NorwegianCruiseShipI have a confession. As much as I love travel, I have never been on a cruise – and that was on purpose.

Oh, my immediate family all swears by cruising. Often, they talk of doing a family reunion or a joint celebration of family milestones on board a cruise boat. My siblings have sailed together through the islands, and my father has taken cruises through Panama and Alaska. They all have returned home with nothing but raves for the ease of travel, the cuisine, the ports of call and the activities onboard.

I’m the only one who has remained decidedly landlocked. Cruises actually intimidated me. First of all, I’ve never been one who likes feeling trapped in any situation. If I’m going anywhere, I like to drive myself so I have some control as to how long I stay.

Epic Epic_Plunge_webAlso, I always thought that I couldn’t afford the cruising life. Oh, sure, a cruise is actually a pretty good travel value. Often they’re all inclusive, so you know what you’re spending before the anchor is lifted. For a mom like me, this makes budgeting really simple.

But I didn’t think I could afford the wardrobe I would need for a cruise boat. I pictured dinners with the Captain where gowns and tuxedos were the norm. (Yes, I was brought up watching The Love Boat.)I have three teenage sons who don’t even own suits and a husband who considers his Izod polo shirt suitable dress attire. I’d have to invest a bundle on tuxes – not to mention styling myself and my daughter – before I even packed a suitcase. That alone was enough to have me banning cruises forever.

Well, let’s face it – forever is a long time, and things change. As I learned while attending the Family Travel Conference earlier this month, Norwegian Cruise Line has offered what they call “freestyle cruising” since mid-2000. Freestyle Cruising allows the ship’s passengers a lot more freedom of choice, when it comes to things like dining times and options, entertainment and activities, and even – get this – relaxed attire.

I didn’t know I could cruise freestyle and still enjoy the exceptional travel experience my family raved about – while my sons were still in polos and khakis. But after hearing about Norwegian’s Freestyle Cruising, I am totally onboard with the next family cruise.

The Freestyle Difference
Freestyle Cruising is offered to passengers of all the Norwegian Cruise Line ships. In fact, some of its ships were built for this express purpose. To date, there are eleven purpose-built Freestyle Cruising ships in the Norwegian fleet.
Some of the differences offered that turned my head include:

  • The Dining Difference – Norwegian cruise ships offer more than 20 dining options. My husband, who often plans entire vacations around his dining choices, was thrilled to learn he could eat somewhere different every day and never get off the boat. Extended hours and open seating are also available in the main dining rooms, so meal time is pretty much up to us. You can also request your dining companions, so you don’t have to feel stuck making small talk with someone while that great couple you met on deck are across the room from you.
  • The Dressing Difference – resort casual dress is the norm, so I won’t feel out of place in the clothes I already have. For those of you who enjoy putting on the Ritz, there is a completely optional formal night where you can show off your Stella McCartney or hubby’s black tails. And while you’re rubbing elbows with the passengers in their finery, my crew will be sharing pizza in their blue jeans – and both our families will be having a great time.
  • The Disembarkation Difference – no matter how wonderful your travel time has been, getting off the ship can be stressful. But Norwegian has a disembarkation system that allows you to have a leisurely breakfast before departing the ship. Your luggage tag will be called to let you know your things are ready, but you can have a final OJ before final call.
  • The Decompression Difference – Activities and programs on board a Norwegian Cruise ship are designed to stimulate the mind and challenge the body – but at your own speed, so the cruise is nothing but relaxing and fun. I may head to the Internet Café while my teens go mountain bikind and my hubby takes my daughter to a cooking class. We all can cruise “our way,” but still be together as a family, which is so important to traveling moms.

Learning about Freestyle Cruising opened my eyes to the possibilities for my family. We’re seriously considering a cruise for our next family get together. After all, where else could we visit numerous destinations but pack only once?