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Open Seating Experiences

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We just completed our first river cruise. Basel to Amsterdam on AmaStella. We found the Open Seating concept quite workable and pleasant, until the last two nights. Most of the tables are 4-tops and we were able to sit with different couples each night.

 

On the next to last night we walked into the dining room just after 7:00 PM, spotted an open table and began to sit down when a fellow passenger rushed up and insisted that the table was "her's" because she had come early and left a sweater on one of the chairs. We avoid confrontation and decided to sit elsewhere.

 

On the last night we strolled in around 7:05 PM and decided to sit in a different area of the dining room. Again, an open table for four (this one next to the windows). We sat down but as we put our napkins on our laps one of the waiters came up and told us the table was reserved and we would have to move. He was quite insistent and not wanting to irritate the person who would be handling our food we once again moved. Reluctantly and only to the next table.

 

We of course wondered who on board was so important so we watched the table closely. The minutes went by and shortly after 8:00 PM the waiter began to clear and reset the table for breakfast (see the photo). The VIPs never showed!

 

We lodged our complaint with the hotel manager who acted appropriately shocked that one of her employees would do such a thing. We also told her about the previous night's sweater incident. About 5 minutes after we got to our room the dining room manager knocked on our door carrying a champagne bucket. He explained that, yes, many of the passengers were coming into the dining room 30 to 45 minutes early to "mark" their desired tables. He did not like the practice but did not seem to know how to stop it. He also explained that the VIPs, who apparently had dined at the same table all week, had dined at the Chef's Table that night. He could not explain why his employee would facilitate a violation of Ama's "no reserved table" policy.

 

So... Was our experience the rule or the exception? Is it only an AmaWaterways problem? I have read that other companies do not allow passengers into the dining room early. Does this work?

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We just completed our first river cruise. Basel to Amsterdam on AmaStella. We found the Open Seating concept quite workable and pleasant, until the last two nights. Most of the tables are 4-tops and we were able to sit with different couples each night.

 

On the next to last night we walked into the dining room just after 7:00 PM, spotted an open table and began to sit down when a fellow passenger rushed up and insisted that the table was "her's" because she had come early and left a sweater on one of the chairs. We avoid confrontation and decided to sit elsewhere.

 

On the last night we strolled in around 7:05 PM and decided to sit in a different area of the dining room. Again, an open table for four (this one next to the windows). We sat down but as we put our napkins on our laps one of the waiters came up and told us the table was reserved and we would have to move. He was quite insistent and not wanting to irritate the person who would be handling our food we once again moved. Reluctantly and only to the next table.

 

We of course wondered who on board was so important so we watched the table closely. The minutes went by and shortly after 8:00 PM the waiter began to clear and reset the table for breakfast (see the photo). The VIPs never showed!

 

We lodged our complaint with the hotel manager who acted appropriately shocked that one of her employees would do such a thing. We also told her about the previous night's sweater incident. About 5 minutes after we got to our room the dining room manager knocked on our door carrying a champagne bucket. He explained that, yes, many of the passengers were coming into the dining room 30 to 45 minutes early to "mark" their desired tables. He did not like the practice but did not seem to know how to stop it. He also explained that the VIPs, who apparently had dined at the same table all week, had dined at the Chef's Table that night. He could not explain why his employee would facilitate a violation of Ama's "no reserved table" policy.

 

So... Was our experience the rule or the exception? Is it only an AmaWaterways problem? I have read that other companies do not allow passengers into the dining room early. Does this work?

 

Seems to me that if people are coming into the dining room early to mark their tables that all that needs to be done is to have all those markers collected up before the dining room doors open.

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So... Was our experience the rule or the exception? Is it only an AmaWaterways problem? I have read that other companies do not allow passengers into the dining room early. Does this work?

 

In short, yes, in my experience it works.

 

I have to admit I would have been a lot less compliant with regard to the claim of a 'reserved' table on a line that does not permit reservations...

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I would have gotten the head waiter involved very nicely. There are no saving of seats period. If a waiter was involved I bet somebody threw him money.

 

 

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I can only speak on Viking river cruises, the doors are closed until 7:00 on the dot, yes you have to line up but at least I’ve never noticed tables ‘saved’ prior to the stated dining times. And yes, people do hurry in and save seats for their friends or travel companions but what can you do? It is interesting how the larger tables always seem to have the same group of people every night and you don’t dare try to sit at ‘their’ table, I guess they send their scouts our prior to the doors opening and grab the table. We’ve always found a place to sit.

