Branching out! Not stepping down! NCL rocked our socks!

sweetpee_1993

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
With all the "stepping down" talk....I thought maybe a quicky share from a seasoned DCL cruiser (12 sailings across all 4 ships in 4 years) would be an interesting read.

Disney's product is unique in its theming and how they use that to shape their experience. Other cruise lines have a lot to offer as well, some aspects better than Disney. There's pros & cons to all. I like to think of the cruise experiences as different flavors, cookies-n-cream vs. mint chocolate chip if you will. Educating yourself on all the options out there is a very smart thing. Educated decisions are not bad decisions. Folks should choose what fits best for them.

Tracey & I took a 7-night Eastern on the NCL Getaway out of Miami without our boys. I'm up to 12 DCL cruises, spent 34 days onboard cruise ships from Sept 2014 to Sept 2015. I think I have a bit of a cruise problem. :O LOL! Anywhoo, first time on NCL. Had a fabulous time. Balcony room, all our adult beverages included, 4 meals in upcharge restaurants, excursions/activities, gratuities, eeeeeverything for 7 nights for less than a Dream 4-night with no drinks, no upcharge meals, no excursions, nothing additional. I'd say Disney's stage shows are better than NCL but it's not like we made a huge effort to go to many. We don't really go to shows on Disney anymore either because we've seen them so many times. Honestly, I think for the 3 cruise lines we've done, Royal Caribbean easily has the best shows in terms of quality and variety. Activities. We only did a few although there were many that I thought looked cool. Again, we don't do so much activities on Disney anymore because we've done so many and they're repetitive now. And let me just say, Freestyle cruising is where it's at!!!! For real! No assigned times. No assigned venues. 20-something venue options, reservations not required. Show up and enjoy. Very laid back. No need to get all dressy. Relaxing, fun, and variety! I was in LOVE! We made several great friends onboard. It was awesome for the group of 2-5 couples to spontaneously decide let's go eat, show up at a fabulous restaurant, and BAM we're seated. Eating what you want when you want it how you prefer was refreshing beyond words for me. I don't know how I'll ever go back to assigned time/place in just a small handful of venues. Ugh! We found the crew to be every bit as attentive and on-point as Disney. Service was great. The ship was clean and beautiful. Our stateroom was arguably in better condition than many we've had on Disney ships. In ports when we returned to the ship they had tents set up with cool eucalyptus cloths, ice & infused water, festive music, etc. Ropes course was off the chain! Rock wall, mini-golf, multiple slides....all very fun things to do. It was an overall fabulous experience and I'm so glad I gave something else a try. It was a huge breath of fresh air.

Was a NCL cruise like Disney? Thankfully, no. I'm sure you can tell, I'm pretty bored with Disney. Really there's only so many times you can meet the same characters, see the same shows, go to the same ports, do the same activities, eat the same foods in the same places, etc. etc. Both our boys are aged out of Disney's youth programs now and are in that no-man's-land where they'd like to find their peers but there is no dedicated venue & not much offered outside of self-organizing. At least when we sail back-to-back on the new NCL Escape next May our boys will be able to buy & be served beer. They're looking forward to that option. The new mega ships offer a lot more things that are a better fit for young adults. Better fit for us & our current season of life overall now.

All that said, while Tracey & I were making our 1200 mile drive home from Miami with plenty of time to reflect on what we'd just experienced, we came up with a million-dollar question for each other: If someone were in front of us right now and offered us a completely free cruise with our choice of cruise line/ship what would we choose? With ZERO hesitation we both said NCL.

I sailed the Disney Dream in Sept. I did not book a placeholder onboard. We sailed NCL's Getaway the following week. We bought 2 Cruise Next certificates. :D
 

rob0519

Well-Known Member
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Good to hear. We sail on the NCL Escape on 11/14. That sort of recommendation from someone with that kind of cruising time on DCL goes a long way. I know my wife has already made reservations at 5 specialty restaurants and we'll be trying two of the three main dining rooms to see what those are like. My adult children have already booked a John Hughes inspired dinner show.
 

Sans Souci

Well-Known Member
But I heard the people on DCL are "classier"--practically blue bloods! :p

No, really, I am glad you and Tracy had a great time. I was thinking today about how we really don't do things like the shows, meet and greets, etc. and how much we were paying over the odds for things we did not "use" on a Disney ship. We are open to exploring other cruise lines and I am glad to hear you had an excellent experience.
 
