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The Downside of Open Cruise Dining

July 08, 2001

I read with amusement "Casual Dining Rocks the Boat" (Cruise Views, June 17). It's too bad the authors aren't privy to the passengers' comment sheets instead of the cruise lines' hype.

As a consistent Princess Cruises passenger, I was dismayed at the new "Personal Choice Dining Program" on the Grand Princess, which was hawked over the ship's loudspeaker all day. Passengers who opted for "Personal Choice Dining" were informed that they did not need dinner reservations; they would be seated whenever the mood struck between 5:30 and 10 p.m. Unfortunately, without reservations long lines materialized that had passengers clamoring to return to traditional seating.

As for the $6.50 per day in tips assessed by Princess: That is far less than I would usually tip, and the waiters I spoke with felt shortchanged by this policy. Many passengers do not like to be charged automatically; there is a pleasure in building a rapport with a server and expressing your gratitude directly. In fact, on our cruise more than 40 cabins requested that the gratuity charge be removed from their bills.

Another policy that Princess is not following now is the dress code. Although suggested attire is printed on the cruise tickets (formal, semiformal or casual), and Princess rents tuxedos, passengers appeared in shorts at a formal dinner night.

Change for change's sake is often unproductive. And the "last word" on changes should come from the passengers, not the waiters, as your authors suggest.

SIG GERGENS

Long Beach

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