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Beware Late Specialty Dining Reservations!


PelicanLvr
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We returned this month from a 12 day Nautica itinerary to Southern Spain & the Canary Islands.  It was a wonderful trip with great weather, interesting ports and outstanding staff.  But we found the specialty dining rooms the "weak link" with an almost adversarial atmosphere. 

 

Background:

 

We traveled in an A-3 concierge stateroom and dutifully booked our allotment of dining reservation at midnight on the appointed day they were first available.  The only website reservation for the 2 sea days was 9 pm, so I booked them.  We are "late eaters", so a 9 pm reservation was not a problem for us, although our preferred time is about 8:30.

 

Upon Boarding the ship we stopped by the dining reservations desk and asked if we should come earlier than 9pm and was told: "the restaurants are very busy, so come at 9 pm".  We nevertheless arrived at Polo Grill at 8:45 to find the restaurant half-empty already and the maitre d curtly advised "your table has been ready for some time".  He continued "I called your stateroom, but you weren't there".  His attitude seemed to imply that I should I have been sitting in my room hoping for his call.

 

We were shown to a lovely window table for 2 and a rushed, unfriendly fast dinner followed and we were the last out of the dinning room in about an hour at 9:45.  What an unsatisfying experience!

 

The next day, we spoke to Ana, the Ship's Restaurant Manager, who was lovely and offered "the usual"  additional reservation to "do better", but we stuck to our allotted number as we found the main dining room a more friendly, welcoming experience.

 

We thereafter disregarded our specialty dining reservation times (8:30 & 9 PM) and arrived for our remaining specialty reservations just after 8pm.  Lovely tables were always available.  The pace of dinner was improved, but we were always to last to leave the dining rooms.  One night we ate in Toscana and it was so uncomfortably empty at 9:30 that we took our coffee to the adjacent beautiful library....afterwards, we couldn't even return the coffee cups as both restaurants were closed and locked....I looked at my watch, it was 9:45 pm!

 

Observations:

 

Why does the O website force you into 9pm reservations, if in reality the specialty restaurants are closed down by 9:45?

 

On our cruise we observed that literally no one came into the specialty restaurants after 8:15pm.  Does everyone always eat so early?  

 

What actually happened to the 8:30 - 9pm reservation slots.... We saw that no one came in at those times.

 

Why are tables available around 8pm after you are specifically told it's so busy you can't come before 9 pm?

 

The system of a limited number of "free" specialty reservations creates an atmosphere of staff vs. passengers as the specialty restaurant staff maintains an unapproachable attitude as they zealously guard the reservations that are obviously available, but seemingly unattainable.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We did a B2B on Riviera this month and when we moved from our A3 (9129) to our B3 (7036) we found out late that day that we and some others who did the same thing LOST all of our specialty reservations for the 2nd cruise. Luckily, we could show the Reservation desk our original 4 reservations and they were quickly added back. We had a reservation that evening, the 1st night of the 2nd 10 nights!

 

BUT...what was fascinating was how they changed our 9 PM reservation to an 8:30 one. We were glad to do it.

 

What I saw from the 8:30 PM reservations we had from our B3 cabin cruise was that we and maybe 1 or 2 others came in at or after 8:30. We don't do bread so we cut that "round" out and we eliminated dessert, too, telling our waiter up front. We just wanted to order right up front to expedite the meal that late in the evening. That reduced our time a bit and go us out closer to 930 PM. And YES, the places were emptying fast at that time.

 

Not sure what conclusion to draw, but seems that O has built in a system that rewards the highest-level cabins with so many specialty reservations and an ability to add more, that O may be hoping that lower cabin passengers give up or don't even make reservations at 8:30 or 9 PM.

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@MEFIowa It is not a matter of “rewarding” the highest level cabins as people pay top dollar for those benefits.  It is no different than paying more for first class flying or buying a high end car. Once you board the ship (any category of cabin) you may approach the restaurants and many people say they often get earlier reservations.  Also not all people in higher level cabins eat early.  Some people just prefer late dining.  

