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I will let you know in about 2 weeks! We really enjoyed Freestyle on NCL, which is why I went with Princess for the Mexican Riviera. We never had any problems with reservations, food, or service. If Princess does as well as NCL with this, I will be a happy gal!
I can't imagine us ever going back to traditional again.
Dawn Princess April 30'04
Acapulco to Los Angeles
We have done NCL freestyle and absolutely loved it. We sail Princess for the first time in June on Diamond. After reading these posts about PC dining, I am a little worried. We never waited for a table with NCL, nor did anyone make reservations, you just went to eat at either dining room whenever.
Having done both, I will tell you that they operate in a similar fashion. I prefer the freestyle on NCL a bit more simply because the newer NCL ships offer many dining options (something like 9 different restaurants.) We never had any trouble getting in to any of the restaurants on either Princess or NCL.
I would sail either line again in a minute.
until we sail!!!
NCL Spirit - February 2005
Grand Princess - May 2003
NCL Sun - May 2002
NCL Sea - May 2000
Chris, my sister recently sailed the NCL Dawn with a party of 9. Their reservation system was not great either. For the steakhouse restaurant, every night they were told the only seating was at 9:30 pm. Apparently, it was much easier to get a table for two then having a larger group. All of them were not happy with the dining room food.
Stevie, As for the 9 restaurants, yes they do have 9 or 10 but that includes, the dining rooms, the specialty restuarants, 24 hour cafe
Lets say if one was to count how many restaurants are on the Caribbean Princess you can say 7. 3 Dining rooms, 2 specialty, Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe.
I've done both, and my experience is that both systems work pretty well. In the early going, I felt more pressured by Princess to sit at large tables, but once they knew what you wanted, there was no problem. On the NCL Sky we tried all three alternates, and all were good. On the Grand we did Sabatini's and it was great. On the Island we stuck to the dining room and weren't disappointed. Overall we felt the food was a bit better on the Sky ( that was 3 years ago), but the service was equal and the choices about the same.
As for understanding the systems, NCL is totally freestyle...no traditional dining room. Princess gives you the choice of both. If you show up at a busy time, you might have to wait a few minutes for a table on either line. We got lucky on the Island and found a table and waiter team we liked, and booked it for the rest of the cruise.
Island Princess Feb. 2004
Grand Princess Feb. 2002
Norwegian Sky Feb. 2001
We have sailed the Norwegian Sun as well as several Princess ships, and I agree that the personal choice features are similar. NCL Sun offered more specialty restaurants ( French, Italian, Pacific Rim, teppanyaki, sushi) but you pay extra for all of those. We tried all but the Italian and enjoyed them, but I'm not sure the quality was way above the food in the 2 regular dining rooms, which we found quite good. There never was a long wait for a table on either line, but we did like the Princess feature of giving us a beeper so we didn't have to just sit outside the DR. Lunch options were much better on Princess, with her pizzeria and grill by the pool (NCL brings out a few hamburgers and hot dogs and pieces of pizza to the buffet). But a nice feature on NCL was the poolside barbecue on sea days and the first evening, as well as the tapas bar with a Spanish theme and free hot and cold appetizers.They also have a healthy choice restaurant which is no extra charge --- unfortunately for our waistlines, we never tried it, but it sounded good. Anyway, we do like personal choice and would happily sail either line again (hopefully sooner rather than later.) It's the itinerary that would probably make the decision.
I haven't been on NCL, but enjoyed the Princess version. It was great travelling with kids as it let them eat with us sometime, and on other nights we fed them early and put them into the kids club. My only complaint was the lack of alternative restaurants. We ate at Sabatinis and it was great. Better then some New York italian places we have been. But the SW restaurant looked depressing and that was it. The new buffet is an improvement over the old Horizon style. Kids loved to eat there for dinner.