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Dining options on full ships


FFMilesJunkie
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March cruises are filling up quickly and running into issues where sailors cannot get dining reservations at many of the restaurants and end up with 10pm bookings on several nights at Razzle Dazzle and test kitchen. What is someone to do when 10pm is when they would normally be winding down for the evening but are now told they have to dine at 10pm?  Any experiences here with dining on full ships? How flexible have the restaurants been on accommodating people who want to eat earlier when their reservation is close to bedtime?  

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50 minutes ago, FFMilesJunkie said:

March cruises are filling up quickly and running into issues where sailors cannot get dining reservations at many of the restaurants and end up with 10pm bookings on several nights at Razzle Dazzle and test kitchen. What is someone to do when 10pm is when they would normally be winding down for the evening but are now told they have to dine at 10pm?  Any experiences here with dining on full ships? How flexible have the restaurants been on accommodating people who want to eat earlier when their reservation is close to bedtime?  

Once onboard try to book and then you may be able to walk up. They do hold a certain amount for people to book onboard. 

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We were not on a full ship.  In fact the fullest one I'm aware of had about 2200 sailors, and the ship holds 2700.  My experience is that there  was a lot of shuffling of dining reservations once on board. That would be your first line of defense. Go on the app and try to move to times you prefer.  You can always do a walk up, and if they are able to seat you, cancel your later reservation.  And worst case, do a "snack" at The Galley early and then do the late dinner.  The busiest time in the dining rooms tends to be around 8pm.  Walk ups at 6 or 6:30 tended to be very easy with a wait of less than 10 minutes.  At 8 or 9, the wait may be longer.

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9 hours ago, FFMilesJunkie said:

? How flexible have the restaurants been on accommodating people who want to eat earlier when their reservation is close to bedtime?  

 

As others have noted, you can talk to the host or hostess at the restaurants when you get onboard to see if you can change your reservation. You can also walk up earlier if you'd like. 6:30 is a good time to walk up as 7 - 8:30 seems to be prime time for most of the restaurants. 

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More reservations will become available on the app once you board. I suggest doing a placeholder dinner before boarding. Then once onboard getting shows booked in and moving dinners to fit round them. Allow 90-120 minutes for many meals. 

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  • 10 months later...

I just watched a detailed YouTube video regarding the issues with a full VV ship. It wasn't pretty.  Apparently the ship services becomes strained once you near the 2k mark. 

 

Not having reservations or being required to have reservations for almost everything onboard sounds exhausting to me. I understand the need for crowd control and all for it.  But the over reliance to reserve everything to enjoy your cruise does not sit well with me. If you can't get reservations or get in via standby, what's the purpose?

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16 minutes ago, gsutiger2 said:

I just watched a detailed YouTube video regarding the issues with a full VV ship. It wasn't pretty.  Apparently the ship services becomes strained once you near the 2k mark. 

 

Not having reservations or being required to have reservations for almost everything onboard sounds exhausting to me. I understand the need for crowd control and all for it.  But the over reliance to reserve everything to enjoy your cruise does not sit well with me. If you can't get reservations or get in via standby, what's the purpose?

 

It's a 'problem' with the multiple smaller restaurants. Unlike larger ships where main dining is designed to cater for all the passengers, individual smaller restaurants won't handle anywhere near the number. So if they just served on arrival, invariably there'd be the popular restaurants where people waited 2 hours to get in (which then makes queuing an issue as well), and other restaurants which were unexpectedly quieter. And you'd also have guests with no idea that if they'd come just a bit earlier there'd have been free seats, but then even longer delays at peak times. So reservations become essential whenever you have smaller restaurants at no cost.

 

I'm not a fan either, but it's just a consequence of the decision to have multiple smaller restaurants that guests can choose, at any time, on a much larger ship than the capacity of each restaurant.

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Definitely show up when a restaurant first opens to get on the waitlist. In our experience the Wake and Extra Virgin are the hardest to get into so try different places. There is a dinner show that is free on Scarlet and Valiant. It’s a paid experience on Resilient, but worth every penny. 
 

The galley has dinner specials now that rotate so that can be a good option. The pizza place also has entree sized salads. 
 

There’s always Ship Eats as well, $7 for all you can eat or buy any charged item (even if it’s less than $7) to have that waived. Maybe you’d have luck asking sailor services to remove the charge if you had no luck getting into any of the restaurants?

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2 hours ago, gsutiger2 said:

I just watched a detailed YouTube video regarding the issues with a full VV ship. It wasn't pretty.  Apparently the ship services becomes strained once you near the 2k mark. 

 

Link to the video please? 🙂

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3 hours ago, gsutiger2 said:

I just watched a detailed YouTube video regarding the issues with a full VV ship. It wasn't pretty.  Apparently the ship services becomes strained once you near the 2k mark

I would take any review with a pinch of salt. I’ve been on with about 2300 passengers and had no issues except on sea days every single outdoor seat seemed to be taken.

