HAL needed this option more than any other line in existance. The VAST majority of their regulars want and demand early dining. Some ships have such high demand for early dining you sometimes have to book up to a year in advance to get it confirmed. Then their Mariner Members (past pax) with lots of sailings try to book and say things to the agent like "I've sailed with them X number of times and am Platinum. I don't care if it's closed for early dining they'll let us in". Then come the faxes and emails with medical conditions and letters from their Dr. You simply have no idea the lengths some of their clients will go to to get their choice of dining time including not booking or cancelling a cruise if the waitlist doesn't clear. For years we agents have had to field the requests, demands, letters, emails & other processes to get early dining. HAL agents and Guest Relations personel get it worse than the outside agents. Fianlly, they experimented with offering room service with all the same menu options on the dining room menu so those who could not be confirmed could get what they wanted whenever they wanted it. Not good enough, people didn't want the same food but in their cabin. They wanted early seating in the dining room. Finally they tried offering the freestyle option on a few newer ships as a trial. It worked and is now being implimented on all ships by fall of 2008. There is still a requirement for booking very very early if you want confirmed early dining but people will take the personal choice option and still cruise with them. The 8:30 dining room must be a very lonely place on HAL ships.