I have never been on any other cruise line other than ncl. I do like the freestyle dining. We have gone both early and later in the evening for dinner and enjoyed both. Usually the wait has been a matter of minutes, depending on how many people and if you wish to dine alone. I have to say that I would hesitate to cruise on any other line because of the being stuck with a dead fast time for dinner. I do not feel rushed to get ready for dinner and being on vacation that is important to me not to keep a time schedule.
If you dont want to keep to a time table, then you'll love freestyle. You can eat dinner anytime you want, in any restaurant you want. Depending on what ship you sail on how many restaurants there are. On the Dawn there are ten of them. Six are free, the others there is a surcharge.
The best part of freeystyle is that if you are on shore, you dont have to rush back to make dinner. You can come back anytime up to 11PM to eat.
Loved Freestyle dining because you can eat when you want. I was on the Sky (now "Pride of Aloha). The number of restaurants varies from ship to ship. The Sky had 2 "free" dining rooms, "free" buffet area and pizza and 3 pay-extra restaurants. Generally speaking you have to make reservations for the pay-extra restaurants but if you just show up and they are not full - they will take you. The "free" restaurants - you just show up when you want to (in the evening they are open from 5:30 to around midnight (last orders taken at 10 I believe). If you show up at a popular time (say 7PM) you may have to wait to be seated. The one night we dined at 7PM, we had to wait about 3 minutes to be seated (I timed it out of curiosity to see how long it would take - the headwaiter had told us there would be a 10 minute wait). For breakfast and lunch, one of the "free" dining rooms is open and the "free" buffet area is open and pizza is always available.
We really enjoyed Freestyle dining and would have a hard time going back to traditional.
It all depends on your preferences and what you were first exposed to. I have heard it said many times that whatever was your first experience is your expectation level. The freestyle dining gives you the opportunity to choose when and where you dine which is a plus, but you then have the added hassle of choosing which restraunts on what nights and if that time is available. You also can miss out on meeting others when it is not an "arranged" seating, the last time I cruised we had 2 other couples at our table for dinner we all got along great and even spent some excursions with them, although it may not always work out that good. Most of the opinions that I have seen is that when freestyle dining was their first cruise experience you would not want it any other way, and if the assigned times and seating with others was your first experience you also would not want it any way (unless, of course, you are an intervert)
One complaint I've heard a lot about Freestyle is that you don't necessarily get the same waiter every evening. Personally having the same waiter doesn't matter so I loved Freestyle. Now that I think of it we did have the same waiter on maybe 3 evenings since we kept getting seated in the same area.
I had been on 3 "traditional" cruises before we tried Freestyle. With Freestyle you can also meet new people by sharing a table in the dining room (an option we were offered each night when we arrived at the dining room). With "traditional" dining we had 2 good experiences with our assigned tablemates and one really bad experience. (And believe me it was NOT pleasant being stuck with rude, drunken, racist morons for a week. The ship was full so we could not get assigned to another table.)
We found that Freestyle dining involved far less hassle and stress than traditional. We did not have to be at the dining room at a specific time EVERY night - which was wonderful - we could stay in port longer, eat when we were hungry (not because it was TIME to eat). When we chose to reserve one of the "pay-extra" restaurants we were always able to reserve the time we wanted. Mostly though we ate in the dining rooms - it was just soooo nice to be able to say "Well I am starting to feel a bit hungry - should we wander down to the dining room" instead of "Hurry up we HAVE to be at the dining room in 10 minutes or we don't get dinner."
I guess some people would prefer the more formal aspects of "traditional" dining but we just felt freed and relaxed with Freestyle.
The newer the NCL ship the better Freestyle works. The latest ships Star and Dawn have 10 resturants. 3 are extra fee. The Sun nearly as many. As Star brings the two new builds and pride of America online the older ships will more out of the NCL Fleet and they will have a plaform that supports the Frestyle program.
I was sure I would hate freestyle when I cruised the Dawn for the first time in Feb 03. I have done 3 more freestyle cruises since then and have another booked for August. I is wonderful not being driven by your assigned dining time.
It is wonderful to meet new people and decide to have dinner together.
Yes you give up somethings for this freedom. The great wait staff you get to know and who gets to know you. Some of the traditional dinning room magic. All the wait staff singing on Italian night, the old baked Alaska parade to Hot Hot Hot.
You avoid some pitfalls - eating in the buffet because you are late from port or to tired to dress for dinner. The 7 days of hell if you get a poor wait staff or tablemates
I think if you never cruised before starting with traditional and moving to freestyle when you understand what you want from a cruise is not a bad way to go.
We've gone on several cruises and I will tell you that for us, the freestyle concept works very well. Go when you want, no restrictions, no hassles. It allowed us greater flexibility and less scheduling (which for me on holiday is VERY important).
Our first cruise was traditional, on Holland America. We went on the Sun this April and will never go back to traditional. All of the servers in the alternative restaurants on the Sun were professional, courteous and interesting people. Because they are not as rushed, we had a chance to get to know something about each of our servers. One of our servers in Ginza, upon seeing us at the Outdoor Cafe the following afternoon, remembered our names and even our cabin number.
Next up, the Star, 5/8/05! We already know which restaurants we'll book.
