just booked ncl gem. first with NCL & i have questions....

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#1
7 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
I want to start off by saying I love this site. There is great info to be found here and good people too!!

Yesterday we booked a cruise on the Ncl Gem out of nyc on 1/11/11 Eastern Caribbean. I cant get over the date because 11 is a lucky number for me!! We have never sailed with ncl but have heard good things.

The past few cruises my wife and I did were with RCL 2X and Carnival 1x. The carnival cruise was not a tip top experience. We had fun on the carnival Victory but that was because there were islands to explore. The time @ sea was a bit HO HUM. Bad MDR food and bad service in our opinion. we still managed to have a good time because we are always looking to make the best of things.

We both found RCL to have better service, cleaner rooms, and better food all around.

So where does NCL come in? why would it be better or worse than RCL or Carnival? I do realize that its all subjective, and I'm asking this question in the NCL forum. However i would just like to hear from people WHY they prefer sailing with NCL. What are you favorite features/perks restaurant. What does ncl offer over other cruise lines?

thanks
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#2
Columbus, Ohio
2,493 Posts
Joined Sep 2002
In one word: Freestyle. NCL pioneered Freestyle crusing in 2000 and was told it would never work. But instead, the other lines have copied much of it.

Freestyle Dining is the trick for me. On RCCL, I hated having a set dining time and the same table location (in the middle of the room) for the entire week. No variety in waiters. We had a couple great waiters, but a couple from our area who we spoke to during the week hated their tablemates and hated their waiters. They asked to change but were told no.

On NCL, you can eat in a different restaurant every night or the same restaurant for all nights. You can find waiters that you like and attempt to get them again. You can show up for dinner anytime you want... no worrying about missing your dining time or arranging your onboard schedule to accomodate a seating time. You meet someone during the cruise, you can have dinner with them.

You don't have to drag fancy clothing UNLESS you want to. If you don't want to dress up... then you can wear resort casual to every meal in every dining venue. (no being relegated to the buffet if you choose not to dress up.). If you want to dress up, then you can do that on ANY night (even EVERY night) and not feel out of place. Its all about choices.

(HAL, RCCL & Princess have copied alot of this with their relaxed dress codes and their "anytime" or "personal choice" dining.... it is all just copies of Freestyle.

Some of the misconceptions of Freestyle are not true. I have never waited more than 10 minutes for a table, even with 8-10 people (and no reservation). You do not have to pay to eat well. You can go to the pay specialty restaurants if you want, but don't have to. On our most recent cruise, we went to ONE pay restaurant the whole week.. the $10 a person Little Italy.

The food selections on NCL, I feel, were better than on RCCL. People told me that I would be blown away by the food on RCCL after being on NCL...well, its two years later and I am still waiting to be blown away...lol. It seemed RCCL served the same things over and over, just with different names and prepared different ways. NCL's choices are more original while having all the traditional favorites. Much more varied menu each night on NCL.

I will have to say that RCCL's buffet was much better than NCL's. I don't know why NCL can't seem to get their buffet right.

Freestyle disembarkation.. the ability to stay in your cabin until your color tag is called (or almost until it is called) is a great thing. On RCCL, we had to wander around the ship with our carry on luggage for 3 hours before we were called to leave. The Promenade on the Explorer reminded me of the homeless section of our town that morning.

I also like the idea of the service charge. Since you don't have the same waiters every night, the service charge is a good way to make sure that everyone who has served you during the week is taken care of. (and lets not forget those who have to clean the public areas who are never taken care of on the other cruise lines.). If you have extremely good service, you can tip additionally if you desire, but it is not necessary or even expected.

Overall, NCL just makes it easier to enjoy your cruise without dealing with alot of annoying little issues. (like tipping).

