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Freestyle: Good or Bad?

Discussion in 'Norwegian Cruise Lines' started by DJP, Jun 30, 2003.

  1. DJP

    DJP Guest

    For those of you who have been on NCL ships pre-Freestyle and have now experienced Freestyle, what do you really think of it? Friends of ours who have cruised before on other lines and have recently cruised on NCL do not like it at all.....long lines for meals in the dining rooms and service not up to par. We have been on the Sea three times and the Wind once before Freestyle was instituted, but now I'm hesitant to book us on a NCL ship because of the bad stories I have heard and we have only cruised Royal Caribbean the last several cruises. Thanks.
  2. kimmy

    kimmy Guest

    Was on the Sun in April and the Dream in May and they were my first experiences with Freestyle. I traveled solo and am in my forties.

    I tend to eat dinner after 8 so I never waited to get into any restaurant. The lines I observed were around 5:30-7 in the main dining rooms. Few folks sprang for the ala carte - some nights I was one of a handful pax there.

    I liked it fine but also enjoy the traditional reserved seatings. Service was good, food was good. No strong opinions.

    I do think it made the cruise more casual and I prefer to dress for dinner so I missed that. And formal nights were pretty much ignored.
  3. Hal

    Hal Guest

    We have travelled on both freestyle and non-freestyle (traditional) cruises. We generally thought Freestyle worked fine. However, it takes something from the cruising expereince and makes it much more like eating in a restaurant at a hotel. We cruised at Christmas on the Sea and waiting for our family of 4 was always very short or non-existent. The waiters were efficient but not as doting or attentive as in traditional cruising. Dress codes are posted at the restaurants but widely disregarded. On Christmas evening, the formal night, we had on suits, etc and the table next to us had on jeans and shorts. Overall, Freestyle is fine for breakfast, lunch and probalby on larger ships with more choices of restaurants. However, freestyle disembarkation was great - had a leisurely breakfast on deck in Miami and then waited in the cabin, while watching TV with the kids.
  4. oceanichouse

    oceanichouse Guest

    Family and I were on the Dawn at Memorial Day. Although I enjoyed the ship, I was a bit underwhelmed with freestyle cruising. Our group did experience lines and disorganization, not just with dining but with other services too. I missed the personal attention that one has with the same staff during the entire cruise that our group would ended up at the same restaurant requesting the same table. It made up for the other displeasures. I am hoping that all things will work out in the end, but I'm heading back to RCCL, Celebrity and HAL. Hal wrote:
  5. halfdome86

    halfdome86 Guest

    We loved the Freestyle dining. We always requested a small table (there were 3 of us) and never had to wait to be seated. We were always seated by a window as well. The service was great and in fact we happened to get the same wait staff 4 out of the 7 nights in the dining room. We do not care however if we have the same wait staff. I don't need somebody to remember my preferences and don't have a problem telling a wait person what I need/want. We also loved the flexability of dining when we were ready, and not schedule around a fixed seating.

    So you really have to decide what's important to you. If you like the casual feel and the freedom to dine when you like than Freestyle is great. If not you probably won't like it.

    As I recall however, we had the option however to choose the same table every night if we wished. We just didn't choose to do that.

    Also the dress is more casual. Jeans however are frowned upon and I don't recall seeing anybody underdressed. Many people however did dress up in formal wear and certainly did not look out of place, nor did the more casually dressed.
  6. marclaw

    marclaw Guest

    While I do miss the tablemates I like freestyle better. Each day is not built around set meal times, rather we eat when hungry or it fits our scheduel ashore. No more rushing back to eat or eating fast to get ashore if the ship is in port for a late evening. You can get the same waiter if you find a good one. Simply ask to be seated at his or her station. On one sailing we met a group of people and found we would go to dinner as a group a lot but also had the freedom to go it alone. I found it works better on the new ships designed for freestyle with lots of chioces(SUN- Nov 01) than on the ships adaptded for freestyle ( Majesty -Aug 00, Sea -Jun 01) but it still works.

