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lovetocruise1953
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1 hour ago, lovetocruise1953 said:

We have been allocated an 8.30 dining time, they said the early one is fully booked. 8.30 is later than we like to eat, is the 7.30 one more popular I though more people like to eat later than early, is there ever a chance to change to the early sitting?

 

The sittings are early, (6.15pm normally now) and late, 8.30pm.  First sitting is more popular and does get fully booked at times.  You can ask the Maitre D'hotel onboard if there is any chance of a change, or perhaps head office could put you on a waitlist, if they have one, but may not be possible. 

 

There is always the self service, which you can go to anytime when open (usually between 6pm and 9pm.  Sadly no flexible dining option, which is not to our liking either.

 

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On 11/12/2023 at 2:30 PM, lovetocruise1953 said:

Maybe it's time for Fred to move with the times a bit, flex dining seems to work out ok on all the other cruise lines we have been with.

I like the idea of any time dining but the reality is very different in my recent experience.
 

Recent cruises this year on P&O and Princess with “freedom” didn’t mean eating when we wanted to. It meant waiting in a queue for a table be that virtual/ actual/ pager, some times for over an our or more. Formal nights are a disaster with some giving up and going to the buffet in their tux!

 

Celebrity did it well and freedom meant just that, turn up and get seated within a short space of time. 
 

While I find 8.30 a little late to eat I much prefer walking in to a guaranteed table with the same staff every night to getting annoyed waiting in a  queue.

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37 minutes ago, Eglesbrech said:

I like the idea of any time dining but the reality is very different in my recent experience.
 

Recent cruises this year on P&O and Princess with “freedom” didn’t mean eating when we wanted to. It meant waiting in a queue for a table be that virtual/ actual/ pager, some times for over an our or more. Formal nights are a disaster with some giving up and going to the buffet in their tux!

 

Celebrity did it well and freedom meant just that, turn up and get seated within a short space of time. 
 

While I find 8.30 a little late to eat I much prefer walking in to a guaranteed table with the same staff every night to getting annoyed waiting in a  queue.

Returned on Saturday from a 2 week cruise on P&O Iona, didn’t queue once or use the virtual queue, we just went to whichever MDR we fancied that night said we were happy to share and were seated immediately sometimes had to wait about 5 mins for table to fill 6 or 8 people. 
Celebrity in Feb/March was also no problem.

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3 hours ago, lovetocruise1953 said:

Returned on Saturday from a 2 week cruise on P&O Iona, didn’t queue once or use the virtual queue, we just went to whichever MDR we fancied that night said we were happy to share and were seated immediately sometimes had to wait about 5 mins for table to fill 6 or 8 people. 
Celebrity in Feb/March was also no problem.

I’m really glad you were lucky but it was just luck.

 

Reading reviews it seems to vary one cruise to another depending on staffing levels, guest dining preferences re times, time of year, holiday periods etc

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5 hours ago, Eglesbrech said:

Has your recent experience of freedom dining been ok? 

 

We were on Aurora for 37 nights Aug/Sept and worked perfectly, and the same in Nov 2022, when we were on board for 28 nights.  If you go at popular times there is often a short wait with a buzzer for a table for two, but could generally walk straight in if happy to share.  Arcadia in June had probs for the first couple of nights, but the staff were letting set sitting people in because they did not want to go into set sitting, which should never had happened.  We only use the smaller ships, but have read that Arvia had problems because she has one less MDR compared to Iona.  Seems they put on an Italian restaurant and something else, poss a burger bar, but people do not want them, especially on formal nights.  I think the bigger ships are very different. 

 

Fred would have no probs though and anyway he was always going to keep the downstairs restaurants as set sitting.  There is always a queue at 6pm for freedom as some people want a table for two on a set position, so all tables for two are full by 6.30pm.  you can go on until 9pm, but in practice the restaurant was virtually empty by 9pm, so less stress on staff that set sitting.

 

 

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15 hours ago, Eglesbrech said:

I like the idea of any time dining but the reality is very different in my recent experience.
 

Recent cruises this year on P&O and Princess with “freedom” didn’t mean eating when we wanted to. It meant waiting in a queue for a table be that virtual/ actual/ pager, some times for over an our or more. Formal nights are a disaster with some giving up and going to the buffet in their tux!

 

Celebrity did it well and freedom meant just that, turn up and get seated within a short space of time. 
 

While I find 8.30 a little late to eat I much prefer walking in to a guaranteed table with the same staff every night to getting annoyed waiting in a  queue.

 

But you have the option to book set sitting, if that is what you want.  In practice if you walked in early or late, chances are you would be ok, but can change between the two, which is the option we like.  Otherwise if  you know you are likely to have a wait, you can just request your table earlier than the time you want to eat. 

 

We far prefer freedom and are very happy to work our way around it or use the buffet, but have no objection to anyone still wanting and booking for set sittings. 

 

I am not suggesting you are doing this, but I have seen comments from a lot of people, posting elsewhere, objecting to the fact that some people would actually prefer a flexible dining option.  That imo is totally unnecessary as there is no problem for people who choose set sittings, if others choose a flexible option.  

 

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6 hours ago, Eglesbrech said:

Not on Iona, all freedom.

