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thulewx September 13th, 2000 01:55 PM

Princess Freestyle - TRUE
Just read an article (posted below) & it looks like they're going to do it! It also looks like they'll be doing it right, giving a CHOICE of old-style AND free-style.
Will be fleet-wide by end of 2001.

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 13, 2000--Princess Cruises, continuing its tradition of product innovation and commitment to de-regiment the cruise experience with its ``what you want, when you want'' philosophy, is changing the course of cruising once again by offering passengers a brand-new dining option which will satisfy both cruise traditionalists and those who prefer to dine how they choose.

With its new Personal Choice(SM) Dining program, Princess introduces new restaurant-style seating which enables passengers to dine when and with whom they wish, just as they would be able to do at a shoreside restaurant at home. However the traditional cruise dining option where passengers have the same dining time, waiter and tablemates each evening will be available, as well.

``This new program is both revolutionary and evolutionary,'' explained Dean Brown, executive vice president of sales, marketing and customer service. ``It's revolutionary because no cruise line offers both, and also because our new restaurant-style dining option will be operated like a shoreside restaurant -- it's definitely not a typical open seating alternative. And Personal Choice(SM) Dining is evolutionary because Princess has been at the forefront of eliminating regimentation and providing personalized choice to passengers since the mid 90s beginning with the introduction of Sun Princess. This is the next exciting step in providing our passengers with a further customized cruise experience.''

Personal Choice(SM) Dining will be first introduced aboard Grand Princess in January 2001, and will debut on Golden Princess when she is launched in Europe next May.

The new restaurant-style option will be offered in two of the ships' three main dining rooms, enabling passengers to dine at any table with anyone of their choosing at any time, during expanded dining hours of 5:30 pm to midnight. A special dining desk will be open throughout the day where passengers can make their dinner reservations, and passengers will also be able to dine without reservations at their leisure. A wide variety of table configurations will allow passengers to join new-found friends or dine at an intimate table for two, whatever they prefer. Each of these dining rooms will be organized to accommodate passengers sharing the same dining time, eliminating the chaos of some open seating designs, where passengers just sitting down to a meal may find themselves seated at a table next to other guests who are just finishing theirs.

The third dining room will maintain the traditional first and second seating dining experience, with an assigned seating time, waiter and tablemates throughout the cruise. ``Consumer research shows there is a very large percentage of passengers who are passionate about the traditional cruise dining experience, and we can now offer both,'' said Brown.

The special design of the Princess ships, which were originally constructed to offer maximum dining flexibility with a combined 50,000 square feet of dining space in multiple dining areas with dedicated galleys, enables the line to further innovate its trademark ``what you want, when you want'' cruise experience.

``Research clearly shows that many of our passengers desire true restaurant-style dining, but because this style of dining is actually difficult to accomplish on a ship, there's a real danger that choice can end up as a chaotic free-for-all,'' said Brian Langston-Carter, Princess' executive vice president of fleet operations, whose vision inspired Princess to build dining flexibility into all its ships during the past decade and in the future. ``Because our ships were specifically built to offer personal choice, we're able to overcome any operational challenges associated with restaurant-style seating and introduce what we believe is the most exciting dining program in the cruise industry.

``When the program launches in January aboard Grand Princess, passengers will be able to enjoy a dining experience that's just like being able to go to a restaurant at home with friends and family,'' he said. ``But the great thing is that our loyal passengers who like the traditional dining experience will have that, too.''

Langston-Carter added that the new restaurant-style dining is in addition to the many other options available for dinner each evening, among them two specialty restaurants -- an Italian trattoria and Southwestern restaurant -- a 24-hour buffet which turns into an evening bistro, and 24-hour room service. In total, passengers will be able to enjoy up to six different opportunities to dine.

``The move away from regimentation and towards offering passengers more personalized choice is a lifestyle trend we saw coming many years ago, and subsequently we built our ships to accommodate this desire for a more customized cruise experience,'' said Brown. ``That means we'll now have a dining option for every preference, elevated to an exciting, new level.''

``Numbers don't lie,'' said Langston-Carter. ``We have more dining rooms, each with its own separate galley; more dining space at 50,000 square feet on the Grand Princess and Golden Princess, and more flexible tables that can be tailored to accommodate two to ten people. Plus, we have nearly 2,400 dining seats on these ships, ensuring that our passengers will never experience a long wait or delay. We've additionally extended the dining hours beyond the traditional 6:15 pm and 8:15 pm assigned times, allowing passengers to enjoy fine dining as early as 5:30 pm, or as late as midnight. And this is in addition to our 24-hour bistro which offers dinner until 4 am. Dining customization truly takes on new meaning with Princess.''