  7. WE are so sold on freestyle that I was hesitent to book the Norway for January. Though we didn't have the same wait staff or table mates our service was good and I enjoyed meeting different people each night for dinner. Have been on many ships where you and table mates have very little if anything in common. What a way to spend a week!! Also like eating at different times. Last cruise got back from a shore excursion at 5:45. If we had early seating what a rush. Late seating is fine for some, yet when you have an early morning planned and would like to hit the hay a little early you end up sleeping on a full tummy. Some passengers do dress every night as in traditional which is fine, but it's nice to have the option. Actually I don't think, with exception of no formals for us we dressed much differently. Being able to eat a buffet breakfast last morning and relaxing in the room til debarkation is a plus. The only negative may be the service isn't quite as good, but I have seen that happening over the last few years anyway. Worst service we ever had was on RCL about 3 years ago. It is still a matter of taste, but I think the wave of the future anyway so we might as well all get used to it. More ships are copying NCL and adding alternative dining. Freestyle, I believe is next. Just my humble opinion.

  8. kimmy

    kimmy Guest


    I sure hope you are wrong about that! Freestyle is a nice option and for that there is NCL. But I would be really crushed if that was all there was!

  9. Kimmy, I really do feel that way, but then that's the opinion on an old lady who just thinks she knows everything. Oh, I think there will always be a couple of lines that will not buy the freestyle thing or certainly not for many years, namely HAL. Others I think are just around the corner. They will wait another year or so and then switch over. It may not be totally freestyle as NCL does it, but many things will be adopted. Already speicalty restaurants, as I said have been added. NCL was the first starting with Le Bistro about 7 or 8 years ago. Princess was next. The other lines have followed with much higher prices for alternative dining. Automatic tiping is coming into the picture on other lines as well as NCL. More lines are offering buffets for longer hours in case you can't get to your main dining room at the scheduled time or choose not to dress. Dress has become much more casual as we all know. It will be interesting to see what the future holds. NMNIta
  10. bostongal

    bostongal Guest

    I love freestyle dining. It works for our family very nicely. I don't mind traditional dining and have had great service both with the traditional and the freestyle - depends on the waiter. We usually find a good server on the freestyle ship and then request his or her station every night!



    next cruise: 8/24 NCL Majesty
  11. fuzzlekins

    fuzzlekins Guest

    Question about the freestyle dining ... Do you all find that you MUST have reservations? Or, do you only need them for the specialty restaurants (like La Trattoria or Salsa)? Or, is it only for prime dinner time (5:30-6:30?)? I'm a person that doesn't like commitments on vacation, so I'd prefer to wing it myself, but never having been on a cruise, I'm not sure what to expect/plan. Thanks!

    Also, is it generally difficult to get a table for two or are they easier to get? -- everyone seems to like dining with others

    (sailing on the Norwegian Dawn in November ... Woohoo!!:))
  12. Fuzz, you can only make reservations for the specialty restarurants but you can request to eat at the same time each night and have the same server in the main dining room if you do this the first or second day. Everyone has to do what fits the best for them but I think this would defeat the freestyle concept. Yes, you can get a table for 2. We split it up between table for 2 and eating with others our last cruise. We met so many wonderful couples from all walks of life, from a professor (a little bit boring for us) at Bost University to a retired couple from Washington and everything in between. You have to make your own choices on this issue. We were so happy to make new friends.

  13. star7228

    star7228 Guest

    I'm looking forward to the freestyle dining on the Star in December. We'll be on our honeymoon, and I certainly don't want to be restricted to someone else's schedule telling me when I should eat! And I like being able to sit in different areas of the restaurant. What if you want to sit near the window and your "scheduled" seating is in the middle of the dining room? But I guess it all depends on individual taste, and with so many cruise lines and ships, I'm sure there will always be freestyle and the more traditional cruising.
  14. halfdome86

    halfdome86 Guest

    How is Princess' "Personal Choice" dining different from NCL's "Freestyle" dining? I mean in the main dining room itself, not the alternative, pay cover charge, restaurants.

    We loved the "Freestyle" in the main dining rooms.
  15. I really don't think there is much difference just a few more choices on NCL. Along with the main dining rooms some NCL ships offer the tapa bar which is also free and can be a full meal plus the healthy choice restaurant. Basically I believe the open seating idea is very close to the same on the two ships.

