Norwegian Cruise Line's "Freestyle Cruising"
The Real Cruise Industry "Game Changer"
by Linda Coffman
April 2010: When Norwegian
Caribbean Line (Norwegian Cruise Line's original name) launched
regularly scheduled cruises from Miami over forty years ago, the
idea of a cruise vacation itself was innovative. Since 1966, NCL has
continuously been a cruise industry innovator: the first cruise line
to enter the era of the megaship with the introduction of the SS
Norway; the first to offer specialty restaurants; the first
mainstream cruise line with an "open seating" concept and an
always-casual evening dining option; the first to offer "villa"
accommodations in a ship-within-a-ship design; the first to feature
cruise itineraries with a "private island" beach destination. The
list goes on, but you get the picture. All that led to "Freestyle
Cruising" as we know it today.
Love it or hate it, "Freestyle" was a game-changer in the cruise
industry. Other cruise lines—from
mainstream (Carnival and Royal Caribbean) to premium (Holland
America, Celebrity, Princess) and even luxury (Crystal)
have followed suit with their own versions of open seating,
specialty restaurants, and casual dinner choices. While you will
encounter dress codes, and the tradition of formal nights, on most
cruise lines, even Carnival has relaxed that to NCL standards and
now calls it "cruise elegant" night.
You might say that NCL dances to their own drummer, with others
following the beat. With NCL leading the way, the flexibility to do
your own thing without eliminating what some cruise passengers enjoy
about cruising has changed the face of cruise travel in the 21st
"Freestyling" Aboard Norwegian Pearl
Mel and I recently sailed aboard Norwegian Pearl from Miami for a
week-long Caribbean cruise to the Caribbean and found the
"Freestyle" life perfectly suited to our life. Starting with
preparation and packing,
He said: I know I don't need a suit, but do I
need a tie with my sport coat?
She said: No, and you don't need the sport
coat unless you really want it.
|Dining in Teppanyaki
is "dinner & a show"
So, Mel packed dress slacks and a couple long-sleeve dress shirts,
but left both the tie and sport coat at home. He never felt
under-dressed. I was comfortable in skirts and slacks with tops and
didn't miss wearing a cocktail dress. Our suitcases were certainly
Dinners on Norwegian Pearl were as varied as the different
restaurants we chose each night. Sadly, we ran out of nights to try
them all. Reservations were easy to secure and when we didn't feel
like planning ahead we simply checked the restaurant status screens
to see which ones were crowded and headed for one that had tables
available. We even went to the "buffet" one night, although the way
it is arranged with serving stations and freshly prepared foods, it's hard to call the Garden
Cafe a buffet.
He said: I hadn’t looked forward to dining in
Teppanyaki as much as the other specialty restaurants.
She said: The food, service, and the chef’s
skill with a fork and spatula changed his mind. Teppanyaki was the
most popular restaurant for dinner during our cruise, with very few
NCL has been a leader in entertainment afloat for many years,
starting back in the days when they booked name entertainers to
headline their shows, as well as presented abbreviated versions of
such hits as 42nd Street and Will Rogers Follies.
Aboard Norwegian Pearl, we were treated to Oh What A Night!—a
tribute concert to Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. While their
banter was a bit corny, their singing and choreography were
outstanding. Another passenger who’s seen Jersey Boys
commented that the tribute artists last night were even better than
the performers in the musical. Oh What A Night's rendition of
Grease brought the audience to their feet.
He said: I
enjoyed the concert, but where are the showgirls?
She said: Tomorrow night's production
features the Jean Ann Ryan dancers and singers in a glamorous
Cruising" where time stands still & you're free to do
In addition, we laughed with The Second City players and the
hysterical comedy of "Sharkbait" (you have to see it to appreciate
While the Jean Ann Ryan Company and Second City are staples of the
NCL fleet, you can always count on each ship to offer even more
entertainment options, from the show lounge to more intimate
settings. Karaoke is always popular, as are passenger participation
games like the scavenger-style Quest, trivia, and Bingo. Families
weren't forgotten aboard Norwegian Pearl and several events were
scheduled for parents and children together to test their skill at dodgeball, charades, pizza making, and even Nintendo Wii on the
giant screen in the lobby.
The Final Four basketball tournament and Masters golf tournament
were also aired on the huge screen during our cruise. We didn't miss
a putt while watching the Masters from our seats in the Tex-Mex
restaurant one deck above the lobby.
He said: This is the way to watch golf. You
can see every blade of grass on the giant screen.
She said: No, you can't get a television
screen that huge at home!
Disembarkation from Norwegian Pearl was bittersweet. We loved the
Freestyle life on board, yet we're happy to have such delightful memories of
an enjoyable and stress-free cruise.
Norwegian Pearl sails Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from
Miami from October through April and Alaska cruises from Seattle
from May through September with repositioning cruises through the
Panama Canal and along the Pacific coast between the two regions.
NCL will be offering more room to "Freestyle" with the introduction
of Norwegian Epic in July 2010. Their largest ship ever will feature
expanded dining and entertainment options for passengers of all
Want More Norwegian Pearl? Follow the daily reports on
Cruise Diva's Blog
NCL "Welcome Aboard" Norwegian Pearl
Norwegian Pearl, Embarkation & Sailaway
Norwegian Pearl, At Sea
Norwegian Pearl in Samana, Dominican
Norwegian Pearl in St. Thomas, USVI
Norwegian Pearl in Tortola, BVI
Norwegian Pearl at Sea
Norwegian Pearl at Great Stirrup Cay
Norwegian Pearl, Disembarkation
Join Cruise Diva aboard
for the christening & preview cruise
Line Cruise Reviews
Norwegian Cruise Line Profile