I've done the "freestyle" nightmare on N.C.L. I have previously sailed on the Dawn Princess before the move to "personal choice." I gather that the Princess version is somewhere in the middle between traditional and the N.C.L. free-for-all.
Can someone either describe the Princess version or direct me to an article that will help me decide between traditional late seating and "Personal Choice."
We will be on the Ocean Princess, if that makes any difference
I've attached a article by Mary Ann. You can also use the search engine on this site. There you'll find the option for "Search All Forums", select it and type in personal choice. I tried it and found lots of strings discussing it.
Princess' new 'Personal Choice' Dining
by Mary Ann Hemphill
Suppose you were spending a week at a pricey resort and management said, "You must eat at 8:30 p.m. every night, at this table. And by the way, you will be sharing this table with six strangers." Wouldn't fly, would it?
But basically, that's what most cruise lines have been saying for years. Your only choice was whether to dine at the early seating or the late seating, and maybe, if you were extremely lucky, you could snag a table for two.
Fortunately, things are changing. Smaller ships, like those of the Radisson fleet, offer open seating dining. NCL has its "Freestyle" program.
And now Princess Cruises has gotten onboard the flexibility boat with its Personal Choice Dining.
When you book a cruise on the newer Princess ships, you'll have a choice between traditional dining or Personal Choice Dining. Traditional dining is just that: An assigned table in a designated dining room, at an assigned first or second seating.
Personal Choice Dining gives you the option of dining anytime between 5:30
Send this Article to a Friend p.m. and 10 p.m., and with whom you please each night--a table for two at 8 p.m. one night, perhaps with a group of six at 7:30 another night. The simplest comparison is to a restaurant at home.
If you chose traditional dining, you may change to the Personal Choice program during the course of your cruise. But you cannot flip back and forth between the two programs.
Personal Choice Dining is not the open seating pattern that several lines have. In open seating, passengers can arrive at the dining room anytime they want during the meal service hours. The drawback of open seating is that two or four of you might be seated at a table, and then, as you are eating your entree, others might join the table, giving the dining experience a rather disjointed effect.
Princess' Personal Choice diners can reserve a table in advance by calling a Dining Hot Line during the day, or they can just appear when they decide to eat. It's best to make reservations--then you can bypass the line and go directly to the maitre d'hotel to be seated. If you especially like your waiter, you can reserve the same table for each night of the cruise. You cannot reserve a table in advance of your cruise.
Personal Choice Dining has eliminated the Captain's Welcome Aboard Party, as everything had to be scheduled around this. But without everyone departing at once for dinner, bars are livelier throughout the evening. With diners arriving at varied times, meals are prepared on more of an "a la minute" basis. Instead of cooking, for example, ten kilos of pasta at once, the galley prepares only one kilo at a time.
Does Personal Choice Dining work? In theory, and on the Grand Princess where this program has been in place for a while, yes. On our three-night preview cruise, it was not as successful. But that was probably caused by passengers misunderstanding the program. A friend and I went to the dining room about 9 p.m. and found a long, long line. Forget it; instead, we went to the Desert Rose for a little Tex/Mex. The problem that evening was caused by first-seating passengers who had decided to stay on deck when the ship sailed at six, figuring they could just go to the Bellini Dining Room, which was the designated Personal Choice Dining room, and eat when they pleased. They did not understand that you cannot, at a whim, opt out of your assigned table seating in the traditional dining program in favor of eating at another time.
According to Brian Langston-Carter, Executive Vice President-Fleet Operations, two-thirds of the passengers book the traditional seating, then,
Send this Article to a Friend once onboard, half of these choose to switch to the Personal Choice program. Currently, two of the dining rooms on the Grand Princess are designated for Personal Choice Dining, and the line expects a similar pattern--which can be changed from cruise to cruise--for the Golden Princess. Executives also claim that there will be plenty of tables for two, as rectangular tables can be split into smaller ones.
Personal Choice Dining is in place on the Grand Princess, Golden Princess, Sun Princess, Sea Princess, Dawn Princess, and Ocean Princess. The other, older ships, will also have Personal Choice Dining, but exact roll-out dates have not yet been determined.
Because of the variety of dining locations and wait staff, dining service gratuities of $6.50 per passenger, per day are automatically added to guests' onboard accounts. Guests still personally handle room stewards' gratuities.
Has Personal Choice Dining worked for you? Please post your comments on this program on the message boards.
Message Board link - Chit Chat for cruisers.
Mary Anne Hemphill is a CruiseMates contributing editor.
We have done PC dining on the Golden, Grand and Ocean. PC worked very well on the Golden and Grand, ships that have 3 dining rooms. We never had to make reservations. PC on the Ocean, a 2 dining room ship wasn't the same. We wanted to eat at 7 PM but we had to make reservations to eat at 8 PM. On a 2 dining room ship I would choose traditional dining. Have a wonderful cruise.
I'm the old fashioned type that prefers a set dining time. We always book first seating. I have seen fiascos on two cruises so far that had personal choice - where people were put in it when they thought they had the traditional resulting in long wait lists for the traditional seatings. I've also seen long lines waiting to be seated when everyone wants to eat at the same time.
I prefer a wait staff that quickly learns my preferences. Those who like PC say one can make a reservation for a table and wait staff but then what do you really have? Traditional dining with just a different time. It would be great if one could just arrive at any time and get their favorite table and wait staff but it rarely seems to work out that way. Just my different opinion.
Hello....Since you ave been on a few cruises, I will make this response somewhat short.
My wife and I just did the Dawn Princess to Southern Caribbean, and we will be on the Dawn again at the end of October for a 9-day cruise to Hawaii.
