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Carnival tests open seat dining

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On July - 12 - 2008

In a meeting with journalists today onboard the Carnival Splendor, Carnival Cruise Lines’ president and CEO Gerry Cahill stated the line is testing open seat dining options. The program rolled out three weeks ago onboard the Carnival Legend and will also be tested onboard the Carnival Liberty starting November 1. Carnival Legend is sailing from Tampa, and Carnival Liberty will operate from Miami.

Cahill says sections in the upper level of the main restaurant are open for guests to dine between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m. Reservations can be made a day ahead of time and if there is a wait passengers are given beepers if their seating is not available — Carnival says the wait times have been under 10 minutes. So far, feedback has been very positive. If the program proves to be successful it will be implemented fleet wide sometime next year.

Nevertheless, Cahill expressed some concern about the program since the company wants to maintain the close connection passengers have with their dining room waiters — a staple of the Carnival Cruise Lines experience.

What do you think? Is open seating a good idea for Carnival? Post your opinions below.

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43 Responses to “Carnival tests open seat dining”

  1. BIG ED says:

    Leave it alone. I like the same staff and table mates all cruise long.

  2. Owen Squires says:

    NO!!!

    Getting to know our wait staff is a HUGE part of the dining experience. I just can’t imaging not – especially on the seven day plus cruises – having OUR staff anticipating and suggesting choices and bringing drinks without our having to ask for them. Being consistent personalizes dinner. We’ve discovered and then had whole sections of the dinning room sing Happy Birthday to staff. We’ve gotten great suggestions on places to visit from times when we happened to visit their home country – Turkey was a perfect example last year on the Freedom.

    Please NO – don’t take away what has always been a highlight of our cruising experience. Playing numbers games with efficiency is NOT always a good thing… Doing something just because everyone else is is also NOT always a good thing.

  3. Gloria Frey says:

    I do not think open dining is a good idea. I have been on 43 Carnival cruises and I enjoy getting to know my wait staff. Thus far, all of them have remembered our names, drink preference and dessert likes in the first day or so. I vote NO to open dining.

    Thank you
    Gloria

  4. Linda says:

    I vote NO to “any time dining” … although I will admit it is for a selfish reason.
    Our 17 year old son has Autism and “consistancy” is the key where he is concerned. It is hard enough to get him to sit down and eat with the same wait staff and same table every day ….. I can not imagine what it would be with a different one.

    He will be Carnival Milestone Rewards Member by the end of the year…so Carnival must be doing something right. If it ain’t broke…don’t fix it!!

  5. Bob Means says:

    If I wanted open seating, I can go on Norwegian or I can go to the Lido deck on any cruise line including Carnival. We are Platinum on Carnival and one of the reasons we are is the fun of getting to know the wait staff. Not just them waiting on us, but really getting to know them.
    Carnival —— DO NOT mess with the good things you have going,

  6. Hi Everyone,
    This is a tough one. There are a lot of people out there who won’t cruise without having the open seat option — I think Carnival is trying to appeal to them. I get the impression that this is only going to be a handful of tables on the upper levels and the lower level will remain assigned seating.

    On the other hand, one of the great things about sailing Carnival is the waitstaff — who are the best in the business. For me, when I cruise Carnival I prefer assigned seating.

    Keep the feedback coming!

    Best,
    Anita

  7. Dave Myerly says:

    I VOTE AN EMPHATIC NO!!!!!

    I ONLY want assigned seating. I want to get to know my waiter and assistant and generally they make the cruise a memorable and much better experience.
    I DO NOT want to sit with someone new each time I sit down to dinner.
    Dave

  8. Lance & Ilda says:

    We are long time Carnival cruisers. We choose Carnival because it fits our lifestyle and we enjoy the complete vacation experience.

    Our very favorite aspect of crusing Carnival is the TOTAL dining experience. My wife and I like getting ready for dinner. It’s like a date, or a special occasion each night. Captain’s night and the Formal night are our favorite. I know we are not alone in saying that Carnival’s dining room experience is like no other. We love forming a relationship with our wait staff. Some of the most memorable experiences of our past cruises involve our interaction with the staff at dinner.

    We are from the North East and there is an old Yankee saying that goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We believe that tried and true axiom to appropo to this situation as well.

    Please continue to offer Carnival cruisers what we love best.

  9. Princess Susan says:

    PLEASE NO!!! DON’T FIX WHAT’S NOT BROKEN!!!

    I enjoy forming a relationship with our wait staff. They learn so quickly what we like and don’t like. I have a picture of every one of our wait staff with their names and where they are from.

    It’s so nice to know where our table is, have our drinks waiting for us, they work so hard to try to please us and we appreciate it. We have always tipped our wait staff much more than is suggested because of their effort. I would not enjoy our meals nearly as much if I had a different wait staff at every meal.

