Regarding your previous unpleasant cruise, we too did the Hawaiian Isles on NCL in 2002. We were so disappointed by it - including the dining experience - that it put us off cruising for 6 years.
Luckily we found Celebrity then Cunard and have enjoyed every experience since then. I much prefer Cunard's fixed seating (in Britannia class) because we, like you, recognize that the dining experience is a integral part of the cruise.
To each his own, of course, but I'm thankful we found our niche with Cunard.