Do You Have to Share a Dining Table on Holland America Cruises? What about Set Dining Times or Flexible Dining?

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a plate of food on a table

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I am very used to spending many nights of my cruise in specialty restaurants. This is not because they are worth paying huge sums of cash on top of what you have already spent, but because with my favorite cruise line NCL you get, depending on the length of the cruise, 1 or more free (other than tip fee) specialty dinner with the “Free at Sea” ongoing promotion. Plus as a Diamond member with NCL’s loyalty program I also get 2 more free specialty nights.

On this, my first cruise with Holland America, free cruise from my Caesars Diamond status match I did not get any free specialty nights included so I spent most nights in the main dining room.

a pair of tickets on a table

I like having the flexibility to go to dinner whenever I want be it early or late and often the entertainment helps me make that choice. For example, if there is a comedian onboard I like to go to early shows that are clean vs. the later shows where they get more raunchy (sometimes). So, as you can see from our key cards, we chose “open seating” that meant we could go when we wanted to between 5 and 9 PM.

a restaurant with tables and chairs

The first two nights we went to the lower level of the dining room as directed on our key cards. But we found that the upper level was much more pleasant, quieter and just felt more open so we chose on the third day to go there and were told we should go downstairs. We asked if there was room for us on this level and were told yes and even asked if we wanted to switch to a set table and set time for the upper floor dining.

a room with tables and chairs

We politely said no but after enjoying such a lovely dinner upstairs and such outstanding service from Dindin (he has 20 years at sea with Holland America) we decided to take them up on the offer to change to this set time.

But we had a slight problem.

Once they switched us, the pre-booked times for the few specialty restaurants we had prepaid and booked were blown out and now the only times available were VERY early that is 5PM rather than the 6PM we had booked.

Rats!

a large room with tables and chairs

 

The other question we wondered about was if we were going to have to sit with other people at dinner meal times. Every time we were asked if we wanted to sit alone or with others. For dinners, after we switch to fixed time and table, this was no longer an issue and we could simply walk in each night and go to our private table (it was for 4 but no one else was assigned to it).

Holland America seems happy to oblige you if you do not want to sit with others but be aware at peak times you may have to then wait for a table vs. likely faster seating if you are willing to share a table with others.

Also do keep in mind, even if you are assigned with others at a table, they may choose not to go to main dining some nights and enjoy either specialty restaurants or the buffet or other food choices that night. So you may be at a large table and only you and those with you may be there.

As much as I dislike having a set dining time my next Holland America cruise I will likely go with it as the perks outweigh the negatives, that is, an assigned table, a waiter and assistant I like and not having to either be asked each night if I wanted to sit with others or wait for a smaller table to open up. – René

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Could you tell if lots of other tables were “half-empty” like yours? (Since you said your set table had places for 4 but only assigned to the two of you). I wonder if they have to spread people out to make sure the servers are evenly assigned?

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