After so many responses to our Cruise Planning poll, we have just set up a new poll about dining preferences. You can view the results of the cruise planning poll, or any of our previous polls, in our polls archive. The latest poll results show that Ports of Call, Price and Cruise line are the most important factors used by passengers when selecting a cruise.
Our new poll asks your preferred dining options. In the old days of cruising, passengers had two choices for dining – first seating and second seating in the main dining room. Cruise ships were not the huge purpose built luxury ships of today, so they just didn’t have many dining options.
Gradually cruise lines have begun adding alternative dining options. Most lines have an evening alternative to the main dining room. Some have upscale alternative dining with an extra charge. Some lines have price included buffets, or sushi bars, or a pizza and pasta station, or even casual full service dining with an up charge. The newest trend in cruising is no assigned tables, venues or times. NCL has pioneered this trend calling it “Free Style Cruising”. Their marketing material tells passengers that they have lots of choices and can do what they want, when they want. Princess and RCCL have followed this trend by offering some open seating on their ships.
I have always been perfectly happy with assigned dining times, venue, and services offered with the traditional dining with one exception. That exception is that I prefer second seating, but when I cruise with my kids, the first seating really works better over all for us. The one part I don’t like about early dining is on port days having to rush to get 4 people ready for dinner by 6:00. Other than that exception, I really like having the same waiter, sommelier and assistant maitre’de every night. This set up gives the opportunity for the diner to receive highly personalized and individualized service. The wait staff gets to know you and learns of your desires and needs. If guests have a large group, then they know they don’t have to wait for a table or wonder what time to get together for dinner. Generally, the entertainment options for the evening such as shows, music, dancing and theme parties are scheduled around the dining times so that guests don’t have schedule conflicts. I like dining in the main dining room so much I have only twice in all my cruises chosen a different options: once in the specialty dining room and once using room service after a late excursion.
I know other cruisers have found these innovations in dining options to be just what they needed to improve their cruise experience. I’d love to hear from those of you out there who have tried the other options. How was the service? Did you have wait times? Were you able to eat in the venue you wanted at the time you wanted? How did the relaxed dining options affect your cruise over all? Did you feel less “herded” and more in control of you cruise experience? Did you choose casual dining for the entire cruise and feel like you got your moneys worth? Participate in our poll and leave your feedback in our comment sections. We love to hear from our members.