My parents have been on many, many cruises on NCL, Carnival, HAL, RCCL, Princess and a couple minor lines. They rank NCL as the best and most enjoyable of the cruise lines. (like you, my parents rank Carnival dead last. They rank RCCL second to NCL.)
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#3
ma
1,986 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
Haven't sailed on Carnival or RCL so really don't have any answers for you, though DAGVBSB gave a lot of great examples. We love NCL mainly because of the freestyle aspect and the suite perks, on top of the fact that we've cruised NCL so often that we've gotten to know staff and crew and really feel like we're going home when we step on an NCL ship -- there's absolutely no feeling like that!

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#4
96 Posts
Joined Jun 2010
We are going on the Gem next month and can't wait to compare it to the other lines we've been on. IMHO, the food and service on Celebrity was the best we've ever had, but that said...it came with a bit more formality and structure that I would not want on every single vacation. Carnival lived up to it's party atmosphere hype, and the food was ok but nothing to rave about (service was much, much lower). We really enjoyed RCCL, it was a nice middle of the two extremes...great food, very good service and not quite as noisy/crazy as Carnival...and they enforced the "adults only" areas, which was a nice thing. I've been scouring the boards ever since we booked NCL and overall I am pleased with what I have read so far. Of course there will be good and bad experiences on any type of vacation, so I tend to rule out the reviews at either extreme & go with the overall impression. Can't wait to give Freestyle a whirl!!!!
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#5
U.S.A.
275 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
Just returned from the Dawn today....our first NCL experience. We have sailed on Carnival, RCCL and Princess, also. We are not fussy people and it never amazes me to read some of the complaints about food. I didn't know there were so many food connoisseurs out there! We have found the food on all four cruise lines to be pretty much the same....very good! Some offer more of a variety on their menus each night than others. But unless you're on a three week, plus cruise, I don't see any of the menus as being a problem. We have also used the buffets on the different lines and have found them all to be similar.

Freestyle....we were not totally sold on this this past week. I am one of those people who enjoy sitting at large tables and dining with the same people and haveing the same serving staff each night. I like when my waiter knows me and whether I would like a glass of soda or what type of wine I drink. I like the fact that I don't have to reacqaint myself with the servers each night. I like to talk with people at dinner about what they had done during the day. I like tipping my servers and not having auto tipping. Having left our children (16 & 21 y.o.) at home, we were never able to get a table sitting with others. The hostesses actually seemed annoyed that we asked, on the first two nights, to be seated with others if possible. This was all an issue to us because we were only a party of two. We also have no desire to eat at the fee-based restaurants. Just another way to make money in my opinion. We WOULD NOT let any of this keep us from traveling on NCL again.

I also think that choosing a cruise should also be based on your group make up. When we travel with our kids, or with others families, the "kids" are looking for things to do as well. My sons love having a sports court and cruise-sponsored activities there as well. We also like the promenade which is on some of the RCCL ships. The time of year also affects your cruise. The make up of travelers varies greatly depending on whether or not school is out. We enjoyed Princess with our "kids" and Carnival was fun and not the "party ship" that my mother insists it is.

I'm sure you'll have a great time! After all....any cruise is better than no cruise!!!
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#6
northern UT
8,691 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
we cruise NCL mainly because of FREE~STYLE and the laid-back relaxed experience and for the GREAT deals we have gotten
NCL fits us and our cruising lifestyle... have been on Carnival and RC but as you can see from my signature that RC was the last time we cruised on another line...we FOUND NCL and we havent looked back!
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#7
Houston, TX
102 Posts
Joined May 2010
Originally posted by DAGVBSB
In one word: Freestyle. NCL pioneered Freestyle crusing in 2000 and was told it would never work. But instead, the other lines have copied much of it.

Freestyle Dining is the trick for me. On RCCL, I hated having a set dining time and the same table location (in the middle of the room) for the entire week. No variety in waiters. We had a couple great waiters, but a couple from our area who we spoke to during the week hated their tablemates and hated their waiters. They asked to change but were told no.

