Who's Next With Flexible Dining?

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#2
chicago area
728 Posts
Joined Jun 2007
Originally posted by LauraS
Cruise Critic has just posted the following news:

Who's Next With Flexible Dining?

Read the entire news article...
Hopefully nobody is next. My experience on Pride of Aloha with flexible dining was poor. I'll take assigned seating, good wait-staff and great food on RCCL anytime. You couldn't give me a free cruise on NCL ( and the free style dining is a big part of that). The waiter was slow (seated at 5:30-5:45 out at 8:00 ish or later), the food was not even close to what I would get in my local eateries - even the "chains" - in quality or variety (at least serve it warm folks!), and our large party had to wait for every last member to be seated at one of the two tables we reserved nightly. Oh, yeah. be at the dining room when it opens unless you want to stand around for awhile. Don't count on both (Pride of Aloha) dining rooms to be open - they usually aren"t. I want set times. That way I don't have to wait to be served. I want quick service, good food, professional wait staff and a set time. (With freestyle, if the wait staff takes its' time, they can wait on fewer people and still rake in the same gratuity at the end of the cruise!) and When RCCL goes flexible, I quit cruising.
#3
67 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
I personally would feel turned off if both Celebrity and RCCL began offering anytime dining on their ships. Although I feel that this gives passengers a lot of flexibility, I also feel that a lot of the “charm” in cruising is removed and it sort of would make me feel like I’m on a typical resort vacation rather than on a cruise. As your article stated, I do believe that the waiter-guest relationship is essential to a fantastic cruise experience, and I feel that they should leave the main dining room alone. Obviously with ships the size of the Freedom-Class and the new Solstice-Class, RCCL and Celebrity will both be able to offer more dining choices for those people who desire them, however, I feel that they should stick to the regular service for the dining rooms.

As far as I’ve read, NCL has had quite a few problems with their “Freestyle” dining due to the fact that many restaurants come at a premium, so in the end, people who have paid for their cruise vacation expecting the “all-inclusive” feel will end up having to eat in the same venue every evening if they want to avoid paying the extra costs. If so, the guest that decides to eat at the “free” restaurant every night will probably have to face a different waiter and a different set of tablemates all through their cruise vacation, thus making it a rather uncomfortable trip.

In the end, I think that there’s plenty of cruise lines who have gone the route of “anytime dining” and so they should remain, I think that RCCL and Celebrity should keep themselves apart as the cruise lines that still offer “traditional” dining at the risk of perhaps sounding too “vintage”.

In any sense, good luck to RCCL and Celebrity and I hope they make the right choice…

Just my 2 Cents
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#4
67 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
Originally posted by coordinator23
When RCCL goes flexible, I quit cruising.
Wow, pretty strong words there, but I totally agree with you. If I'm going on a cruise, I don't want to wait extra, pay extra, or have to deal with a different set of people everytime. Part of the reason some of us fell in love with cruising is the people and the staff (amongst many other things) so please don't take that away RCCL & Celebrity!!!
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#5
Maryland
4,477 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
We like having the option to pick either traditional seating or anytime. Since anytime has been offered on Princess, we have selected it. We then ask the head waiter to help us find a fun waiter. When we find him/her, we then book that same table every night...usually at the same time...which is pretty close to traditional.

With our anytime dining, we have never had long waits, cold food or sub-standard service. Maybe we have just been lucky. I'd like to think not...as eventually our luck would most likely run out.

I am glad that there are still ships/companies offering both ...everyone likes things the way they like them...and it is great when most everyone can be happy!

Happy cruising!!!
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#6
2,185 Posts
Joined Jan 2006
As a Platinum Princess cruisers who combine anytime dining with a set table and time, We went astray last year and tried RCCL -- Never again.

Traditional dining gives the choice of too early or too late.

The food on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the sea was inedible. We spoke to the executive chef who said all he could do was cook to RCCL's dictates. The same "Brown Sauce" on salmon and prime rib --ugh!!

On Princess we get off-menu items cooked to our desires.

We will take Princess' anytime dining as modified by the Maitre d' and the head waiters. It is the best of all compromises.
#7
Florida
341 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
I'm not in favor of flexible dining. We'll be cruising 5/18/08 for our 30th anniversary and prefer a scheduled dining time (early or late). It's exciting to board and check out the formal dining room to see what table is going to be "ours" for the week. Getting to know our waiter personally is a big plus. I'm in my mid 50's and it seems that many of the younger people have a completely different state of mind when it comes to dining and "dressing" for dinner. Of course the "dressing" part is a whole different subject. If I wanted to stand in line and wait for a table, I'd stay home and go to a restaurant. Flexible dining would change the whole cruise experience for me. I've heard many complaints from my friends about flexible dining. Even though cruising is my favorite way to travel, I honestly don't think it would appeal to me if flexible dining was the only option. Please don't do it Royal Caribbean!!
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#8
Cape Cod, MA
1,093 Posts
Joined Apr 2003
I would not enjoy the flexable dining option. We tried it once on Princess, and we really prefer traditional seating. It is so nice to meet our tablemates on the first night. We have never had a bad tablemate situation, so I guess we are lucky. It is nice to get the "so where are you from, have you cruised before etc.." conversation over just the one time, so the remainder of the cruise you can have more personalised discussions. I am in my 30's and my DH is in his 40's. Our kids are 8 and 10, and we love dressing up for dinner each night. I would hesitate before booking another cruise that did not have formal seating at set times.
Just my 2 cents..
Kim
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#9
67 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
Originally posted by Roses2
On Princess we get off-menu items cooked to our desires.
I can see your point, I'm sorry you had a bad experience with RCCL, but I guess there's something different for everyone out there, and I wouldn't hesitate to give Princess a try as I know you can choose either option when you cruise with them. In Fact, Star Princess was a strong contender for our South America Cruise that's coming up next week, however timing was bad and it did not go to Brazil... may be next time!