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rob0519

Well-Known Member
We have a special needs adult son who is both developmentally and physically disabled. He is ambulatory, but has difficulty with walking longer distances. He also has very simple taste in foods. For the most part when we eat out it's Burgers, Pizza, Chicken Tenders and other very simple or plain foods.

So last night I called the Norwegian Cruise Line Access Line that deals with guests who have special needs.
I explained our situation and was told that there may be a wheel chair available at embarkation for him to use, but there are a limited number, so it's possible one may not be available.

I moved on to food and explained that I had seen a menu for the Supper Club Dinner show and there was nothing on that menu he would eat and asked what could be provided, even if it was a children's meal served on an adult sized plate.

The agent said nothing could be done about the menu and suggested we cancel that reservation, read the menus of the various restaurants and only eat at those or the buffet. I wasn't expecting much, but this response was significantly less than satisfactory. Not sure how we're going to handle this as we have multiple specialty restaurants booked 5 of the 7 nights.

On the Wonder, and I will say this was in the main dining rooms, our servers understood his dining limitations and presented him with several options each night. I'm hoping the staff on the ship is more helpful and understanding than the staff on the phone.
 

macfreak

New Member
What are the kids clubs like? We are going with 4 yr old and 9 yr old and while our little one likely wouldn't care about meeting the characters he is excited over the monsters inc play area.
But our 9 yr old I think she is just excited to go play. I'm more concerned with how they would do with a 4 yr old
 

sweetpee_1993

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
@rob0519, I don't find call center employees for any cruise line to be very reliable. I'm not exactly sure how you could find additional, more accurate info. Perhaps the cruise line has a number for dining or special needs specifically. I really don't know.

@macfreak, I have no idea about the youth programs. Our boys are now both aged-out so I've done zero research there. We were on deck 12 forward on the Getaway. The Splash Academy was by the elevators nearest us. Seemed like a popular enough place. ;) The other thing I thought was super cute was when we were waiting to be hooked onto the ropes course there was a lower level with similar apparatus to the higher adult course down low, a few feet off the ground for smaller children. It was so sweet! I thought the inclusion of kids too small for the full up high course on a more appropriate scale was a great idea.
 

flynnibus

Premium Member
Really there's only so many times you can meet the same characters, see the same shows, go to the same ports, do the same activities, eat the same foods in the same places, etc. etc. Both our boys are aged out of Disney's youth programs now and are in that no-man's-land where they'd like to find their peers but there is no dedicated venue & not much offered outside of self-organizing.

I agree.. I was hitting that saturation point WAY before you :) There is a huge gap between Disney's Carib. cruises and the more variety like Med, Panama, etc. Wish there was a bit more flexibility with the ships.. Disney's limited fleet vs the other big boys really keeps them in the 'same old same old' groove.

Glad you're finding some variety and still enjoying what you're sampling!
 

flynnibus

Premium Member
I moved on to food and explained that I had seen a menu for the Supper Club Dinner show and there was nothing on that menu he would eat and asked what could be provided, even if it was a children's meal served on an adult sized plate.

The agent said nothing could be done about the menu and suggested we cancel that reservation, read the menus of the various restaurants and only eat at those or the buffet. I wasn't expecting much, but this response was significantly less than satisfactory. Not sure how we're going to handle this as we have multiple specialty restaurants booked 5 of the 7 nights.

Wow - so disappointing. I hope you have better success with flexibility once onsite. All the major cruise lines are so customer service focused I would be shocked if they are so strict once out there. Wishing you well!
 

Fishbait

Active Member
What are the kids clubs like? We are going with 4 yr old and 9 yr old and while our little one likely wouldn't care about meeting the characters he is excited over the monsters inc play area.
But our 9 yr old I think she is just excited to go play. I'm more concerned with how they would do with a 4 yr old

We did the Getaway in October with our 9 yr old daughter. She absolutely loved the kids program. The younger kids seemed to have fun too, but I can't tell you first hand on that one. But overall NCL seemed to put a lot of effort into their kids program.
 

Ralphlaw

Well-Known Member
The Freestyle eating sounds great, but I wonder how much extra seating and kitchen/wait staff they need because of it. I think most people probably want to eat supper between 5:30 and 7:00, but I wonder if any of the Disney ships could accommodate a majority of all the guests at that time. I'm curious to hear how NCL does that.

I would agree that Disney is probably less appealing to people with older kids or just plain adults. My daughter is 9, and she still likes going to the club and lab. Soon it'll be Edge, then Vibe. Perhaps rock walls and rope courses will be far more to her liking at that point.

