Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Carnival Cruise Lines Tests Flexible Dining

Press briefings during new ship preview cruises offer an opportunity to ask cruise line executives about upcoming onboard product changes and the one Cruise Diva attended while aboard the new Carnival Splendor last week was no different. Gerry Cahill, President and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines was asked about the availability of "open seating" on Carnival cruises in the future. It seems that the future is now and he revealed that Carnival Cruise Lines recently began experimenting with an open seating dining program on the Carnival Legend. Carnival Liberty is slated to begin trials in November and if the program proves successful, it could be instituted fleetwide in the upcoming year.

The upper level of the main dining room on Carnival Legend has been set aside for passengers who want to dine whenever they please between 5:45 and 9:30 pm. While Cahill said that most Carnival guests are partial to having an assigned table with the same waitstaff team and dinner partners every night, the new option has been well received. Two traditional seatings are still available for those who prefer them, but non-conformists (like Cruise Diva) can be accommodated either by just showing up when they wish or making a reservation a day ahead of time.

We're glad to see Carnival joining the trend for dining choice, a concept introduced to mass-market cruising by Norwegian Cruise Line with Freestyle Dining (with no assigned dining at all) and followed by Anytime Dining on Princess Cruises' ships, which offers assigned tables or open seating. Last year Royal Caribbean began testing open seating dining in a program similar to Carnival's on Freedom of the Seas, with a section of the main dining room dedicated to flexible diners. Holland America Line has launched its As You Wish option, allowing guests to select traditional dining arrangements or open seating. After a successful trial period, it is in the process of being launched fleetwide.

Open seating fits our lifestyle... we like to eat when we're hungry and welcome the opportunity to do so while on vacation as we do at home. In fact, we enjoyed out-of-the-ordinary dining "our way" on Holland America Line's Westerdam earlier this year and look forward to the As You Wish option when we sail with them again on future cruises.

Photo Above: Carnival Freedom's Posh Restaurant

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