You could also signup for the Standard Dining and then pick and choose which night you want to do the flex dining....works for us (we do this on the Princess lines which have Personal Choice Dining...On NCL it's freestyle dining all the way....and we like it....Happy sailing....
Hi, We were given "open seating" and the agent said it was because there was nothing else left.
If it is so popular that people book early just to get the "fixed" seating why are they changing it? Maybe they should keeep the fixed seatings and have a dining room ( i.e. the $$$ one )just for open seating. How many use the $$$ dining room on any given night? How would they know that this is what peole want? Just because there are a lot of people using the open seating dining room does not mean that all of them wanted this option, but maybe they are there just because this is the only place to eat other than the lido buffet. Maybe a survey should be given to the guests to get the true feeling on this change they are undertaking.
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.
It's true that longtime HAL cruisers like fixed seating times. It's our preference, too. We are confirmed for 8:30 dining (our choice), but on an Alaska cruise. We booked several months ago for August 2008, and when a family member booked the same cruise a few days later, neither the late nor early seatings were available.
One of the reasons we prefer the set times is that it makes it easier on our son. The waiter gets to know him, quickly learns some of his favorite foods, and surprises him with some of them during the meal. Our guy loves the attention, and as it is his vacation, too, it makes him feel special.
I can see how this option might work on large ships where there is a greater variety of dining choices, yet I'm not so sure about HAL's S-class ships. I'll let you all know in August.
As You Wish (AYW) Dining should have already been implemented on Statendam, according to a July press release from Holland America.
If you prefer AYW, I suggest switching from your early seating before you board. It is my understanding that HAL does not permit pax to go back and forth between the two. Would you mind reporting back after your cruise?
No one knows the answer to which dining is best but the cruise passenger. Assigned seating has some social benefits a described in some of the threads above. Open seating provides flexibility. If some days you want to eat early so you can go to shows afterward and still get to bed at a reasonable hour some days. And other days you may want to spend maximum times at ports and not feel rushed to get back to the ship and clean up to head for dinner the personal choice might be better for you. If you like the idea of getting to know your table mates and dining staff throughout the week and be assigned a fixed time each night, stick with what you have.
I just came off the Golden Princess yesterday. I tried their "Personal Choice" dining. I usually prefer the early assigned dining. IMHO I only see one pro in Personal Choice dining (As You Wish, or whatever the program is called on each cruise line). And I see lots of cons to the program. Of course; that is just my personal opinion.