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12 minutes ago, Pandazoo said:

... Also not all people in higher level cabins eat early.  Some people just prefer late dining.  

As I tried to make clear, what is fascinating is how LATE the specialty reservations are for the lower-cabin levels AND how FEW people actually entered the specialty restaurants at or after 8:30 PM. I counted each night we ate so late. Which ONLY happened on the 2nd leg of our B2B, because we had an A3 on the 1st leg but ony a B3 on the 2nd.

 

My wife called at midnight on the first available day for both cruises.

 

It is hard for me to believe there really is an 8:30 or 9 PM "reservation time" when 1, 2 or 3 couples are all that entered the specialty restaurant at or after 8:30 PM. They are emptying out starting around 9 PM. Noticeably so.

 

And as I opined, it seems that O has created a system that tends to actively discourage lower cabin levels from even eating in the Specialty Restaurants.

 

But don't feel bad for me, I don't really enjoy a 90-120 minute meal. Which is why we SKIPPED the bread and desserts when we had to eat so late. We'd tell the waiter up front, "No bread, no wine, no dessert, and we'd like to order immediately." Then we could get it to an hour or so. I'd rather eat in the Terrace Cafe. Which is why we NEVER eat in the GDR.

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19 minutes ago, MEFIowa said:

As I tried to make clear, what is fascinating is how LATE the specialty reservations are for the lower-cabin levels AND how FEW people actually entered the specialty restaurants at or after 8:30 PM. I counted each night we ate so late. Which ONLY happened on the 2nd leg of our B2B, because we had an A3 on the 1st leg but ony a B3 on the 2nd.

 

My wife called at midnight on the first available day for both cruises.

 

It is hard for me to believe there really is an 8:30 or 9 PM "reservation time" when 1, 2 or 3 couples are all that entered the specialty restaurant at or after 8:30 PM. They are emptying out starting around 9 PM. Noticeably so.

 

And as I opined, it seems that O has created a system that tends to actively discourage lower cabin levels from even eating in the Specialty Restaurants.

 

But don't feel bad for me, I don't really enjoy a 90-120 minute meal. Which is why we SKIPPED the bread and desserts when we had to eat so late. We'd tell the waiter up front, "No bread, no wine, no dessert, and we'd like to order immediately." Then we could get it to an hour or so. I'd rather eat in the Terrace Cafe. Which is why we NEVER eat in the GDR.

Your assumptions do not follow our experience - we have been in a high level cabin and went online at midnight for the last 3 cruises and only had late time openings.  So the late specialty reservations must be saved for everyone not in a Suite based upon our experience and your assumption.  When onboard we checked to see about changing to earlier times and were able to for some.  When we had an 8:30PM reservation and there were several empty tables, we asked the maitre d about it and he said lots of people fail to cancel their reservations and just do not show up.  YMMV

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19 hours ago, basor said:

... When we had an 8:30PM reservation and there were several empty tables, we asked the maitre d about it and he said lots of people fail to cancel their reservations and just do not show up.

And I think you're hitting my point.... O's practices here, which result it lots of "reservation slots" at 8:30 or 9 PM, lead to cancellations or no shows or passengers not even choosing a reservation this late. Few seem to want to eat this late, for a meal that can last 90-120 minutes.

 

BUT what I saw on Riviera were NOT empty tables at 8:30 put mostly full venues with a few passengers arriving to eat at or after 8:30. There really didn't seem to be an actual "8:30 or 9 PM Reservation" period, just a smattering of a few forced to come this late. The emptying out started as a dribble around 8:30 and then accelerated as 9 pm approaches. By 9:30 the vast majority of tables were empty.

 

I was paying very close attention each night and faced the entrance. I'd let my wife know each time someone new entered and we both looked over the venues as tables emptied after 8:30. The night at Red Ginger it was a bit eerie to watch all the tables as they slowly but steadily emptied out after 8:30, leaving few after 9 PM.

