As for my next cruise. I would still want to book it on a different cruiseline. Primarly due to curiosity. I want to try as many different cruiselines and itinerary as possible.
Actually, before I booked my cruise on the NCL N.Pearl, I was considering Celebrity or RCCL. I wanted to go on one of the giant Voyager or Freedom class ships of RCCL (which you have cruised on, Sonny). However the N. Pearl had the better price and time for me. Also, I heard great reviews about the N.Pearl, so that finally sold me.
I was on the Pearl for 9 days last year and will be going back in January...I can't say I ran into any of the problems mentioned above. Since I choose not to do the specialty restaurants, I found the main diningrooms were on the same par as any of the other ships I've been on...Most cruiselines have scaled back on the quality of the food in my opinion...I was on the Carnival Spirit to Alaska in Sept. and found the food on the same level as the Pearl. I guess it's each person's perspective of what Good is....as far as nickle diming...you don't have to spend the money..simple as that...as most of us that cruise many times...All cruises are good, some are just better than others...I would rather be cruising on a bad cruise than not cruising at all....Merry Cruising to One and All....
Fraze, I've been on all of them except for the Independence, of which I'll be on a back to back in February. The Freedom class ships are a little bigger than the Voyager class. 140,000 tons vs. 160,000 tons.
One thing we noticed on our last NCL Star cruise in the dining rooms and specialty restaurants was that the food was very good. The plating was excellent, but seems the portion size was cut back. It appeared in all restaurants we found the same situation, great plating, outstanding service but smaller portions. With this in mind, passengers might consider ordering more than one entree. You can get a good variety of the different offerings of entree's. We did this a couple of nights, and it did add alot of variety to our dining experience. On NCL we have had mostly good dining experiences and on the NCL Star one of the best evening meals we had came from one of the "no surcharge" main dining rooms. While we were on the VIP guest list, we also enjoyed eating at Cagney's for breakfast and lunch on a daily basis. For those who are invited to eat at Cagney's for breakfast or lunch, they have added a small buffet of fine breads, pastries, cereals, fruits and fresh salmon. It was really great and this was in addition to the Cagney's menu items.
We did notice that NCL added fresh squeezed orange juice either small or large glasses at a cost to the passenger. Small $2.50 large $3.50. This is were some passengers might think it was a nickle and dime add on. The other couple that we were with did not like the idea to having to pay for the orange juice. So I guess in some circumstances it easy to understand the nickle and dime feeling.
I did too feel a sense that my cruise ship was cutting back on things in the dinning rooms and other places.
You mentioned that they were charging for orange juice (however being "Premium Fresh-Squeezed" as it was). On the N.Pearl they still had the free orange juice. However, it tasted obviously from concentrate and well diluted. I said to myself "Wow! This water tastes just like orange juice!". In addition, they had ice tea and coffee..that was it. Then after breakfast, no more orange juice. That was when ice tea became the sole choice on the juice dispensing machine.
On my Carnival cruises, they had the identical juice dispensing machine which always had at least four choices at all times of the day and night. I remember they had: orange juice, ice tea, lemonade, fruit punch, and maybe another.