  16. Sestra

    Sestra Guest

    I was hoping Freestyle would better suit our needs, in that on days we are in port and taking excursions, time would force us to use the buffet instead of the Dining Room. On my last cruise, which was on RCCL, we tended to do that anyway, buffet it rather than dress up, except on Captain's Party Night. :) This time I hope to use the Dining Rooms, pay and free, only on "at sea" days.
  17. DKN71500

    DKN71500 Guest

    Just returned on the Dawn this past Sunday. We have cruised before but this was our first freestyle experience. Here is a summary of what we found:

    Positive - You can eat when you want. No more rushing to shower up so you can make it to your seating. The ship is like a little city. You can decide where you want to hang out that night. All the restaurants have their own identity and feel. There are plenty of bars and lounging areas to hang out and wait if there is a wait for a table. If you don't feel like waiting, there are 9 other places to eat. Debarkation was the best we've ever experienced. We got up watched the ship sail into the city, went back to the room and showered, went and had breakfast (full sit-down style), then back to the room to grab our carry-ons and went to sit outside on a lounge chair waiting to be called. Fantastic.

    Negative - I think in some cases the service suffered a little. This seemed to have more to do with the individual waiter/waitress but it was noticeable at some points. Unlike most cruises I've been on the wait staff didn't seem to have the same understanding of the items on the menu that evening. (no big deal) There is definitely more planning and decision making involved. We had a great time on the Dawn but I could have lived without having to coordinate 6 peoples desires for where and when to eat. I missed the set time and place on days where I was tired and didn't want to deal.

    Tips and Tricks - Here is the skinny. There are no set "seatings" but the dinning rooms and restaurants opened at either 5:30 or 6pm. That is obviously going to be the first waive of customers. It takes between 1 1/2 to 2 hours for dinner so that's when they will start to have major turnover. So 7 to 7:30 was the unofficial second seating. What we did was picked the place we wanted to eat that night and one person from our group went by when the place opened. We talked to the maitre'd (not sure how to spell that) about when we wanted to eat. We never waited past the estimated time given to us at that point. If they said 7:30 we went by at 7:15 to tell them we were there and we usually sat right away. Sometimes we sat and had a drink for 15 minutes. Also, as was mentioned in other posts, the crowds were from 5:30 to 7. If you're hungry and can't wait until 7:30 or 8pm you can order a snack from room service at 4 when you get back to the ship (remember it's free). By 8 you'll be ready to eat again. In order to make the 10pm shows try to sit no later than 8pm. This was plenty of time to enjoy your meal and still make it to the show at a leisurely pace. We found no need to eat anywhere besides the 3 main dinning rooms. They were great. No need to pay anything extra unless you have desire for something different.
  18. DKN, you summerized freestyle very well and like you I do think the service suffers just a bit. Nothing to get all worked up over, but a little. Actually I have found this to be somewhat true on other lines in the past 5 years so don't know if it's freestyle or a sign of the times. We did find the service in the specialty restaurants outstanding.

  19. fuzzlekins

    fuzzlekins Guest

    Wow! What a fantastic summary! I'm sailing on the Dawn in November (my first cruise), so it's particularly good info for me. I take it you were on the Bahamas & Florida trip ... How did you like the ports? Any advice on getting off the ship at each port, i.e. wait until the crowd dies down, try to be first in line, etc.?

  20. tokathy

    tokathy Guest

    The Dawn was our first "Free Style" dining experience in over a dozen cruises......but here's my long winded view (From a couple in their 50's):

    Make sure you try the Teppanyaki Room in the Bamboo restaurant....it cost between $10 & $12pp depending on what you order. It's like your local Japanese grill restaurant where you sit around the cooking surface and they entertain you while they cook your meal. The shrimp & filet mignon was excellent....the room (2 grill tables) only hold 18 people total and they have seatings at 5:30, 7:30 and 9:30 so reserve early!

    LaBistro (Extra charge-reservations required & very good service) was excellent the escargot, the cream of mushroom soup served in a sour dough bread bowl....yummy....We thought the filet mignon was a tad better at LaBistro than at Cagney's, but both were good...The whole lobster at Cagney's (also, extra charge-reservations required & good service) was so-so and difficult to eat, and I feel you are better off getting the tails at LaBistro and getting chops or a filet at Cagney's. The Caesar salads were good, different depending on the restaurant (a little garlic flavor in Cagney's)

