Cruising – Traditional Versus Freestyle

Norwegian Star

Norwegian Star

A common question I received from a few articles I wrote about cruising was “what is Freestyle Cruising®?” and “how is Freestyle Cruising® different from Traditional Cruising?”.

Traditional Cruises feature pre-assigned times for meals with the same tables mates in the same restaurant. There are scheduled formal dining nights where everyone will be expected to dress appropriately. Generally, there are a couple of main shows each evening with bar / lounge shows afterwards.

Freestyle Cruising® was pioneered by Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL).  This was in response to feedback from passengers that they didn’t want to have their meals at the same time each day with the same group of people.  Freestyle offers the freedom to do what you want, when you want, and with whom you want.

On a Freestyle Cruise®, passengers have a choice of food and dining options for their meals, from the main dining room for a buffet, or specialty restaurants like French, Mexican, Asian, Steakhouse, etc.  (there may be a cover charge at specialty restaurants).  There are no set times, seating arrangements,  or dress code.  There is usually 1 formal dining night during a cruise on a specific evening and restaurant for those that are interested in participating.

In our opinion, if you prefer a less structured cruise, Freestyling is definitely worth looking into further.

Here are a few suggestions if you choose to freestyle type cruise:

*For adults looking for a quiet / romantic evening, the specialty restaurants are their best option since parents are less likely to bring their children to them.

*We strongly recommend a reservation for at least your first evening meal at a specialty restaurant to avoid the crowds. Most people tend to dine at the main dining room for the buffet on their first night.  This gives you the opportunity to plan your evening meals for the rest of the cruise taking into account onboard activities and excursions you may be interested in.

*If you prefer dining at prime times, we recommend making all your dining reservations at the beginning of the cruise since these are the first to go.

NCL has expanded the Freestyle concept to other areas to make it a truly flexible experience:

*NCL offers a variety of cabins types with interconnecting options to accommodate groups of any size.  For those with a bigger budget, they also offer a ship-with-a-ship concept where a collection of villas and Deluxe Owner’s Suites are located on a private deck with luxurious accomodations and special amenities.

*People can be as active as they want or just relax and sit on the deck reading a book. Passengers have a choice of activities ranging from Broadway style shows, comedy acts, bowling, gambling at a casino, watching a movie in the theatre, rock climbing, basketball, swimming lengths in the pool, and even playing the Nintendo Wii on a two-storey screen.

*Disembarkation is also Freestyle. Passengers have the option to sleep in abit, have a leisurely breakfast, relax in their cabin or on the deck before checking out. For those who want to get back on shore quickly, an Express Disembarkation is available.

The Freestyle concept has been imitated by several other cruise lines to varying degrees providing their passengers greater flexibility.  If you are planning a vacation, contact your travel consultant to find out the latest cruise promotions.

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