On NCL, you can eat in a different restaurant every night or the same restaurant for all nights. You can find waiters that you like and attempt to get them again. You can show up for dinner anytime you want... no worrying about missing your dining time or arranging your onboard schedule to accomodate a seating time. You meet someone during the cruise, you can have dinner with them.

You don't have to drag fancy clothing UNLESS you want to. If you don't want to dress up... then you can wear resort casual to every meal in every dining venue. (no being relegated to the buffet if you choose not to dress up.). If you want to dress up, then you can do that on ANY night (even EVERY night) and not feel out of place. Its all about choices.

(HAL, RCCL & Princess have copied alot of this with their relaxed dress codes and their "anytime" or "personal choice" dining.... it is all just copies of Freestyle.

Some of the misconceptions of Freestyle are not true. I have never waited more than 10 minutes for a table, even with 8-10 people (and no reservation). You do not have to pay to eat well. You can go to the pay specialty restaurants if you want, but don't have to. On our most recent cruise, we went to ONE pay restaurant the whole week.. the $10 a person Little Italy.

The food selections on NCL, I feel, were better than on RCCL. People told me that I would be blown away by the food on RCCL after being on NCL...well, its two years later and I am still waiting to be blown away...lol. It seemed RCCL served the same things over and over, just with different names and prepared different ways. NCL's choices are more original while having all the traditional favorites. Much more varied menu each night on NCL.

I will have to say that RCCL's buffet was much better than NCL's. I don't know why NCL can't seem to get their buffet right.

Freestyle disembarkation.. the ability to stay in your cabin until your color tag is called (or almost until it is called) is a great thing. On RCCL, we had to wander around the ship with our carry on luggage for 3 hours before we were called to leave. The Promenade on the Explorer reminded me of the homeless section of our town that morning.

I also like the idea of the service charge. Since you don't have the same waiters every night, the service charge is a good way to make sure that everyone who has served you during the week is taken care of. (and lets not forget those who have to clean the public areas who are never taken care of on the other cruise lines.). If you have extremely good service, you can tip additionally if you desire, but it is not necessary or even expected.

Overall, NCL just makes it easier to enjoy your cruise without dealing with alot of annoying little issues. (like tipping).

My parents have been on many, many cruises on NCL, Carnival, HAL, RCCL, Princess and a couple minor lines. They rank NCL as the best and most enjoyable of the cruise lines. (like you, my parents rank Carnival dead last. They rank RCCL second to NCL.)
well said!
#8
81 Posts
Joined Aug 2010
Originally posted by DAGVBSB
I have never waited more than 10 minutes for a table, even with 8-10 people (and no reservation).
You're lucky.

With freestyle I have waited, sometimes WAY too long to be seated. Then again, I have never sailed on a NCL ship that was built with freestyle in mind.

A lot of it depends on how many double-occupancy rooms are at triple or quadruple cpacity. We made the mistake of cruising on the Majesty out of Charleston for the week that included Presidents Day back in 2008 thinking it would be too early for spring break and there might be a few kids since it would be in theory only four days of school missed. Apparently, schools in NYC have this thing called "Winter Break." HUNDREDS of kids... really. Long waits for pretty much everything. It was unfortunate.
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#9
NYC
127 Posts
Joined Aug 2004
I prefer NCL. I've been on 1 carnvial cruise, 1 celebrity & 5 RCCL, the other 2 were NCL and I have a NCL cruise coming up next month. It is all subjective, but I think the food on NCL is much better.
The first time I cruised RCL was in 1991 and the food and service have declined A LOT since then. I also like NCL for different restaurants - so it feels more like a land vacation. Not into getting formal dressed up, but I do dress nice every night for dinner, I like picking my own time for dinner and not the set times - 6 is too early, 8:30 is sometimes too late. I like the rooms better on NCL - but we've booked the suite (romance suites) and its about the same price or just a drop more as a balcony on RCCL, plus it comes with a butler & conceirge - great perks, along with the breakfast/lunch perk that the suites get and I love.
As far as entertainment, I would say its pretty equal and always hit or miss on if I like something or not.
pools & lounge areas are about the same.
the boarding I find better on NCL.
shopping - same pretty much on all the ships - unless you are on one of the huge huge ships.
excurions offered - pretty much the same
For now we (me & my DH) love NCL and when we cruise, I don't really want to go on another cruise line.
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Sunflower77
18 cruises & counting!(Disney-5, RCCL-7, NCL-4, Celebrity-1, Carnival-1)
#10
Columbus, Ohio
2,493 Posts
Joined Sep 2002
Originally posted by SpecialPurpose
You're lucky.

