Who's Next With Flexible Dining?

March 13, 2008

First, Princess offered guests a choice between traditional, assigned-seating dining and more flexible, "anytime" dining. Then Holland America jumped on the bandwagon, and began rolling out its "As You Wish" dining last year. With NCL already firmly entrenched in its Freestyle Dining program, we've been wondering: Who's next with flexible dining?

Word on the street, er, seas is that it's Celebrity. Host Anne, moderator for our Celebrity board, just returned home from a 10-night cruise on the Constellation, where she "grilled" the restaurant manager for information. He reported that on the new Solstice, the lower levels of the main dining room would be traditional dining and the upper restaurant would be anytime dining.

Although the restaurant manager told Host Anne that this news was definite, we checked with the folks at Celebrity just to make sure. A spokesperson for the line told us "we haven't announced anything about how we plan to handle seating in The Grand Epernay, Celebrity Solstice's main dining room."

Even though Celebrity won't confirm whether these rumors are true or not, we do know for sure that Royal Caribbean, Celebrity's sister line, is testing a Princess-like dining program on three of its ships right now. We spoke to Adam Goldstein, company president, at Seatrade, who told us that a cruiser's relationship with waiters is the single most positive theme of complimentary letters the line receives. Because of that, Goldstein tells us the line is working on "superior" ways to communicate customer preferences and tastes no matter where they sit and which waiter they have.

We imagine this strategy would apply to Celebrity, should the line also embrace flexible dining.

Would you be thrilled or dismayed if either of these lines officially launched a flexible dining program? E-mail us your comments at feedback@cruisecritic.com; please put "Flexible Dining" in the subject line.

--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor

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