Just wanted to know how those of you who have cruised "free-style" on NCL have liked it. Our next cruise in September will be our first experience with "free-style." Will we be standing in line a lot for our meals?
1965 S.S. United States
1974 Sitmar Fairwind
2003 HAL Volendam
2003 Mississippi Queen
2004 HAL Westerdam
2005 Norwegian Jewel
2007 Norwegian Sun
2009 HAL Westerdam
2010 RCI Vision Of The Seas
2011 HAL Nieuw Amsterdam
2014 Norwegian Jewel
Some are going to tell you they stood in line for up to 45 minutes: we have done 3 freestyle cruises and never waited 5 minutes, nor have we seen a crowd waiting with the exception of the capt welcoming party. Everyone seems to go to that as soon as it starts, stays as long as possible and then heads for dinner. We ususally skip the party as we have cruised enough times not to really care. Our main reason for loving being in love with NCL is freestyle. It isn't the only reason, but it sure is at the top of our list. If we are tired or have plans for the evening we will eat at 5;30 or 6pm. If we get back from a shore excursion and want to relax before dinner we eat at 6:30 or 7 or even later. We can eat with others or by ourselves; we can choose where we want to eat or if we want to go to a specialty restaurant and pay a few dollars more. For us there is nothing better; the flexibility makes us feel like we are really on vacation and in control of our time. NMnita
We absolutely love it, and for all the same reasons NMnita mentions, plus a few more. We'd rather not be "married" to a set time, table, wait staff and dinner companions. It's our vacation, and if we want to eat early, later or do something different, that's our business. With assigned seating, we feel like we're "letting someone down" if we miss a dinner. Then, of course, your wait staff and table companions always ask where you were the next night. It's nice that they ask, but if the reason is something you'd rather not talk about, why should you have to explain? Also, some nights we may feel more sociable than others. Some nights a table for two is perfect. We really like that resort casual is an appropriate alternative every night of the cruise. Sure there's times we like dressing to the nines, but we really like the option of being able to choose which Freestyle offers. I have heard negative comments too about long waits, but never experienced more than a few minutes wait. Some folks really love the Freestyle and some hate it, but like anything else it probably all boils down to personal preferences.
I hate being told what time to eat. I loved freestyle cruising b/c I did not have to eat at any certain time. Sometimes we had to wait for dinner when we wanted to eat w/ all of our friends from these boards but it wasn't long.
You can often "cut" the line if you are wiling to sit at a table to share.
One more thing this is an NCL list presumably populated by people who like this line. If you want a more unbiased opinion & cross section of answers, you may want to post this Q on a general board -- like ask cruisemate staff under Practical Advice.
As TD said, most of the people posting here love NCL and everything about the line so the overall comments will be positive.
Freestyle is not for everyone. A lot depend on the time you go to dinner. We like to eat around 8-8:15Pm since we are employed full time and do not get home from work early enough to eat dinner at 5:30PM -- when the restaurants open. Going later there are lines to be seated and you will run the risk of missing some of the shows because you are still at dinner. It has taken us as long as 2-1/2 hours or more to eat on some NCL ships -- mostly due to the waiter having a lot of tables in his area all seated at the same time. Also, if we return from a port around 5PM we like to shower and freshen up before dinner and to not have to rush to dinner. We do enough running around the rest of the year.
Freestyle also works better on the newer NCL ships since there are more restaurant choices than on the older ships. This tends to spread the amount of passengers out more evenly in different restaurants. With the older ships you have fewing dining options.
As far as the buffets, it is a matter of convenience if you want to spend the most time ashore and not have to wait in the dining rooms to have someone serve you. When it comes to dinner, we like having someone else deliver the food to our table and enjoy the conversation with whoever is sitting at our table.
If you go on board solo, it is not as easy to meet other singles. Other cruise lines usually sit singles together. With freestyle it is totally open seating. If you want to sit with someone you need to go into dinner together. It can be a good thing if your cabinmate(s) like to eat at different times and don't want to feel that they have to eat at the same time and at the same table as you do.
If you don't mind eating early than you should like freestyle. If you like having the same wait staff and eating with the same dinner companions, you may have to wait to get seated.
"Resort" casual is the standard dress with freestyle. On "formal" nights one restaurant will be designated with this dress code if you want to dress up. If not, you can choose to eat at another restaurant.
