Norwegian has a great concept called “Freestyle” Dining. What’s great about it is choices are made by YOU as to where you want to dine nightly. What’s bad about it is if you’re not “in the know” most of the best stuff will pass you by!
If you’ve cruised before on another line with early or late “traditional” dining, then you’re used to showing up at the same dining room, at the same time, and sitting at the same table every night with the same dining partners. Freestyle is not like that.
The overall concept of Freestyle Dining is that you get to choose when and where to dine each night. HOWEVER, there are some good tips you should know before you go! To eat at a specific time in the regular, free, dining room you should have a reservation. Just like a restaurant near you home, it’s a first-come, first-served concept. And, if you reserve ahead, you will have a shorter wait time or none at all.
On each ship there are free dining rooms and other free quick service places and the buffet. There is never a reason to pay for food on a cruise if you don’t want to. However, also on each ship are various upscale restaurants that have a per-person service charge. Some ships have more than others. But if you want to try one on your cruise on any day of the sailing, then you should go directly to the dining reservations desk, or call the dining reservations number from the phone in your cabin, and make those reservations as soon as you can. The new rule on NCL is that you can make reservations 48 hours in advance, or, specifically, first thing Tuesday morning for Wednesday night, etc. The alternative restaurants are usually small, and they will sell out and not take further reservations very quickly. You probably won’t be able to walk up to one if you’re feeling like Japanese tonight, or French, or whatever. Take some time before you go to read about your ship and it’s restaurants online, look at your itinerary, and plan out however many of these alternative dining experiences you want on your cruise to try these special restaurants.
If you choose not to plan ahead, NCL has great plasma screens all over their ships that show you 1) all the restaurants and if they’re open right now; 2) how full they are for walk-ups on a color-coded bar graph. You can refer to these at any hour to see where you can go eat breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack at any time. The colors are green, yellow and red, like a stoplight. If it’s red, don’t bother walking over there without a reservation. Save yourself the trouble!
See a sample from my Pride of America cruise below:
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