Personal Choice(SM) Dining will be introduced across the Princess fleet by the end of 2001.

Donna September 13th, 2000 02:20 PM

RE: Princess Freestyle - TRUE
Hi Thuleux,
I think I'd have to see how that all works out. For instance if they still will offer the traditional seating, how can they seat everyone for that and still have the new style at the same time? On the top of my list for favorite things about cruising is dinning in the dinning room with the same tablemates, waiter, etc. Not sure I'd like the other way, but will keep an open mind and see how cruisers in general take to it.

What is everybody's feelings on this new type of dinning?? Would love to hear the pro's and cons.


PEB September 13th, 2000 02:33 PM

RE: Princess Freestyle - TRUE
I prefer the same seating, time and tablemates. It is also nice having the same wait staff because they will know that you may prefer coffee or tea or whatever without having to explain it every meal. It also allows you to get to know your tablemates better.

thulewx September 13th, 2000 02:43 PM

RE: Princess Freestyle - TRUE
I suppose this will mean that the waiters, etc. will be getting their tips automatically billed to your room, ala NCL, with little interaction as far as them knowing what you want in your tea... how you like your steak...etc.
Of course to NCL's dubious credit, they do allow you to come to the purser's desk and remove tipping charge for waiters/stewards if you want to do it yourself (so the cheap one's can sneak out of it). But NCL doesn't advertise this fact.

BillG September 13th, 2000 03:09 PM

RE: Princess Freestyle - TRUE
Since they asked me for my choice of names, I suppose that I should be pleased that my choice (and obviously the choice of the majority they polled) was ultimately theirs. I will say that providing both options seems more acceptable than NCL's arbitrary imposition of "freestyle cruising". I am sure that there would be occasions where I might opt to dine according to my schedule instead of the cruiseline's, but I too wonder about the logistics and how they will be able to devote one whole dining room to the new concept while accommodating those who prefer the traditional style in the other room or rooms. I thought that the specialty restaurants pretty much served this purpose already.
How long will it be until someone posts that they will now be able to eat dinner in the open style dining room and still make their first or second seating for another full dinner? LOL Can feel those pounds being piled on already.

It seems that someone has convinced the cruiselines that in the competition between cruise vacations and land-based vacations, the land-based resorts are winning, and to succeed the cruiselines will have to offer an experience more like that which is offered on land. Frankly, I take cruise vacations because I prefer the cruise experience and the special features they offer and if I wanted a land-resort type of vacation I would go to one, not to a cruise ship.I just hope that in their zeal to attract new customers to fill their big new ships, they don't forget about us traditional cruisers who got them where they are today.

Boomer September 13th, 2000 09:02 PM

RE: Princess Freestyle - TRUE
Interesting. Not having cruised I am looking forward to meeting new people over dinner. Being an out going person I think that is the best part about travel. Meeting different people. However, understanding human nature, I can see where shy persons may like the abilty to get away and not interact with the same people at dinner. Sad. They miss out on soemthing new & different. Oh well.

Babette September 13th, 2000 09:13 PM

RE: Princess Freestyle - TRUE
Well, Donna. I don't like it. Say for instance, you have more people who want the traaditional venue for both early and late thann you have available seating for??? Do they say. sorry.... sold out. You'll have to stand IN LINE at the restaurant desk and make reservations for another venue?????? For you naysayers..... this could very well be a possibility - especially on the longer cruises which attract an older, more traditional passenger.

Fleet wide??????? On the Pacific and Royal???? Surely, they jest.

I don't think this was adequately researched. Coming originally from a product marketing background... I've seen too many companies follow their research "results"... only to be soundly defeated in the marketplace. I would have let NCL make all the mistakes first (keep in mind she really doesn't have the same size vessels as the Grand and Golden). NCL needed a niche in the market. Princess has enjoyed a very good market share. I think this "idea" of their's is more a preemptive strike against losing marketshare... though in my heart of hearts, I don't think their passenger is NCL's passenger and vice versa.

Reports have been fine from the Majesty. Keep in mind the Bermuda run. You are in port at night. Big difference. And what about the entertainment each evening?????? Are you going to have hords of people clammering for tables at certain peaks.... say 6:15 and 8:15????? Are or they going to cut the shows down and just repeat them say 4 or 5 times during the cruise.... "Just to make sure everybody gets to enjoy....."

