I loved it. It was the easiest thing ever. I sailed on the Spirit on March 24 (check out my review) and the dining was the easiest part of the whole voyage. I am taking four kids on Carnival next month and I am dreading the old school dining straitjacket.
Boy - you said it perfectly! In your review, you say "The thing about the Spirit is the whole far surpasses the sum of its parts" - I don't think there is any way to better describe the NCL experience. Thanks for a great review.
Tom and Nancyn
It seems to me by your posts that NCL is pretty high on your list. We are planning on the Jewel in the spring.It will be a saving's of about 600.00 dollars for the two of us.We have been very happy with Celebriry for the most part, and have been sticking with them. But now they have really gotten so high priced we are looking for another avenue. Do you think we will be as satified with NCL?I really value both of your opinion's.Thanks in advance for your advice.Tom
Tom, that is a tough one. First of all, NCL seems to draw a different crowd than Celebrity does. I love Celebrity and have never really had a difficult passenger load on them. However, I have had passenger loads on NCL that I didn't have much in common with. I think that is a major difference between the two lines.
Also, I would strongly suggest dining in the alternative restaurants every evening. This was a high point for me, but then the regular restaurant was not at all on par with Celebrity. I really liked being able to go to a different restaurant when I chose to go.
Freestyle is great if you "do your own thing" both in ports and at dinner time and go with the anticipation that it will be different than Celebrity and worth trying.
Many of the people that I have talked to that didn't like it, just didn't want to try to cruise in a different style than they were used to. They resented paying extra for the alternative dining restaurants and they liked having their dinner mates and waitors the same every night.
I hope that helps. Freestyle isn't for everyone, but I see a lot of advantages with it...and some disadvantages too.
Re Freestyle/dining alone. I just got back yesterday from an 11-day NCL Alaska cruise. I went on my own and worried about eating alone. I only dined alone (twice) when I elected to and never felt uncomfortable; all the other meals were with people I met on the ship. Yes, you must make the arrangements with the other passengers in advance but I didn't find that a problem.
As Tom (Ogg) wrote - that is a real tough one to answer. I do not think you can really make a fair comparison between NCL and Celebrity. As a premium cruise line Celebrity excels and NCL is an average mainstream product (thus the major price variance). I wouldn't put NCL high on my list, it is just a great product for the right passenger. I have had a great time on NCL - but, as Tom mentioned, I chose to dine every night with the exception of one (just for comparison purposes) in the alternative dining venues. Meals and service were excellent - but I paid extra for the privilege. I was not impressed with quality of food or service in the main dining room. I did, however, enjoy the freedom to dine where, when and with whom I wanted.
Again, as Tom mentioned - passenger load is quite different on the two fleets. NCL tends to have many bargain shoppers looking for that "deal" and Celebrity passengers tend to be more inclined to value quality and service over price.
Will you see a difference between the two cruise lines? Most definitely! Will you enjoy your cruise on NCL? That is entirely up to you! If you go with the attitude that you are trying something different, are willing to pay the extra price for quality food and service while on board and can appreciate (or at least accept) the more relaxed dress code than you should have a good time! Remember, as in life, a cruise is what you make it - just plan to have fun and enjoy the moment.
NancyN and Tom
Thank you both very much for your input.After talking to both of you maybe I better hold out and see if we can get a deal on the Millenium.We belong to the Captain's club so maybe they will offer a special that is within reason. Thanks again.Tom
On QE2 and on Spirit I was traveling with my mother, who tends to crash early and bet excruciatingly small sums of money at the casino- unbearable to watch- so I was pretty much a single after 8pm.
Tips for finding dinner companions: by all means ingratiate yourself with the bar staff. The smaller the bar, the better. The bartender will do his/her part in making introductions, and the piano player will also be happy to play songs you like, which will make you famous for 2.5 minutes, and others will remark on your magnificent Billy Joel request, etc., and you will have dinner companions before you know it.
Sounds basic but it works.
If all else fails just keep an eye on the parents traveling with small children, particularly after a day of extreme sun. Try to find those traveling with one set of inlaws. This works particularly well if you are divorced. Try to focus on a few families that catch your eye. You will be so thrilled to be relaxing on your own, free to do what you wish, that the whole solo thing seems like a gift.
I think the rubber hits the road when it comes time to eat alone. But I was newly separated on QE2 and at a table with honeymooners and those celebrating anniversaries. There has to be an in between!
Now comes Carnival and to tell you the truth, I am dreading it.