 

 

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Wow, sounds like the beach chair fiasco that takes place at too many resorts! We never encountered a problem with finding a place to sit, although as the week went on we did tend to dine with the same group of 3-4 other couples. One night we did have a larger group and started to take a table for 10 when the waiter said it was reserved. Apparently there was a group of Brazilians on the trip who spoke little English so they tried to seat them in one location with a waiter who could converse with them. I also heard they got some special dishes prepared for them but I don't know if that is true or just a rumor.

 

 

 

Agree that if seats were being saved against the cruise line's policy, I would say something to the head waiter or management at the front desk. No sense of allowing some passengers to continue their sense of entitlement.

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Wow, sounds like the beach chair fiasco that takes place at too many resorts! We never encountered a problem with finding a place to sit, although as the week went on we did tend to dine with the same group of 3-4 other couples. One night we did have a larger group and started to take a table for 10 when the waiter said it was reserved. Apparently there was a group of Brazilians on the trip who spoke little English so they tried to seat them in one location with a waiter who could converse with them. I also heard they got some special dishes prepared for them but I don't know if that is true or just a rumor.

 

 

 

Agree that if seats were being saved against the cruise line's policy, I would say something to the head waiter or management at the front desk. No sense of allowing some passengers to continue their sense of entitlement.

 

If there is a party of 10 traveling together and there are only one or two large tables in the dining room that would accommodate them, I wouldn't have a problem with a table being set aside for that group.

 

As for having special dishes made, it happens all the time. Just ask someone with allergies or other food issues.

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Not only was it a party of 10 they would have been speaking Portuguese. More comfortable for everyone if they have their table saved.

 

 

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Over the years on European river cruising we have had a variety of experiences with open seating. Some nights we prefer to sit at a table for 2 albeit the tables are close so not an exclusive private arrangement.

We have met some delightful people from all over the world and walks of life. Some we still are in contact with.

1 factor that is improving is the noise factor in some of the dining venues. It can be awful and not easy to converse.

We do not shout when dining but some do to be heard. Communication can also be difficult if someone is deaf or if accents are profound. Some found the Australian accent difficult to understand for example.

We love the accents from new Yorkers some do not.

Some people are better dining companions than others. Its a human thing I suppose.

it is improving from the rude rush into the dining room but sometimes it is tiresome to be seated with people and feeling it necessary to engage when you would prefer to dine and just relax with your choice of companion.

Some people rush to a table because they like a particular staff member.

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Not only was it a party of 10 they would have been speaking Portuguese. More comfortable for everyone if they have their table saved.

 

 

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That was my point, but it did eliminate having the table available for others with a large group wanting to sit together. Most DR's only have one or two on a river cruise because the DR's are small. Smaller groups split up all the time on our cruise because by the time they arrived at the DR, the larger tables were taken. IMO, even if you are traveling with others, it's nice to split up from time-to-time so you can meet other people.

 

 

IMO, if the policy is to have open seating then there should be limited exceptions, such as in this case, a language barrier. If you start saving tables for this group and that group, it defeats the purpose of open seating. You also find people wanting certain tables, particularly at the windows, so the situation can get out of hand. On an ocean cruise there are bigger dining facilities and it's not as much of an issue.

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From the responses so far it seems that our experience was the exception rather than the rule. We will be prepared to remain seated in the future.

 

Hopefully AmaWaterways will implement procedures to eliminate the problem.

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There was a "reserved" table on our last Viking River cruise. We know because one evening early in the cruise we were the first ones in the door to the dining room as it was opened. We went to a "prime" table by a window and the waiter said someone was sitting there. We said "we're the first ones in the dining room!" The waiter insisted we sit elsewhere. Of course we did. Who wants a hostile waiter. A couple came in around 7:30 and claimed the table. We noticed this happened every evening. It became a running joke amongst us and our fellow cruisers. Of course on the last night several of us saw the couple profusely thank the waiter with a large envelope! I complained to Viking after the cruise about this incident (and a few other issues) after the cruise. Viking insisted this should not have happen on one of their ships, but we all know money talks.

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Over the years on European river cruising we have had a variety of experiences with open seating. Some nights we prefer to sit at a table for 2 albeit the tables are close so not an exclusive private arrangement.

 

We have met some delightful people from all over the world and walks of life. Some we still are in contact with.

 

1 factor that is improving is the noise factor in some of the dining venues. It can be awful and not easy to converse.

 

We do not shout when dining but some do to be heard. Communication can also be difficult if someone is deaf or if accents are profound. Some found the Australian accent difficult to understand for example.

 

We love the accents from new Yorkers some do not.

 

Some people are better dining companions than others. Its a human thing I suppose.