 

Is fascinating to read about all this "We added or changed to an earlier reservation" when these slots apparently aren't open weeks in advance. Of course, who knows if or when people cancel, which could cause an opening, but no shows do not create a new opening earlier that day.

 

And I'm discussing only a table for 2. (To clarify.)

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@PelicanLvr You're much more likely to get your preferred time if you request a shared table. Asking for a table for 2 on a sea day reduces your chances greatly.

 

@MEFIowa Higher level cabins get the same number of reservations as lower level. No more, no less. Their only advantage is that they can book them sooner. Also, not all higher level cabins will even request additional reservations. We always book PH and have never requested more specialty dining reservations.

 

As @ORV pointed out, it's all about shared tables or not.  +1

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15 minutes ago, sunlover12 said:

Higher level cabins get the same number of reservations as lower level. No more, no less. Their only advantage is that they can book them sooner.

Not in every case, it's determined by how high the category is and the length of the cruise, also O ships vs R ships. 

 

FYI, there are always built in opening for numerous reasons, I do know that VIP's can pretty much get any restaurant at any time. Not that I'm a VIP, but I have cruised with 1 or 2. 

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5 minutes ago, ORV said:

Not in every case, it's determined by how high the category is and the length of the cruise, also O ships vs R ships. 

 

FYI, there are always built in opening for numerous reasons, I do know that VIP's can pretty much get any restaurant at any time. Not that I'm a VIP, but I have cruised with 1 or 2. 

I'll clarify my comment and say that in my experience only, my PH booking has gotten the exact same number of reservations as lower level every time. I've been on O and R ships. I haven't been on a cruise longer than 16 days. I don't know what extended length cruisers get.

I'm definitely not a VIP. I have no idea what they get. 

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31 minutes ago, sunlover12 said:

I'll clarify my comment and say that in my experience only, my PH booking has gotten the exact same number of reservations as lower level every time. I've been on O and R ships. I haven't been on a cruise longer than 16 days. I don't know what extended length cruisers get.

I'm definitely not a VIP. I have no idea what they get. 

Here you go. 

 

Guests are permitted to make the following reservations in our specialty restaurants - which vary by ship, category and length of cruise: 

Marina and Riviera 
Owner’s Suite, Vista Suite and Oceania Suite 
Cruises 7 days or less: 1 reservation at each restaurant 
Cruises 8-17 days: 2 reservations at each restaurant 
Cruises 18 days or more: 3 reservations at each restaurant 

Penthouse Suite 
Cruises 17 days or less: 1 reservations at each restaurant 
Cruises 18 days or more: 2 reservations at each restaurant 

Concierge Level Veranda, Veranda, Ocean View and Inside Stateroom 
All cruises: 1 reservations at each restaurant 

Insignia, Nautica, Regatta and Sirena 
Concierge Level Veranda and above 
Cruises 7 days or less: 1 reservation at each restaurant 
Cruises 8-17 days: 2 reservations at each restaurant 
Cruises 18 days or more: 3 reservations at each restaurant 

All other categories 
Cruises 17 days or less: 1 reservations at each restaurant 
Cruises 18 days or more: 2 reservations at each restaurant 

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On 11/26/2023 at 11:32 AM, PelicanLvr said:

We returned this month from a 12 day Nautica itinerary to Southern Spain & the Canary Islands.  It was a wonderful trip with great weather, interesting ports and outstanding staff. But we found the specialty dining rooms the "weak link" with an almost adversarial atmosphere. 

 

Background:

 

We traveled in an A-3 concierge stateroom and dutifully booked our allotment of dining reservation at midnight on the appointed day they were first available.  The only website reservation for the 2 sea days was 9 pm, so I booked them.  We are "late eaters", so a 9 pm reservation was not a problem for us, although our preferred time is about 8:30.

