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In need of some NCL help

Discussion in 'Norwegian Cruise Lines' started by JollyMon78, May 9, 2008.

  1. JollyMon78

    JollyMon78 Guest

    I have only cruised RCCL and really like them. I have cruised quite a few times with them, however my wife and I need to get away for a short cruise before a new job. RCCL didn't have anything so I went out to NCL and found a great 4 night cruise to the Bahamas on the SKY and now we are getting to bring our 2.5 yo son because he gets to go for under $100. I would like some tips on how NCL does things. You know, the good and bad, and the best way to get by with the least amount of hassle. I know all of RCCL's process and shortcuts on things and I know the little things to make a cruise more enjoyable but what do I need to know for this August cruise?
     
  2. Cruizer

    Cruizer Guest

    The NCL Sky is currently sailing as the NCL-A Pride of Aloha. Before that it was known as the NCL Sky. The ship began sailing around August 1999 as the Norwegian Sky. Around July 2004 it was re-flagged as the Pride of Aloha. Soon, it will be re-flagged again as the Sky.

    The biggest issue will be the Freestyle dining. The advertising brochure says this means you can eat where you want, when you want and with who you want. However, there are limits. The first of which is, this ship was built before the Freestyle dining concept was thought of. As a result, it was not designed with Freestyle dining in mind. This means it has less restaurant choices than the ships built two years later which were designed for Freestyle dining.

    You do not have a set dinner time or place. There are several restaurants and you can go to any one your want, when you want, and share a table with friends or strangers or not share a table. However, there are some practicable limits to this. First the obvious one. If everyone decides to eat at 6:00pm, someone is going to have to wait. Also, the shows have a set schedule. So, if you want to see a show, you have to plan accordingly.

    The restaurants can be divided into three groups:

    1) Free restaurants that do not take reservations
    2) Free restaurants that do take reservations
    3) Extra cost restaurants that require reservations

    There should be two main restaurants. Remember, the Sky does not exist yet (again). It is currently the Pride of Aloha and will go into dry dock before reemerging as the Sky. While it will be upgraded to Freestyle 2.0, I am not privy to what changes will be made to the inside (beyond having a casino added). The two main restaurants are free and do not take reservations unless you are a large group (I believe eight or more).

    There will be some specialty restaurants. These are also free, but require reservations. It has been my experience that the quality of the food in the specialty restaurants is better than the main restaurants. However, I have only been on two NCL cruises (the Star and the Jade) totaling 21 nights.

    Finally there will be some extra cost restaurants. As you might guess, these have the highest level of service and quality of food (would you pay extra if it was the same quality that you would get in the free restaurants?). If you are not in a suite, you need to make your reservations early (I made mine early in the morning).

    Check the Freestyle Daily (the ship's daily newspaper - the same as the Compass). It will tell you when the extra cost restaurants are half price. This is the slow period. Not only are the extra cost restaurants half price, but the other restaurants are less crowded also. Sometimes I could get into a restaurant that required reservations without a reservation because I went during this slow period, when there were more empty tables then full ones.

    For more information, read the reviews. Here are mine (I warn you, they are long) ...

    Star - Oct 2005:
    First four nights - http://www.cruise-addicts.com/reviews/readreview.php?id=176
    Last four nights - http://www.cruise-addicts.com/reviews/readreview.php?id=177

    Jade - Feb 2008:
    Part 1 - http://www.cruise-addicts.com/reviews/readreview.php?id=331
    Part 2 - http://www.cruise-addicts.com/reviews/readreview.php?id=332
    Part 3 - http://www.cruise-addicts.com/reviews/readreview.php?id=333
     
  3. Don Clark

    Don Clark Guest

    Welcome to the NCL forum.

    The main difference between NCL and RCCL is NCL's Freestyle Dining.
    There are no early and late seatings for dinner at the Main Restaurants, and the dress code is Resort Casual every night. You can dine early one night, and late the next without setting up reservations.

