. Star Cruises is very profitable and is building Several ships for themeselves and with a total combined Market Capitilization of 4 billion Dollars (Including NCL) NCL has already 2 new Ships coming. The stories are already on the Cruisemates Websites and will be anoucing several for the future. So to you George I say NCL will be around for a long time. And for every one else Freestyle Cruising is super exciting. I experienced it on the Norwegian Sky in July on the Norwegian Sky and have to tell you that you have not cruised untill you have cruised freestyle.
I might also add that Free Style may be something the whole industry goes to. Check out Princess they are starting to experiment with open dining options as well. I understand NCL Free Style involves more than just dining options and it has worked for Star in Asia. I for one will be giving it a try, most likley when the Sun comes into service.
When I asked voyagerfl on Cruise Critic when he/she would be sailing with NCL, there was no reply. This person has posted nothing but negative opinions of NCL on numerous boards _ without having ever sailed with the line. On one board he/she lists all the cruise taken to date and none has been on NCL.
FWIW, most of us veteran NCL cruisers are at least willing to give Free Style a chance. I would respectfully suggest that voyagerfl either experience Free Style and then have a valid opinion, or cease the endless and relentless criticizing of a cruise line he/she doesn't plan on sailing on anyway.
I, for one, look forward to Free Style with eager anticipation. And I know I'm not alone. My TA tells me that she has heard nothing but rave reviews from her clients. She said everybody loves the concept.
Also, the fact that Princess is going to be trying it on some of its vessels next year would indicate that this is a trend that could catch on.
Cruising crazy, I have tried not to " miss " much. You are correct in part, NCL is now a HOLDING company, humm just as Premier became imagine that. You are absolutely correct " There is no more stop gap measures to make NCL profitable " the last was selling stock in thier HOLDING company. That stock by the way has been chopped 50% form it highs which wasn't all that high. Now at 10 11/16 down from a high of 20 or so.
"NCL was very profitable in 1999" well they were, at least by thier figures profitable in 99. Let's see they did 870 million dollars and managed to NET ( the only thing that counts ) 14 million. But as you say they were profitable. Carnival did 3,497 MILLION and NETTED 1,027 MILLION. Someone do the profit to sales for me will you, I get confused and sometimes miss stuff."
" In December Carnival tried to purchase NCL for 1.9 billion Dollars including Dept and was rebuffed " Carnival said you are worth 1.9 billion to us, they let Star have it for 2.1 billion ( your numbers ) or some such. I look at it that Carnival said to Star, you want to overpay go right ahead. I never said that NCL was going bankrupt like Premier just that it was heading down the plank so to speak. I have no doubt that in a year or two that NCL will be happily sailing along in the Asian market, at least what will be left of her after the holding company starts wheeling and dealing.
Look at the pressures NCL faces, over 17,000 berths added last year alone. There are over 15 billion in new ship orders coming as well. Yes some will replace older ships but many will just add to the inventory. Yes NCL has new ships ordered. So have other lines, Celebrity's first ship was bought buy them after another line ( Costa I believe ) defaulted on the purchase. Now that I think of it the Sky was originally contracted for Costa and NCL bought the keel when they cancelled. Let's not even go into that this year added fuel bills alone could easily put them in red with as this a margin they have already.
"combined Market Capitilization of 4 billion Dollars " if you say so.
Here's where NCL goes. Star was willing to pay more because they are doing a holding company play around deal, sell some stock which you can barely get financials for and has seen a 50% haircut since it came out and trades an average vol of 2,000 shares a day. I know companies making cookies in thier basement that do more than that. So Star takes the ships, carves them out for Asian markets, sells off the older ones, renames and remarkets. The holding company will make money chopping this baby up into little pieces and sailing the rest in none US markets.
Here's some other signs. Big Neil sailed the Sky <http://www.bigneils.com/> in January. I value his opinion as an advid cruiser and someone I have interacted with through the years regarding cruises. From his review.
"Our cabin steward did a fair job. He never did put the beds together correctly and they kept sliding apart. He didn't do a very thorough job cleaning either. "
"I didn't think much of the buffet food on this ship. I am not a buffet fan, but this stuff was definitely the pits. Poor selections, some trays were empty, and it was poorly laid out. One morning there were green beans offered for breakfast. I don't think I ever saw green beans on a breakfast buffet before. It even looked sloppy. Many tables still had dirty dishes on them long after the people left. "
"I thought the service on this ship was poor. None of the help seemed to have any motivation. Our dining room waiter and busboy were spread to thin. I don't care how good you are, you can't serve 32 places and give everyone the service that is needed. "
"The only thing that saved this cruise from being a disaster for us was the "Great Group" of people on this ship. There were more negatives than positives for us. We went to have a good time and we did just that. "
This is thier NEW ship! Not enough staff, first sign. Unmotivated staff, second sign. FREESTYLE cruising third sign. What does freestyle do for the LINE? Less apparent that you have less help maybe?
