First-Time Cruising on NCL

NCL- Norwegian Cruise Line may have just climbed to the top of my favorites in the category of large cruises. This was a pretty new ship–“Joy”–and I was curious to experience this line because it really tries to be different from the rest. There are some good things and bad things with all cruise lines, that is why it’s important to know your personal cruising style. It took a few days to get used to “Free Style”, but once I got the hang of it,  I found it was OK.

What does “Free Style” mean?

Eat whenever and wherever you want, many restaurants and lots of variety. I think this term also i shows includes and activities. There is a screen in the hallways with a list of what is going on each evening, but many shows/activities require a reservation.

Lets go over the good, and the not so good, behind “Free Style.”

Good

The variety of restaurants- half are included in the cruise fare and half you pay extra for. Some are a set price, and some are a la carte. The set price restaurants are the steakhouse and seafood; these are $50-$100 per person. With the a la carte you order items off the menu– burgers, BBQ, sushi; these are in the $10-$20 range.

We always got a table for two and we never had to wait for a table, even though we didn’t make reservations. This could be because we were usually eating early, probably not the case if you were eating at 6:30 or 7 pm.

The ship layout was good, elevators are large and plenty. For a large ship it didn’t feel that way. The ship was “Joy,” a newer ship. Layout may be different on other ships in the NCL line.

Half-way through the cruise they ran a laundry special, $20 a bag.

Besides the pool deck lounge chairs, there was another deck with nice outdoor seating . This ship had several gathering areas of fabric-style patio furniture– couches, chairs and coffee tables. Another great sitting area– gigantic, beautiful and quiet– is the Observation Lounge at the front of the ship, an area with bar, chaise lounge chairs, and floor-to-ceiling windows all around–a great place for reading and playing card games.

Horizon Lounge on Norwegian Joy
Photo by NCL
American Diner Restaurant

Not So Good

Making reservations for just about everything. I personally don’t care that much about shows and wine-tasting events. But, if these are the things you love about cruising you need to make sure you need to plan ahead and get every thing reserved. I was a little bummed that there was one show I did want to see and it sold out.

Sometimes I felt a little nickle-and-dimed. Besides half the restaurants on board charging a fee, some of the activities did too, like the race car feature. This is not unusual–most ships charge for little things, like Starbucks coffee and specialty pastries. Although, I did think it was a little too much when I was charged a gratuity on a bottle of water from the mini bar in my cabin.

Many ships allow you to carry on 2 bottles of wine at embarkation. NCL has no limit on how many you can carry on, but you need to pay a $15 per bottle corkage fee. They collect this fee and put a sticker on the bottle at embark.

No soda carried on at embark or during the cruise! This was a hard one for me, I usually buy a couple of small bottles of soda at the ports during the week. Nope–not this cruise.

My good by far outweighed the not so good list.  I plan on sailing again soon, because I bought “Cruise Next” certificates–a great way to get a discount on your next cruise.

Waterslide juts out over the side of the ship