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Will cruise lines do away with restaurant sitting times?

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Do forum members think that sitting times in the main restaurants on board are soon to be a thing of the past?

Since the idea of freedom dining first took hold, it seems to have become so popular that I can’t remember the last person I spoke to on board who had booked first or second sitting as their preference. Do people still want sitting times or will it soon be all open seating

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i think it will be around for a while yet on lines that still attract traditional cruise passengers, fred olsen, p&o, cunard, celebrity, royal caribbean, princess but i think it will be phased out eventually when the new generation passengers are the majority. most 6* lines are open sitting, saga, but these are generally smaller ships so open sitting is easier to handle, if the new big ships operate all open dining they will have to have a good system in place to cope with the demand of seating 1000's of guests as they turn up

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I think this is an aspect of cruising that will greater the divide between different styles of cruising. I agree with Furby that many traditional lines, in my opinion, will retain the sitting times at least for a while into the future. It all depends on the movement of the market and what people are looking for. P&O have made considerable changes to the way they operate their cruises over the past few years so perhaps they will adopt the idea of going completely open seating if it's what the majority of people prefer.

I think Royal Caribbean will be one of the first to do away with sittings. NCL obviously have never had them and it hasn't hampered them thus far. As Furby says, the luxury lines seem to all operate open seating too. It's certainly a growing preference for many cruisers so it wouldn't surprise me to see sittings removed at some point. It wouldn't really bother me to see them go as I have been a freedom dining convert ever since it came in but I know there are still many people who do like the idea of the same table each night with the same waiting staff and the same company.

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Another point I'll make on it is that there is also a growing amount of speciality dining venues popping up on both existing and new-build ships. These restaurants all operate open seating dining where you often need to book a table so that could again encourage the idea of a ship going open seating overall.

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I have noticed that on the last few cruises we have taken with P&O the restaurant that is for set times is always full on both sitting. We have spoken to other guests who wanted to move from Freedom to fixed time and they had been told that no spaces were available. So that must tell the cruise lines that a lot of passengers still like set times. Me and my holiday included, so for me long may it continue.

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1 minute ago, Countrygirl said:

I have noticed that on the last few cruises we have taken with P&O the restaurant that is for set times is always full on both sitting. We have spoken to other guests who wanted to move from Freedom to fixed time and they had been told that no spaces were available. So that must tell the cruise lines that a lot of passengers still like set times. Me and my holiday included, so for me long may it continue.

That's interesting to read Countrygirl and clearly shows that there is still a major desire for it to continue. I had the opposite experience on my last P&O cruise. We were on freedom dining but on several nights were offered a table in the club dining restaurant because tables were free to use, rather than waiting longer to get a table in the usual restaurant. We obviously accepted and it was great but it just seemed strange that these tables were empty on a regular basis.

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As already said the majority of the luxury brands, 5 star, are open sitting. Royal Caribbean already devote 50% of dining to open sitting on all their ships. All ships operate open dining for breakfast and lunch so why not dinner, same number of passengers. As I have said many times before, the world of cruising is changing and traditional cruising will soon be a thing of the past. Passengers are on holiday, they want to eat when they want to, not when the ships says they can, they don't in the main want dressing up but to feel at ease when enjoying a meal. They want 'all inclusive' not be charged $30 plus 15% for a bottle of £4 table wine or £7.50 for a Gin and Tonic. If the better quality lines can take this on board, excuse the pun, then I suggest the run of the mill will not be far behind.

I know that some on the forum will disagree with me but remember, we on the forum make up a number that doesn't even register on the Richter Scale when considering the millions that travel on ships and want change. Europeans and Americans make up the majority of cruisers and you only have to look at what they want and their dress code. As always, just my opinion.

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Probably in time they may but whilst ever there is demand for a fixed sitting time them I'm sure this will remain, it will also become harder for cruise lines if they go to complete freedom dining to manage all customer expectations if they all turned up at a similar time

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26 minutes ago, Pesky Pirate said:

They are doing away with everything else so they might as well go totally downhill.

Is it downhill though Pesky Pirate? I'm not sure it is. As OWT quite rightly pointed out, we are just a tiny proportion of cruise enthusiasts on this forum, while many people the world over, to prefer open seating dining and the freedom to choose when they want to sit down and eat, not have it dictated to them. When you think of relaxation, you don't envisage being told when you have to dine. That's something I used to accept as my love for cruising was greater than my dislike for sittings but since freedom dining came in, we have never looked back.

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I do however appreciate that we all have differing opinions and therefore we like what we like. Some will love sittings whereas others are not keen. It's each to their own but cruise lines will always look to the majority when making decisions for the future. Open seating is much more in-keeping with the modern day mindset when going out or on holiday.

