Freestyle Versus Traditional
Hello everyone and thanks in advance for your help.
My wife and I are contemplating a cruise next fall. Actually it will most likely be my parents, sister and husband, and my wife and me. Originally it was my intention that just my wife and I go. The others thought it would be great to all go. We all were thinking of an October 08 Pacific Mexico sailing. And then the debate started: which line?
My wife and I enjoy traditional dining, but are willing to try freestyle dining. My wife's only cruise was on the HAL and I've been on one Celebrity and two HAL sailings. We like the whole cruising expereince. We enjoy formal nights. As we don't care to be around rowdy drunk people, we don't think we would enjoy Carnival.
My parents have been on about 17 cruises inlcuding Princess, RCCL, NCL, and several HAL sailings. They are in their 70's and want a quiet cruise. They did not like the NCL experience.
My sister has been on about eight cruises to include Disney (Big Red Boat), Carnival, Renaissance, Princess, and NCL sailings. I think she's been on three NCL sailings. She loves freestyle cruising. She considers it a 'flexible' experience because she is a 'flexible' person. She thinks its the only way to sail.
So my wife and I are deluged with opinions. We've read people's opinions. Based on that here is what we've learned and can some of you give me some unbiased feedback. No one wants to spend money and time (which we are very short on) on a cruise expereince they don't like.
My experience on a traditional dining cruise is that I can eat in the dining room at an assigned time, the specialty dining room at a reserved time, the buffet at any reasonable dinner time, and room service at any reasonable dinner time. My wife and I have done all of these and have been happy. We did have to wait ten minutes for the reservation. In the dining room and restaurant you are asked to dress to the night's dress theme. At the buffet you can wear anything except swim wear. And in your room you can be naked.
My impression on a freestyle dining cruise is that I can eat at one of several restaurants mostly at a reserved time and sometimes on a walk in basis for early or late dinner hours. I understand that there is no dress code in any dining venue.
I have heard:
1.) That to eat in the popular restaurants I will need to make reservations very quickly upon boarding. If this is true, it seems restrictive to have to plan out my week on the first day.
2.) Even with reservations I will most likely have to wait ten to twenty minutes for a table during peak dinner hours.
3.) NCL food can range from mediocre to excellent, but it will depend on the specialty cost of the restaurant.
4.) If my wife and I dress in a tux and an evening gown, we will be the only ones.
5.) NCL offers a wide range of cuisines on every night.
So here are my questions:
1.) If all six of us eat together what range of choices do we have on the menu in one restaurant?
2.) If it's freestyle to everyone, which nights are formals nights or are they elimnated?
And here are my dumb questions.
1.) How easy it to change reservations mid way through the cruise?
2.) If meals are freestyle, are the shows and activities? Do I need to schedule the meals around the shows?
And for the slanted question:
3.) I've watched the NCL commercials and they portray NCL as a cruise line that has no schedules to follow. Now this seems silly; can I attend a yoga class at anytime or get on and off the ship at anytime or attend a show at anytime or go to the disco at anytime? Can I dress anyway I want at anytime (short of nude or disgraceful)?
My conclusion without sailing on NCL is:
1.) The only freestyle element is the dining and whether to dress formally or casually each night.
2.) To dine in the finer venues I have to accept whatever dining times are available when I make reservations and I have to accomplish this early in the cruise.
3.) The buffet and room service have the same rules as traditional dining style cruises.
My sister told me, excitedly yes, isn't it great, it's really a awesome for a flexible person. (She accuses me of being very rigid.)
I thought wow, I'm not seeing it. I want to relax and not have to write on my hand what day of the week it is and when and where I'm eating that day. I'm thinking too much stress, I'm on vacation.
I like the idea of being able to change my dinner time and venue each night, but it doesn't seem like it really works that way. It seems like I need to make all my choices on the first day and stick with them or eat in the buffet.
I've never been dissappointed in the dining room on sailings that I've done. I have been failed to be wowed on occasion, but I wouldn't expect any different on any other line. I'm flexible and can accept the same dining room each night and I do like having the same wait staff all week.
I think I would enjoy a greater variety of cuisines throughout the cruise, but I think newer ships on other lines are offering an increased variety of cuisines in theme based restaurants.
OK, now that I've written a novel - sorry - Please debunk my non-truths. Please releive me of my incorrect perceptions.
I know a lot of people really like NCL and freestyle cruising. Please tell me why.
Ypu provide a well written, thoughtful post.
We cruised NCL in Feb of 07 and HAL in Dec of 07.
I'll make MY opinion short and sweet:
Stick with HAL. The quality and choice of food blows NCL away.
"Freestyle" cruising on NCL is a joke. We got into ONE specialty restaraunt (Cagney's) and though the food there was tasty, the portions were embarassingly miniscule.
The rest of the restaurants were either always booked or so under staffed they seemed closed.