    Please keep it like it is. Change is NOT always a good thing!

  10. Carolyn and Don says:

    I vote an emphatic NO. I have special needs due to food allergies. I like having one waiter, one hostess that know what I can and I can not eat. I don’t want to have to go thru this night after night with first one waiter, after another. We like eating at
    the same time every night unless we have gotten back from an excursion at a port.Even then we try to eat at our scheduled time.
    Please don’t fix what ain’t broken.

  11. Lisa and George says:

    This is very unsettling. I agree that the dining room experience is one of the highlights of our cruises. We are platinum members and we completely enjoy getting to know our waiters, learn about their families and their homelands, and tell them about hour homes and family. We also enjoy them being able to anticipate our wants and needs usually after just one meal.

    I think this is a big mistake for Carnival to make it a requirement fleetwide.

  12. Marlene says:

    I’ve tried it on another cruise line and I didn’t like it. The wait staff wasn’t near as accommodating when they had new faces each night. It is so much more pleasurable having the same wait staff as you get to know each other and a sweet relationship develops – and they know what your final drink at the dinner will be.

    I vote to stay as you are unless it will be as Anita says – a few tables for others who prefer open seating, but assigned tables for those who prefer that.

  13. Lynn and Mike Sagara says:

    We have always enjoyed getting to know our wait staff and would not care for open seating. The fact is we do not eat in the main dinning room for lunch and breakfast because of the seating arrangements.

  14. Charlotte says:

    My vote is NO,NO,NO.

    The dining experience is much better when you get to know your wait staff and they get to know you and your preferences.

    While I have never been on Norwegian, my previous boss had been. One of the things he HATED was the open seating.

    Don’t change what is one of the best things about Carnival and her ships, assigned dining.

  15. I want the ASSIGNED seating. I like having the same waiters and dinner mates every evening.They know what I like to drink and what bread I like usually by the second night. I do no like having different people and wait staff every day we get that during the breakfast and lunch seating and to tell you the truth it lacks something. I actually find myself wishng I had “my” “Blaze” or “Francisc” or “MAssimo” who know me. and fins my self looking for them. I had open seating with “beepers on Proncess it was ok but I was not fond of it. We found ourselves with different people every night which was ok for socializing however insteasd of asking what did you do today the conversation was always where are you from, my name is, snd it got redundant night after night and the wait staff was never the same and often it was not as good. IF IT AIN”T BROKE DON”T FIX IT!
    IF YOU HAVE TO DO IT,,,,,,, I think if Carnival wants to do this they should do it for ONE dining room NOT ALL…

  16. Pat (InMN253) says:

    Please don’t stop having assigned seating in the dining room! Like others have said, having the same wait staff and table mates is one of the things that makes cruising fun. My selfish reason is that I’m rather shy, and trying to get to know new people every night would just be stressful.

  17. Adam says:

    Don’t change a thing, leave it as it is! Getting to know the staff is the best part of eating on a Carnival ship! Now that’s not saying the food is bad, but it IS saying the dining room staff is full of AMAZING people who it is a gift to talk to.

  18. BIG ED says:

    Carnival if you read this you will see so far all 17 have said NO. Every time John Heald on his blog has brought up this topic his bloggers have said no many times over. The IDEA sounds good but in real life it don’t work. Cruiser hate lines and this only makes the possibilty of more lines. It is just like any chain restaurant if you come at rush time your going to wait. Every port day you will have everybody wanting to eat late. So they walk down to the dinning room and seeing a long line they go up to the Lido. Ooooops! I just spilled the beans that’s the whole idea to get people away from the dinning room up to the cheap Lido buffet.

    I went to the grill on day for the MINUTE steak. The cook told me that would be 10 minutes for the minute steak. That they only cook them on order. Well you know what I did just as you wanted me to do I had a cheapo hot dog because it was ready

  19. Syria says:

    I do not think open dining is a good idea too. I always enjoy getting to know my wait staff.
    I say NO to open dining.

  20. Gregory Irizarry says:

    Mr Cahill just came on board and he is already trying to “Rock The Boat”.We enjoy what Carnival has for our enjoyment, interacting with some of the Staff at least in the dining room.What is the real reason? Perhaps cutting staff and services.Please leave it as is.