Originally posted by cruiser2101
I'm in my mid 50's and it seems that many of the younger people have a completely different state of mind when it comes to dining and "dressing" for dinner.
Funny you say that, I'm actually in my mid 20's and I love the whole dressing up and going to a formal dinner thing, but I can see where you're coming from. For example, many of my friends in my same age bracket are sort of turned off by the whole dressing up thing... and I think that's too bad cause eventually I know the cruise lines will cater more to "our generation" as opposed to the "Baby Boomers" et. al. but we'll see what happens then...

In the Mean time I agree... "PLEASE DON'T DO IT ROYAL CARIBBEAN!!!"
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#10
chicago area
728 Posts
Joined Jun 2007
I cruised Mariner of the Seas in January. It was a fabulous cruise! The ship was so well kept, it was hard to believe that it was not brand new. The food and service were fabulous. We enjoyed the shows - make sure you catch the ice show. Johnny Rockets, shopping, the Casino and all the ship had to offer. What a wonderful place to spend your 30tth!!
#11
CAPE COD
1,638 Posts
Joined Dec 2006
I cruised twice last year. In Feb. on the Westerdam and Sept. on Ncl Majesty. I went reluctantly on the Majesty not wanting the Freestyle diniing. Even though the ship is small and not designed to accomodate anytime dining . We did manage to adjust and enjoyed the flexabilty of Freestyle What we did find totally unaceptable was the lack of any dress code in the main dining room.

I understand that it is difficult to compare the two lines as their focus is to a different group That being said I'm not ready to stop cruising over this issue.
#12
New Jersey
3,591 Posts
Joined Nov 2005
I think the whole point of Royal Caribbean's new effort is, as with Princess, to offer the option of choosing flexible or set seating. So each will have its own array of options. It's really not that one is any better than the other, it's just different strokes. And if cruise lines want to appeal to the broader audiences they say they're seeking than they have to be a bit more, er, flexible.

Carolyn

Carolyn Spencer Brown
Editor
Cruise Critic

Originally posted by cruiser2101
I'm not in favor of flexible dining. We'll be cruising 5/18/08 for our 30th anniversary and prefer a scheduled dining time (early or late). It's exciting to board and check out the formal dining room to see what table is going to be "ours" for the week. Getting to know our waiter personally is a big plus. I'm in my mid 50's and it seems that many of the younger people have a completely different state of mind when it comes to dining and "dressing" for dinner. Of course the "dressing" part is a whole different subject. If I wanted to stand in line and wait for a table, I'd stay home and go to a restaurant. Flexible dining would change the whole cruise experience for me. I've heard many complaints from my friends about flexible dining. Even though cruising is my favorite way to travel, I honestly don't think it would appeal to me if flexible dining was the only option. Please don't do it Royal Caribbean!!
#13
New Brunswick Canada
66 Posts
Joined Nov 2007
I cruised NCL Dawn in November and after not having cruised for about 30 years, I must say I was truly disappointed with the dining experience. The first couple of days I really felt cheated out of the whole experience but settled into it when the freedom of not having to go back to my cabin to "dress" for dinner sunk in.

I thought that although we did not have a set meal time that we would have a dining table assignment therefore offering us a chance to meet fellow passengers and I did not realize that meals were buffet style thus not affording us the opportunity to have our own wait staff for the duration of the cruise.

My memories of cruising from when I was younger was one of truly enjoying the experience of meeting fellow passengers in the dining room and having the wait staff "entertain" us during meal time.

While I enjoyed my cruise on NCL Dawn my next cruise will have assigned seating. My niece and I met people on the excursions but other than that barely saw the same people twice.
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#14
New Mexico
910 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
Originally posted by greyhounds
...My memories of cruising from when I was younger was one of truly enjoying the experience of meeting fellow passengers in the dining room and having the wait staff "entertain" us during meal time.

While I enjoyed my cruise on NCL Dawn my next cruise will have assigned seating. My niece and I met people on the excursions but other than that barely saw the same people twice.

I prefer assigned seating also, and if I want to do something different, I have the option of going to a specialty eatery. Personally, I love dressing for dinner, and would hate to give that up. But I know everyone doesn't enjoy it, and they should be able to do what they like too.
I hope these options remain open. One size just doesn't fit all when it comes to cruise dining!