 

Upon Boarding the ship we stopped by the dining reservations desk and asked if we should come earlier than 9pm and was told: "the restaurants are very busy, so come at 9 pm".  We nevertheless arrived at Polo Grill at 8:45 to find the restaurant half-empty already and the maitre d curtly advised "your table has been ready for some time".  He continued "I called your stateroom, but you weren't there".  His attitude seemed to imply that I should I have been sitting in my room hoping for his call.

 

We were shown to a lovely window table for 2 and a rushed, unfriendly fast dinner followed and we were the last out of the dinning room in about an hour at 9:45.  What an unsatisfying experience!

 

The next day, we spoke to Ana, the Ship's Restaurant Manager, who was lovely and offered "the usual"  additional reservation to "do better", but we stuck to our allotted number as we found the main dining room a more friendly, welcoming experience.

 

We thereafter disregarded our specialty dining reservation times (8:30 & 9 PM) and arrived for our remaining specialty reservations just after 8pm.  Lovely tables were always available.  The pace of dinner was improved, but we were always to last to leave the dining rooms.  One night we ate in Toscana and it was so uncomfortably empty at 9:30 that we took our coffee to the adjacent beautiful library....afterwards, we couldn't even return the coffee cups as both restaurants were closed and locked....I looked at my watch, it was 9:45 pm!

 

Observations:

 

Why does the O website force you into 9pm reservations, if in reality the specialty restaurants are closed down by 9:45?

 

On our cruise we observed that literally no one came into the specialty restaurants after 8:15pm.  Does everyone always eat so early?  

 

What actually happened to the 8:30 - 9pm reservation slots.... We saw that no one came in at those times.

 

Why are tables available around 8pm after you are specifically told it's so busy you can't come before 9 pm?

 

The system of a limited number of "free" specialty reservations creates an atmosphere of staff vs. passengers as the specialty restaurant staff maintains an unapproachable attitude as they zealously guard the reservations that are obviously available, but seemingly unattainable.  


We were on the same cruise. We got an additional 9pm time in Toscana on departure day and arrived 20 mins early and were seated immediately. We got a call a few days into the cruise asking us if we wanted to move our 2 pre-booked 9pm reservations for later in the cruise to 8pm. It did seem they held a lot back just in case of VIP situations, and are probably overly cautious when calculating dining times. I  guess they want to be 100% sure guests arriving for the later slots wouldn't have to wait, rather than deal with that backlash.

We actually canceled the second Toscana visit because the first time wasn't that great for us personally. We still received the reservation reminder on the cabin door the next day, so I went to the desk again to confirm our reservation was removed from the system, it was, however neither time did they ask, even out of curiosity why we were canceling and not attempting to book another date/time. That felt odd.

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On 11/26/2023 at 8:32 AM, PelicanLvr said:

I'm more of a reader than a poster but your remarks made me laugh so hard.  I have 10 nights booked in June, 2024 and have such anxiety about the specialty restaurants.  My anxiety is that I eat at home between 5:30-6pm and I know the specialty dining doesn't start until 6:30.  If I haven't eaten by about 7pm I have usually lost my appetite and just skip dinner, so reading your post about 8:15 being "early" made me laugh so hard.  At the same time I am relieved knowing that people want to eat that time of night so maybe there is hope for my 6:30 meal.

I also had to laugh at your eerie feeling of the empty restaurant.  I would love an empty restaurant but don't think that's going to happen at 6:30pm !

On 11/26/2023 at 8:32 AM, PelicanLvr said:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I believe the OP was given an accurate assessment from the restaurant staff. Numerous passengers just don’t show up, and don’t take the time to cancel.

 

People come back from their excursions and are tired and don’t want to eat late. People, that don’t eat late, book the restaurant as the reservation system allows and then no show. According to one Oceania Social Hostess, on an any given night ~ 20% of passengers don’t eat dinner in any restaurant . Either afternoon tea becomes dinner, or they do room service often between 16:30-18:00. Some of those may or may not have had a dinner reservation. Some might say it’s rude and/or disrespectful to others to not cancel, but those descriptions just flow with some of the guests. 
 

