Starting in October 2007, Royal Caribbean has been testing a flexible dining program, called My Time Dining, on three ships. The program has been so successful that the line plans "to offer the My Time Dining option across the entire Royal Caribbean fleet after the conclusion of these trials," according to Frank Weber, Vice President of Food and Beverage for the line.
Royal Caribbean is testing out this alternative dining style on Freedom of the Seas from October 15, 2007 through December 28, 2008; on Brilliance of the Seas from February 22 through July 18, 2008; and on Serenade of the Seas from March 8 through June 7, 2008.
To participate, cruise travelers must choose between flexible and assigned seating. There is no limit to how many passengers can choose each kind of seating (a common problem on lines with similar dining programs, such as Holland America and Princess), as the dining room staff will allocate tables based on customer demand. Cruise travelers who choose assigned dining will receive a specific table and seating time, and passengers who choose flexible dining must indicate a preferred dining time (anytime between 6 and 9:30 p.m.), but can make reservations on a daily basis to adjust their mealtimes.
Flexible diners can request to be seated with other passengers or solely with their own party. To make dinner go more smoothly, no additional people will be allowed to join each table once dinner service begins.
According to Weber, Royal Caribbean's goal with My Time Dining is to give "our guests even more flexibility to choose from a variety of dining styles." Passengers can dine when they want in alternate venues such as Chops Grille, Portofino, Windjammer Cafe, Johnny Rockets and other onboard eateries, so they should be able to dine at any time in the main dining room as well.
However, cruise travelers apprehensive about flexible dining should note that the program is actually less flexible than those of other lines. Diners still need to indicate a dining time preference (albeit one of their own choosing) but if they wish to choose that time on any given day, an altered reservation is not guaranteed. However, a Royal Caribbean spokesman indicates that as the main dining room is typically only 75 percent full, changes can almost always be accommodated.
No date has been set for additional ships to begin My Time Dining, but implementation will begin later this year.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor
Royal Caribbean Flexible Dining a Success, Soon to Roll Out Fleetwide
May 9, 2008