 

it is improving from the rude rush into the dining room but sometimes it is tiresome to be seated with people and feeling it necessary to engage when you would prefer to dine and just relax with your choice of companion.

 

Some people rush to a table because they like a particular staff member.

 

 

 

We are from New York, accent and all. It’s interesting that those from other areas don’t realize that they too have distinctive accents. Many times I’ve wondered why someone needs a pin only to realize they mean a pen!

 

 

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When I started river cruising in 2001, open seating was never a problem for me. I am a solo traveler and enjoy meeting other travelers. On my last few cruises I dreaded dinner time. Many times I had to ask 5+ times if a seat was taken only to be rebuffed. When I did finally get a seat, many times I was ignored and treated as an outsider. Travelers today do not seem to be as friendly as in past years.

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Many times I had to ask 5+ times if a seat was taken only to be rebuffed. When I did finally get a seat, many times I was ignored and treated as an outsider. Travelers today do not seem to be as friendly as in past years.

 

We did not have any problems joining another couple on our cruise. Never told by someone who was already sitting at a table that the empty seats were to be occupied by thier friends.

 

For the most part we were in the DR early enough to find an empty table and we had people join us. Those encounters were all very nice. You might consider that strategy; Be in the DR early. Chose your seat/ Let others join you. No chance of being rebuffed.

 

We did have one unsatisfying encounter early on. There are two tables on AmaStella in the very back of the DR. The tables have bench seating on one side and chairs on both ends. You could easily fit three people on the bench, but the table was set for four. Because of the length of the bench the couple "on the other end" were a bit far away and having a conversation with them was difficult.

 

We avoided those tables after that.

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I have tried the getting in the DR early strategy in the past. This had worked sometimes and caused major problems on a few others. Once I sat at an empty table for six and a group of passengers came up and said this was their table. The complained to the Maitre'd and he made me move. I was very angry so I just went up on the sundeck and skipped dinner. The hotel manager saw me up there and asked why I'm not at dinner. I told him the situation and he also became very upset. He asked me to come and sit at his table to the rest of the cruise.

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One way to avoid the seating debacle is to have staff escort you to tables as they do on every other cruise line. It’s not difficult to manage.

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Wow, rogerdawhip. That sounds incredibly obnoxious and very unpleasant.

 

On our Uniworld River Beatrice cruise in 2016, we often came in 30-60 minutes after dinner started. The staff would immediately pounce on us and find us a table. Usually for just the two of us. Was really nice!

 

Our other trick is to go when dinner starts, and take one of the tables very close to the door, because seemingly nobody sits there on first pass. Everybody passes by looking for a "better" table, and we would usually have one to ourselves. On occasion we'd be joined by others, and that was fine too.

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On my last Uniworld cruise, there was a group of 34 Brazilians. One corner was reserved for them, and they would come to the DR around 8 pm. I didn't hear anyone object, as it was better to have all Portuguese speakers together, and we could all get started at 7-7:30 pm before the big group arrived.

 

This has been my only experience with reserved tables, and in this instance, it made a lot of sense to me.

 

Roz

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I have tried the getting in the DR early strategy in the past. This had worked sometimes and caused major problems on a few others. Once I sat at an empty table for six and a group of passengers came up and said this was their table. The complained to the Maitre'd and he made me move. I was very angry so I just went up on the sundeck and skipped dinner. The hotel manager saw me up there and asked why I'm not at dinner. I told him the situation and he also became very upset. He asked me to come and sit at his table to the rest of the cruise.

 

So sorry this happened to you.:(……..it seems no matter what the cruise happens to be, whether it is a large mass market ship or small riverboat, there are rude, selfish people who show up...…. That group sounds just plain mean:mad:

I hope the Hotel Director said something to that Maitr'd and that you felt a bit better after that evening:).

Edited by Lois R

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We will be on the Viking Var. How many are usually seated at a table? Are there tables for 2, 4, 6, etc? Can you request a table for 4? We have only been on ocean cruises so we are new to this everyone dining at the same time and whatever table they want. Thanks.

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We after several European river cruises are well aware of the issue of communal eating arrangements.

As said we have had many delightful dining companions but also enjoy our own space when eating dinner.

Some of the reports on this thread thankfully have not been our experience.

Generally we have found people to be well travelled, interesting and open to meet others from all walks of life and backgrounds.

Life is too short for unpleasantness.

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One way to avoid the seating debacle is to have staff escort you to tables as they do on every other cruise line. It’s not difficult to manage.

 

This service was not available on our recent AmaWaterways cruise.

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