  21. Barb Kline says:

    I’ve been on 4 cruises so far, 2 with Carnival and 2 with RCCL, and to me
    one of the most looked-forward to events was the dining experience. By the
    end of each cruise, we knew our waitstaff and they knew us. Some even met
    with us after hours up on the Lido deck for ice cream or hot chocolate. Would
    I miss this with the open dining option, HECK YES! My husband suffered a
    severe head injury 4 years ago and was in brain rehab for 8 months following
    his fall from a ladder. I was hesitant to take a cruise after I finally got him
    home, but I plunged ahead, and was I ever glad. Where a land based vacation would
    have me looking to his needs, the waitstaff on our cruiseship (the Fantasy) virtually
    took over for me. Everything from wheeling him to our table to cutting up his
    meat for him. Would I change that in lieu of total choice dining? A resounding
    NO WAY! Please don’t fix what ain’t broke!

  22. Martin Sager says:

    My wife and I hate assigned seating. We want to eat with whom we want to eat with, at the time we wish to eat. I have been on cruises where I was locked in to a table with people that I did not enjoy being with. It made dinner a meal we did not look forword to eating. I admit it, I do not delight in everyones company.

    On the other hand, when we met people we liked being with, it was a pleasure to go to dinner with them. Also, by being able to sit with many people, we always found one or two couples that we ate with for the balance of the cruise.

  23. I have also found that problem, and find it really annoying but I geuss there is always something when you are on any holiday that is a bit irritating. At least it is a nice break away from it all to get on a cruise.

    I have only been on one, and truely loved it will be doing it again at some stage. Can anyone recommend a good one to try??

  24. Dave G. says:

    NO NO NO… Say it isn’t so! I agree with most of the other comments. The dining experience is one of the highlights of the cruise. We always look forward to dinner with the same staff members. Taking this away, will result in a more bland experience while on-board. We are sailing at the end of this month on the Carnival Legend, which is one of their “test” ships for this concept. For the first time, I know something that will be on the comment card, before I sail. 🙂

  25. Barron says:

    People, they’re not trying to take away the assigned seating, they are just trying to add it as another dining option for those that would prefer it. If you like it, choose that option for your cruise, if not, choose your dining time. Look, everyone is still happy. Joy, Joy!!

  26. Andrea says:

    We cruised twice in 2008 on Carnival Legend .We were on one of the “first” test sailing for the open dining, and somehow we where put in this seating. We did not like it at all the service was slow. We had different staff every night, most of the time if we went to dinner it took so long we didn’t even wait for desert. On the other hand we have been on cruises that our tablemates were less than fun. I think that they should have some tables optional, have it be a choice. All optional seating the service is not good.

  27. recneps says:

    I like Freestyle with NCL but I dont think Carnival Should switch over
    I think that Some cruise lines should stick with Carnival and some should change over to freestyle like NCL.

  28. Paul says:

    We are trying it this summer, June,09 on Liberty. Our first cruise, we had early seating and felt rushed coming back from an excursion. Having to hurry up and get showered and ready to go down to eat. We felt that the late one was to late for us as most of the entertainment we wanted to see was during this time. So it will be something new for us, I’ll let you know when we come back.

  29. geoger says:

    I do not think open dining is a good idea too. I always enjoy getting to know my wait staff.
    I say NO to open dining.

  30. sıcak video says:

    Leave it alone. I like the same staff and table mates all cruise long.

  31. We felt that the late one was to late for us as most of the entertainment we wanted to see was during this time

  32. sedat says:

    I like Freestyle with NCL but I dont think Carnival Should switch over
    I think that Some cruise lines should stick with Carnival and some should change over to freestyle like NCL.

  33. oyna says:

    I miss this with the open dining option, HECK YES! My husband suffered a
    severe head injury 4 years ago and was in brain rehab for 8 months following
    his fall from a ladder. I was hesitant to take a cruise after I finally got him
    home, but I plunged ahead, and was I ever glad. Where a land based vacation would
    have me looking to his needs, the waitstaff on our cruiseship (the Fantasy) virtually
    took over for me.

  34. porno says:

    We are trying it this summer, June,09 on Liberty. Our first cruise, we had early seating and felt rushed coming back from an excursion. Having to hurry up and get showered and ready to go down to eat. We felt that the late one was to late for us as most of the entertainment we wanted to see was during this time. So it will be something new for us, I’ll let you know when we come back.

  35. This is very unsettling. I agree that the dining room experience is one of the highlights of our cruises. We are platinum members and we completely enjoy getting to know our waiters, learn about their families and their homelands, and tell them about hour homes and family.

  36. perde says:

    Carnival if you read this you will see so far all 17 have said NO. Every time John Heald on his blog has brought up this topic his bloggers have said no many times over. The IDEA sounds good but in real life it don’t work. Cruiser hate lines and this only makes the possibilty of more lines. It is just like any chain restaurant if you come at rush time your going to wait. Every port day you will have everybody wanting to eat late. So they walk down to the dinning room and seeing a long line they go up to the Lido. Ooooops! I just spilled the beans that’s the whole idea to get people away from the dinning room up to the cheap Lido buffet.