Some passengers never go to the dining rooms and choose to eat all their meals at the buffets. Like anything else, when there are early morning tours, everyone will head for the buffets for a quick breakfast. When the morning tours return, same thing for lunch.
You need to be flexible and see what works for you as far as dining times. If you like regular seatings, freestyle is not for you.
Each cruise line has a different personality and appeals to different segments of the population. Is freestyle for everyone -- NO.
I am sure some do eat all their meals in the buffet, but I have never met one. As for taking 2 or 2/12 hours, this is a bit over stated I do think. As many times as we have done freestyle never has it taken any longer for dinner than with traditional dining. Part of what makes cruising so appealing to many is the relaxed, pleasant and paced dinner hour. The slowest dining we even had was late dining on RCI many years ago and it wasn't two plus hours. By sure and let everyone know which ship you had to wait to be seated at 8:30? I have never seen anyone much in the dining room waiting to eat that late, but, again I haven't been on every NCL ship. NMNita
We were on the Dream this past summer (12-day Baltic), and this was our first exposure to FreeStyle. For the most part, we liked it. We favor early dinners (before 6:30), so we were usually at our table around 6:00 or so. There were four of us, and we were usually seated at a table for four. However, a few times we asked to be seated with four or six strangers just to mix it up a bit. We were always accommodated.
The only time we had to wait for more than 5 minutes or so was on a formal evening, when the wait was nearly 30 minutes. We took all of our breakfasts in the Sports Bar (buffet), and our lunches at various venues other than the main dining room. Although we chose to eat our dinners at approximately the same time each night, we liked the idea that we didn't have to do so if we elected to dine at some other time on any given evening.
As for the idea that it's primarily lovers of NCL who populate this board, that's not necessarily true. We read and comment on several of the cruiseline boards, since we like to cruise on as many lines as possible. In the past four years, for instance, we've sailed on seven ships representing four different lines.
On the N. Sun anywhere from 2-1/2 hours or more was the norm for the length of dinner -- mostly due the waiter having multiple tables in his area all seated at the same time by the Maitre'd. Much of the time was spent waiting for menus, waiting for your order to be taken, waiting for the food to come out and having the wrong order delivered which then meant a return trip to the kitchen for the right order. In many of our ports, we didn't sail until 5:30 or 6PM. The tours usually returned just before the ship sailed. So if you were on a tour (especially a full-day tour) you wanted to have time to go to your cabin, shower, change clothes and relax before going to dinner. To minimize the wait we always asked to share. On the formal night, we had our 2 tour hosts from Golden Bear with us for dinner and we almost fell asleep waiting for the courses to show up. We were seated at the Captain's table (he wasn't there) which is located right under the stage. Once the show started, we thought the chandelier would fall down from the dancers overhead! Dinner that night took 3 hours!
Freestyle may work at 5:30PM when the dining rooms first open, but at what would be considered late seating you have the first show passenger eating as well. Also, some of the passengers will go to the show before dinner so they can see it without having to rush out of dinner to make the show. Even one of the NCL office workers said that she found the same thing happened on her cruise as well. The dining rooms do take in new passengers as late as 10PM so you would think anytime after 8PM shouldn't be a problem.
On the older ships such as the N. Sea you have fewer passengers so dinner tends to go quicker.
Many husbands who preferred to stay in shorts and sandals didn't even want to eat dinner in the dining room. So while they ate in the buffet, their wives ate dinner in the dining room. The husbands didn't care about going to the shows -- they preferred to play cards with the guys. Also, families with children who only wanted hot dogs and hamburgers chose the buffet over the dining room for dinner as well. The kids want to eat and run and join their friends. There were many reasons why passengers chose to eat at the buffets rather than in the dining rooms.
Wow Maraprince I am surprised that for you dining on the Sun took 3 hours. When we sailed on her in Dec 2004, the longest any meal took us was about 1.5 hours. Now we did eat earlier than you - usually between 6-7 (mostly about 6:30). Although one night we ate at around 7:30. Except for it taking a little longer to be seated (5 minutes instead of immediately) we did not find dinner took us any longer at that time. We were also asked to share but declined (no problems - probably meant that we had to wait an extra minute or two to be seated).
