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Specialty Dining Package - reservation availability


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We are booked on a 14 night New Zealand cruise in January on Radiance, and would like to dine at Specialty restaurants 4 nights. There is a considerable saving to be had booking the 4 Night Dining Package vs booking each individually, but you only get to choose a time for day 1 or 2. We will be travelling with our kids (who do well dining at nice restaurants), so would ideally like to be eating early - around 6pm. Does anyone have any experience on how difficult it is to book specific times once onboard? I'm hoping that over the 14 nights we would be able to find suitable times for the other 3 meals - but would we be better biting the bullet and booking them all at full price?

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@Mickeyd it's not difficult at all especially at that time. Also, with longer cruises, the specialty restaurants seem less crowded. When you board, simply see one of the specialty restaurant servers stationed outside of the buffet or in the Centrum and they'll take care of the reservations for you. 

If your kids are under 12, do not book the package for them as they'll receive special pricing onboard. 

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As long as you have some flexibility, you should be able to find 6 PM dinner reservations on 3 of the 13 other nights.  Make the reservations as soon as you board.  But on a cruise of that length, there's usually fewer people in the specialty restaurants.  They will often offer deals onboard.

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2 minutes ago, BrianAlt said:

As long as you have some flexibility, you should be able to find 6 PM dinner reservations on 3 of the 13 other nights.  Make the reservations as soon as you board.  But on a cruise of that length, there's usually fewer people in the specialty restaurants.  They will often offer deals onboard.

Agreed. When you buy the dining package, you are trading advanced planning for saving money.  If you are flexible, it can work out quite well in your favor.

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I`m also planning to book a specialty dining package for our TA on Symphony. Is it really necessary to do reservations? On our previous cruises (not Royal) we just went whenever we wanted. Any experience with this? It`ll be only the two of us and we prefer dining late. We also don`t mind waiting for a few minutes but it would be a bummer if we couldn`t try the restaurants we wanted. So what do the Pros suggest?

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34 minutes ago, Neaxan said:

I`m also planning to book a specialty dining package for our TA on Symphony. Is it really necessary to do reservations? On our previous cruises (not Royal) we just went whenever we wanted. Any experience with this? It`ll be only the two of us and we prefer dining late. We also don`t mind waiting for a few minutes but it would be a bummer if we couldn`t try the restaurants we wanted. So what do the Pros suggest?

Reservations just make your life easier. I'd say they are a really good idea for formal nights, holidays, or a special occasion that you do not want to be locked out of.

In general, if it's some random night that doesn't fall in those categories, I've had very good luck with walk up reservations.  I think in all my cruising, I've been told "Sorry, we're totally full" perhaps two or three times.

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40 minutes ago, Neaxan said:

I`m also planning to book a specialty dining package for our TA on Symphony. Is it really necessary to do reservations? On our previous cruises (not Royal) we just went whenever we wanted. Any experience with this? It`ll be only the two of us and we prefer dining late. We also don`t mind waiting for a few minutes but it would be a bummer if we couldn`t try the restaurants we wanted. So what do the Pros suggest?

Make your reservations as soon as you board.  Other than a little flexibility here and there, you'll get the dates and times you're looking for.  Then you can go on CRUISE (:4_joy:) control and enjoy your time.  

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Not what I had hoped but thanks for your input. Back to the drawing board - I guess I`ll make a spreadsheet. If I make my reservations directly after boarding, does the staff already know which nights will be formal or even better, what will be served in the MDR on which evening?

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1 hour ago, Geema said:

How far ahead of your cruise can you make dining reservations on RCI site? Booked on Harmony 1/13/18. TIA

Restaurants and entertainment (Oasis-class ships only for entertainment) are about 90 or so days out. Drink packages and some excursions can be available a year or more in advance. For Europe, often times nothing becomes available before 60-90 days out, not even excursions.

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Not sure about other cruises, but we were able to book dining for our Oct 1st cruise on April 27. That was 157 days out. Just an Fyi, like others have mentioned here, I wouldn't be afraid to make my reservations, right away and then change them later. At least you have something reserved right away.  Some of the prices dropped as time went on and the 3, 4 and 5 night specialty packages didn't open up at first either. They were added later. Same goes for the drink packages. They have gone on sale twice since our original booking.

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On our last RCCL cruise, we booked reservations for MTD every night at 8.   Sometimes that wasn't convenient.  Shore excursions or naps or spa time or we're-hungry-earlier-than-we-thought or we'd-like-to-see-this-show-at-7:30 or anything else for that matter often got in the way.   When we arrived at 8, we were seated quickly but noticed a lot of empty tables around us.  This time we're just going to go when we want (usually around 8) and see what happens.  The My Time Dining website that Matt provided says the wait for a couples' 2-top shouldn't be that bad.

With a same-time reservation every night, you get the same waitstaff.  They probably treat you better but also expect an extra tip (over the 18%) at the end.  Envelopes were left on our plates on the last night.  With no reservations, I assume we'll get a different crew every night.  That could be good or bad, not sure.

 

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