It worked on the Star, no lines, ever. It was awful on he Dream. Waited for every meal. Up to an hour for dinner. It didn't matter which restauant we selected. You can see the poll results for your choice of ships on this site.
Just off the Dawn on last Sunday. I love freestyle dining. We were able to have dinner one evening with a couple we met on the cruise. With traditional assigned dining that would only be possible if you went to the buffet. We set a 7:00 dining time and ate together in the Venetian main diningroom.
We loved the tempanaki restaurant onboard. The chef put on a great show.
We only waited one night for a table. That was on Friday which was the lobster night. We only waited about 15 minutes for Impressions which is one of the smaller main diningrooms. We also ate a 7:00 which is a busy time of the evening for dinner.
Have done both freestyle (Dawn) and non (Celebrity). I like freestyle b/c you can go at anytime. No set 6:30 or 8:30. Same in the am. If you want a sit down non cafateria style breakfast you can get it. Also do not need to dress up ever. Dockers and golf shirt OK.. Dont like to dress up.
Had good service with the freestyle waiters/waitress. Same as non freestyle.
Never had a problem getting in the main ones. We had a party of 8 - 10 every night.
Cagneys was nice but expensive for the portion you received.
Really liked going to eat at anytime you felt like going as opposed to a set time.
Freestyle dining worked great for me and my family. We especially like the Aqua restraurant where the service we found to be the best.
It allowed us to dine as a family, have people we met on board join us mid meal and we ate whenever and wherever we wished.
Personally I did not enjoy the "specially" restraurant considering the cost. The italian restaurant which was free was poor at best. I went to the Aqua room later that night and had MUCH better italian food there!
If the formal dining is more your speed, try the larger restaurants. We went casual the entire trip and loved not having to dress for dinner.
Freestle dining is the best thing that ever happened to cruising in my opinion. The dining rooms open at 5.30 p.m. and are open until 10.00p.m. Yousimply walk in and are seated just like any fine restraunt on land. Each ship has a minimum of two and usually more, free dining areas plus one or two buffet. Depending on the ship, there will be 2 or 3 where you will be charged 15.00 each. If you willlet me know which ship you arfe on, if I have sailed that ship I will tell you exactly what to expect.
We went on the NCL Sea last December and we love the freestyle dining. As far as not having the same waiter, we, that is my wife two freinds and myself, asked for and got the same table and thus the same waiter. We like to eat early so we were usually among the first ones in the dining room.
NCL traveler be where.
Freestyle sounds so good all kinds of restaurants to eat in no dressing up. Well let me tell you never again, I just came back from a cruise to Alaska on the Spirit. First the good stuff the ship was clean, food was fair to good now the bad part. In the brochure it says they have eight or so restaurants to eat in that is true, but you have to pay extra to eat in all but four. One of the free ones is a buffet the other two are sit down, if you donít have 10 people or more you canít make a reservation. If you have ten people then you can but only at 5:30pm or 8:30 pm. I saw people waiting in line for hours to sit down and eat. And there were all kinks of tables with no body sitting at them I think they were way under shafted. At the buffet line there was only one side open and no place to sit because everybody went there to eat because they didnít want to wait hours to eat in the main restaurants. I think there service in the main restaurant was very bad one night we were at the table for three hours. After thinking about it I think there plan is to get people so mad that they will pay to go into the pay restaurants. Now if you want one of there very over priced drinks, that is not a problem where ever you sit there are ten people every five minutes asking you if you want a drink. Donít even think about bringing on your own bottle they x-ray all bags and if they think you have a bottle you will not get your bag until you open it so they can see whatís inside. All there on shore excursions are over priced, if you get off the boat and go on shore you can get the same thing for much less. Or go on line and make your excursion save money. There new $10.00 per person tip, that they take per day is on your bill at the end of cruise is fine but all the people know they are going to get it so they are not very friendly. You donít see any employees smile ling they donít care about you they know they will get there tip. Oh and one more thing when you do buy a drink look at the bill gratuity is on the ticket already but they have a line for more. No more NCL for me and I will never take a Freestyle again!!!
There are many restaurants on all NCL ships. Some have a surcharge ($10-$20) per person, and you will find the quality of food to be superb. Other restaurants have very good food, but you won't find lobster tail on the menu. They also have buffet restaurants where there is no dress code and it's something like cafeteria style.
You choose the time you eat at any restaurant. Reservations are not required at restaurants that have no surcharge. If you choose to eat dinner between approximately 5:30pm and 7pm, you may have to wait for a table to be available, just like at a regular restaurant.
People accustomed to traditional cruising and the set dining times are often dismayed by Freestyle because it's so different. Go into it with an open mind, and an understanding that it's different, and you shouldn't be disappointed.
I just got back from the Dawn. I had a wonderful time. The food was great. The wait staff was always there when you needed something. The only complaint I had was the reservations. My boyfriend and I didn't realize you needed reservations for certain restaurants. We called Cagney's Wednesday morning to make a 6:00pm reservation. The woman told me that nothing was available until Thursday night. I was a little upset. The food was excellent though. Also, bring some skirts with you if you plan to eat in any of their restaurants. Thank god I did because after 5:00pm they will not let you in. No shorts or tank tops allowed. I still had a great week. I hope to go back very soon