 

Of dear, I meant to refer to Fred if he did bring in that flexible option, which he was happily booking people onto over the pandemic.  HAL used to run a flexible option on those ships, so should really be no problem at all, but realistically, I do not think Fred is keen to move into modern times, unless perhaps the CEO alters that.

 

We are resigned to be using the self service a lot on our forthcoming cruise as we do not want to be confined to set hours.  Both early or late would be a problem for us as our preferred dining time vary considerably according to our plans for any one day,

 

Sorry to hear you had issues on Iona, P&O certainly seem to have got themselves into a mess with the larger ships, though I have not been reading much about it since we have no interest in them.  When I have read things though, there often seems to be a staff problem as they do not seem to be sticking to what the system should be on those ships.  We were very annoyed on Arcadia when we were told they were allowing people booked on set sittings to use the freedom restaurant that first day.  Aurora is well run though.

 

Hope your future cruises work out better, whichever cruise line they are with.

 

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Discussed this with a senior member of staff on Borealis.  He said there are still plans to bring a flexible option in next year, for 600 passengers In the upstairs, Aurora restaurant, which of course is smaller.  We still get the impression they do not want to bother with it though, so would only believe it if we saw it. 

 

We were told a good number of years back that they were going to stop smoking on balconies and that did not happen either of course.

 

I wonder if the new CEO will drag then into the modern world?

 

 

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On 11/12/2023 at 11:52 AM, lovetocruise1953 said:

We have been allocated an 8.30 dining time, they said the early one is fully booked. 8.30 is later than we like to eat, is the 7.30 one more popular I though more people like to eat later than early, is there ever a chance to change to the early sitting?

 

FOCLs demographic seem to have advanced in age over the last ten years and that may well be the reason why so many people prefer the early sitting. It's worth remembering that after dinner many will go onto the show and so it may well be after 10.00pm by the time that they're making for their cabins and bed.

 

In recent years the management at FOCL have been, in our opinion, a bit besotted by the concept of "FOCLs the Brand." The proof of the pudding is here (It says a lot that there have only been 90 viewers in three years!) ... 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZMEuoLIAek&t=1524s.

 

The Brand dictates that all of the ships be about the same size... So Hello HALs' old ships... Good Bye Boudicca! Good Bye Black Watch! Good Bye Braemar. as much as possible has to be the same.... the staff contracts dictate that they have to be prepared to serve on any ship, the food is much the same, the entertainment is much the same and the food service is much the same.

 

The sticking point at the moment is the Balmoral. When FOCLs extended the Balmoral by inserting a 30 m mid-section in 2007 it increased the passenger capacity but potentially put pressure on the public spaces due to the numbers of cruisers wanting to use these at the same time. FOCls' answer was to divide the passengers into two groups.... 1st sitting and second sitting. The idea was that 1st sitting would be early in the bars and lounger for a pre-dinner-drink and a bit of music and they would be followed by the 2nd sitting after the early sitting went off to dinner. And so it went on over the evening... as the last of the 1st sitting was off to the lounges... the 2nd sitting was taking their place in the restaurants.

 

When FOCLs was operating several "extended" ships it all made perfect sense. Anyone who didn't like the system could eat in the cafe (and save FOCLs a bit of money in the process) and anyone who didn't like the sitting that they were allocated to could move to the other sitting and, in some cases, pay for the privilege.

 

We've heard off repeated, viral rumbling rumours of "anytime dining" as long as 15 years ago... not over tinkling afternoon tea-cups but in conversation with two different Maîtres d' hôtel and even at the table of one Captain's who invited us to dinner on more than now occasions... but nothing has come of it. One suggestion that we've heard is that anytime dining would be logistically impossible on the Balmoral if the ship was getting towards full... unless there were more staff on the floor of the restaurant and more skilled staff in the kitchen.

 

Why should it be any different... the cost of feeding a passenger in the cafe is less than feeding them in the main dining room and the income from charging some passengers to swop sittings comes in very handy for a company that's over £100,000,000 in debt.

 

We think that with recent events and the appointment of FOCLs' first ever CEO there is a good possibility before too long of a radical root and branch reappraisal of what FOCLs is about is in the offing. This is unlikely to be about changing the "cocktail of the day," the colour of the odd wall, redesigning the carpets or removing some of Fred's less attractive speculative picture purchases or worrying about anytime dining. 

 

What, if anything, eventually emerges... what ships, what home-ports, what itineraries, what target demographic, what price-point and what market-orientation... may include different dining options... Fred Jun had the idea not too long ago of two or four 1000 passenger new build, all balcony exploration ships offering an personalised excursion service... the "from price" far above what is being sought at the moment... but perhaps SAGA has already cornered much of that niche market.

 

We just need to wait and see.

 

 

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3 hours ago, jeanlyon said:

I haven't eaten at 6 since I was 6!  Much prefer the later one.  If dinner is at 6.15, you would have to have your pre-dinner drink at 5.  I'm only just back from the deck and pool by then!

 

We are currently on first sitting and finding it a big nuisance.  With the alternative of 8.30pm every night though, that would be a nuisance as well.  We tend to just pick up a drink and take along to the restaurant to drink there, so not really a relaxing start to the evening.  We will be eating the self service most nights now we are in the Caribbean.

 

 

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