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Joanandjoe

Food quality and service

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We have cruised with ACL twice before.  Each time, the food service was miserable:.  You crammed into the dining area, where half the cruisers got their food quickly and the rest sat and waited, and waited, and waited.  We always seemed to be in the second, slow service group. Although you filled out a menu with your choices before you entered the dining room, they still took your order and made you wait.  We consistently were forced to wait and watch others eating.  There was NO rhyme or reason to the lucky few who got decent service.  Has the service improved since then?

 

The question is important because we are considering an ACL cruise for next year; but memories of the poor dining room service on our two previous ACL cruises are holding us back.

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On 6/23/2019 at 6:13 PM, Joanandjoe said:

We have cruised with ACL twice before.  Each time, the food service was miserable:.  You crammed into the dining area, where half the cruisers got their food quickly and the rest sat and waited, and waited, and waited.  We always seemed to be in the second, slow service group. Although you filled out a menu with your choices before you entered the dining room, they still took your order and made you wait.  We consistently were forced to wait and watch others eating.  There was NO rhyme or reason to the lucky few who got decent service.  Has the service improved since then?

 

The question is important because we are considering an ACL cruise for next year; but memories of the poor dining room service on our two previous ACL cruises are holding us back.

 

Sorry to hear about the poor service you received.

We have completed five cruises with ACL and have not ever had to deal with that type of service.  We have experienced some delays, at times, but nothing to make us "miserable".

True  they do ask for lunch and dinner preferences at breakfast, so as to have some idea as to how much of each to be prepared to serve, but that is to ensure there are enough portions of each entrée, without needing to make enough of each entrée, without having to waste the surpluses.  Delays in service have been minimal and infrequent.

In answer to your last question, as to "Has service improved since then?", it is difficult to answer since we have no time-line mentioned to reference our experience against.  Our cruises, with ACL, covered the time-frame of March, 2017 through April 2019, covering five different itineraries, in various geographic regions.

 

NRayH

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You're right:  we forgot to put in the dates:  April, 2013, Memphis to New Orleans and August, 2015, Columbia River.  The service on the first trip was so bad that we received two personal apologies from Charles A. Robinson, the President and CEO:  a phone call and a letter giving us complementary shore excursions for our second cruise.  Meal service on the second cruise was better than the first; but going from poor to fair is not a great accomplishment.

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2 hours ago, Joanandjoe said:

You're right:  we forgot to put in the dates:  April, 2013, Memphis to New Orleans and August, 2015, Columbia River.  The service on the first trip was so bad that we received two personal apologies from Charles A. Robinson, the President and CEO:  a phone call and a letter giving us complementary shore excursions for our second cruise.  Meal service on the second cruise was better than the first; but going from poor to fair is not a great accomplishment.

 

Thank you for the time reference.  Based on conversations with other guests on the cruises we have done with ACL, things are better now than when they first started.  We have noticed improvement(s) over the last two-plus years.  ACL's dining room and room stewards are not as polished as the large main line cruise lines.  Having said that … we are happy to keep returning to ACL, for the over-all experience.  You stated you saw some improvement two years after your first encounter.  It has been another three years, maybe worth another try?  Might be getting close, or even meeting your standards?

 

NRayH

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Thanks for your reply.  We're considering the upper Mississippi for next year.  We wonder, though, whether the weather will be too hot for us, since the cruise is only given in mid to late summer.  I get uncomfortable at 80 degrees with zero humidity, and Joan is not much better.  That's why we're going to Greenland and Iceland this summer.

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13 hours ago, Joanandjoe said:

Thanks for your reply.  We're considering the upper Mississippi for next year.  We wonder, though, whether the weather will be too hot for us, since the cruise is only given in mid to late summer.  I get uncomfortable at 80 degrees with zero humidity, and Joan is not much better.  That's why we're going to Greenland and Iceland this summer.

 

I can appreciate where you are coming from.  We grew up in Philadelphia, but have been here in New Hampshire the last twenty years.  Not fan of heat/humidity, but put up with it to traverse the Panama Canal and also to cruise up the Amazon River , or other very interesting venues.  The ship will be air conditioned.

To us, your choice would be very difficult.  We have done Iceland and Greenland, but not the upper Mississippi (yet) -- it is on our, it seems,  of "never shrinking" list of places still to see.

 

NRayH

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When we cruised on America (Grand Mississippi) and Constitution (Grand New England), we never had a problem with slow service that I can recall.  But on our latest cruise on Constellation (Grand Puget Sound), we indeed encountered problems.  Once for breakfast and twice at dinner we experienced just the situation you described -- quick service for some, super-slow for others.

