Has anyone else received the Princess survey asking us to name the new "expanded" dining system? Sounds like they are adopting the NCL "freestyle cruising" idea. I thought it interesting that they would ask me to vote for a name but not whether or not I endorsed the concept.
I hope they are not adopting NCL's freestyle cruising. Going on my first Princess cruise in April on the Grand, and I don't think I would like this. I like having the same tablemates and servers the whole time. I agree, they should ask your opinion of the concept first, then a suggestion for a name.
Boomer - All I have to go on is the survey I received which dealt primarily with naming the new program. It sounds somewhat like the NCL freestyle cruising dining plan with perhaps a few adjustments. They claim that one dining room will be available for those who want the traditional assigned table and servers. Another will be available for those passengers who want the ability to dine when they want and with whom they want (without reservations, I believe). Don't have any details but perhaps the Princess website will provide them. They didn't ask me what I thought of the plan, only what I thought it should be named.
Princess is currently our favorite cruise line. We have cruised with them 5 times and have another cruise on the Grand booked for next year. However, we have also been on two cruises with other cruise lines (26 cruises in all) that only offer open seating. Both were disasters and we will never take another cruise with only open seating unless there is some GUARANTEE that we can dine when we want to WITHOUT WAITING. Since we normally prefer late seating and therefore arrived for dinner on those cruises between 8:00 & 8:30, we had to wait for an available table for anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes every night. I hear from past cruisers on the Norwegian Sky that they now hand out beepers when people come for dinner & there is no table, just like at some land based restaurants. If we want a land based experience, we will book a land based vacation!
Part of the joy of cruising for us is the dining experience and the special camaraderie that always develops between us and the wait staff. If Princess does away with this, then we will CEASE to cruise with Princess. Hopefully, if they DO adopt a "Freestyle Dining" concept they WILL at least retain the ability to ALSO request "Traditional" dining arrangements.
On CruiseCritic.com's message board for Princess, there is an address listed under this same heading to let your feelings be known to Princess. The poster said that she called Princess and at this time, there are no definite plans but adviced the poster to write to this address with comments.
I monitor Princess's web site for news releases regularly, and have not seen anything about such a program. It would seem that such a program would get a splashy announcement.
Aboard MV Sun Princess, MV Dawn Princess, MV Sea Princess, and MV Ocean Princess, Horizon Court offers both buffet and bistro options and the pizzeria at the top of the atrium also serves passengers on a walk-in basis in the evening at no extra charge. I understand that the MV Crown Princess, MV Regal Princess, and MV Royal Princess have similar options in their lido buffet areas. Thus, I see no reason to offer a similar service in the main dining rooms. Curiously, the alternative restaurants with table service aboard MV Grand Princess (The Painted Desert and Sabatini's) require advance reservations and a cover charge....
I do agree with several other respondents that this is not the direction in which Princess would go. I personally look forward to "coming together" for dinner with a stable group of tablemates each evening for dinner, and have developed several friendships in this way.
Yael, don't miss the alternative dining on the Grand though, it's great. Sabatini's is the Italian restaurant, Painted Desert is the Southwest (boy, do they have great margaritias), but my favorite is the Bistro. At night the buffet (can't remember it's name) becomes a sitdown restaurant. Since there is never anymore than a dozen people or so there, the food is definitely cooked to order, something that doesn't happen in the dining rooms. Sabatinis and Painted Desert are open for lunch and require reservations.