    For an afternoon or late night snack be sure to try the fried rice bowl in The Blue Lagoon (No extra charge there) , it was very good. Also walking through The Blue Lagoon and grabbing the great cookies they always have out on the counter was a good bet any time (They are open 24 hours) ! Also, the grilled sausage by the pool was good, as was the stir fry and the ribs out there. The hot dogs up at the Bimini pool bar (deck 14) in the afternoon were a waste, no taste, don't waste your hard earned calories on them! Also, their pizza wasn't so great. (I only saw it on the afternoon buffet) , but I'm a thin crust fan.......Salsa's (No extra charge, but reservations requested) (we tried it twice) was a big disappointment....we love Mexican food, and were really looking forward to eating there. The first time we had the shrimp fajita and it had very small shrimp and was quite tasteless. The poppers were fine and the chili was ok. The fried onion appitizer was a crispy on the outside mushy onion on the inside blob...I think I was expecting it to be more like a "bloomin' onion" from our local Outback chain! We had heard so many good reviews about Salsa's that we figured it must be us and we tried it a 2nd night.....not any better. (Maybe it is us) We enjoyed the Mexican buffet they had one evening in the Garden Cafe much more than Salsa's...it was great and they had a huge selection..

    We ate in the Venitian (No extra charge - no reservations required - 15 minute wait at 8PM) on Lobster night and the Filet Mignon was good, the Lobster was so-so (but I think the only half way decent Lobster I ever had on a cruise ship was on a Celebrity Cruise quite a few years ago)......The service everywhere (except Blue Lagoon) was good, and somehow we didn't think it would be...we had read bad things (on three different cruise message boards) about the service speed and quality and we were pleasantly surprised.....but we always had a table for two...I heard many larger groups dining together complaining about slow service....and the term "Butt Numbing" experience used to describe dinner in the 3 main dining rooms......

    We ate at Aqua (No extra charge-no reservations required) once (Pretty good) and never made it to Impressions or the Italian Restaurant (Actually part of the buffet area coverted in the evening to an Italian Restaurant) Impressions had the same menu as the Venitian and I liked the decor in Venitian better.....it seemed like a small scale of a tradition cruise ship's dining room with a nice big aft window. Aqua was a similar menu nightly to Impressions and the Venitian. Many nights I wasn't very impressed with the menus at those 3 locations, so we would go to one of the pay extra specialty spots those nights.

    A good idea is to go to the reception desk and ask to see the looseleaf binder that holds all the menus for the duration of your cruise. We did that, then decided which nights we didn't care for their offerings and reserved one of the specialty restaurants for those nights. We were lucky to have concierge service so we never had trouble getting reservations when and where we wanted......non concierge passengers had to go to a little table set up in the main atrium and reserve the same day & were only allowed to reserve one day ahead for specialty restaurants.... many times the more desirable dining times were gone or nothing was available and they were turned away........

    As far as tipping...I found that awkward. They add tips to your final room bill and the extra fee for the specialty restaurants (I believe) is supposed to be the gratuity for the servers there, but we always felt we needed to leave something everywhere we ate. Your servers will bring you your bar beverages also, so at the end of the meal you will get a check for that and we would add something to the bar bill for the dinner servers (the bar bills all have 15% added to your beverages already). When we carried our own drinks from another bar and didn't have a bar bill at the table we would leave a little cash for the server. We saw others doing that too...handing it to the servers. For better service some folks pre-tipped when they sat down and that always assured them the best service. Most places we left an extra $5 in cash and if the servers felt we were cheap we'll never know.......it made me feel better to leave a little something!

    I know this will sound petty, but I did miss certain little touches that we've had on other cruise lines....like someone handing you your tray at the buffet line with your utensils and plate already on it...along with a linen napkin & place mat (NCL had paper napkins that would blow away and no placemats) and having the staff take your tray to a table for you.....Sometimes your food would get cold as you looked for an available clean table. A few times I would get a little way down the food line and realize I didn't have a bowl or soup spoon or something else I needed....On the Dawn I felt like I was in a High School cafeteria..... I told you this was petty..... I have rambled enough..... and this was WAY more than you asked for.........

    But in summary we seemed to eat the same time every night anyway (around 8pm) and I lean towards traditional late seating.......you can always go to the specialty restaurant or the buffet on any ship for a change of pace.....


    PS: When you are at the reception desk looking at the dinner menus be sure to order the map of your cruise for $10. It's the best souvenier, it's a map with your cruise charted on it and signed by the Captain. They will charge it to your room and deliver it to your cabin the last day of your cruise. Much better than the usual cruise keepsakes and easy to pack!

    Post Edited (07-17-03 11:00)

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