Maraprince, You must have just hit a really slow situation that week. We have sailed the Sky, Sea and twice on the Sun; still have never waited as I said. Yes, we have been willing to share tables with others and sometimes we have had a table for just 2. Your theory about the Sea really doesn't hold true as though the ship is smaller so are the 2 dining rooms. NMnita
We have only tried freestyle once so far and love it. We have never had to wait at all for the dining room, but we are used to eating early, so we are usually there by the time the doors open at the restaurant. We like it because we can choose the table we want and also who we sit with.
We love Freestyle, Just took a trip on Celebrity which has sittings and noticed that if you got to the dining room late sitting at 8:30 their were long lines. They often don't open the doors on time - they also warn you if you are more then 15 Min. late you will not be allowed in. Also if you skip a say a salad during your meal you have wait until everyone else has finished because all the main courses come out together. Only my opinion but would take freestyle anytime.
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Freestyle was great when traveling with kids. They ate what and when they wanted to and then we put them in the kids program and went to dinner (they ate dinner with us a few times). The only time we had to wait was when we requested to be seated with other diners (that took about 20 minutes and it was the smaller dining room). The only thing I didn't like about Freestyle was the included gratuities. My husband just cannot "not tip" so we ended up double tipping most of the time. The service was almost always excellent, and the staff was pleasant and cheerful. The stewards on our floor were fabulous, as were the girls who ran the "Kid's Crew". Freestyle certainly did not affect good service.
Freestyle is one of the two best things on Norwegian. We like to eat early to get to the first show, never waited for a table. We chose to eat with others a couple of times, and when we were tired and didn't feel chatty, we ate alone. The key word to freestyle is choice, yours, not someone elses. The tips are automatic on all cruise lines now, even those with traditional dining only. The other best thing on Norwegian is the relaxed dis-embarking, no big hustle to vacate the cabin and sit in the common areas, just rest until your color is called. This is a stress-free way to end your wonderful vacation.
Sorry about the error. I haven't tried Celebrity yet, so should not have said all, but most. On the cruise lines I have been on, I have done it both ways, cash in envelopes and the vouchers which are very common now. I have honestly not found a difference in the service because of the auto tips, just some differences in cruise lines or individuals. Most of the staff has always been great, but I don't require a lot of pampering, either. I am there for the adventure!
I thought I would love Freestyle. But after cruising on Norwegian Dawn from New York I'll say it was too chaotic, especially if you wanted to dine in one of the main dining rooms on formal night. Go early or go late is my advice. The food on this ship was pretty bad overall -- over cooked and under-seasoned. Even the alternative restaurants weren't worth the extra price. Remember, this was one ship (Norwegian Dawn) and I went a year ago.
Celebrity may not have automatic tipping, but pretty close. They have the usual recommended amounts and do let you just put it on your sign and sail card. Though it isn't the same thing you can be sure it's coming in the very near future. NMnita
I sailed the Dawn this winter and loved freestyle. It is nice not having to make small- talk for 11 nights. Some nights my wife and I were not in a social mood and didn't feel like interacting with others. The choice of restaurants was good. Italian was decent, Sushi was actually comparable to a good land- based sushi restaurant, Mexican was tasty as well. It was nice to have so many different dining experiences on a cruise. Also I have had bad waiters on boats and it is nice that I am not "trapped" with them for the cruise. As for waiting, get a lay of the crowd. See after the first night when everyone likes to dine and plan accordingly.
We sailed the Star in December, and had the largest passenger count the ship had ever had, including 600!!! kids. The longest wait we ever had for dinner was 15 minutes. As others have said, go early or go late and you will not wait long. Hope this helps.
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We just returned from the Mexican Riveria on the Star with our 4 children. Never had to wait in line. We liked Aqua best. The BBQ at pool was good. All other food was hit or miss. Kids liked chicken wings in Blue Lagoon and room service ceasar salad. We ate at Endless Summer and Italian (both free) - nothing wonderful. Ate at Ginza (cover charge) not worth paying more for. The omelet station at breakfast was good. Overall, the trip was great. NCL very good. They just need to improve the food (we have been on Carnival and Celebrity) but it did not in any way ruin our vacation. In fact, we didn't gain as much weight as usual. Ports were great!
The best feature of Freestyle is disembarkation. You never need to wait in a public area to disembark. It was a pleasure to remain in our cabin for our color to be called.
Traditional reserved seating should be implimented for Captains dinner. This evening is usually crowded, with long waits. Most other nights, freestyle dinning works well. We try to eat early, in order to enjoy evening activities on the ship.