With freestyle I have waited, sometimes WAY too long to be seated. Then again, I have never sailed on a NCL ship that was built with freestyle in mind.

A lot of it depends on how many double-occupancy rooms are at triple or quadruple cpacity. We made the mistake of cruising on the Majesty out of Charleston for the week that included Presidents Day back in 2008 thinking it would be too early for spring break and there might be a few kids since it would be in theory only four days of school missed. Apparently, schools in NYC have this thing called "Winter Break." HUNDREDS of kids... really. Long waits for pretty much everything. It was unfortunate.
Yes, I have heard that those New York School breaks in winter are disasters! (and for some reason, alot of those families take cruises..lol)



The other thing about the wait for the dining rooms is WHAT time you go. We are people who like to eat early... in fact my wife and mother-in-law will not eat if dinner begins after 7:00 p.m. because some doctor told them that is one of the causes of obesity. (now, I personally will eat anytime food is available... hey wait, maybe they are right..lol).

So that means that our eating times have been early.

Here is what I have noticed:
5:30 p.m. - there can be a wait of 10-15 minutes if you show up right when the doors open as there is usually a line. The wait is simply the time it takes for those in line to be seated.

5:45-6:30 - usually no wait for tables unless you are asking for something specific... table by the window, table for a larger number that they may have to put together, specific waiter, etc.)

This is the period that we try to hit and as I said... I or my parents have never waited more than 10 minutes for a table. (and my parents are Silver on NCL.)

6:30-7:30 - this is usually the period with longer waits. 10-20 minutes sometimes as the those who were initially seated at 5;30 are finishing up and leaving and the tables are being turned over for the next people.

7:30 - 8:00 - can be busy... depends on what evening activities are scheduled and if it was a port day, sea day, sailaway time, etc.

8:00 - close - another good time to go. I and a friend went once at this time when we were on the Star to Alaska due to a late tour.... no line and no wait. (actually a somewhat desserted dining room too.)


The number of people in your party can also dictate the time it takes.
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#11
Columbus, Ohio
2,493 Posts
Joined Sep 2002
Originally posted by LittleBee
Just returned from the Dawn today....our first NCL experience. We have sailed on Carnival, RCCL and Princess, also. We are not fussy people and it never amazes me to read some of the complaints about food. I didn't know there were so many food connoisseurs out there! We have found the food on all four cruise lines to be pretty much the same....very good! Some offer more of a variety on their menus each night than others. But unless you're on a three week, plus cruise, I don't see any of the menus as being a problem. We have also used the buffets on the different lines and have found them all to be similar.

Freestyle....we were not totally sold on this this past week. I am one of those people who enjoy sitting at large tables and dining with the same people and haveing the same serving staff each night. I like when my waiter knows me and whether I would like a glass of soda or what type of wine I drink. I like the fact that I don't have to reacqaint myself with the servers each night. I like to talk with people at dinner about what they had done during the day. I like tipping my servers and not having auto tipping. Having left our children (16 & 21 y.o.) at home, we were never able to get a table sitting with others. The hostesses actually seemed annoyed that we asked, on the first two nights, to be seated with others if possible. This was all an issue to us because we were only a party of two. We also have no desire to eat at the fee-based restaurants. Just another way to make money in my opinion. We WOULD NOT let any of this keep us from traveling on NCL again.