The main negative of our cruise with NCL was the food.
Check out my review.
Re: Freestyle Versus Traditional
And I somewhat disagree with Dan. I do love HAL, but I love NCL also. They are totally different experiences. we found the food in the sur charge restaurants outstanding and the portions very acceptable. In the main dining rooms I do agree: the portions are small. To me this is better than wasting food. You can alsways ask for more. We also enjoy the variety of restaurants and found the specialty dining rooms better than Pennicle Grill considering the price.
The cabins on HAL are larger but we like the overall energy on NCL and the entertainment they offer. The service is a matter of opinion.
If your sister likes freestyle, you are unsure of NCL and your wife's partents really are not crazy over NCL have you thought about Princess? They have Personal Choice dining which is similar to freestyle and offer great food. I think their entrees are outstanding, but HAL has better buffets. Of course I think a buffet is a buffet. You have only part of the freestyle idea right, but it sounds as though you have made up your mind not to enjoy what NCL offers. This being the case it may not be the right cruise line for you.
Even though we had some mixed feelings after our Princess cruise last month it does seem this would be a compromise for you.
Nita :wink: :roll:
nmnita, you are my sweetheart and I knew you would weigh in.
I made sure to mention that this was MY opinion.
The portions in Cagney's are so very small and you cannot ask for more without an additional charge...this is a fact.
Again, I do think the OP would be better off on some other line.
I appreciate your insights and thank you for taking the time to post.
To Fern, I do already know the answer to my question, but I still had to ask.
To Nita, I am not predisposed to disliking the NCL experience.
My dissappointment is that NCL (and my sister) seem to feel there is something really different and special about freestyle cruising. Their advertising seems to make it sound like I can do anything I want at anytime wearing anything. (Which I know is not the case.) According to their dress up game on the Internet, I can wear a snorkel and fins into the dining room.
What I really want to know is do people think their product is really different than other cruiseline's products?
I do recognize that they offer more dining choices. But that comes at a price - different wait staff each night: important to some, not important to others.
I do recognize that they do not have a dress code. Again, some enjoy this and some do not.
I've heard good and bad about the food on NCL, just like I've heard about the food on other lines.
Princess is a viable alternative and is recommended by many. NCL is recommended by many. If I avoid unrealistic expectations prior to boarding, I will experience fun on an NCL cruise.
Again, thanks, I'd like to hear more,
Yes, if you go into the experience having an idea what to expect and are not looking for an HAL cruise you may be pleasantly surprised, but from you remarks, especially the first posting it does sound like you don't expect it to be a good experience. You are looking for those of us who are loyal to NCL to give you so many positives that you will bend and consider the line. To be honest I don't feel I can do that.
As a travel agent, if you came to me and asked the questions you have I would most likely try to stear you to another line.
Food choices do come with prices to pay, one being the pampering type of service you may be accustom to will not exist, but for many that is ok. Others it is not.
AS for the commercials, you know as well as most of us, ads are a marketing tool and no one really beleives you can wear snorkeling gear to dinner. I think anyone with an average brain would get the idea what is meant by the ads, or I certainly hope so.
Spot on! (Your TA instincts are good and welcome.)
I do enjoy the good service and I do enjoy the formal nights.
Again, if I were to sail NCL, I have a better understanding of what to expect and I will not be faced with unfulfilled expectations.
I am looking for influences to help me change my perception. Their commercials influence me to think poorly of them. Anyone who attacks what I enjoy will tend to repel me. A better approach for me is to invite me to try something new that you think I will enjoy.
So I am looking to those loyal to NCL to compensate for the impact that the NCL advetising has made upon me and share with me their unbiased experiences. If they are appealing to me, I will reconsider my perception of NCL.
However, as another poster stated, I should go with my parents preference due to their age and position in life.
It's nice to receive such well thought out responses.
I have to agree with some other posters - I think Princess would be your best bet. We have been on NCL & Princess just recently. Both were good experiences. I think the parents and sister would do well with this option, and you could do anytime dining and still dress up. That's what we like to do.
On NCL we didn't have any trouble making dinner reservations like I hear some say. I usually just called about 10am and made them for that night and the following night. (We usually eat at 8-8:30, so this could have been a factor) The surcharge restaurants were very good - esp liked LeBistro. But you couldn't do these truly "freestyle" as they needed a reservation. Went to the regular dining room twice - but not impressed.
So even tho your sister doesn't want to make plans, you will still need to. I did like the NY Deli part of their buffet - nice change. I was on the Dawn - so needed ressy in the Mexican and Italian venues also (Both good)
Since we eat later, on NCL it was difficult to get to their shows. The early was way too early and the late one was over before we got there. Princess has one that caters to the late diners. And there is always Skywalkers for a great dance treat!