I can't help but to ask again about the debarkation. Back in the 90s, it was 100% awful once the tips were delivered. Has NCL gotten their act together in that regard?

I still say, and it would appear that most people would agree, that Disney rewrote the cruise industry. In the 70's and before, cruises were usually seen as an old people vacation. Then Love Boat and Kathie Lee Gifford brought the ideas of young couple and singles taking to the seas in the early 80s. Disney transformed it into a family vacation in the late 90s and early 00s. It appears that the rest of the industry is finally catching up.

I also don't blame you for being tired of the shows and the characters. That stuff was magical on our first couple cruises. Now, we can't help but feel a little ho-hum about them. Been there. Done that. By the way, 34 cruise days in 3 years is very impressive. We've done 45 days on Disney cruises, but it took us 5 years to do it. Our last two were 12 days each in Europe, so the ports were more of our focus, with the ship itself being more of a comfort blanket than an exciting part of the trip. We also coupled them with Adventures By Disney to take it up a notch.
 

Wendy Pleakley

Well-Known Member
I've done two Disney cruises, and they really do an amazing job.

However, due to the huge price difference which you demonstrated very well, and the feeling of "been there, done that" on my last Disney cruise, I'm in no rush whatsoever to do another one.
 

wogwog

Well-Known Member
@sweetpee_1993 Similar reaction from me. Many many DCL and a few RC's in my four years in Florida. Sailed my first Celebrity about two weeks ago. Number two in three weeks another in January and a cross Atlantic fall of 2016. I live so close to Canaveral I was simply too lazy to drive to a Celebrity port previously. I especially found the food noticeably superior on Celebrity. Yes even better than Disney. I found the service of the crew equal to or even better than Disney. I am not giving up on DCL as we are doing the inaugural Star Wars cruise for my way too geeky Daughter. But Disney better watch it's game as Celebrity sure beats them on price.
 

Ralphlaw

Well-Known Member
I recently looked into NCL for a Hawaii trip, and was disappointed to see that our family of 4 would not be comfortable because of the cabin set up. Most DCL cabins have a main double or queen bed, plus the retractable bunk beds. 4 can sleep comfortably, which is a must for my wife and me in the big bed, and my teenage son and 9 year old daughter in the bunk beds. The NCL arrangement doesn't have the 3 beds, thus forcing our kids to sleep in the same bed. Unfortunately, that's a deal breaker for us.

Are the bed arrangements on the DCL ships that unique? It seems to make so much sense for families of 4 that it would essentially be standard in the industry by now. I also know that a slightly nicer cabin has an extra pull down bed by the balcony, thus bringing the comfortable sleeping arrangements to 5. Again, it all seems to be a common sense arrangement that one would think the rest of industry would follow it.
 

Wendy Pleakley

Well-Known Member
Are the bed arrangements on the DCL ships that unique? It seems to make so much sense for families of 4 that it would essentially be standard in the industry by now. I also know that a slightly nicer cabin has an extra pull down bed by the balcony, thus bringing the comfortable sleeping arrangements to 5. Again, it all seems to be a common sense arrangement that one would think the rest of industry would follow it.

I think most cruise cabins are not meant for more than two people, typically. I don't think most cruise lines are focused on kids at all. Disney is unique in this regard, and I'm not shocked their cabins would be unique as a result.

You can likely book two cabins on another cruise line for less than what you'd pay for a single cabin on a Disney cruise.
 

nerdboyrockstar

Well-Known Member
I just got off the Escape and had the best time. I've also been on the Getaway and Epic and absolutely loved them. I'm glad the Epic is coming back from Europe and will be sailing out of Orlando. I'll be hopefully jumping back on it then!
 

Ralphlaw

Well-Known Member
You can likely book two cabins on another cruise line for less than what you'd pay for a single cabin on a Disney cruise.

I looked into that, but that did not seem to be the case at all, at least not on the trips that I was looking at. I imagine that may be true for some routes, but it also means comparing apples to oranges. The one way Hawaii trips that I was considering are not offered by Disney, so it's hard to compare.

To me, the cabin arrangement is one more reason that Disney leads the industry for families. It also helps explain in part why they charge more--more people in each cabin. And probably more square footage in each cabin to fit them all in, thus justifying a higher price. I know that's not the full story, but that's probably part of it.
 

jaklgreen

Well-Known Member
I was wondering since they have a casino, do they let people smoke inside the ship? I am extremely allergic to cigarette smoke and being in an enclosed ship walking through the smoke would do me in.
 

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