I also think that choosing a cruise should also be based on your group make up. When we travel with our kids, or with others families, the "kids" are looking for things to do as well. My sons love having a sports court and cruise-sponsored activities there as well. We also like the promenade which is on some of the RCCL ships. The time of year also affects your cruise. The make up of travelers varies greatly depending on whether or not school is out. We enjoyed Princess with our "kids" and Carnival was fun and not the "party ship" that my mother insists it is.

I'm sure you'll have a great time! After all....any cruise is better than no cruise!!!
What a great post!

Here we have a poster who did not like Freestyle cruising and he/she gave us specific reasons and a good explanation as to why not. THEN, they explained that that negative (to them) of Freestyle would not be enough to stop them from sailing NCL again.

Too many times we condemn people for negative opinions and we don't applaud those who have good (although negative toward Freestyle) posts.
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#12
1,226 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
You're on the Gem which is head and shoulders above all other ships in the NCL fleet, bar none (including the Epic). Of the 15 ships I've been on nothing compares to the Gem. The Pride of Aloha came the closest, though.
#13
U.S.A.
275 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
Thanks, DAGVBSB. We just truly love cruising and only wish that we had tried it out in our younger yers so that we could have fit more cruises in on ANY line! Thanks for your kind comments!
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#14
Columbus, Ohio
2,493 Posts
Joined Sep 2002
Originally posted by LittleBee
Thanks, DAGVBSB. We just truly love cruising and only wish that we had tried it out in our younger yers so that we could have fit more cruises in on ANY line! Thanks for your kind comments!
You are never too old. My parents took their first cruise in the late 1980's (dad won a free cruise on the old Dolphin). They were in their 60's at the time. They are now 81 and just completed their 6th NCL cruise along with 3 on RCCL, 3 on HAL, one each on PRincess and Carnival and 3 on other ships.

So see.... there is plenty of time left for you to enjoy!

(mom and dad were in their mid 70's when they sailed on Holland America and complained that the passengers and cruise line was "too old and boring" for them...lol)
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#15
45 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
Originally posted by DAGVBSB
Yes, I have heard that those New York School breaks in winter are disasters! (and for some reason, alot of those families take cruises..lol)



The other thing about the wait for the dining rooms is WHAT time you go. We are people who like to eat early... in fact my wife and mother-in-law will not eat if dinner begins after 7:00 p.m. because some doctor told them that is one of the causes of obesity. (now, I personally will eat anytime food is available... hey wait, maybe they are right..lol).

So that means that our eating times have been early.

Here is what I have noticed:
5:30 p.m. - there can be a wait of 10-15 minutes if you show up right when the doors open as there is usually a line. The wait is simply the time it takes for those in line to be seated.

5:45-6:30 - usually no wait for tables unless you are asking for something specific... table by the window, table for a larger number that they may have to put together, specific waiter, etc.)

This is the period that we try to hit and as I said... I or my parents have never waited more than 10 minutes for a table. (and my parents are Silver on NCL.)

6:30-7:30 - this is usually the period with longer waits. 10-20 minutes sometimes as the those who were initially seated at 5;30 are finishing up and leaving and the tables are being turned over for the next people.

7:30 - 8:00 - can be busy... depends on what evening activities are scheduled and if it was a port day, sea day, sailaway time, etc.

8:00 - close - another good time to go. I and a friend went once at this time when we were on the Star to Alaska due to a late tour.... no line and no wait. (actually a somewhat desserted dining room too.)


The number of people in your party can also dictate the time it takes.

Thanks for the details.
Since we are used to begin eating at around 9 p.m, it shouldn't be a problem for us.
On the other hand, we are sailing the Mediterranean and if the ship will be mostly European passengers, than it could become a rather packed hour, I guess.

Any specific experience regarding the Jade in late September ?