    But, if you plan to dine at the Specialty Restaurants, some of which have a surcharge and some don't, you should set up reservations, as they are small and popular. My best hint is to book these reservations early. You can book them by phone, at the restaurant during that day or the day before, or at the main reservations counter near the main lobby or atrium.

    On the Sky, here are the restaurant choices:

    Four Seasons Main Restaurant(Main Dining Room)
    Cuisine: Continental
    Dress Code: No shorts after 6:00 p.m. in the dining rooms.
    Surcharge: No
    Reservations Required: No

    Seven Seas Main Restaurant(Main Dining Room)
    Cuisine: Continental
    Dress Code: No shorts after 6:00 p.m. in the dining rooms.
    Surcharge: No
    Reservations Required: No

    Horizons Trattoria
    Cuisine: High-end Italian
    Dress Code: No shorts after 6:00 p.m. in the dining rooms.
    Surcharge: Yes, $12.50 per person
    Reservations Required: Yes

    Le Bistro French Restaurant
    Cuisine: French
    Dress Code: No shorts after 6:00 p.m. in the dining rooms.
    Surcharge: Yes, $12.50 per person
    Reservations Required: Yes

    Ciao Chow
    Cuisine: Italian & Chinese
    Dress Code: No shorts after 6:00 p.m. in the dining rooms.
    Surcharge: Yes, $12.50 per person
    Reservations Required: Yes

    Garden Cafe/Great Outdoor Grill
    Cuisine: Assorted Buffet, Food Stations, Snacks & Grill
    Dress Code: Casual
    Surcharge: No
    Reservations Required: No

    There are also 24 hour Room Service , and a Lido (pool) Deck Bar-B-Q most afternoons.

    The other major difference, besides the facilities aboard the ship between NCL and RCCL, is how they handle tips.
    RCCL hands out envelopes the last night with recommended guidelines that add up to $10 per day, NCL charges $10 per day per adult passenger automatically to your on board account. You're free to tip more for exceptional service on both cruise lines.

    Presently, NCL has a promo for kids sailing free (no fares charges, but still charging for taxes and fees).
     
  4. Don Clark

    Don Clark Guest

    To add some hints specifically for the Sky.

    The Sky's "Standard" Inside and Oceanview cabins are smaler than the "Superiors".
    The Standard Inside cabin is 121 sq. ft. The Superior Inside cabin is 147 sq. ft.
    The Superior Oceanview cabins have a sofa by the window, the Standard Oceanview cabins do not.
    You should consider whether to book a Standard or Superior cabin when booking. For a family of four in one cabin, I highly recommend booking a Superior cabin.
     
  5. nmnita

    nmnita Guest

    you know I can't add to much to what has been said. Those of us who sail NCL a lot are thrilled the Sky will be doing short cruises, Many years ago they did them, then got out of the market. I have sailed the Sun, it is true the cabins are a bit small, but the decor is light and bright, giving the opinion of larger cabins.

    Your son should have a great time. They do allow 2 year olds to take part in the kids programs but if he isn't potty trained you will need to be available to do the changing bit, that is one thing they will not do.

    Actually, there is some truth to the remarks about "freestyle" not always free, but it is a great program when traveling with little ones. Let's face it, no matter how good a 2 year is and how flexible, they do have minds of their own. Being confined to eating at a certain time can be challenging. With freestyle if he is tired and ready to eat at 5:30 of 6 you will be able to keep him happy. If everything is going well, he is having a good time, you may want to eat a little later.

    I think you will enjoy your experience. Do remember one thing, if you have never done a short cruise they are not quite as elegant and the service and food is not always as good as 7 day and longer cruises.

    Nita
     
  6. JollyMon78

    JollyMon78 Guest

    Thank you all for your information. It appears the freestyle system is the biggest change I will experience, and that sounds pretty good. I have read a number of reviews on other sites that have been less than pleasing. Have any of you experienced bad food, shortage of food, extremely long lines for most everything and bad cabin service? I'm usually good at filtering out those that you can't please but I would like to run it by y'all as well.

