Carnival to move to flex-dining option

The eat-when-and-where-you-want trend has spread to all the big names of popular and premium cruising now that Carnival has announced its planned move to flexible dining. Nearly a decade since Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises adopted the customer-driven approach to food service, the final holdout, Carnival, is going to roll Your Choice Dining out to its entire fleet next year.

The company says it’s been quite pleased with guest response to the test program on the Carnival Liberty and the Carnival Legend. The new system asks boarding passengers to choose early seating at 6 p.m., late seating at 8:15 p.m., or Your Time, which allows them to sit down any time from 5:45 to 9:30 p.m.

The program will be first-come, first-served, and some passengers may not get their first choice. However, Carnival says that it will use waiting lists to satisfy as many people as possible. The program, which will require reconfiguring tables in some dining rooms, will start rolling out in April 2010, and the transition should be complete for the 22-ship fleet by December.

In addition to NCL and Princess, Royal Caribbean and Holland America also offer flexible dining programs. Do you prefer traditional cruise dinner seatings — same time with the same waiter — or do you take advantage of the anytime option?

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