  37. donan54 says:

    I know I’m late to this post – but I vote – emphatically – NO! If Carnival wants to change their name to NCL, then let them paint their bows with whatever!
    We are old time cruisers from when cruising was real cruising – and we don’t really care for all the changes that are constantly being made – just so the cruise lines can try to get everybody in the world to go on their ships! You are NEVER going to please everyone and there are some people who just SHOULD NOT BE CRUISING!
    If people go on shore excursions and get back late for dinner, well, either plan your meals accordingly and go to the buffet OR go to your maitre’d and ask politely if you can be seated for dinner at an empty table (there are always some) during the proper dinner times! THAT is what your MAITRE’D is there for! Notice I said ask politely!
    The strain this “anytime” dining crap places on the entire dining room is unbelievable! The wait staff who are forced to deal with these people are always concerned that they will not get their full quota of tips – simply due to the fact they are not seeing their guests night after night. They don’t have the time to do their best and frankly, they give me the impression from talking to them – that they simply don’t care anymore! Their “guests” generally turn out to be rude, crude and obnoxious – mainly because they are perturbed at being made to wait for a table longer then the regular dining room guests. Then the guests get mad further because they have to wait for (or never get) certain items because the poor servers are trying to accomodate numerous tables where guests have arrived at various times and are at certain stages of their full meal. Who can blame the servers for not caring anymore?
    I would never dream of walking into a full dining room more than 10 minutes late for dinner (my mother would have had my hide!) yet, I see people do it on cruises all the time – even Celebrity. The maitre’ds allow them in and I think this is dead wrong. There used to be a time when the dining room doors would be closed for good 15 minutes after the start of dinner and everyone knew it. If you were late, well too bad, there was always the buffet! And that’s the whole point – there has always been a choice! Same goes for the evening dress. If you don’t care to dress for formal night, then go to the buffet where you belong!
    If you were on a cheerleading squad, would you be allowed to cheer in front of the crowd if you were not in your uniform? If you played football, would you be allowed on the field if you were not in uniform? What’s the difference with formal night? Just because you have paid lots of money for a cruise, you don’t think you should ever come out of your shorts? Then Please! Don’t cruise!

  38. isherer says:

    I am even later to this site. I was searching for other cruise lines who did open plan seating and found this site. I may be biased but here is my opinion.
    We are all different in this world. Some like formal cruising and others do not. Personally I wear jacket and tie 5 days a week and that means I am in work mode. When I go on holiday I don’t want to wear a tie at any time. That’s my choice. It is my understanding that Carnival are trying to appeal to a larger client base by offering options and I applaud that. If people want to dine at set times then that is still available too. I like to arrange eating around other activities rather than the other way around – but that’s me. My experience of eating at the time I want has been fine. We like to share a table and speak to other people and that usually means no wait time at all. If the conversation is interesting then we may stay at the table for 3 hours or so – what’s wrong with that? On the other hand if we find the company unappealing (this has happened) then we have the meal and leave. If you team up with others then it is really simple to arrange a time for you all to eat, turn up at the restaurant and get a table to yourselves. You can dress formally if you wish and then you are then getting most of the benefits of a formal dining scheme.

  39. Tül Perde says:

    We are old time cruisers from when cruising was real cruising – and we don’t really care for all the changes that are constantly being made – just so the cruise lines can try to get everybody in the world to go on their ships! You are NEVER going to please everyone and there are some people who just SHOULD NOT BE CRUISING!

  40. Carnival if you read this you will see so far all 17 have said NO. Every time John Heald on his blog has brought up this topic his bloggers have said no many times over. The IDEA sounds good but in real life it don’t work. Cruiser hate lines and this only makes the possibilty of more lines. It is just like any chain restaurant if you come at rush time your going to wait. Every port day you will have everybody wanting to eat late. So they walk down to the dinning room and seeing a long line they go up to the Lido. Ooooops! I just spilled the beans that’s the whole idea to get people away from the dinning room up to the cheap Lido buffet.

  41. This is very unsettling. I agree that the dining room experience is one of the highlights of our cruises. We are platinum members and we completely enjoy getting to know our waiters, learn about their families and their homelands, and tell them about hour homes and family.

  42. We are trying it this summer, June,09 on Liberty. Our first cruise, we had early seating and felt rushed coming back from an excursion. Having to hurry up and get showered and ready to go down to eat. We felt that the late one was to late for us as most of the entertainment we wanted to see was during this time. So it will be something new for us, I’ll let you know when we come back.

  43. perde says:

    The dining experience is much better when you get to know your wait staff and they get to know you and your preferences.

    While I have never been on Norwegian, my previous boss had been. One of the things he HATED was the open seating.

    Don’t change what is one of the best things about Carnival and her ships, assigned dining.

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