Several years ago, NCL changed the business of dinner on a cruise ship. Instead of reporting to the dining room at 6 p.m. or 8:15 p.m., NCL gave cruise passengers the 'privilege' of showing up whenever they liked to dine wherever they wanted. While it sounds good in theory, I'm not sure this groundbreaking change was such a good idea.
Sure, if you aren't ready to eat at 6 p.m. or you met a nice couple on a shore excursion, you have the option to eat later or join Bill and Wanda for a meal. I can appreciate that. Meeting new people every day is very appealing for some cruise passengers, too. Although, if you ask me, that's what breakfast or lunch in the dining room is for.
To my way of thinking, and as a veteran of 40 cruises since 1974, I'm not sold on this revolution in cruising.
For me, the need to tidy up and report to the dining room at the appointed hour is a small price to pay for the delight of knowing my waiter, assistant waiter and maitre d' and knowing they'll take excellent, very personal care of me and my dining companions. I like the notion that the dining room staff knows whether I want water, iced tea or glass of milk with dinner. I want them to be aware that I can't eat wheat, but like seafood, and that you don't do dairy, but like your steak very rare.
On a three- or four-night cruise, it probably doesn't matter very much. Your waiter will be too rushed to get to know you very well anyway, but if you're sailing for six, seven, nine or fourteen nights, your waiter can become a friend. Maybe someone you'll stay in touch with, as I have with Olena and Cristian, years after they took such excellent care of me at dinner.
Choose, if you will, to dine when you like. I, on the other hand, will accept an assignment to dine at a preappointed time and I'll relish the impeccable, very personalized service that traditional cruise ship dining delivers with such grace.