I will sympathize with the OP on one matter. I do hate being the last patron in any restaurant and having the staff give me the “ If you’d just leave, we can go home “ look. It happens in both upscale restaurants and the Greasy Spoons. I believe an 8 o’clock reservation is the latest we’ve ever done on any Oceania ship. We were the only ones there by 21:00 and the staff was definitely doing everything possible to get us finished and out the door asap.

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For our recent VISTA cruise  when  making the pre cruise res   I found 9pm was  our  only options on some nights

I booked them day one of the system opening up for us  (45 days out)

 A few days   later I went back into the  system  & found  earlier  times for  one of the  specialties  I had booked  sharing table  & got  2 top at 6:30 pm

 A week later checked again & was able to change  the other late night  slot to 6:30

 

 Moral of the story  just go back and check a few days or week later   things can change

 

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19 hours ago, Robson1 said:


We were on the same cruise. We got an additional 9pm time in Toscana on departure day and arrived 20 mins early and were seated immediately. We got a call a few days into the cruise asking us if we wanted to move our 2 pre-booked 9pm reservations for later in the cruise to 8pm. It did seem they held a lot back just in case of VIP situations, and are probably overly cautious when calculating dining times. I  guess they want to be 100% sure guests arriving for the later slots wouldn't have to wait, rather than deal with that backlash.

We actually canceled the second Toscana visit because the first time wasn't that great for us personally. We still received the reservation reminder on the cabin door the next day, so I went to the desk again to confirm our reservation was removed from the system, it was, however neither time did they ask, even out of curiosity why we were canceling and not attempting to book another date/time. That felt odd.

I'm pretty sure we saw you come in to Toscana on departure night!!  

 

We were forced into a 9pm reservation, and told onboard that day not to come earlier.  We also arrived that first night about 20 minutes early.  We were seated by the window in the front area of the restaurant.  Everyone around us was well into their meal and many were just about ready to leave.

 

But, almost immediately after we sat down, another couple arrived (I'm thinking that was you!) and my wife said "thank goodness someone else is just coming in".   That couple was seated further back towards the rear of the dining room.  No one else came in after that.  

 

We also thought the specialty dining was not that special, especially for passengers that don't want to eat at 6:30.  Anyone who comes in at 8pm or later, it's a rushed event.  O needs improvement here!  

 

 


 

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On 11/26/2023 at 12:04 PM, MEFIowa said:

 

 

What I saw from the 8:30 PM reservations we had from our B3 cabin cruise was that we and maybe 1 or 2 others came in at or after 8:30. We don't do bread so we cut that "round" out and we eliminated dessert, too, telling our waiter up front. We just wanted to order right up front to expedite the meal that late in the evening. That reduced our time a bit and go us out closer to 930 PM. And YES, the places were emptying fast at that time.

 

 

But I don't want to cut out the bread round and desset!  LOL

 

Seriously, this is not how specialty dining is supposed to be!

 

O offers 8, 8:30 and 9pm reservations and that experience should be equal to that of someone who came in at 6:30.pm.

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6 minutes ago, PelicanLvr said:

But I don't want to cut out the bread round and dessert!  LOL Seriously, this is not how specialty dining is supposed to be! O offers 8, 8:30 and 9pm reservations and that experience should be equal to that of someone who came in at 6:30.pm.

I do NOT disagree, but unlike as at say 6:30 and 8 PM reservations, O appears NOT to expect many, if hardly any, at 8:30 or 9 PM. Can you imagine a 9 pm reservation ending at 10:30 or 11 PM? You'd be the only person there! Even for the 8:30 reservations, you're watching the venue empty out and it will be all but empty by the time you finish.

 

It appears O really doesn't view either 8:30 or 9 PM as an actual serious reservation time for an entire cohort of diners to arrive at. Just a smattering, most of whom likely either didn't try to change to an earlier time (which so many seem to think is so readily available) or where one wasn't available, but they didn't choose to be no shows or cancel in advance.

