In an complete reversal of everything I have always loved about the cruise ship dining experience, my husband and I have decided to give Celebrity Select Dining a try.
Select Dining offers passengers flexible dining times rather than a fixed time and table. Passengers can select a dining time for each night online before the cruise or make selections as they go according to what fits their schedule best for the next day. If you have followed my blog for sometime, you know that I have been a staunch advocate for traditional dining. I always felt that flexible dining was not necessary. However, a few things have changed in the overall Celebrity cruise experience that have led me to abandon my old staunch ways, and try this different type of dining experience.
Celebrity Captain’s Club Elite Cocktail Hour
We were qualified for the Elite tier of the the Celebrity Captain’s Club, their passenger loyalty program, on our last cruise with Celebrity. One of the nicest benefits of this program is the complementary cocktail hour offered for two hour on most days. Initially, that cocktail hour ran from 4:00 to 6:00 which worked well for passengers in the earlier 6:00 dinner seating, but left a void of over 2 hours for those who had the late seating. We considered moving to the 6:00 seating, but that schedule often requires one to miss the lovely island sail-a-ways, which offer some of the most unforgettable scenery and sunsets that we enjoy. Hence we stayed with the late seating, which was usually 8:15.
Pushing out of Late Seating
Perhaps in order the better facilitate the Select dinners, Celebrity moved the second seating time from 8:15 to 8:45. 8:45 may be the norm for European passengers, but seems way to late for us Americans.
I also had to consider if I wanted to prepay my gratuities for this cruise. Celebrity requires prepaid gratuities for guest to utilize the Select Dining program. That policy insures that the dining room servers receive their fair share of gratuities. Guest must also prepay the house keeping portion of their gratuities as well, which really might be the only objection to this policy. I have always liked to have some discretion in my tips, but since I have ended up using the auto gratuity system for my last 5 cruises, it is a rather mute point. I repeatedly end up paying the recommended amount with some additions for a few personnel. So, accepting the idea of prepaid gratuities actually was pretty easy for me.
Coming to a Decision
With 6:00 seeming to early, and 8:45 seeming too late, I researched the ins and outs of Select Dining. It was first introduced about 2 or 3 years ago. The roll-out experienced a few hiccups, but over all I read positive reviews of the experience. My main concern was the line outside the Select entrance to the dining room. We love being able to walk in and sit down in our spot every night. However, I read that many people were able to be seated right away as well in Select. Those who did wait had no more than a 10 minute wait. That process seemed pretty reasonable to me. Another experienced cruiser told me that she really enjoys the Select Dining now that the Elite Cocktail hour has changed from 4-6 to 5-7. She said it works as a natural progression to go from the cocktail hour to the Select Dining.
I also found that many times passengers can reserve the same table or the same wait staff. Though not guaranteed, it would be nice to have that consistency in the main dining room service.
Taking all these items into account, I called my travel agent and had her make the change to my reservation. She’ll send me a new invoice that will reflect the new dining selection and show the line item for prepaid gratuities. Those gratuities will be due when the balance of the cruise fare comes due, 90 days before embarkation.
I’ll be sure to report back here after my the cruise to let our readers know how I enjoyed the experience.