Not sure how they group people at tables, but so far, we've always had great tablemates, never had to request a change. I think they at least try to group according to age and couples/single?? Yes, you can give PC a try if you have the traditional dinning, but if you have the PC, you can't go and do traditional.
You can change from regular dining to Personal Choice, but it is difficult to do the reverse. Personal choice is great... and that is from someone (me) predisposed not to like it.
You t/a will be asked your age and other factors when booking... and the CL will attempt to match you up a bit... but... the best bet is to see the Maitre D' just after embarkation... inquire as to where you are seated and with whom. A table for 4 is the worst, with a 6 almost as bad. A 4 can be hell if you don't like the other two. A 6 can be a nightmare if the other four are two couples who know each other well and look at you as an intrusion. We always recommend an 8 or a 2! Of course, if you are in Personal Choice, none of this is an issue. You can dine when and with whom you want... and it works extremely well!
I agree with just about everything stated above. You asked how the seating was done. I just got back from Ocean Princess and I would say the seating was done by throwing the names down a flight of stairs and picking them up in random order, then checking the actual arrangement that resulted to make sure it was anything but what the passenger wanted.
We had asked for a large table(for all the reasons posted above) and second seating. We are in our 50's. We got second seating table for four with a couple in their 80's who wanted first seating table for two.Just meeting with the MaitreD became an adventure for us and the many other people who had been seated with as much care.
We ended up at a table for 8 , lovely companions, who finally all managed to get together by night 3 of the cruise.Literally everyone in our entire section of the dining room ended up being a refugee from incorrect original arrangements.It seems this particular MaitreD was totally blown away by the time and energy
needed to make the personal choice dining work and as such treated us traditional diners as second class citizens. Based on the long lines outside the personal choice dining room, I'd say he did not have that down either. That said I have read and spoken to a number of people who swear by the new arrangements.
I'm hearing from several sources that the personal choice dining is not working as well as the smiling press releases on the subject seem to indicate -- though some folks do seem to like it. Anyway, like Donna, I'll take traditional dining over open seating any time. With the traditional dining, your waiter and assistant get to know your preferences in the first night or two and anticipate your requests thereafter.
My parents returned from a cruise aboard MV Ocean Princess earlier this week. They were quite frustrated by the fact that they did not get their requested seating in spite of the fact that their booking showed it as guaranteed prior to departure. When they went to dinner (forced into open seating) the first night, they sat with others in a similar situation. They got along well, and subsequently asked the Matre d' to seat them together in the other (traditional) dining room. He said that did not have a table available, but that he could reserve the table for them in open seating. The arrangement worked, but not as well as the traditional arrangement. There was a lot more traffic and commotion in the dining room with passengers coming and going while they were eating dinner.
The final factor to consider is that the traditional seatings generally are timed to mesh with the shows and the other evening entertainment. Thus, you probably will end up eating pretty close to the traditional times anyway unless you intend to skip the shows and just hang out in the casinos and lounges.
I'll stick with traditional dining, and I also will ask the purser's staff to "zero out" the automatic tips so that I can tip my waitstaff in the traditional way (as I did two weeks ago). It just does not feel right not to say "thank you" with an envelope on the last night of the cruise.
Norm, Sounds like your parents were on the cruise after ours. I see the MaitreD
still did not have his act together.We also canceled our automatic tip and tipped in the traditional manner as we felt there were those who deserved more and definately those who deserved LESS.
We have not made final decision, but, between the effect personal choice dining has on the dining room service combined with the highly informal nature of the dress on the ship( plus a few other little things here and there) we may eliminate Princess entirely from future cruise consideration.The overall change in atmosphere on their ships has migrated away from what we are looking for. If I wanted a Carnival atmosphere I would have booked Carnival ( and the rooms are bigger).
We just got back from the Golden's Thanksgiving cruise. We had requested a table for eight at the second seating. We received a table for four. No one else was assigned to our table.
On the first formal night (second night of the cruise), we decided to go to one of the personal choice dining rooms instead of being by ourselves. We also wanted to get in two shows that night, which eating early allowed us to do. We were seated with three other couples and had a great time.
The third and fourth nights we went back to our table for four and dined just the two of us. The waiters in the traditional dining room (or at least the ones in our section) seemed to be much better than those in the other dining rooms. And on the fifth and sixth nights, we decided to invite other folks to dine with us. There wasn't any problem with their joining us.
And the last night of the cruise we ate at Sabatini's since our TA had recommended it so much. I wish I hadn't eaten anything that day. The amount of food was incredible and the staff there were very well trained.