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37 minutes ago, MEFIowa said:

I do NOT disagree, but unlike as at say 6:30 and 8 PM reservations, O appears NOT to expect many, if hardly any, at 8:30 or 9 PM. Can you imagine a 9 pm reservation ending at 10:30 or 11 PM? You'd be the only person there! Even for the 8:30 reservations, you're watching the venue empty out and it will be all but empty by the time you finish.

 

It appears O really doesn't view either 8:30 or 9 PM as an actual serious reservation time for an entire cohort of diners to arrive at. Just a smattering, most of whom likely either didn't try to change to an earlier time (which so many seem to think is so readily available) or where one wasn't available, but they didn't choose to be no shows or cancel in advance.

There is the other option. Not everyone wants to eat dinner at 5:30 or 6:30. Go to most of the Med countries and notice what time the restaurants open. Typically 8-9 before they open for dinner. We’ve had great meals that extend to 11:40-12:00. Even in the U. S, during the summer time, we rarely eat before 7:30-8:00. 
 

There are a large group of Oceania clientele that only want to eat early. There are those that prefer later. The OP’s position is that both groups should be afforded the same experience from both the kitchen and the waitstaff. I happen to agree.

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59 minutes ago, pinotlover said:

... There are a large group of Oceania clientele that only want to eat early. There are those that prefer later. The OP’s position is that both groups should be afforded the same experience from both the kitchen and the waitstaff.

The OP and my response indicate that for these cruises, the ones we experienced, there was NO great demand for late eating. And the ship was moving people from 9 pm reservation to 8:30 PM. Yet even at 8:30 not many were showing up or eating then or later.

 

The thrust seems to be cohorts at 6:30 and 8 PM, for example. NO cohort is arriving at 8:30 or 9 pm.

 

AND YES, anyone and everyone who eats at a specialty restaurant should get "the same experience". Do they, though? No, for O, on these specific cruises, isn't set up nor does it want a cohort arriving at 8:30 or 9 PM for dinners that wouldn't end until 10 or 10:30 PM.

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Just want to add one point to this discussion. We have often booked shared tables at 7/7.30 pm only to find they are tables for two. There are obviously a high number of no shows. Don’t be out off by booking shared tables.

Edited by Vallesan
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Funny story, on our Marina cruise this past winter we did a big South American wine dinner in Privee. There are no bathrooms in Toscana and one of our group went out to use the bathroom around 9:00ish or shortly thereafter. She came back in and said the restaurant was empty and the lights turned off! Now three hours for such a meal is relatively fast, and sure enough at 10:00ish it was all dark in Toscana, except for a single light so we could find the exit door .

 

Just guessing that anyone choosing to eat later (7:30-8:00) got the ole “ flip that table “ routine.

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We are currently on Vista and have had two excellent experiences in Polo, once with an 8:00 reservation and once with an extra 9:00 reservation.  Pace of both meals was excellent and the service could not have been more gracious.

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2 hours ago, MrsSheba said:

We are currently on Vista and have had two excellent experiences in Polo, once with an 8:00 reservation and once with an extra 9:00 reservation.  Pace of both meals was excellent and the service could not have been more gracious.

That's really encouraging to hear.....unfortunately it was not the case this month on Nautica.  

 

Have a wonderful trip on Vista!

 

 

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This thread (and some others) are causing me a little concern.  For decades, we have heard the usual "O is a Premium Line" from one particular "O" fan/poster and finally got around to booking 35 days on the Vista.  Now we are reading threads that are less than complementary about various aspects of "O" and hope we have not made a mistake in finally booking this line.  We are flexible with dining (late is fine, shared tables also OK) but would not be happy being rushed or pushed out of a dining venue at 9:30...after the ship encourages us to make a late reservation.  Makes very little sense and is "low class."

 

Hank

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