“Our dress code: wear something” and “Dinner will be served promptly at whatever o’clock.”

“Our dress code: wear something” and “Dinner will be served promptly at whatever o’clock” are lines that will be appearing in Norwegian Cruise Lines print ads as the company tries to strengthen its brand by highlighting its “freestyle cruise” concept.

NCL policies include no fixed dining times at up to 10 different restaurants, no formal dress codes, relaxed disembarkation, and various types of entertainment. To turn these policies into a stronger brand NCL will try 30-second TV commercials (among other ads).

One shows vacationers sunbathing, playing shuffleboard and dining in unison. These vacationers have to check their watches because they need to follow the cruise ship’s schedule. Then we see NCL’s Freestyle Cruising, passengers relaxing and enjoying themselves because there is no schedule. The TV ads conclude with “Where you’re free to whatever” and a graphic of a white fish swimming amid a school of blue fish.

My parents have cruised with NCL and they liked it just fine. They took good care of my vegan sister (not all cruise lines / ships do so if you are vegan check with the chef in advance). They took good care of my grandfather who was around 90 at the time and in a wheelchair. When I take my wife on our first cruise, I expect we’ll also go with NCL.

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  1. tom says:

    Although the concept is interesting, I have always enjoyed the standard dining arrangements. It allowed me to get to know other passengers on a level that wouldn’t happen if I dined in a different restaurant each evening. Also since we are traveling with small children, developing relationships with the wait staff has been extremely beneficial and made the vacation much more relaxing and enjoyable.

  2. Wrasfish says:

    I have cruised both NCL and Carnival. NCL’s “freestyle” cruising means that there are two free restaurants with very limited hours, and eight restaurants that charge extra fees and that require reservations. And if you don’t show at the reserved time, a fine is assessed. The food is better on Carnival. Carnival’s Lido deck restaurant is open 24/7. While the big restaurant has two seatings, if you show up late they will find a table for you anyway. NCL’s only advantage is that it’s easier to avoid Formal Night if you think vacations are for relaxation.

  3. Julie says:

    I really enjoyed NCL… they did provide me with vegan food, though I suspect that may have been our travel agent working her magic, since I tried to book a NCL cruise this fall and was told they would not feed me – it varies from ship to ship and chef to chef. The chef even came out and introduced himself on the first night of the cruise and assured me all my meals would be vegan.

    My parents and our friends we cruised with really enjoyed trying different restaurants, all but one or two of them were had no additonal charge, though we did have to make reservations. For me, it was a bit difficult having a new wait staff every night and explaining my dining arrangement. There was always something ready, but I just had to ask someone to go get it. Everyone was great about it though.

    I would definitely cruise on NCL again – if I can find a chef willing to accommodate me!

  4. Julie says:

    I found an interesting link (below) ranking cruise lines based on the healthy food options they offered. I have to wonder how out of data this is though, because according to this list, Carnival, NCL, Royal Caribbean, and Windstar offer vegan dining options at lunch and dinner. I tried to book a cruise for this fall on the first three listed and NONE of them offered vegan options. NCL even told me I could eat fruit and bring my own packaged food aboard, such as energy bars. Yeah, that sounds decadent.


  5. fatty says:

    Stay home if you want to eat a bunch of veggie & crap. I could only imagine the torture of trying to power through a 32 OZ. steak while you moan on and on about the “Vegan” lifestyle! What a pain in the ass. Can’t a guy work on his heart attack in progress in peace?

  6. James Trotta says:

    Actually, Fatty, it’s almost always the carnivores who try to impose their eating habits on the vegetarians and vegans. I’ve never heard a vegetarian try to convince a carnivore to change his/her lifestyle.

    But have I ever heard a carnivore tell vegetarians how they’re fanatical, unhealthy, or just plain weird? Sure have. Fatty here called it “crap” – who’s judging who?

    By the way, I’m not a vegetarian but I used to be.

  7. Mitch says:

    My Wife and I have cruised Carnival twice and have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves both times. The food is very good on Carnival ships and there are a lot of choices. As a self-professed picky eater I have learned to leave my comfort zone a bit by trying new foods. What better place to try something new than on a cruise. If you don’t like it…order something else.

    NCL’s “new” plan to dine when you want is hardly a new idea. You can eat very well 24 hours a day on Carnival. The majority of people, myself included, actually look forward to getting dressed up for dinner in the formal dining room. I don’t know about you but at home I don’t get to dress up for fancy 5 course meals with white linens and 10 pieces of silverware 6 days a year much less 6 days in a row.

    And for those who shy away from the formal dining there are several informal choices as well. You can absolutely eat very well on a cruise without ever having to don “dress” clothes.

    And, by the way, the dress code in the “formal” dining rooms is scarcely enforced. The most dressed up some people get is for the “Meet the Captain” night and that consists of khakis and a polo for men. Hardly “stuffy” attire.

    I do however take issue with the vegans complaining about chefs not accommodating them. They serve over 10,000 plates a day and don’t have the time to fix something special for a few people’s diets. What’s next? Asains requesting Asian food every meal. Latinos requesting Mexican food. Etc. etc. If you don’t like the “normal” food, then stay home.

  8. N. Mock says:

    As a person who has Been on NCL Ships 5 times in less the 5 years, I encourage everyone to go on other ships if they don’t like free style. Less people on my ship’s means major up grades for me to Penthouse and Owners Suites as have been afforted me 3 times before. NCL also has great food 24 hours a day, and uhhh, room service too. Sorry I enjoy my Butler’s and dinning in my room, I don’t want to dress up or sit at tables with people I don’t know or wan’t to know because all the conversation leads to are how much money you spent for the cruise, and you most of the time pretend your something your not. I am on vacation with my wife and only want to spend time with her. Again, please feel free to cruise else where and be told and programed what to do and where to be at all times. For me it’s NCL. Happy Crusing.

  9. […] this was an interesting article about a cruise in Maine on a windjammer with no itinerary. Even NCL’s freestyle cruising revolves around the schedule – you have choices but there’s still a schedule. And […]

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