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We've tried both & still prefer a fixed time & table. We like to eat early & book for the 6.30 sitting but when we tried freedom dining we used to have to join the very long queue at 6.00 & hope that we would get in. One gala night on Oriana we arrived to join the queue & it went the length of the corridor, curved round the outside of the shops & ended at the casino entrance. We much prefer to just walk into the restaurant & go straight to our table.

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Not all cruise lines are like that 2torts. Try Royal Caribbean, Celebrity or any of the other cruise line that caters for freedom dining. I have been on Oriana several times and it seems you have to queue for anything that is not booked notably breakfast and lunch. My last cruise with Royal in January was a case of turn up, would you like a table for two or are you happy to share and being shown to a table. Never had a problem and that was on Vision of the Seas their smallest ship about the size of Oriana. Had the same experience last year on Ovation of the Seas which is one of their largest.

This was the queue for breakfast on Oriana's disembarkation day. 

Oriana iPhone 055.JPG

Edited by Oldworldtraveller

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Looks very familiar OWT although we have never queued for breakfast because we are early birds & can usually be found in the buffet breakfast venue by 7.30. I only have a yoghurt for breakfast so it suits us better than the MDR.

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They can go all open dining for me , much prefer Freedom/anytime dining. worked well on both Eclipse and Britannia  no problems on either ship getting a table for two, often the same table.

On Oceana we saw them Queuing at 5pm for a 6pm opening ,you may as well book a set time as queue for an hour to get as one lay put it "our Table" 

How it works on each ship will depend on whether the kitchen's can cope ,the newer ship's seem better at coping with open dining than the older ones...Davybe

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Princess allow passengers to choose between fixed sittings or anytime dining (apart from their one and only small ship - Pacific Princess),.  On the largest Princess ships, at least two thirds of the capacity of the main dining rooms is available for the anytime option.

There is one notable exception.  Diamond Princess, which is based in Asia, offers cruises from Australia, Singapore, China and Japan.  Many of this year's voyages on Diamond Princess were round trips from Tokyo (Yokohama).  So although Diamond Princess is a very large ship, there is no anytime option on the Japanese itineraries.  The main dining rooms revert to fixed sittings - to cater for the preferences of the many Japanese passengers.

Edited by BobTroll

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Two things steer us to fixed dining - we usually cruise with friends and we can organise our evening beforehand - when to meet for a drink before dinner and after dinner events as well. Also it is rather pleasing to be welcomed to you table by the same two smiling faces each evening who get to know your preferences very quickly and often pre-empt your requests while they are still your thoughts.

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I hope they don't get rid of fixed dining altogether as it does seem to suit some people and surely it's good to offer flexibility.  We always used to choose 2nd sitting but started to select Freedom Dining which we found worked excellently on Ventura.  However recently on Arcadia Freedom Dining was anything but FREEDOM.  We tried going late and still had to wait and hour for a table for 4, so we tried early (6.30) but were still told we'd have to wait...apparently people start queuing at 5.30pm ready for the restaurant opening at 6pm!  With Ventura having more entertainment venues I think the entertainment times were more staggered and so dining time choice by people was staggered; on Arcadia the entertainment was only on at the standard set times to suit the fixed dining times and so this must have an impact on the dining rooms and when people choose to eat.  I guess it probably varies from ship to ship but until they can prevent people having to queue/wait with a buzzer for tables, it kind of defeats the object.  It also means you can't always go to your bar of choice for pre-dinner drinks - we like the Crow's Nest but felt that either the buzzer might not work, or we might head there and have only just ordered our drinks when the buzzer would go, plus being a long way from the dining room your table might be reallocated before you get there!  We switched from Freedom to fixed 2nd sitting on our most recent cruise after a few nights and it was a relief to just walk in and sit at the table at a standard time.  We would choose Freedom if it worked, but will probably continue to choose fixed dining for the foreseeable future.

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Having done both I have to admit we love the timed seating option. On our last cruise we had the same table every night and could stroll in between 6-6.30pm and be seated immediately. The last one we did we freedom dining entailed waiting around for 15-30 minutes to be seated, then a different table each night, sometimes sharing. If timed dining is seen to be old fashioned then so be it, but it works for us.

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My friend and I were recently on the Aurora. We elected for Freedom Dining. Queues were short. We were greeted by the same two waiters and handed over to the head waiter for the table we were shown too-choice of sharing preference offered o not. We met other cruisers that we would not had met had we had fixed dining and fixed table. It gave us tbe variety we wanted and we made friends with other cruisers. I'm all for Freedom Dining. Last year I was on a mini cruise on the Venturer. Fixed dining. Hated it as no chance of eating earlier than second sitting. As in a group no choice and had to sit at the same tablefor every meal. We were all widowers and had to put up with one woman's diatribe of her husband's illness and resulting death at each meal. As we were all grieving this was not acceptable. Our group leader had a word but nothing else could be done. Spoilt our meal times. Freedom Dining gives you choice.

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