It really depends on what type of cruise makes you happy. NCL has free-style cruising. You have NO assigned seating in the dining room. You choose when you want to eat. You may decide to ask for the same waiter every night and they will try to accomodate you. Service levels on NCL are fine with me but if it is critical to you that your waiter know your drink preferences and do a Baked Alaska dance, you won't like NCL. Generally I find NCL service to be professional but less obsequious than it is on other cruise lines. I LOVE freestyle disembarkation - you get to wait in your cabin until your colour is called (not in some overcrowded lounge). And I like Freestyle dining where I get to choose when and where and with whom I get to dine. But many other people prefer traditional cruise dining (assigned seatings, same waiter, same tablemates every night). NOTE: Freestyle tends to be a better experience on the newer NCL ships that were designed for Freestyle cruising (the Sun, the Dawn, the Spirit). In all honesty some people love it, some people hate it.
We just did our 2nd Carnival in a row and have done Princess,RCCL, and NCL twice, all 7 days. Like mentioned above the Free style lacks the personal closeness of the same wait staff but you won't be stuck with anyone either (dinnermates) for the whole trip. Their ships seem to have smaller cabins (you can check sq. ft. on line) but since most people spend little time in there anyway it could be a mute point. Personally I've had the best experiences on NCL and I plan to take them on my next cruise. I met many many people on these cruises and by the end had made many new friends. I don't think you will be disappointed. Entertainment is top notch and the food is what you would expect.
I just returned from a week on NCL Sun. I love it!!!! I would recommend this cruise line to anyone. My fiance and I haven't stopped talking about it. Our Cruise Director was fabulous, the food was great and you could eat anytime of the day, the activities on the boat were really fun. We had a balcony stateroom and it was much bigger than I thought it would be. I'm definately going to go back and know I would be disappointed with another cruise line after our experience on this ship.
My experience with NCL was a good onboard experience but a very bad experience dealing with their customer relations.
Many people on this board love freestyle and love cruising with NCL. I would just caution you to be wary in your dealings with them. Get everything in writing and don't beleive anything their guest relations department tells you unless they are ready to put it in writing. They seem to have a policy of saying anything they want over the phone then doing something entirely different and telling you that you are just stuck and have no recourse.
This is not a cruiseline that I would choose to deal with again but, as I've said above, lots of people do seem to enjoy cruising with them.
Our family has taken 3 cruises, two of them on NCL. We did the Star in Hawaii and the Sun in Alaska. We had a great time. My 14 year son said we better go on NCL again the next time we cruise. Their teen program is outstanding. We had a balcony cabin in Alaska and inside in Hawaii. Pay the extra and get the balcony.
We've sailed with NCL only twice thus far: the SS Norway in 2003 (a great ship which is no longer in service), and the Dream in 2004 (which we sailed in the Baltic). We're now planning to cruise to the Southern Caribbean on the Spirit next spring. While the Norway offered only traditional dining, the Dream and all the rest of the NCL fleet feature the more flexible Freestyle. While we've enjoyed the traditional approach for many years, it took us only one sailing on the Dream to accept Freestyle as an interesting and fun alternative. Both of our NCL cruises compared favorably with our previous experiences with Celebrity, Carnival and several other lines.
The 92,000-ton Jewel, which will launch next summer, is described by NCL as being "modeled after Norwegian Star and Norwegian Dawn". However, she will have 1,188 cabins (rather than 1,112) including 10 penthouse suites sharing a private courtyard. The Jewel will begin her service on August 10th with a 13-day cruise of the Mediterannean, followed on August 23rd with a 12-day Baltic cruise. The Jewel will then sail on September 4th on a transatlantic voyage from Dover to New York City with port calls in Ireland, Iceland, Newfoundland and Rhode Island. She will sail Caribbean itineraries until the spring of 2006, when the Jewel will begin her Alaska schedule.
Freestyle doesn't cut it for this long time cruiser. You just don't get the same level or quality detail of service in the dining room from the wait staff. Maybe some passengers don't notice the difference, but my wife and I sure did.
Freestyle is fine if you never experienced traditional or you don't care about getting to know fellow passengers at dinner. No question the wait staff doesn't get to know your likes or dislikes because they don't see you on a regulat basis.(usually)
Once again...some people like it....others don't.
I have no issues with the food taste or quality, just the quality of service offered by the server. It varies too much(hit or miss).
Celebrity is my favorite cruise line and NCL doesn't hold a candle to them - I would rate them on a par with RCCL.
BUT - and this is a big but - I LOVE the freestyle cruising, which Celebrity DOESN'T offer.
So, it's kind of a trade off - I wasn't thrilled with the food on NCL (in fact, I thought it was awful) and the rooms were small, but they were clean. Service was okay, too. But not having to dress up every night for dinner was a big plus. And I would do anyother NLC cruise before I'd do another RCCL.
If you want white glove service with impeccable food and top notch service - NCL isnt for you. If you aren't that picky, it would probably be just fine.
Freestyle does not= paying extra for your meals. You can spend your entire cruise without paying extra for any meal. ONLY in certain restaurants on the ship do you pay extra (these are indicated in the Freestyle Daily). The main dining rooms are included in your cruise fare and so is the buffet and so is room service. How many "pay extra" restaurants there are on a ship varies from ship to ship. On most ships the "pay extra" restaurants are only open in the evenings (I believe there are exceptions to this on some of the newer ships).
Comparing any line with another depends on the ships involved. Celebrity: the Galaxy compared to the Sun or DAwn is a pit: the NCL Sea (which I happen to like) compared to the Constellation is awful! Cabin sizes again depending on the ship: balcony to balcony cabins on the Constellation and Sun are identical in size. The bathrooms on the Constellation are nicer. RCI cabins are smaller than most NCL cabins, but not in every case. Food quality again depends on the ship. Freestyle to us is the main reason we return to NCL over and over: For those who think part of the cruise experience is being pampered NCL may be a disappointment. Many of us love the choice of dining experiences, others choose to eat in the main dining rooms every meal. It's what freestyle is all about and the cost of alternative dining on NCL is much less than the other lines, but we feel just as good with outstanding service. You will enjoy your cruise if you go with an open mind and understand each line has it's ups and downs. NMNita