 

On the earlier cruises, ACL used an "everyone come to eat more or less at one time" approach.  For example, after 45 minutes (say) at happy hour, the rep would announce "dinner ready" and most would file out for dinner.  This meant the tables would fill up pretty much at once, and our wait person would begin the usual routine - taking drink orders, serving drinks, taking food orders, clearing appetizer dishes, etc. etc.  So the whole table was in sync, and when a tray arrived from the galley it was everybody's food.

 

But on our last cruise, things changed.  No fixed times, no happy-hour announcements, just filter down to eat whenever the mood struck.  This meant very staggered arrivals at tables.  The waiter would start the routine for the first two, then the next few, and so on, and would tend to lose track of where they were with each.  So sometimes delays would occur.  But I should point out that even so, we only had trouble on three occasions, out of 32 (I think) meals. 

 

Speaking of hot weather, in a moment of temporary insanity, we signed up for the 22-day Mississippi in August of 2020.  I wonder what New Orleans will be like then! 

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Our first river cruise is next November so I don"t know how things work. But I understand the coxktail hour is an a specific lounge and everyone goes there for drinks.

 

 If no one from the ship announces dinner time during the cocktail hour, would it be out of line to stand up at the end of the hour and quietly ask the people sitting around having a drink in your area if they want to go to dinner now as a group?  Then try to get a table all together when the group gets to the dining room.  Everyone at your table would be on the same time schedule and easier for the waiters to serve.

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On 6/25/2019 at 7:49 PM, Joanandjoe said:

Thanks for your reply.  We're considering the upper Mississippi for next year.  We wonder, though, whether the weather will be too hot for us, since the cruise is only given in mid to late summer.  I get uncomfortable at 80 degrees with zero humidity, and Joan is not much better.  That's why we're going to Greenland and Iceland this summer.

The Upper Mississippi Cruise is a beautiful itinerary and very scenic and a completely different experience from the lower Mississippi. I was on this itinerary in 2017 with a friend the second week of September. I remember the weather being comfortable (for me). You may want to consider taking the final cruise of the season if you decide to sign on to this cruise. 

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On 6/26/2019 at 3:08 PM, DaveinCharlotte said:

When we cruised on America (Grand Mississippi) and Constitution (Grand New England), we never had a problem with slow service that I can recall.  But on our latest cruise on Constellation (Grand Puget Sound), we indeed encountered problems.  Once for breakfast and twice at dinner we experienced just the situation you described -- quick service for some, super-slow for others.

 

On the earlier cruises, ACL used an "everyone come to eat more or less at one time" approach.  For example, after 45 minutes (say) at happy hour, the rep would announce "dinner ready" and most would file out for dinner.  This meant the tables would fill up pretty much at once, and our wait person would begin the usual routine - taking drink orders, serving drinks, taking food orders, clearing appetizer dishes, etc. etc.  So the whole table was in sync, and when a tray arrived from the galley it was everybody's food.

 

But on our last cruise, things changed.  No fixed times, no happy-hour announcements, just filter down to eat whenever the mood struck.  This meant very staggered arrivals at tables.  The waiter would start the routine for the first two, then the next few, and so on, and would tend to lose track of where they were with each.  So sometimes delays would occur.  But I should point out that even so, we only had trouble on three occasions, out of 32 (I think) meals. 

 

Speaking of hot weather, in a moment of temporary insanity, we signed up for the 22-day Mississippi in August of 2020.  I wonder what New Orleans will be like then! 

 

I tried to respond this earlier, but my reply seems to have evaporated??

Our last ACL cruise was in April (2019) aboard ACL Constitution.  This was our first experience with the "extended" Happy Hour.  On some evenings there was announcement that "the Dining Room is now open",  but not every evening.  If one stayed on for the "extended Happy Hour", there was usually someone in the Dining Room directing those getting there later to tables to fill them is an orderly manner -- this would help with the issue of joining tables that had already ordered.

Not every one took advantage of this effort.  Some headed to empty tables, especially if near a window.  We saw some take an empty table and tilt the chairs up, as expecting others to join them . That frequently did not happen.  We did not observe any of the discombobulation cited previously, but then again, we were not looking for it either.

If folks were put out by the mis-matched seating patterns, hopefully they mentioned it to the Hotel Manager and/or the Cruise Director, so that remedies could be sorted out.  I think the servers would appreciate that also.

 

NRayH

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We have been on 3 ACL cruises to date.  Dining room service while definitely not as polished as the main cruise lines has never been an issue for us.  And food quality has definitely improved.  Our two most recent cruises (Maine coast and Columbia/Snake had far better food quality than one we did in 2006 (Charleston to Amelia Island).

 

I do wish ACL would improve their wine selection. Otherwise no complaints.

 

Our next cruise is July 2020 -- 10 day Alaska to/from Juneau. We will be going with another couple again so we usually just get a table for 4.

 

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