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Crystal Cruises announced today that it will add "Open Dining by Reservation," a flexible dining option, to the Crystal Dining Room. How do you feel? Vote in our poll -- and be sure to share your thoughts below!
Director, Product Development
Melissa, I concur with Judith! While I personally prefer the set time, particularly late seating, the third option is perfect addition for those who want it! I might take advantage of this option on a case per case...or on a particular evening if it's warranted. I too applaud Crystal for the flexibilty...smart move and kudos to Crystal.
I applaud Crystal on now offering this choice of dining hours.
When we travelled with our group of friends having an assigned table was terrific.
When we travelled alone our table of 8 turned into the table from hell.
This last cruise we didn't take a chance, we had a table for 2.It was fine but we really prefer dining with others.
Once again we dined in all the alternative restaurants.
Those cruisers who always have the same seats and waiters and time will still have this choice.
At last they've caught up with the rest of the world. When I book a restaurant on land I tell them what time I wish to dine, not the other way around. After a day ashore it is nice to leisurely prepare for dinner, rather than rush around; conversely, after a day at sea it's nice to have the option of eating earlier. It must be easier for the galley, too, to have the diners' times staggered.
It seems rather weird to me. I certainly understand that many people like the flexibility of walking into the dining room on some ships whenever they feel like it. That, makes a lot of sense, even though we like the fixed seating and have always had only good experiences with our table mates. But, in my opinion, to pre-book various seating times in the MDR seems to completely defeat the purpose. Although on my upcoming Med. cruise I chose two nights and pre-booked Prego and Silk Road, I would not want to have to sit down and figure out ahead of time what time I wanted to eat on all of the other nights.
For me, I prefer to keep my fixed seating and not worry about it.
I see this as a very positive move! While perhaps a touch of the special ambience will be lost in the MDR, especially on formal nights, there are so many passengers who would absolutely love Crystal who were put off by the set time dining. The ability to have flexible times, variable by evening, allows those passengers to be Crystallized, too.
In reality, I think most passengers will still opt for the set time, or something close to it (though perhaps not necessarily at the classic early or late times), and that's just fine. There are many who find early too early, and late too late... but 7:00 to be juuuuust right. They'll have time for an apres dinner drink before heading to the late show. Doesn't sound too bad, even though I'll likely stay with the classic late myself.
Last two times we had fixed dining & tablemates (Princess and Crystal), we had problems. We've also experienced true "anytime dining" on Oceania, Azamara, Regent and Silversea and greatly enjoy it (and prefer it) to fixed seating. That's the reason we haven't been back to Crystal.
We've found "spontaneous dining" (just show up when you wish) has not worked well on other lines that offer a mix of fixed and "anytime" dining (e.g., Princess and HAL) -- usually have to wait quite a while. Reservations work best -- but then that's not "spontaneous".
We'll wait and see how it works out for Crystal. Making reservations for dinner times months ahead of time is not appealing to me. Maybe when Crystal finally gets around to a new-build, they'll design the restaurants and galleys to be able offer fixed dining for those who want it, and TRUE anytime dining for those who wish to go that route.
David and I have been very lucky with our table mates at a table for 8 in general, and we like assigned seating and late seating, but I understand why Crystal is doing this. Crystal needs to respond to those who don't like assigned seating, that's a large group of paying guests. Would I like Crystal to remain the same always---oh, yes! But that is not realistic in these times and we want Crystal to continue to sail with full ships. Perhaps being able to make a reservation for a particular time will allow flexible seating and assigned seating to be harmonious. We had open seating on Regent and it did not work well. People were lined up outside of the dining room door. Hopefully, with reservations, that will not happen.
In short, it was not feasible to go with open seating for everyone.
And there are some people who prefer open seating on all cruises.
And there are some people who will vary this one selecting fixed seating one one voyage or open seating on another voyage based on several factors including the specific itinerary of the voyage or people they are traveling with.
To me it is a win win.
At this point I only see up side and no down side.
I have always said that Crystal is willing to try new approaches and doesn't just sit back.
I personally applaud Crystal for trying something new.
Let's all give it time to be implemented and judge this after it has been rolled out for some time.
I agree with Keith. Let us give this new approach some time before this approach is voted up or down. Fortunately, Crystal listens to its passengers and makes adjustments where it can. I thank Crystal for listening to customer demands as well as paying attention to what the other luxury have instituted. Good for Crystal. Next, I hope that we can have Crystal establish a no smoking policy in the Avenue Saloon. Crystal, are you listening? Thank you.
The fact that you get priority booking for a certain reservation time based on paying 6 months in advance will put some at an advantage. You can book a set time once on board but, this will be based on availability. What will be the criteria for this? Number of cruises with Crystal? or first come, first serve.