And finally......say good bye to the shipwide elegance of "formal" nights. Welcome Aboard Cocktail party in..........jeans and sneakers?????????

For certain, the one job I would not want would be that of the restaurant manager!!

BillG September 13th, 2000 11:13 PM

RE: Princess Freestyle - TRUE
Just think about how much trouble we experience now just getting our choice of seatings. Now they will have to factor in a third option and apparently you have to pick this new option when you make your cruise reservation and stick with it. Under the old system, by the time you boarded the Maitre'd had pretty much made all of the table assignments, with only a little fine tuning done during the first day or two as a few passengers might ask to have their table or seating assignment changed. Now they will have to set up a daily reservation system to handle passengers who might want to vary their dining times and seating configurations daily. There will be a learning curve involved, so beware if you are on one of the early cruises employing this new system.

sail7seas September 14th, 2000 09:55 AM

RE: Princess Freestyle - TRUE
How are they going to manage the BAKED ALASKA routine with people coming and going in the dining room at different times? Are they going to serve dessert those people who have just started their appetizers? Say goodbye to another feature unique to cruiseship vacations...more and more like a land-based resort! IMHO

Donna September 14th, 2000 08:14 PM

RE: Princess Freestyle - TRUE

How are they going to manage the BAKED ALASKA routine with people coming and going in the dining room at different times? Are they going to serve dessert those people who have just started their appetizers? Say goodbye to another feature unique to cruiseship vacations...more and more like a land-based resort! IMHO

Hi Sail7seas,
Totally agree with you about this concept being more like a land-based resort.
Thats one of the main reasons we enjoy cruising the whole dinner atmosphere, formal, casual, etc. Can't imagine how they would do the Baked Alaska the way they do now. Also, how can they assign everyone a dinner seating, not really knowing who will show up or not, there just isn't that much space?? Especially if you could decide day by day to go to the regular dinner or the freestyle? I think there will be a lot of bugs to work out until it runs smooth??


norm September 15th, 2000 11:09 PM

RE: Princess Freestyle - TRUE

I think that you will have to choose one option or the other when you book the cruise, just as you now choose iether first or second seating.


norm September 15th, 2000 11:28 PM

RE: Princess Freestyle - TRUE
This is an interesting press release. In fact, what it does not say might be even more interesting than what it does say!

The first observation is that this press release does not say -- or even remotely suggest -- that Princess is eliminating formal nights. Indeed, the preservation of formal nights might be one really significant difference between what Princess is doing and what Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is doing! It's probably misguided to assume that Princess is attempting to copy NCL, especially when the press release speaks of differentiation.

The second observation is that this press release does not say how the line might accommodate such an arrangement on vessels that have only one main dining room, of which there are four -- MV Pacific Princess, MV Royal Princess, MV Regal Princess, and MV Crown Princess -- in the Princess fleet. Will those vessels be excluded, will they get another dining room, or is this press release the first hint of a plan to dispose of those vessels, either by sale or by transfer to a sister line?

A third observation is that the article does not say that the walk-in restaurants will serve the same menu as the dining room with fixed seatings. It appears likely that these restaurants may develop different themes at some time in the future if the concept succeeds.

The fourth observation is that Princess does appear to be progressing slowly on such a conversion. If it flops aboard MV Grand Princess, the company will have plenty of time to "change gears" before replicating the problems aboard another vessel.

The fifth observation is that this development is one that major competitors like Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Carnival Cruises will have a tough time copying it because their vessels have only one main dining room (albeit multitier).

nick87 September 17th, 2000 10:04 AM

RE: Princess Freestyle - TRUE
I really do not like the free-style dinning concept. You go on a cruise to meet peopleand if yuo don't sit with anyone at dinner you won't meet anyone. I really feel bad for single cruisers.

norm September 17th, 2000 08:49 PM

RE: Princess Freestyle - TRUE

I presume that Princess will seat small parties which arrive at the dining rom at the same time together to fill out tables, as they do at breakfast and at lunch. Nonetheless, I agree completely with your thrust. There's something wonderful about a stable dinner table where you make friends and get to know one another over the course of a cruise.


Dawn Stefano September 19th, 2000 01:00 PM

RE: Princess Freestyle - TRUE
As a dedicated cruise fan who also enjoys the freedom and choices associated with land-based vacations, I am thrilled about this announcement! If it works, it should satisfy both the traditionalists and those who want more options. I'm considering a Princess Alaska cruise for 2001, so I'll be anxious to get my hands on a schedule of when Princess expects to introduce this innovation on all its ships. I'd like to think it might be available on some ships during the summer season.

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