NCL are my favourite cruise line by a million miles. I love the freestyle dining and general fun feel of the ships. The food is incredible and the entertainment is amazing. Below are 8 things you definitely should know before taking your first NCL cruise.
1. Freestyle dining – no table sharing.
On NCL there are no set meal times and no dress code (hooray!) I love the flexibility of freestyle dining which means that you can eat whenever you are hungry. You also never have to share a table which is brilliant, you just show up whenever you want and get seated, much like a normal restaurant on land.
NCL usually have the option of 2 or 3 main dining rooms which are large and offer the more traditional cruise dining experience (minus the dress code). They usually all have the same menu which changes each day.
There is also a buffet and a pub type restaurant, usually called O’Sheehans or the blue lagoon. O’Sheehans has the best buffalo wings in the world, on my last 7 night NCL cruise I had them 6 times.
I have always found the food on NCL to be brilliant, it is not as ‘posh’ as on some other cruise lines but I much prefer this as it means you get larger portions. There are some speciality restaurants which require you to book at busy times. To read more about NCLs freestyle dining click here: Freestyle dining explained.
2. Book the shows on newer ships.
They have some brilliant shows on NCL. There is a variety of performances in the theatre and have something on every night. They always have dancers and singers, usually have a magician or comedian too. Each cruise they have a broadway style theatre production and they’re normally really good. It blows my mind how they can perform and dance as they do on a rocking ship!
The best show that I have seem by a mile was Priscilla Queen of the Desert, I loved it so much that I went back the next night. When cruising with NCL you must pre book the shows. In the past I have arrived onboard to find that some of the best shows are already sold out. Ideally book the shows before you cruise, you can do this on the NCL website. If not try to book them on your first day onboard. You can do this through your stateroom TV or through the phone app. (It doesn’t matter if you don’t go, they just give away your space to somebody else). When you get to the theatre your room keycard is scanned to check that you have booked, you can go into the theatre around 30 minutes prior to show time. If you haven’t booked you are made to wait outside until ten minutes before the show when they give away the remaining seats. You more than likely will still get a seat like this but they’re likely to be the worst seats in the theatre.
NOTE: You only have to book shows on the newer ships, of Epic class or higher. (Epic, Getaway, Breakaway, Escape, Bliss, Escape)
3. Jam packed schedule!
NCL are one of these cruise lines that fills every inch of the ship with stuff to do. If you like waterslides/rock climbing/ropes courses/bowling etc then NCL is ideal for you. I have been on other cruise ships where I have been bored *gasp* but that definitely never happens onboard NCL. Every night a ‘freestyle daily’ will be placed your bed letting you know what is happening the following day. There are events going on from way before I get up until way after I go to bed. One of the things which I particular enjoy about NCL is that you can just go for a wander and you are sure to find something going on somewhere, there is constantly musicians playing around the ship and there are a number of gameshows/talks on everyday.
4. There is a corkage charge
On other cruise lines you are able to bring on alcohol without a corkage charge providing that you don’t take it into the restaurants. However this isn’t the case on NCL. You can bring onboard corked wine but that is subject to a corkage fee which is $15.00 for a 750ml bottle. This has never seemed worth it to me so I haven’t ever brought wine onboard. You cannot bring on any non alcoholic drinks, beers or liquors. (They do make brilliant drinks onboard though, I’d whole heartedly recommend the ultimate beverage package). More about that here: NCL’s Ultimate Beverage Package.
5. No free room service or laundry
I have been on other cruise lines which provide free room service. However this isn’t free on NCL ($7.95 per order). There also is no free room where you can do laundry. When you reach the higher tiers of latitudes you do get a free bag of laundry though which is brilliant.
6. Teenagers and kids
I have been cruising on NCL since I was 11. When I was a child I attended the kids clubs and spent time in the teen lounges when I was a teenager. From personal experience would say that NCL are one of the better cruise lines when it comes to kids, they have a lot of events going on for them everyday and most ships have a teen lounge where teenagers can hang out away from parents. When I would go to the teen lounge with my friends we would play the playstation or pool. I met many people in the kids/teen clubs onboard, many of whom I still are friends with to this day! (Well Facebook friends.. that counts right?). If you have kids or teenagers I would definitely recommend NCL as a cruise line to consider.
7. A lot of things cost extra onboard.
There are a lot of hidden extras. After paying your cruise fare you must factor in gratuities (although this is true for most cruise lines). I have written a post about cruise line gratuities here: Cruise line gratuities infographic. There are then a number of things which cost extra…
More about the extra costs here: Hidden costs of cruising.
8. Younger passengers
It seems, to me anyway, that NCL has a younger audience than other cruise lines which I have been on. It tends to attract many young adults in their 20s and 30s as well as young families which may not like the more traditional cruising experience offered by other cruise lines. The unlimited drinks packages and water slides may have something to do with that!. There are of course a lot of more traditional cruisers onboard too but in general the vibe is much younger and more energetic than certain other cruise lines that I won’t mention. *cough cough Cunard*.
Have you ever cruised on NCL? Got anything I should add to the list? Please let me know in the comments.
If you’ve booked an NCL cruise and want to carry on reading about them please check out the NCL section of my blog where I provide tons of hints and tips! NCL