    Thanks again.
     
  7. Don Clark

    Don Clark Guest

    I've never sailed on a cruise ship that didn't have lines.
    There's always lines, to embark, to disembark, to get on tenders, to get into the show, to dine, etc.
    Sometimes I think one could start a line to nothing just by having two stand still in a passageway.

    There's various methods to reduce the time you spend in line.
    (1) Don't go when and where everyone else is. Wait for a later tender. Wait and disembark the ship as late as you can. Don't eat during prime dinner hours. Attend the late show.
    (2) Book a suite and have the concierge make your dinner reservations. Let the concierge get your early tender passes.
    (3) Cut in line every chance you get.

    Basically, lines can be good or bad, depending upon your attitude. Talk to those in front and behind you in line. Don't get so annoyed and upset that everyone around you wishes they were 100 miles away. Go with the flow.
     
  8. nmnita

    nmnita Guest

    You will always find negative reviews regardless of the ship or the cruise line: here is my take on this: As Don said, of course you will occasionally find lines, certainly we have had our share at all buffets, regardless of the ship. Other than that, I can't think of any lines: oh, yes, getting off the ship, especially if there are tenders involved. Poor cabin service, 20 plus cruises and I think we have had poor service once (not NCL) and fair service a couple of times, yes, on NCL once. Other than that I can't complain at all, especially if you make an attempt to find your room steward the first afternoon and introduce yourself.

    Food is very subjective, i am the first to admit I do not think NCLs food is quite as good as some other lines, but I don't think RCIs is either. By this I do not mean the food is below par, it just isn't outstanding. As I tell my clients, if you are happy with TGIF you will like the ships food, if you are accustom to Ruths Chris, you will be disappointed. As for running out of food, never has this happened to us, I have heard of a few times, the last day or so they may be out of something, again this can happen on any line.

    Hope this helps, take the negative reviews with a grain of salt and don't put to much into the overly positive reviews either.

    Nita
     
  9. Cruizer

    Cruizer Guest

    [quote JollyMon78]Thank you all for your information. It appears the freestyle system is the biggest change I will experience, and that sounds pretty good. I have read a number of reviews on other sites that have been less than pleasing. Have any of you experienced bad food, shortage of food, extremely long lines for most everything and bad cabin service? I'm usually good at filtering out those that you can't please but I would like to run it by y'all as well.

    Thanks again.[/quote]

    I've been on two NCL cruises totaling 21 nights. The worst meal I ever had on a cruise (ten cruises) was the time I ate in the main restaurant on the NCL Star. The food was okay and the service from the waiter was bad. The service from the assistant waiter was great. I ate in both main restaurants on the Jade and both the food and service was fine. I've never seen a shortage of food. I've seen long lines four times. The first time was because I arrived at the restaurant before it opened. I was seated very quickly once the restaurant did open. The second time was at a restaurant where I had a reservation. I was seated right a way because I had a reservation. The third time I just went to a different restaurant. The fourth time I figured the line was caused by all the people who had just gotten out of the show. So I went to the store to see if there was anything I wanted to buy and when I got back to the same restaurant there was no line and I was seated right a way. The cabin service has always been fine.
     
  10. Lisa63

    Lisa63 Guest

    Hi JollyMon78. We have had to wait for a table only once in our four Freestyle cruises, and that was when we went at 7:30. Otherwise, we tend to arrive before the rush (before 6:00 pm) and were seated immediately after approaching the podium. If you are willing to share a table with others, the wait can be shorter.

    Enjoy your cruise!
     
  11. packercruise

    packercruise Guest

    Just putting in my 2 cents worth.=twocents We really enjoy NCL. People that complain about Freestyle cruising don't really understand it. You can make it just as ridged as RCI if you want in terms of dining and NCL has more specialty restaurants which you can try or not as you like. Have a blast!:D
     

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