This plan will attract new passengers to Crystal. The concept is going to put the Maitre 'd's in a difficult position. Will classic dinner service be rushed to accommodate "reservations"? There is nothing worse than dining in a restaurant that is trying to turn their tables. If there is a full passenger load, this could be problematic. If the ship is not full, it probably wouldn't make much difference because with the exception of formal night, the dining room can be pretty sparsely attended due to the excellent alternative dining options. I can understand Crystal's need to do. It will be interesting to see how it all works.
If there is a full passenger load, this could be problematic.
Perhaps Crystal is predicting that their 20% overall fare increase will not lead to full ships.
I suspect that those who plan well in advance will do fine, but those who try to reserve a 7:30 will be hearing that the time is booked, and all that remains is a choice of 6:15 or 8:30 (sound familiar?)
The early Captain's parties will probably get busier, as those who book the "'tween times" will shift to that one.
The main benefit will probably be to draw in a few who prefer flexible dining, but they may end up disappointed to learn that this isn't really flexible, but is "pick your own fixed time - if we have space" dining.
As there are two threads on this subject I am posting this on both threads.
This evening I had the opportunity to learn a great deal about how the addition of open seating will be implemented next year and I am more convinced that it will be a wonderful enhancement. I spoke with two officers about this and learned a great deal about how it will be rolled out.
In short, it is another nice feature added to accommodate those passengers
who prefer open seating while providing fixed seating for all of the passengers who prefer fixed seating. In short, it is a win-win for those who want fixed or open seating.
Again it has been designed to accommodate the passenger’s and it once again shows how Crystal does listen to the passenger’s.
Here’s how it will work.
Starting in July, at the time you make your final payment for a 2011 cruise, you will be able to make your reservations for open seating.
You can customize each day of the cruise. On each day you can select the time and table size you want and you can customize it for each and every day. Certainly the earlier you make your final payment the more likelihood you will be to get the table size and time you want. So, if you make your final payment six months in advance versus say four months in advance you will have better odds.
At the time you go on line, the system will automatically tell you if your desired time and table size is available. If it is not you can select another time and table size. Again, you select each and every night.
The same will go for Prego and Silk Road. Whereas today you can make one reservation in each of these restaurants when you pay six months in advance and you are asked to list one time and two alternatives when the new system rolls out each person can choose one reservation in each of these restaurants as soon as the make their final payment. Unlike today if you make your final payment four months in advance you can make a reservation in each of these two restaurants and unlike today you will immediately know if the table size and the time is available so you won’t have to provide alternative times.
As to the dining room. They will first determine how many of the passengers want fixed seating for early and late dining and also factor in the overall bookings for the cruise. Based on this information they will allocate a portion of the dining room for the open seating. The area for open seating will vary by voyage based on these factors (overall bookings and the number of people who want fixed dining). Within the open seating they can reconfigure tables as they do today in the specialty restaurants.
For those who pick open seating there will be specific waiters, and senior waiters and head water(s) for that section. The senior waiters and waiters will pool the tips as they do today at Silk Road and Prego. If you want to give extra to a waiter/senior waiter you can do that as you can today at Silk Road and Prego.
And there is no worry about what time the wait staff will get off at the end of the evening since even today there are some passengers who arrive after the designated time. For example some in the main seating arrive at around 7:00 PM vs the start time of 6:00 or 6:15 PM and some arrive at 9:00 PM versus the official time of 8:30 PM It will be no big deal as that is what happens today in Prego and Silk Road and the area of the dining room who takes care of open seating will be used to this.
The net of all of this is that Crystal has come up with a way to address those who want open seating (either existing passengers or those who have not booked Crystal because they had not offered open seating) while offering fixed seating to all of the passengers who prefer fixed seating.
As I say, I think this is a win win for everyone.
If folks have questions I will be happy to answer them and if I cannot I will track down the answer.
I am more convinced then ever that this is another wonderful approach by Crystal and I applaud those who came up with this approach.
Like anything that is new I am sure that there will be some tweaking that is done to all of this and for the first few voyages after it is implemented there will be a few lessons learned but I am sure this will turn out to be another great approach.
Crystal was the first cruise line to implement the concept of specialty restaurants and I am sure most passengers would agree how wonderful that has been even though it was a change.
Give this time and realize it is a smart approach all the way around.
Anne Marie and I prefer fixed seating and will stick with that and implementing this will have no impact on us but will certainly be a positive step for those who prefer open seating.
If you prefer fixed seating as you do today there will be no change for you.
If you prefer open seating you can take advantage of this. Yes, the earlier you make your final payment the earlier you can make your selections. But you do not have to pay six months in advance as you do today to make one specialty restaurant reservation in each restaurant and as soon as you make your final payment you can make the open seating reservations. I think this is a fair approach and minimized people clogging up the system who have not made a final payment.
Thanks Keith! It's great that you can get firsthand info from the officers while on board the Serenity and share this info. As I posted on the other 2011 dining thread, there is a PDF on Crystal's website that answers so many questions about the 2011 dining options.