We have sailed Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity a dozen times each and NCL a couple of times along with several other lines.
For Alaska we feel the Royal Caribbean ships offer more glass or viewing space than any othe ships. The food however is better on Celebrity or Princess.
NCL and "freestyle" dining doesn't sit well with us, so they wouldn't be on the top of my list.
Without knowing what ship or route you plan to sail it's very difficult to say what ship would be best for you.
We are doing Alaska agian on Regal Princess from San Francisco and Zaandam from Seattle in summer of 2006.
Pls advise what specific ships or route's you are considering.
We sailed NCL to Alaska a few years back and had no problems at all.
Freestyle's mains advantage is in the dining room. No set time or table for dinner. Less formal attire as well. So if you love the fixed seatings then Freestyle is not for you. If you're loose about dinner, it's great.
You ask what Freestyle is all about? First I want to say it is not for everyone but becoming more popular all the time. Freestyle means several things, mostly referring to dining. You can eat anytime and anywhere you choose. The Sun has 3 specialty restaurants with extra charges ranging from about $12 to $20. You do not have to eat in any of them, but I do recommend you try one, at least as the are awesome. There will also be a healthy choice restaurant ( I think it is still there) with no extra charge plus a tata bar with snacks you can make an entire meal out of. Of course there are the usual 2 main dining rooms and the buffet. The dining rooms start serving dinner about 5:30 and continue til 10pm. Some people like to eat an early dinner, see a show or play in the casino and then return to the dining room for dessert just before closing. When freesyle dining was first offered there were lots of hitches, long waits for dining, service slow and not up to par with traditional dining, etc. Many of these glitches have been ironed out.
As for food quality, this is a matter of opinion: I would rate NCL above RCI but below Celebrity. Cabin size on the Sun: very nice but Celebrity has better storage (cabins identical in size) RCI cabins may or may not be smaller, depending on what ship you are considering.
The entertainment will be better on NCL and service similar, depending on your cabin steward. some people do not like the required $10 per day service charge; we find it very easy. If your service is really below par you can talk to the management, if there is not improvement you can get the $10 adjusted, but it is unlikely you will have poor service.
Another feature offered with freestyle is a little more relaxed dress code. Jeans, shorts and T shirts or tank tops are still not allowed in the dining rooms after 6pm but the formal nights are formal optional: Alaska cruisers seem to be a bit less formal anyway so you will find only about 50% of the passengers choosing to dress in formal attire. The rest will range form polo shirts and dockers to sport jackets, with the gals in cute sun type dresses or capris. If you have anymore questions I or someone else would be glad to give you our opinions. NMnita
I usually travel CCL or RCL but tried the NCL Sun in December when it was in Houston and LOVED it! I really liked the freestyle dining and in Alaska it would be a real plus to me since you are mainly doing excursions and don't want to have to plan around dinner or have to eat alternate dining every day. Or if you are looking at some fantastic scenery you don't want to say - "come on honey it is time for dinner." We were always late to traditional dinner anyway and it was hard in Hawaii where we ate mainly alternate till you got to sea days with traditional dining. So anyway with two people it is very nice. When you have a group that is hard to get together than traditional is nice since you all have a set time. Anyway - we loved the NCL Sun and we go again in a minute. Also at least the glass around the pool is clear and not green as on RCL. I personally prefer no glass on CCL... AH - maybe I can design a ship for a cruise line??? hahaha Debbie
Some cruise lines do certain areas better than others. For an Alaska cruise my first choice would be Holland America followed by Princess. I would pay the difference, over the other two you mentioned.
Bar, I do agree with you with one exception: I would do Princess over HAL if I was under 50 or so. As hard as they try they still are the ships for the over the hill, blue haired citizens which I am one of: no blue hair though. I do think NCL is offering a pretty good Alaskan itinerary these days and being able to sail out of Seattle can be a big savings to many cruisers. NMNita
Besides being able to eat when and where you want, one of the things we enjoyed about Freestyle was disembarkation. You can stay in your cabin (or almost anywhere else) until your color is called. The buffet is also open for breakfast and you can get (early) room service.
We loved not being crammed into some lounge for a couple of hours with 100's of others!
I agree with Debbie! Thanks for all the advice before our cruise. While we did have some problems , overall the cruise was very nice.
"A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour."
Carnival Inspiration 2002 Carnival Elation 2004
Grand Princess 2004 NCL Sun 2005
Sun Princess 2006 NCL Dream 2007
Caribbean Princess 2007 NCL Dawn 2008
Island Princess 2008 Island Princess 2009
Golden Princess 2009 Carnival Conquest 2010
Grand Princess 2010 Island Princess 2011
Grand Princess 2011 Carnival Magic 2012
Carnival Dream 2012 Island Princess 2013
Carnival Magic 2013 Carnival Legend 2014