BTW, I love your taste in dogs! DH and I volunteer for a local greyhound placement agency, and have two of our own.
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So...when do we leave?
#15
New Brunswick Canada
66 Posts
Joined Nov 2007
Originally posted by Houndmom
I prefer assigned seating also, and if I want to do something different, I have the option of going to a specialty eatery. Personally, I love dressing for dinner, and would hate to give that up. But I know everyone doesn't enjoy it, and they should be able to do what they like too.
I hope these options remain open. One size just doesn't fit all when it comes to cruise dining!


BTW, I love your taste in dogs! DH and I volunteer for a local greyhound placement agency, and have two of our own.

lol, likewise, on all counts. I have been owned by the blue since Nov. 11/03, she'll be 10 this year; and the black hound has been with us since Aug./04, he's 6. Love your pic and signature.
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#16
The Villages, Florida
71 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
I too prefer the choice of traditional or flexible dining. Cruising since the 70's I always felt it was necessary to adjust my schedule around dining and was not something I wanted to pay for. We found, on Princess, the staff to be accommodating although the waiter relationship did suffer a bit. Although over the years I have found that waiter skill declining anyway as they cut back on staff and the wait staff just gets plain tired. The editior did identify the issues, all lines are trying to expand their base and the good old days of cruising are gone, the only difference between a cruise and a resort is that the cruise moves......everything else is pretty much the same.
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#17
New Mexico
910 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
Originally posted by greyhounds
lol, likewise, on all counts. I have been owned by the blue since Nov. 11/03, she'll be 10 this year; and the black hound has been with us since Aug./04, he's 6. Love your pic and signature.
We have a 100 lb. fawn male who's 5, and the blue fawn in the pic is 65 lbs. and 3 yrs. I just love the blue dogs!!! so unique and pretty!
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So...when do we leave?
#18
San Diego
8,858 Posts
Joined Oct 2006
You couldn't give me a free cruise on NCL
huh...I'll take your free cruise and eat in the buffet every night if it really is that bad
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#19
chicago area
728 Posts
Joined Jun 2007
Originally posted by cruiserbryce
huh...I'll take your free cruise and eat in the buffet every night if it really is that bad
I'd give you my "free cruise" if they offered it to me. The buffet on "pride" wasn't much better. Extremely long lines (partly because of "dining room situation") and once you finally got some food, no place to sit. When you finally found a place to sit, you usually had to clear it first. If the nearby tables were heaped to high, you put it on the floor under the table. There were very few people working the dining areas. I have been on 8 cruises, usually with a party ranging from 12-22 (family/extended family). P of A was the first one I got sick on - and I mean SICK as in not to be gross but I had to throw up in the shower because I was also going from the other direction. The Buffet was shut down half-way through the cruise and everyting was done by the crew. When I asked for tea, they gave me the cup, sugar, tea bag, stirrer. The only problem was the cup was dirty. Lucky for me I noticed the lip stick on it before I drank out of it. Out of our smaller party of 11 - 6 got as sick as I was. (There were rooms quarantined on our floor.) My apologies to the people who were on the elevator after I barfed getting off. I understand, from family members that it took over an hour to finally get it cleaned up. Hope you didn't catch the "bug" from me. There were three so-called American maids standing there chit-chatting in whatever language they speak in Guam who were not much help. (I gave them my room number, but never heard from them again - they asked because they said they would notify medical help.) I think one of them was our steward who would have found me if she had come down as far as our cabin to turn down the beds, replace towels, etc. (took her until mid-week to remove some of the garbage left over from the last cruise in the bathroom - never did get the "soap" left behind on the built in ridges on the vanity - who knows when that was from - they have liquid soap in the bathrooms!) I assume I caught the "bug" in the buffet area, but who knows, I could have gotten it from a passenger who sailed the week before in my own cabin!
Anyways, my one and only experience with NCL and it will stay that way. I realize that this may be an exception - one of the people we talked to had sailed 25+ times on NCL - first bad experience (freestyle was more of a problem on this ship as was the buffet according to them) They did say that they would never recommend this ship to anyone who had never sailed NCL because if they were in my shoes, they'd avoid this line too.
#20
Myrtle Beach, SC but born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA
1,237 Posts
Joined Aug 2006
The flexible dining plan was one of the main reasons we sail with Princess. Since it’s normally only the two of us, we like the opportunity to meet new people. Having the same waiter each night does not matter much to us, as it seems all of Princess’ waiters are very accommodating. If we do happen to meet up with someone, we just all agree to meet at the dining room at an assigned time and wait for a table. Although, now it seems, Princess is allowing reservations to be made at their flexible dining rooms. This would defeat the purpose of anytime dining, therefore, a long wait for a table at peak dining hours. If reservations were not allowed, I feel the wait would not be as long. If you wanted to eat at the same time each night, then traditional dining should have been your choice. This is one fault of the personal choice dining option that I feel Princess should change.
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