Well, most interesting that commentators are appalled at the idea the average MDR might be judged akin to a buffet area. So am I. But even more interesting is the revelation that the MDR might be inferior in quality and service aspects to that of the common shipboard buffet. Anyway, we are about to embark on a four weeker TA in a little less than two weeks, shortly after that doing a three weeker North American. I will definitely keep you up dated, so stay tuned. For the interim, here is our most recent MDR experiences and not to place any particular emphasis on those, other than to say we are working on 600 sailing days and have had many wonderful experience in MDRs, however, if those good times are coming to an end, then one might as well address it, like making adjustments in cruising, rather than bury ones head. If not, Alleluia.
"During our second to last voyage on Princess, Royal in September, the Main Dining Room was still tolerable. Not anymore though. Perhaps we did notice the decline coming in our September cruise on the Royal and should have became more concerned that something was amiss in the MDR. Even then, it wasn't that bad, maybe we experienced a fluke on that voyage or cost cutting has since caught up with Princess, so during our January (2015) cruise on the Coral, we discovered that their product in the MDR is undesirable for us. We have never ran into a situation like this before even though the "hand writing was on the wall" that it was bound to come. In my opinion this results from understaffing of both service and kitchen personnel.
It might be slightly better if you want traditional seating, been there done that for years and dislike it for a variety of reasons, one of which is we hate being relegated to eating at either 5:30 PM or 7:45 PM., even if we secure a table for two. We usually try to get there by 6:30 using anytime dining.
Wait times aren't really a problem for us, rather, trying to eat dinner in the MDR on the Coral this time was the lack of service and poor quality meals. For instance, years ago there used to be a sommelier to take your wine order immediately after being seated, this practice gave way to no sommelier--instead head waiters were given extra training in wine selection, then that gave way to what you experience now on Princess, wine only if you are lucky enough to get someone's attention and if so, forget about ordering a bottle to be carried over for the following evening, they will lose it for certain in the maze. After being seated in the MDR, you sit there waiting and watching a harried flurry of activity by the understaffed help, forging a sad and losing battle trying to keep up. My gosh, dressing up in a tux on formal nights and trying to dine in an atmosphere like that is a joke.
We found that in order to continue on with a good voyage, instead of going to the MDR, we made do by booking dinner in one of the excellent specialty restaurants on board whenever we wanted to enjoy dinner, the specialty restaurants are super, make no mistake about that, even paying more it is worth it. Evenings when did not go to a specialty, we simply went up to the Horizon Court buffet, which was pretty good on the Coral, January, and crap on the Royal in September.
As for HAL, it has been over one year since our last voyage with them, one lasting 32 days. I understand both lines, plus Seabourn and P & O Australia are of the same business model now. They have been amalgamated into the Holland America Group of Carnival Corp. under the leadership of Stein Kruse, previously the HAL CEO. Reason, to reduce competition between the twain. We are (were) hard core Princess and HAL cruisers, we believe the cruise experience is pretty much the same on both today, food and otherwise, taking a nose dive.
I have a theory that there will be a drift completely away from providing MDR service on the major cruise lines in the future. Instead cruisers will experience more of and larger specialty extra charge venues and expanded no extra charge buffet area service. We only use Princess, HAL and Regent. Regent being an all inclusive voyage, but ironically, the food and service in the specialty restaurants on HAL and Princess are much better than those on Regent's which you can hardly ever get into anyway due no extra charge. However, the MDR on Regent is far superior to those on HAL and Princess."