Thanks
#16
Columbus, Ohio
2,493 Posts
Joined Sep 2002
Originally posted by zadik
Thanks for the details.
Since we are used to begin eating at around 9 p.m, it shouldn't be a problem for us.
On the other hand, we are sailing the Mediterranean and if the ship will be mostly European passengers, than it could become a rather packed hour, I guess.

Any specific experience regarding the Jade in late September ?

Thanks
Dining Rooms close at 9:30 (well you must be seated by 9:30 p.m.).

Never been on the Jade but maybe someone else can help
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#17
San Diego, Ca
4,572 Posts
Joined May 2007
Originally posted by DAGVBSB
Dining Rooms close at 9:30 (well you must be seated by 9:30 p.m.).

Never been on the Jade but maybe someone else can help
I have been seated in a dining room at 10pm--I am not sure you are correct that they close at 9:30 on all NCL ships.

BG
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#18
San Diego, Ca
4,572 Posts
Joined May 2007
i just checked several NCL ships dailies one of two main dining rooms is open until 10:30PM-- I walked into one MDr at 10:15 pm on the Star and was able to order--in fact the dining room had a quite a few people in it--so one of the two is always open a little later--one hour to be exact.

BG
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Sailed Regency Regent Sea Caribbean 10/82- 7 day
Sailed NCL Pearl Alaska 07/02/07 - 7 day
Sailed NCL Sun Hawaii Escape 09/30/07-10 day
Sailed NCL Spirit Carib relo to NY 03/30/2008-16 day
Sailed NCL Sun Exotic Americas 11/04/2008-19 day
Sailed NCL Star Mexican Riviera 12/20/08-7 day
Sailed NCL Spirit Relo to NOLA 10/23/09-16 day
Sailed Carnival Splendor to Mexicana Riviera 05/23/10-7 day
Sailed NCL Spirit Relo to Nola 10/23/10-15 day
Sailed Holland Oosterdam to Hawaii 12/10/11-14 day
Sailed Holland Westerdam to Hawaii/Tahiti/Marquesas 10/03/12-30 day
Sailed NCL Jewel Panama Canal 09/27/13 16 day
#19
Tennessee
56 Posts
Joined Sep 2009
My wife and I have never been on any other cruise line. I love the freestyle atmosphere. I go to on cruises to have fun and relax. I do not want to even see any dress clothes in my bag. We have been on the Gem, Pearl, and Dawn and that is also my order of preference. We are cruising 14 days on Epic in Dec. and then the Gem to Bermuda in May. I think the Gem is a great ship and the Pearl runs a very close second. I think that because the Gem was our first ship it will always have a little special place in my heart over the rest. I will say though that I just loved "Sharkbait" on the Pearl. That show was worth the trip all by it's self. Personally, until I don't have fun anymore on NCL I have no interest in sailing any other cruse lines. Have a great time!!!
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NCL Gem Mar - 2009
NCL Pearl Nov - 2009
NCL Dawn Jun - 2010
NCL Epic Nov - 27 - 2010
NCL Gem May - 8 - 2011
NCL Sun Nov - 26 - 2011
NCL Star Dec - 22 - 2012
NCL Sun Jan - 22- 2014
NCL Getaway Feb - 7- 2015
NCL Escape April - 16 - 2016
NCL Epic Dec - 3 - 2016
NCL Getaway Oct - 15 - 2017
#20
45 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
[quote=DAGVBSB;25575282]Dining Rooms close at 9:30 (well you must be seated by 9:30 p.m.).

Never been on the Jade but maybe someone else can help[/q


That was the point of my question. Since the cruises done in the caribbeans are mostly done by North American residents, than maybe they do close early since there is no demand for the MDR to be open later.
But a Mediterranean cruise that probably has a larger European presence, might have a different MDR schedule.

If anyone has experience with the same kind of cruise, I will appreciate the input, since eating dinner at tea time seems somewhat awkward to me

Thanks anyway to all the posters