After taking a trip on Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas, and planning another cruise on Anthem of the Seas, we have have gone a full two rounds with the dreaded, Dynamic Dining Choice.
While we are seasoned cruise planners and enjoy nothing more than setting our daily agendas prior to sailing, we have always had one constant, main dining. In March, when RCI announced that their new Quantum class ships would do away with traditional dining, our hearts sank. We weren’t ready to abandon our main dining. Now, we would have to sacrifice our beloved traditional dining setup to try this new and innovative ship.
Would the added stress of now having to schedule dinner each night make planning the rest of our cruise more difficult?
Using the new Royal Caribbean’s Cruise Planner to schedule nightly dinner reservations using Dynamic Dining Choice, along with our entertainment and other cruise activities was no easy task. After weeks (which seemed like months) of utilizing the new Cruise Planner, we are here to report about our experiences in these foreign waters.
While it is not all smooth sailing, you can still plan a vacation and take advantage of the benefits of Dynamic Dining with a little diligence and persistence. Here is our Dynamic Dining Review to help you experience all that Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas have to offer!
Dynamic Dining Review
1. DO check the cruise planner early
There has been some debate on the cruise forums about when reservations open for dining. With two Quantum class bookings, both a year apart, we can tell you that the dining reservation system opens much earlier than Royal Caribbean International (RCI) lets on.
In fact, through our stealth investigation (better known as obsessive RCI website stalking), we recently discovered that dining reservations for our Anthem of the Seas sailing in 2016 are already available even though we are 500+ days from sailing. Geesh, now we have to plan that too! I mean Yay! More planning…
While it may vary by booking, the cruise community’s reports have indicated that the dining system opens for reservations at least 365 days prior to your sailing. Our Anthem opening might be a fluke, but we have already begun making dinner reservations for that 2016 cruise.
Bottom line, do not wait for RCI to email you to say that the dining reservation system is open. You will be too late.
After booking our Quantum of Seas cruise , it was a solid month before we received RCI’s email alerting us that we could now make Dynamic Dining reservations. Given that we had already booked and gone through a second round of changes, this email was extremely out of date. Not to mention, by the time the email arrived, the availability for dining was so limited that it would have been very difficult to coordinate scheduling dinner and entertainment.
So, if you have a Quantum class cruise booked, I suggest a quick five minute check of the cruise planner at least a couple of times a week-we actually checked daily!Need more Quantum of the Seas Tips? Check out our new Ultimate Guide to Planning a Quantum of the Seas Cruise!
2. DO know your priorities and be flexible
If you are a regular reader of ours (and if you are not, what is wrong with you? Be sure to subscribe to our Newsletter), you know that planning the ideal cruise includes setting priorities for what you want to accomplish on your trip well in advance of sailing.
Quantum has some really unique shows and entertainment space. There are also a great number of dinner venues. So, sit down and discuss which shows you MUST see as well as the restaurants that you MUST try.
Keep in mind that most shows are also available to book through the cruise planner. For our 2015 Quantum sailing, we were able to book Mama Mia, Sonic Odyssey, Guest Entertainer 1, and Guest Entertainer 2. These shows were available for booking on 2 different nights each. Starwater, while not available on our ship (although the Princess swears it will open for booking soon), is said to run throughout the cruise. Many shows are between 8pm and 9pm with the occasional matinee, meaning prime dining hours will be between 6-7pm (if you plan to catch dinner before the show), as a two hour window is suggested at all dining venues.
The nights that you do not plan on scheduling a show, you will have greater chance of getting a reservation at your desired restaurant if you are flexible with time. This means you could be eating earlier or later than normal. Even though we prefer 6pm main dining on a cruise ship, we were stuck with one 8:00pm dining reservation to accommodate our scheduled entertainment.
Bottom line: When Planning Dynamic Dining, it is a good idea to map out your daily schedule including all aboard times, shore excursion times, and entertainment times (as they are limited). Balancing entertainment and dining reservations might take a little planning but it will ensure you get to dine in all your restaurants of choice and see all the great entertainment that Quantum has to offer.
3. DO stay vigilant and check your cruise planner frequently.
We may be a bit overboard (pun intended?!?) when it comes to planning our vacations, but we like to think about it as persistence.
With our first round of dynamic dining reservations, we were not able to get our preferred times on our chosen nights at some venues, which started to dishearten us about the Quantum experience. Some may be willing to sacrifice a bit, but the Princess does not like to eat late. We wanted to try as many different dining options as possible but some venues were just more limited in time selection than others, especially Jamie’s Italian Restaurant.
We were determined not to be defeated by RCI’s cruise planner. So what did we do? We did what any other fanatic cruise planner, with internet access 24/7 would do, we checked the RCI Cruise Planner, EVERY DAY, multiple times a day!
So it went for over two weeks, daily checking for new dining reservations, until suddenly, a time slot opened that we had wanted to book initially at American Icon Grill.
I thought it was a fluke, but there it was! We tried another venue, and yes, there was more availability at a Princess-approved time.
I was in disbelief. Quickly, we went to modify our reservation, and then the RCI website flagged it as an error.
I knew the website was just toying with us, there was no more availability. All the time we spent the past two weeks was going to be wasted, but the Princess didn’t settle for that and insisted I call RCI (see Rule #4).
Bottom Line: Do book your dining as soon as you can (you can always modify or cancel later). If you do not get your first choices for dining, either venue or time, routinely check the cruise planner. New times appear as other individuals change their plans.
4. DO reach out and call RCI
Yes, I know the Royal Caribbean International pre-booking online experience is, shall we say, not exactly the most technologically savvy. When trying to book dinners, shows, and shore excursions, the cruise planner experiences a bunch of errors, shopping cart issues, and time-outs. Frustrating to say the least!
So, after two weeks of non-stop Cruise Planner stalking, I figured the RCI website was experiencing another malfunction when one evening new dining reservations became available-but like I said, the Princess insisted I call to see if we could book these reservations OVER THE PHONE.
Talk to someone? We do over 90% of our cruise planning and bookings online. Now, I was going to waste my time calling, waiting for 25 minutes on hold, just to have a representative tell me that there was a system error, and those dining times and venues were not available?
Only no, that is not what the representative said. In fact, she was able make ALL the request changes we wanted!
Bottom Line: Call Royal Caribbean when making Dynamic Dining reservations if issues arise or you don’t like what you see online. If you get an error while trying to book online, if the system won’t let you modify, or your preferred times simply aren’t available online, CALL! There is no guarantee, but the worst that could happen is wasting an hour of your time.
Note: Make sure you know exactly at what time, on which day, and what dining venue you are looking to book before calling as you will be wasting a lot of time with the representative searching for available options.
More Rules for Dynamic Dining Planning?
So, after staying on top of our cruise planner we were able to book all of our dining preferences and entertainment choices without having to sacrifice much of anything, besides a late dinner on one evening to accommodate a show. Hopefully, now that you know our four Dos, you can alleviate some of those Dynamic Dining dilemmas and focus on having a great cruise vacation!
Of course, there are probably plenty of other tips and secrets to mastering the Dynamic Dining system. Leave us a comment telling us about your Dynamic Dining experiences-good, bad, and frustrating.
We would love to hear how you conquered Dynamic Dining. Or, perhaps, you waved the white flag when trying to book? Drop us an anchor below to provide your tips and advice about how to handle the new flexible dining and entertainment options onboard Quantum class ships. We can’t wait to hear from you!