Choosing the Best Dining Option

Celebrity Cruise lines has become our preferred cruise line and we have been very happy with the service and quality provided on every cruise we have taken. During this last cruise on the Reflection however, we experienced an issue with the main dining options available. The staff quickly and to our satisfaction resolved our concerns, but hopefully our end of cruise feedback will help them consider refining their main dining reservation options.

Here’s the story.

Celebrity, like most cruise lines, offer fixed dining options with an early seating at 5:30 p.m. and a late seating at 8:30 p.m. in the main dining room Opus. They also offer an Anytime Dining option, on the second floor of the main Opus dining room, but for which there is no reservation time. The idea is you show up, they take your name and party’s number and unless there is a table available immediately, you take a “button” which rings when your table is ready.

We always select Anytime Dining when booking a cruise, on any of the cruise lines. The early dining option is too early for us because we like to spend the late afternoon pool side listening to music and relaxing after the heat of the day. The late dining option is too late. Dinners usually take about two hours which means it is nearly 10:30 p.m. before you are finished. Thus we have missed the late theatre showing at 9 p.m. and most of the ¬†evening’s activities. It is also too late to eat a three course meal and try to get a comfortable night’s sleep; at least for us.

Usually we try to arrive for dinner at 7 p.m. and in our experience, you can expect to wait about 30 minutes for a table. However, that is not what happened on this cruise. The first evening we arrived at 7 p.m. and were seated in 25 minutes; check. The second evening, we waiting one hour and 15 minutes for a table and on the third evening we waited 50 minutes. And it wasn’t just the wait time. The staff seemed extremely rushed and stressed, which led to the less than stellar service we had come to expect from Celebrity.

Not wanting to experience the same through the remainder of the cruise, our group decided to speak to the Maitre D’ and perhaps consider moving to the 8:30 p.m. fixed dining option if that was the only thing they could suggest to resolve the situation. Not ideal, but at least we would know what time to expect dinner and would not spend an hour each evening waiting for a table. Looking down from our table on the second floor of the dining room, we could see that the 8:30 seating was not fully utilized.

We voiced our concerns with the Maitre D’ who was quite apologetic and quick to resolve the issue. Instead of moving us to the late dining option, which we would have taken but did not really want, they gave us a fixed reservation of 7:30 p.m. for the remainder of the cruise at a table hosted by one of their seasoned waiters. Once again, we were impressed with Celebrity’s customer focus and willingness to resolve an issue quickly. Not only did they address our concerns, they went above that by offering us one of their best serving staff in order to ensure our dining experience for the rest of our cruise met our expectations for Celebrity.

However, although we were quite pleased with this resolution and our dining experience for the remainder of our cruise was exceptional, we were concerned with the fact that we had now been given an option that was not available to the rest of the passengers. Every time we were led past the line up of passengers waiting for tables to be seated at our “reserved” table at 7:30 p.m. our conscience told us this was not an ideal solution.

This may have been a unique experience during which the mix of passengers that chose fixed dining versus anytime dining was different than what Celebrity had expected, but I believe they need to address the overall reservation system. Some cruise lines offer passengers the ability to reserve a dining time one day in advance so they can at least plan ahead and not have to wait for a table. This option is not currently available on Celebrity. You can book a table one day in advance, but only for seating times before 6 p.m. or after 8:15 p.m. Celebrity also does not have dining reservations for the main dining room available on their onboard app.

Another option may be to have a third fixed dining option for seating around 7 to 7:30 p.m. and stagger the dining tables available for an early, mid and late dining time. I am not aware of a cruise line that offers this so perhaps there is a logistic reason why this would not work. But we did notice that the late dining time was not fully utilized on this last cruise with many open tables still available.

These are the options I suggested in my after cruise survey. I am sure there are more ideas and I would love to hear about your ideas and dining experiences while cruising.

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