 

Also Test Kitchen and Razzle Dazzle usually easier to get a table. The Wake is hardest. 

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We did Valiant Lady over Christmas. Cruise was sold out, 2700 passengers. We didn’t face long queues for anything. All dinner reservations there was no queues to get your table. No long queue for events, people queued up for many none tickets events like bingo 30 mins or so before, which causes a long line, but our experience was wait till later, and there be no queue and still get a seat. Unless you really wanted a specific front row seat. On sea days yes the pool can get busy, especially if the weather is good, though didn’t feel overcrowded at all. The longest we had to wait for a drink in any bar was probably 10 mins and that was at the dock house on day one where the is limited other places to get a drink before sail away. The service though-out the ship was fantastic, staff providing amazing service as quick as possible. I honestly say don’t worry about it, relax and enjoy it, even with a full ship there is a lot of space in our view, and we’ll organised .

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Don't believe everything you see on YouTube. Yes, if you want to avoid lines, you need dinner reservations.  Get them before you board, even if the times are not your ideal.  Then, after boarding, move anything you aren't happy about.  If you want a particular restaurant or to change a time, go to that restaurant at 6 when it opens and see what they can do for you.

Pool seating, Dock seating, Social Club seating, anywhere that Carlos is performing seating can be a problem.

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7 hours ago, The_Big_M said:

I'm not a fan either, but it's just a consequence of the decision to have multiple smaller restaurants that guests can choose, at any time, on a much larger ship than the capacity of each restaurant.

 

4 hours ago, AndyUK said:

I honestly say don’t worry about it, relax and enjoy it, even with a full ship there is a lot of space in our view, and we’ll organised .

 

Thank you for the feedback. Again, as a soon-to-be new VV cruiser, the information I am reading and viewing about the app and reservations concerns me - especially during holiday cruises.

 

Vacation/Holiday time is precious, and the last thing one wants to do is spend time trying to figure out how to get reservations or having to "divide and conquer" app reservations in our group just to ensure we get decent reservations and the ability to see all of the shows that everyone has been speaking highly about. 

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4 minutes ago, gsutiger2 said:

 

 

Thank you for the feedback. Again, as a soon-to-be new VV cruiser, the information I am reading and viewing about the app and reservations concerns me - especially during holiday cruises.

 

Vacation/Holiday time is precious, and the last thing one wants to do is spend time trying to figure out how to get reservations or having to "divide and conquer" app reservations in our group just to ensure we get decent reservations and the ability to see all of the shows that everyone has been speaking highly about. 

 

I get the concern, but really, it's not as big of a deal as it sounds.  

 

Did you book with a TA?  If so, let them handle your dining reservations for you.  That's one of the benefits of using a TA with this cruise line, they can get your reservations for you, even when nothing is showing as available in the app.

 

And FWIW, I was recently on a full Scarlet sailing that I booked last minute and so had a scheduled boarding time of 4p - we were easily able to get all the restaurants we wanted at the times we wanted, and all shows and extras we wanted, by boarding at 3:30p.  The ship didn't feel full at all and we didn't miss out on anything.

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21 minutes ago, scubagal44 said:

And FWIW, I was recently on a full Scarlet sailing that I booked last minute and so had a scheduled boarding time of 4p - we were easily able to get all the restaurants we wanted at the times we wanted, and all shows and extras we wanted, by boarding at 3:30p.  The ship didn't feel full at all and we didn't miss out on anything.

This is good to know scubagal44! Thank you for helping to eliminate my concerns and doubts about VV.

Yes, I did book through a TA.

As a small group leader who will all be sailing VV for the first time, I don't want others disappointed or frustrated in my choice to go with Virgin Voyages. 

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On 1/14/2024 at 12:18 PM, gsutiger2 said:

This is good to know scubagal44! Thank you for helping to eliminate my concerns and doubts about VV.

Yes, I did book through a TA.

As a small group leader who will all be sailing VV for the first time, I don't want others disappointed or frustrated in my choice to go with Virgin Voyages. 

 

Then I would DEFINITELY ask your TA to book your dining reservations for you, esp if you're trying to do it for a group!

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On 1/14/2024 at 11:50 AM, gsutiger2 said:

Here you go - Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady Review: Finally Filling Their Ships, But At What Cost?

lol this guy is an absolute clown.  i would take anything he says with a ROCK of salt, not a grain.  he's gotten a ton of free cruises via casino comps and complains about literally everything.  i had the misfortune of being in his presence on one or two of my voyages, and it seems like he actively seeks out issues.  controversy = clicks, after all!

 

yes, that voyage in the video was one of the most crowded to-date, but i didn't run into most of the issues he "reported."

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I just want to be another voice of reassurance. I was just in your shoes @gsutiger2. I was the "leader" of our small group on the fully booked Valiant New Year's sailing. We were a group of 7, ages 19-80 and only my husband and I had sailed Virgin before. We also used a TA and had her do the leg work in advance on reservations which helped a TON. Here are my tips for you to manage your pre-trip anxiety:

 

1) Make sure everyone in your group downloads the Virgin app to their phone as soon as you are booked. You will all want to go into the "Check-in & Get Ready to Sail" section and go to the last page of that to select your boarding time. Someone in each cabin will need to do this but should be able to do it for both sailors in the same cabin. Obviously, select the earliest time available.

