Norwegian Cruise Lines features Freestyle Cruising which covers five areas of the onboard experience; Dining, Attire, Service, Activities, Disembarkation.
Below you will find information NCL provides on their website regarding Freestyle Cruising. Except for the dining item these options are usually available on most mass-market cruises of the type that NCL offers.
When describing dining, they don't mention that most of these improved options require an additional per-person entry fee. These charges vary, but I believe most are between $10-20. This pay for service restaurant model has it's pros and cons.
I will not mark these comments as being PROs or CONs because it will depend on your personal tastes and situation.
Most require extra fee.
Reduces the number of kids in the restaurant.
Separates those how have the money to pay extra from those that do not. Harkening back to days of old when cruise lines drew distinct lines between different levels of service. Separating passengers by class of service.
Offers a higher level of service and food quality.
Because these are mostly mass-market cruise ships it helps to create a more luxurious cruise experience for those that choose the specialty restaurants. For the most part I believe these options are the only romantic/intimate dining options available.
Removes the "all you can eat" patrons from the environment.
Most have a dress code
Advanced reservations are usually required.
MY SUGGUESTION: When you first board reserve your first nights meal in a Freestyle restaurant to avoid the crowds at the main dining room. It appears most people will attempt to dine in the traditional main dining room the first night. Seems passengers don't understand the Freestyle dining options. Then determine your dining schedule, (considering your shore excursions), for the rest of the cruise, and make reservations if needed. I've been told that as days pass the passengers begin to understand Freestyle cruising and it gets more and more difficult to obtain reservations at prime times. Also seek out the smaller out of the way eating locations early in the cruise, they are often undiscovered for serveral days.
As of 07/15/2004, this is how NCL describes Freestyle Cruising on their website.
The choice is yours. With Freestyle Cruising, you travel a world of dining options all in one week. From elegant French bistros and Italian trattorias to sushi and tapas bars, and more, there’s a different dining option for almost every night of your cruise. With up to 10 different restaurants, each featuring a diverse an ever-changing menu, you’ll always find exactly what you’re in the mood for. And there are no fixed seatings. Imagine restaurants open from 5:30 pm to midnight so that you can choose from an early dinner before the show or a later romantic dinner for the two of you. And of course there’s always the option of 24-hour room service. You’re free to dine where, when and with whom you choose. Just as it should be on your vacation.
Wear what you want. Dress according to your mood. It is your vacation. “Resort casual” attire is as dressy as you’ll ever have to get for dinner. But if it’s elegance you’re dreaming of, we invite you to indulge. Many of our restaurants offer formal options. If you prefer more casual dress, that’s fine, too. How you dress is up to you.
You’re about to be pampered. By adding additional crewmembers to every ship in our fleet we’re able to offer exceptional service. With almost one crewmember per stateroom, you can be assured you’ll be very well taken care of when you cruise with us.
Do everything, or nothing at all. For those who prefer to be active, our new LifeStyle Program features adventurous Shore Excursions, art auctions, health and wellness programs, cooking demonstrations – all kinds of activities aimed at challenging your mind as well as your body. Or you can simply relax and enjoy not having a schedule to follow. We pick the ports, but the rest of the day is your call.
Enjoy every day of your vacation. Because we’ve streamlined the whole process of disembarkation, you can now relax, have breakfast and enjoy more of your final morning on board without having to rush.