What It Means to “Cruise Like a Norwegian”
Written by: Melissa Rice on October 16, 2015
“How do you know you don’t like, if you haven’t even tried it?”
If you are a parent, chances are you’ve said this to your children. As travel agents sometimes we fall into the same mindset of that stubborn child, being limited by our own perception of what something MIGHT be like. It could be about a particular destination, hotel, or in my case, a cruise line.
I went on my first Norwegian Cruise around 14 years ago, not long after they introduced their Freestyle Cruising concept. Instead of the traditional early or late dinner times with an assigned table and more structured schedule of activities, passengers could eat when and where they wanted.
Let’s just say it isn’t my fondest travel memory. I was traveling with a friend, and we found ourselves awkwardly being seated alone at a dining table for eight. The staff seemed disengaged, which I assumed was due to the new automated tipping structure. We also had bad weather and I got sick one night, which is not even remotely Norwegian’s fault, but still seemed to skew my feelings about the experience.
Fast-forward to the present day and my life as a travel agent, and somehow that one weekend cruise was still affecting how I viewed Norwegian and presented it to my clients. I would listen to presentations about how amazing their new ships were, with spaces and technology specifically designed for the Freestyle Cruising concept. I even heard feedback from friends and fellow travel agents about how good the food, entertainment, and onboard activities were on their recent Norwegian cruises. Finally, I started to realize that my perception was old and outdated, and probably had nothing to do with the current Norwegian cruise experience.
So I decided to swallow my pride and book a 7-night cruise on Norwegian Getaway. I even agreed to post daily blog recaps as we sailed. Spending a week on the ship felt risky, but I was determined to keep an open mind and give it a chance. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about! We had a great time trying out as many onboard options as possible, ate plenty of delicious food, and I struggled to condense each day’s fun into just a few paragraphs.
One of the biggest surprises to me was the excellent service we received from Getaway’s crew. Whether we were eating at the Garden Café buffet, one of the main dining rooms, or in a specialty restaurant, we were always greeted by smiling, attentive staff members. Several times during the cruise I observed how much the staff connected with individual passengers. One example was during the muster drill, when a crew member noticed a toddler getting antsy and spent about 10 minutes down on the floor playing with cars and keeping him occupied.
Yes, there were a few things about Freestyle Cruising that took some getting used to. I’m not the kind of person that likes to “wing it” all the time, so it required effort to coordinate our dining and show reservations for at least a few evenings. Some of that was done ahead of time online, some was done after we got on the ship, and there never seemed to be one place with a consolidated list of all of our reservations.
Once we struck a balance between planned and spontaneous activities, though, it turned out that I actually liked not being tied to a specific schedule every day.
Tip: For clients who prefer a more traditional cruise experience, or groups who want to dine together, advise them to pre-reserve dinner times in the complimentary main dining rooms by using Norwegian’s online planner.
My week on Norwegian Getaway truly changed my perception of the cruise line and the Freestyle Cruising concept. I could go on and on about my own trip, but I know that will only get you so far. The best way for you to understand any travel product is to go out and experience it for yourself. If you haven’t cruised like a Norwegian lately, maybe it’s time to try it. After all, you just might like it.
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