Whatever you decide, I wish you a wonderful trip! If you decide on Princess, be sure and try one of their souffles at night for dessert - heavenly!! :D
I appreciate the responses. When the bantering started, people revealed different perspectives about 'freestyle' style cruising.
My observation is that NCL offers a greater variety of dining choices :) . However, it seems that with the exception of traditional dining assigned times, dinner time is no more flexible on NCL than on other lines :( . It also comes with the compromise of having no set formal nights. Some think it's the best and other's can pass on it.
Citing back to the original post and some subsequent posts, my wife and I decided we would be happy with either NCL, Princess, or HAL. We liked the idea of my parents choosing. My sister immediatly objected and accused my wife and me of being inflexible if we couldn't accept sailing on NCL. She announced she would only sail on NCL. I predict the 'family' cruise isn't going to happen. If not, we'll return to the plan of our own cruise.
My wife and I thought it would be nice to go on a cruise and only pack five bathing suits, five T-shirts, and a pair of sandals. Our conclusion is the only real compromise of sailing NCL would be not having a formal night.
Maybe an idea :idea: for NCL would be to have formal alternative restaurant. this way, we wouldn't be the only ones in tuxes and gowns.
leave your whiney sister at home: only kidding of course. I think your idea is a good one. NCL did this at first, one dining room was assigned for formal a couple of nights a week. Then they went to the totally formal optional and said only "jeans and tube tops" not allowed. That is how it stands now. I agree with you, although many now choose NCL because it is totally casual, there will always be those who really enjoy dressing up one or two nights.
I just think you and your sister are incompatible and shouldn't cruise together at all. You should be sailing on Cunard, by the way, you would love it (it's my favorite) and your sister should go on NCL (my second favorite).
(Sorry this has gone off topic)
"I just think you and your sister are incompatible and shouldn't cruise together at all."
Sadly, you are very correct. Everytime I try to deal with her it turns out the exact same way. I'm accused of being anal and rigid because I don't want to do things her way. Ironically in this case my parents don't want to cruise her way and she won't accept any other way.
The original intent was that my wife and I cruise on our own. Then my mother really wanted to try to have all of us cruise together. I've cruised with my parents in the past and I thought it was awesome.
(Now back on cruise topic) I've found that cruising is the way to travel with relatives. You can spend as much time together or apart as you want. The cruise experience offers so many varied activities as to please almost all pallets.
At first I was reluctant to try NCL. However ,after hearing from all of you (the good and the bad) I know what to expect and I think it would be fun. It just wouldn't be my first choice.
Now that the family war has re-commenced, my wife and I will return to our original plan. The sad aspect of this is that my parents still want to cruise. If we invite just my parents, my sister will cause consternation and accuse me colluding against her.
Cunard sounds like it would be great. I am interested in your aspect of why you feel I should be sailing Cunard. They are a bit of a budget stretch for me.
Thanks for you interest!
We cruise as family activity -- the two of us and each of our parents. It's great... we can all do our own thing and we get together for two meals a day, generally, and see who wants to go to shows, etc., together, but there is no obligation for always-togetherness.
You would enjoy the formal 'edge' on Cunard. Everything you said about formal dress and formal night is true on Cunard. And no one looks at you twice for being formal, even if it's not formal night! It was fun for that reason. We enjoy the total relaxation, informal atmosphere of NCL for another kind of vacation.
Why not arrange to cruise with your parents, since you clearly would enjoy that, then invite your sister along for whatever cruise you've chosen? At least you're being open to her coming along that way, without caving to her demands. Not that I should be interfering with your family dynamics...
Re: Freestyle Versus Traditional
We just came off the NCL Jewel and we found that if you are flexible with your dinning times, you wont need reservations at some venues....there are monitors all over the ship that tell you at a glance how many seats are available in various restaurants. Alot of time hubby and I walked up at 9 o'clock and had no waits what so ever, so if you can be flexible, free style is the way to go. But I will have to say that I much preferred the dining room food on Carnival, but preferred buffett food on NCL (go figure-i'm not normally a big fan of buffet foods, but NCL is YUMMY) :D
Hi, just got back from NCL Majesty,this is our 8th cruise,4 w/NCL, and out last with NCL. I personally don't like the freestyle, everyone decides to go eat at the same time, we waited 30-45 minutes for dinner at the dining room. Also, with assigned seating you have the same waiters evry time, you build a repore w/them,assuring good service,(and you know who to tip in the end I think freestyle detracts from the whole cruise experience.We had 1 formal night for pictures,no captains dinner,no send off dinner,also I know they want it to be casual but under the freestyle rules people dressed like slobs. By the way,you won't feel overdressed with a tux,some of us still have the decency to dress appropiatley,hope this response helps and happy cruising,DENNIS
If this was your first experience with Freestyle remember, the Majesty was not designed for freestyle so it doesn't work as well as it does on other ships. When the Dream and Majesty are gone all NCL ships will be totally Freestyle designs.
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