Regimented dining times almost spoiled cruising for my wife and I. It is great when you are traveling with a group but 90% of our cruises are just her and I. It is fun to meet new people and to get to know them over the course of the week but it is also tedious and a bit of a hassle to make it back to the ship on time, decompress after a day on shore and then get "gussied up" for dinner at the assigned time. If we are on vacation the last thing we want to be is rushed.
I think the "clincher" for my wife was when we sailed on the Norwegian Star and met a great couple who we hit it off with. I asked them if they would like to join us for dinner. This would not have been an option if we had fixed seating times and fixed tables. Or at least it would have taken an act of the Maitre 'd to make it happen.
We still enjoy having a nice meal in a nice restaurant but we sure don't want to only be allowed this if we conform to a standard time every night of the cruise. If we arrive back late from shore or want to take a nap, go to the casino or just veg out for a couple of hours it should not mean that we must have cold room service food or hope the buffet has something we want.
I am a total convert to open seating and multiple dining choices.
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Our first 3 cruises were on Princess and we used Anytime dining. Which was nice. Then we cruised with Traditional only and had late, tried early and decided that late was better for us. Did one anytime on Carnival and hubby decided that from now on to only do traditional from now on. Of course our one NCL cruise was the freestyle and when we would go to the main dinign rooms we would request to sit with others and never did and yet we had a very hard time getting in to any of the other dining revenues, they claim choose when you want and yet for the cruise we were on it was impossible to contact anyone to place a "Reservation" which you have to have to eat any place other than the main dining room or buffet. In order to get a "reservation" we always had to contact the main customer service desk and complain that the reservations number was not being answered.
Star Princess 2005, Sun Princess 2005
Caribbean Princess 2006, MSC Lirica 2006 , NCL Pearl 2007, Majesty of the Seas 2008, Carnival Destiny 2008, MSC Lirica 2009, Carnival Valor 2009,Carnival Legend 2010, Carnival Liberty 2010,Carnival Fantsay 2011,Carnival Valor Feb 2012, MSC Poesia Dec 2012, MSC Poesia April 2013
Our first cruise was in 1973 and I cannot recall what time we had dinner .Second cruise in 1994 and I cannot remember either .In 2008 we chose at 6:15 dinner time .In 2010 our friends preferred early seating and we did that .The friends we will be cruising with this year prefer late seating and we are doing that.
So far we've opted for traditional dining, usually early seating. With only a minor exception or two, we've had good luck with table mates. Plus, we enjoy establishing a rapport with the wait staff over the course of the cruise.
Last few cruises we've hit the main dining room several times for lunch with open seating and found we enjoyed having conversations with random tablemates. Best of both worlds.