 

2) Get connected in the app. As leader, you will want to make sure you are connected in the app to everyone in your group. Again, we found if you connected to one person in a cabin, you were connected to everyone in that cabin. I believe this can be done with "Share & add your mates", we did it in person using the QR codes in the messenger section, which is also where you will be able to see everyone that you have successfully connected to listed.

 

3) Work with your group to decide your dining preferences before the 45 day reservation mark (90 if RS). Get the plan together, make the list of what you want each day and what time, and send it to your travel agent in advance. Be Flexible. Even though travel agents can make the reservations, they can really only work with what is available in the system. I talked to my agent ahead of time about what we were hoping for but gave her leeway to do what she needed to so we had "something". Before sailing we had reservations, but we were going to need to do modifications on board. Some restaurants wouldn't do reservations for parties larger than 6 before boarding, so we had those reserved for 6 with plans to modify on board. Sometimes (often) we didn't get exactly the time we wanted, but we just made plans to modify, or altered our plans for that day to accommodate.

 

4) As you get closer to sailing, discuss with your group if there are any evening shows you want to attend as a group. The event calendar will be available in the app and you can get a rough idea of what will be available when. In my case, my group was happy to let me handle that, so I just chose a day/time for each event and made plans to book those on board for the whole group. Any other activities we decided would be handled individually.

 

5) On boarding day, I had a piece of paper with all our dining reservations printed out, all the shows I wanted to book listed on it, as well as the cabin numbers of everyone in our group. I had a buddy, my husband, to help me. We all had separate boarding times so we boarded separately, with hubs and I boarding first. I advise heading straight down to Razzle Dazzle on deck 5. There they will have helpful people to sort out any thing you need sorted with your dining reservations. While you are sorting that, you and your buddy can be getting on the wifi. If there's any line at Razzle Dazzle you can work on the modifications you need in the app and you can book the events you've planned to book (one doing that while the other works with the dining reservations). Once dining is sorted, if you are having trouble booking the events, head over to the Red Room, deck 6. They've got helpful people there doing the same thing for events that Razzle does for dining. On boarding day the app can be sluggish and unresponsive because everyone is jumping on at the same time trying to do the same thing, so don't panic if you are struggling with it, everyone else probably is too. That's why they have helpers available. 

 

And then, my friend you go drop your stuff in your room, head to the dock and grab yourself a drink and some snacks because vacation has started!

 

I do advise having a picture of that list of cabin numbers on your phone, the number of times I had to know other group members cabin numbers surprised me!

 

Also, just know that you do not need to have reservations for everything you do on the ship. Mostly it's just the evening shows and a few paid for events. Having the reservations for dinner is just a nice anchor to the day, but it is always possible to call an audible. We cancelled one of ours to do the Ship Show dinner show, and one of our nights we left with no dinner reservation because it was a late port night and we thought we'd want to eat in port, but everyone was tired. And we were able to get a reservation at a restaurant with just a few hours notice! Did we have our choice of any restaurant on the ship? No, but the restaurant we got turned out to be the one my daughter wanted so it worked perfectly. But even if it hadn't we'd have been fine with pizza or the galley.

 

Also important to note if someone decides to bail on dinner or an event, it's ok, tell them you'll handle it. When checking in, just tell the person that some members of your party won't be joining you.

 

Again, we were on a completely full sailing, I was totally stressed about it going into boarding, and it was a complete non issue, it just all was fine. Have a fantastic voyage!☺️

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I had better luck calling Virgin directly and booking some dinner reservations.  My cruise is Feb 2 so didn't have alot of time to book in advance.  I was able to get 4 out of the 6 restaurants booked.  Will visit once onboard to try to book the Wake as it was only available at 9:30pm which is too late for us.

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@aqlollipop Your information is fantastic - thank you! 

1. I did not realize the app has different information from the website! I have been solely on the website account and did not realize we were able to book our embarkation. Though we are months out - we are booked for 1:45 - THANK YOU! 

2. I will work with the travel agent to get our group dinners booked. As it is a holiday sailing, some of these dinners are very important to us, and I want to ensure this is ready and announced to the group so they can plan their days accordingly. 

3. I will have my piece of paper ready for boarding day with all the dining reservations

just like you - great idea.

On 1/19/2024 at 4:34 PM, aqlollipop said:

 

Again, we were on a completely full sailing, I was totally stressed about it going into boarding, and it was a complete non issue, it just all was fine. Have a fantastic voyage!☺️

I so hope you are right about this, or it holds true for the holidays of 2024. Again, thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. I am saving and sharing your info with our travel agent to ensure we are on top of everything. I hope VV does not disappoint our group.

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