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Freestyle Cruising on 
Norwegian Cruise Line

by George Leppla of CruiseMaster.com

When I sailed on a 7-night cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line as a member of a group of travel agents it was my first chance to experience how the "Freestyle" program worked. In a nutshell... it worked far better than I thought it would.

The basis of the program is to give passengers a number of dining options. For dinner, you can dine at a number of different restaurants within a stated time frame. 

Designated dining rooms have traditional table service. You can dine anytime during the operating hours, but you must enter the dining room by a certain time. If you prefer traditional dining schedules, the maitre d' will assign you a specific table, waiter and time for every night of the cruise. The people I talked with said that not many passengers do this. We ate at various times, arriving at the dining room as early as 5:30 and as late as the cut-off hour and the longest we had to wait for a table was 5 minutes. The maitre d' may ask if you would like to be seated with other people, but all requests for specific sized tables were granted without fuss.

There is now only one formal night on 7-night cruises; however, contrary to what many expected, this doesn't mean that people "dress down" on the cruise. For the most part, I found that people dressed a little better for dinner than usual and on formal night most of the men in the dining room were wearing jackets. NCL requests that shorts not be worn on the ship after 6 PM. One man told me the was turned away from the dining room for wearing shorts with the suggestion that he utilize the buffet.

Tips are now pre-paid at the rate of $10 per day per person. This is automatically added to your on board account so, at the end of the week, you need not tip anyone. You can adjust this amount any time you want at the "Reception" desk and if you want, you can personally tip anyone an additional amount in cash. The crew that I talked with said that they were getting the money and it seemed to be working well. The standard 15% is still added to your bar orders.

Freestyle cruising has changed other aspects of the cruise experience. You no longer have a purser's desk... instead you have a Reception Desk and an Accounting Desk. On disembarkation day you no longer have to get up before the sun to have breakfast. Buffets and waiter service breakfasts are available from 6 AM to 9 AM and you can even order room service Continental breakfast if you wish. You do not have to be out of your cabins until 11 AM so you can go have an early breakfast, sit by the pool, and  then return to your cabin to clean up and change before you leave the ship.

In short... I like Freestyle. I like having the options of eating when, where, and with whom I want. I enjoy having a table for 2 so I can have a quiet meal with a friend or sharing a table for 8 with members of a group or just meeting new people.

George, CruiseMaster.com   

NOTE: Updated on 10/12/07


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