We could discuss this one all day but why bother. I will say plainly that NCL is on the way out the door in the American market and probably as a cruise line...time will tell.
Let me end by saying that I am just calling it as I see it just as I did with Premier in April. This doesn't make me happy and I'm not an NCL basher. I wouldn't have sailed them so many times in past years if I had wanted to see thier demise take place. The original owners were the ones that killed this company, the holding company is only going to clean up the place setting.
Hey George in NY, you have done your homework. I want you to know however it may be a little incomplete. Firstly After years of No Profits, 14 million is a great improvement. Especially when 25 millions was charged off from 2 non reoccuring inncedents. This year NCL will make over 78 Million Dollars. And double next year. And the stock was trading at a range of $10 - 12 dollars before the bidding war for NCL took the stock up to $20. Carnival did not give up and let Star Take NCL they lost in the bidding process, tried to team up by buying 40% of the deal and in March backed out when they could not get any more control of NCL. The reason why there is very little trades in NCL's Stock (NRW), is that there is very little stock available (4.6%) since Star owns 95.4%. And since Star Cruises owns 70% of the Asian Market there is no reason for NCL Ships to go over there. And If that Happens it will be to replace old tonnage with new tonnage. Star is in an over capacity situation in Asia and that is why the Bought NCL in the First Place so that they could tap into the more lucrative cruise Areas North American and Europe. Star's Managment is building more ships for NCL than they are for themselves. Lastly the only thing you will see over the next several years is NCL chipping in to the Big boys revenue streams by the synergies of the Entire Company's buying power and bottom line improvement. It has been a great debate but I believe you will see NCL around for another 32 Years. It has been 32 years since NCL star Caribbean Cruising and you will continue to see NCL Prosper. Ask any travel agent right now and they will tell you that NCL is not in the Same Situation that Premier was in 2 or 3 years ago, or even six months ago.
EEEEWWW is an excellent description. I have never been on NCL. But with this freestyle thing, now I know for sure I never will! We each have a right to our personal tastes. When I cruise, I want a CRUISE, not a theme park. Not the Epcot choose-your-theme-for-dinner deal. (We all love Epcot's food. But we all know the expense too, and trouble getting a table, if you go for a "real" restaurant there). I have three little ones and theme parks are a blast!!! I have been to Disney more often than I can count, and I was lucky enough to stay in one of their resorts once, and loved every minute of it. But hey, how often do I get the CHANCE to dress up and have a formally seated meal? Not have to worry about how crowded a restaurant will be, how long we will have to wait and not have to calculate the cost in my head everytime I order something???
I had a booking on the Norway Dec. 9, but I have cancelled. Besides the frightening reviews . . . though it is not technically "freestyle" yet, I do not like the feeling NCL gives me with this "innovation' of theirs. OK if you do like it, I am glad there is a cruise for everybody, that is as it should be! Those of us who like the opportunity to dress and dine formally twice in a week, will appreciate being with others who are dressed-up too; it is part of the formal "experience" for me. To me that IS relaxing. I spend most of my life with my kids, eating on the run ("freestyle?") wearing t-shirts and jean shorts. A cruise to me should get-away-from-it-all . . .to a higher level perhaps??? Sorry, just feel like the casual trend has gone too far here . . .what is touted as "relaxed" seems anything but to me, personally. It just feels tacky. Sorry, just the feeling I get.
I am 33, I have a pretty good idea about what I like, and I don't mind "knocking it before I try it." I was really looking forward to the live music and varied nightlife on the Norway, but I have decided on a discount fare with a consistent, traditional, (even if too quiet!), cruiseline, where most people appreciate a couple of formal nights, and the risk of a "trip from hell" is pretty negligible. I am neither wealthy nor retired, so I can afford neither the time nor the money to risk an NCL cruise!! (or non-cruise, in the case of the overbookings! AAACCCKK!).
On a final note, two different agents told me they will not book NCL cruises anymore because of "problems." 'Nuff said IMHO.