We tried Personal choice 3-cruises ago, and would never go back to traditional. We are both 48 years old and just prefer the freedom of sitting to eat at any time. But it also gave us the flexibility to eat at the Horizon Court which we thought was excellent and had many of the same items as the main dining room. We also ate at their new Steakhouse on the pool deck.
Again, everything is just a personal preference. Everyone will prefer something different. What we like, someone else may not like. We just happen to love total freedom.
Unfortunately, there are several points of misinformation and obsolete information in this artilcle. Here's what jumps out on a fairly quick scan.
>> 1. No Princess ship offers "a choice between traditional dining and Personal Choice Dining" as the artilcle asserts. Rather, Princess ships with two or more main dining rooms (the Sun Princess and Grand Princess classes now in service and the Coral Princess and Diamond Princess classes and MV Crown Princess that are under construction) offer "Personal Choice Dining" -- which means that passengers may choose either "Traditional Dining" or "Anytime Dining," subject to availability, in addition to various alternative restaurants.
>> 2. Thereafter, all references to "Personal Choice Dining" in the article should say "Anytime Dining" instead. There was some confusion of terminology in the beginning, but Princess is attempting to clarify it.
>> 3. If you start out with "Anytime Dining," it is in fact possible to change to "Traditional Dining" if space is available -- I have done it. Just submit your request to the Maitre d' in the same way that you would request a change of seating if you landed with incompatible tablemates.
>> 4. The statement that "Personal Choice Dining has eliminated the Captain's Welcome Aboard Party..." is patently false. Most ships continued the Captain's "Welcome Aboard" Cocktail Party for some time after they adopted the "Personal Choice Dining" program, discontinuing it only as part of Princess's cost reduction program last year. In fact, the company received so many negative comments about dropping the Captain's "Welcome Aboard" Cocktail party that the company has restored it.
>> 5. The scenario that "... two or four of you might be seated at a table, and then, as you are eating your entree, others might join the table, giving the dining experience a rather disjointed effect" is something that I have never observed with open seating aboard any ship. With open seating, Princess forms tables as passengers enter the dining room and then serves the entire table at once. If another line does otherwise, something is seriously amiss.
>> 6. Princess has raised the automatic gratuity to $10 per passenger per day. It now also includes the gratuity for one's cabin steward.
Princess offers :"Personal Choice Dining" on all ships of the fleet that have more than one main dining room (which basically means all ships built for Princess Cruises since 1995). The way the program works, at least one main dining room maintains "Traditional Dining" with assigned tables at two fixed seatings (nominally at 6:00 and 8:15, but the times may vary somewhat from ship to ship and from itienrary to itinerary) and at least one main dining room offers "Anytime Dining" where passengers may dine at any time from 5:30 until 10:00, either with or without a reservation, just like at a nice restaurant ashore. The ships that offer "Personal Choice Dining" also have at least three alternative restaurants.
Note that this applies only to dinner. Since most passengers eat breakfast and lunch elsewhere, only one main dining room serves those meals on an "open seating" basis (but with full table service).
I find that service suffers with the "Anytime Dining" option, primarily because your waiters do not have the opportunity to get to know your preferences. With traditional fixed seating, your waiters get to know your preferences fairly quickly and start anticipating your requests by the second or third evening, providing much more robust service. The little nuances -- like having your cup of coffee or espresso or whatever arrive at the proper time without having to order it -- will make a big difference in your dining experience!
We just sailed on the Golden in the Med in August, and enjoyed Anytime Dining so much I can't imagine going back to a line that does not offer it. (Ialready wrote about our experience getting mistakenly assigned early traditional on another thread, so will just address the issue of our experience with Anytime Dining)The first time we went to the Bernini dining room, we were seated at a table with Andre as our waiter and Frances as the assistant. From then on, we requested that section every night, and they remebered our preferences. There was only one time that we did not get a table in their section, and we never once had to wait, as most nights we called and made a reservation. Even when we didn't, we never had to wait. The freedom to eat when you want, especially on such a port-intensive cruise, was just fantastic. We always used to go for early seating, as find late way too late, but on this cruise we would have had to go to the buffet several times as we could not have possibly made it to early dinner (a couple of nights we just arrived back on the ship at 6:30, and one night it was 7:00 - thank heavens we were on a ship's excusrion as that was whn the ship was to sail!) We also would have had to choose between the not-to-missed experience of sailing out of Venice at 7:00 or going to dinner at our assigned time)
The other wonderful thing was being able to share your table with people of your choosing. We ate alone with our two kids about half the time, and the rest of the time we joined other people we had met on the cruise.
I would like to second what Sheila wrote. I can't imagine going back to a line without the flexible dining arrangements of Princess. We were on the Grand 2 weeks ago and had "anytime dining" this is how our week went.
Sunday 7:30 joined 4 other people - no wait (Michelangelo dining room - friendly, female waiter)
Monday 7:00 Formal night - ate alone (table for 3) no wait (DaVinci dining room - superb male waiter)
Tuesday 7:45 joined 4 other people - 20 minute wait (they give you a beeper so we went for a stroll) - DaVinci dining room (shy, slow, waiter)
Wednesday 7:30 ate alone - 10 minute wait (Michelangelo - super female waiter)
Thursday ate at Horizon court
Friday Formal night 6:45 ate alone at same table as Monday - same waiter - remembered us - no wait.
Saturday 7:45 ate alone, 15 minute wait. (Michelangelo -efficient -too fast waiter)
Hope this gives you some insight into what you could tolerate. We never found the wait intolerable and we enjoyed the different waiters and tables.
I was really worried about personal choice dining before we went on the Golden but found that it suited us very well. We always dined before 8pm and ended up getting the same table for 2 and the same waiters every night. We did not have to make a reservation but the Bernini did fill up after 8pm. We had a wonderful cruise on a magnificent ship.