Most of the major cruise lines are more alike than different from each other.
Most have some version of open dining, called by any number of different names.
All have the same percentage of passengers (65%) who prefer this open dining concept.
All experience variations on this percentage depending on the length of the cruise, the itinerary, age demographics, and the time of year.
All the ships have the same challenges with tables for 2. When the ships were designed and built, the big demand was for large tables. So the dining rooms were designed and built with a high number of large tables in them. Now most of middle America has decided that they prefer small tables instead. But the ship dining rooms cannot be retro-fitted with small tables without losing a substantial percentage of seating capacity.
So we all have a shortage of tables for 2.
In a few years time, all the new ships will have plenty of tables for 2, but by that time, Middle America will get friendlier and all decide they all want large tables again.
We are never going to win this battle.
All cruise ships built since the mid 1980s do not have the capacity to assign a dedicated dining table to each cabin, like we did in the good old days.
Instead we now must feed you in shifts - like in a factory - in order to get everyone fed.
As a result, nearly every table in the dining room must be used at least twice each evening - and some must be used 3 times per night.
Now we have a problem. It seems that nearly everyone in America wants to eat dinner at 7pm or 7:30 pm every night.
But that is not possible. If we try to give everyone a table at 7 or 7:30, only half the passengers will be fed at that time, and the other half will be forced to eat either at 5pm or 9pm.
Giving you a table at 7pm forces another couple who wants a table for 2 to choose either very early dining or very late dining.
Forcing you to take a table for 2 one hour earlier or later than 7pm allows another couple to also use that table only one hour earlier or later than they wanted. This explains why very few dining room tables can be given out at 7pm or 7:30 pm.
The story I have recounted above describes how things work most of the time. But then we have some other challenges.
If it is a very long cruise, we get many very old cruisers who are lined up at the dining room entrance by 4pm so they can eat, see a show, and get to bed by 8pm.
If it is a family holiday cruise, we have all the grandparents who WANT to eat early and go to bed early - with the addition of all the grandchildren who MUST eat early and go to bed early.
If the ship is carrying Europeans - many of whom prefer to eat much later - we have similar problems. If nearly everyone shows up at the dining room at 9pm for dinner, many will have to wait.
Once again, today's cruise ships do not have the capacity to feed everyone at the same time. Some people must eat earlier; some must eat later.