Occupation:Retired Travel Agency Owner
Number of Cruises: 156
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Dream
Sailing Date: May 12th, 2001
Itinerary: Baltic Sea
This ship, while very comfortable and welcoming, does lack a true Lido Deck Restaurant which may bother some folks. This was due to the ship being lengthened in 1999. Therefore you will have the following dinning options: Le Bistro, (a dinner only restaurant) which has a Northern Italian Menu ($10 cover charge per person each dinning night) The Terraces (a full scale dinning room with better service than the larger dinning room called the Four Seasons) the Four Seasons (a full scale dinning room), The Sports Bar, a cafeteria style dinning venue that is rather small and really not very suitable for the new size of the passenger load, The Trattoria, on deck 11 forward, this option is rarely found by a lot of passengers, The Pizza Restaurant also on deck 11 mid ship is another cafeteria venue with the added availability of pizza. We did not try Le Bistro, but the food in the two full scale dinning rooms was very good. The food in the other venues (excepting Le Bistro) was at best "so-so". We much preferred the dinning rooms for any meal.
We have cruised a lot on NCL (4 times in 2001 alone) so this was not our first experience with NCL's Freestyle Cruising. However, we found that Freestyle Cruising was a bit of a mystery to a lot of the passengers boarding in Dover, England for this cruise. About 25% of the passengers were English and were expecting a more traditional cruise experience, which Freestyle Cruising is not. Under Freestyle Cruising the dress code anytime, anywhere is "Resort Casual". However, each ship has to determine what "Resort Casual" means to them, particularly in the dinning rooms at dinner. In February 2001, while on board the Norwegian Sky, we found that no jeans of any kind, designer or not, were allowed in the dinning rooms. In contrast, any kind of jeans were allowed in the dinning rooms, on board the Norwegian Wind on the Coastal Positioning Cruise on April 24, 2001 and on the Norwegian Dream on this cruise (departing Dover for the Baltic Capitals Cruise on May 12, 2001). In our opinion, this lack of consistency in the dress code translation is disturbing. Let me also note that there were two formal nights on this cruise where formal dress was optional. But you might well be dressed to the nines and having a great time and a wonderful dinner, although the passengers at the next table might well be dressed in the ambiguous "resort casual", which on some ships (and that included the Dream on this cruise), as we have noted, means the folks at the next table could be wearing white t-shirts and ragged jeans. In our opinion this takes a lot away from the ambience of cruising. Freestyle also means that you can eat in any dining venue at the posted times. For the two full scale dinning rooms (The Terraces and the Four Seasons) that means that you can eat at anytime between 5:30pm and 12:00am, although you do have to place your order before 10:00pm. That initially really appealed to everyone, then the realization set in on them. In the Four Seasons particularly, the tables directly on edge of both the port and starboard sides of the dinning room, offering the best sea view quickly became reserved and unavailable. That was due to another little known quirk in Freestyle Cruising. If you desire, you may setup a standing reservation for a particular table at the same time each evening for every night of the cruise. By the third day of the cruise, all of the highly desirable seaview tables had been reserved with a standing reservation for each evening and were mostly unavailable to those that just came into the dinning room to be seated without a reservation.
Another feature of Freestyle Cruising that surprised a lot of passengers was the gratuity policy. Each day of the cruise, until you make an alteration, $10 is added to your shipboard account for each passenger in the cabin. That meant that for my husband and myself, $20.00 each day was added to our shipboard account. Hence, a 12 day cruise, as this was, would have a charge of $240.00 at the end of the cruise on your shipboard account to be shared "Greek Style" among all service personnel, except the bar staff which automatically receive a 15% tip on every transaction.
We felt that the cruise staff was adequate but not notable, especially the Cruise Director. There were a few individual exceptions such as Zak and Julie who were top notch, but overall the cruise staff was blah. The Captain was great and he sort of made up for the blah cruise staff.
The cruise entertainment production numbers with the resident Ryan Dance Company were very good. The fly aboard entertainers were generally lousy (two comedians, a magician, and a singer) The exception was the singer who was good.
Bar Service was good. Musical entertainment in the areas other than the main show room were also very good. The selection in the onboard shops was limited as you might expect, and a bit highly priced.
The shore excursions offered were very plentiful and generally good, but also rather highly priced. We found that a much better alternative was to use the local offerings off the ship. Yes, you do have to be careful and aware of your return times. However, almost always we were able to save at least 50% off of the shipboard shore excursion price.
People were very friendly and generally were folks that had cruised before. We felt the cruise was a good value, and the itinerary was wonderful. We will cruise on NCL again, and as usual, will deal with Freestyle Cruising by using the exceptions within the rules to our benefit. We do like to dress up on formal nights and we do like to have a standing reservation in the dinning room with a particular waiter and table each night.