Cruise ship dining has always been part of leisure cruising’s storied past. From an ocean liner’s elegant first-class dining rooms to the buffet-style restaurants on Lido decks, it is well-known that you can always eat, and eat well, on a cruise vacation.
Until recently, dining on a cruise was fairly predictable. You had your classic first (6pm) and second (8-8:30pm) seatings, along with a more casual atmosphere on the Lido (pool) deck of the ship.
But as cruise lines are constantly altering their ships, and bringing exciting innovations to the cruise industry, your static, traditional first and second seatings are suddenly out of date – with ‘open’ seatings, specialty restaurants, and spa-like eateries taking over.
Typically, when you confirm your cruise reservation you select the traditional early or first (6pm), late or second (8-8:30pm) dining time based upon personal preference. You dine in the main dining room at the same time each evening, at the same assigned table, with the same table mates and server.
A traditional dining time has many advantages besides being a classic part of cruise history.
- You don’t need to worry about what time you will eat dinner, you just know what time to be ready.
- Your server is good, very good, and will remember if you like to have exactly 1 ½ Diet Cokes before you even order your meal. You can bet there will be exactly 1 ½ Diet Cokes waiting for you at your seat for the duration of the cruise.
- You are assigned to a particular table with other passengers, sizes ranging from 4-10 guests. This, also, is a class part of cruise history. Cruising is a very social vacation; it allows you the opportunity to meet life-long friends. Many of those friendships have started at the dinner table.
While the traditional seating options are popular with many, one of the biggest revolutions to cruise ship dining was open seating introduced by Norwegian Cruise Line and later adopted by other major cruise lines. Coined Freestyle Dining, My Time Dining, or Anytime Dining depending on which line you select.
If you choose an open seating style for your cruise, this simply means you have an open dining time.
- You are able to visit the Main Dining Room whenever you’d like, usually between the hours of 5:45pm-9:30pm.
- Similar to restaurant-style seating, you approach the dining room and ask for a table for 2, or however large your party may be. You are able to dine alone, or be seated with other guests.
- This style of seating provides wonderful flexibility. If you’d like to stay in port a little longer, take a nap, or have a little extra time at the pool – so be it. You don’t have to be anywhere.
- With the flexibility, you lose a little familiarity. Your server will change each evening (unless you make a specific request for the same person, there might be a wait) and you will not be sitting with the same guests.
- There may be a short wait at popular dinner times, but you are able to call down and make a reservation each evening if you have an idea of when you would like to have dinner.
Depending on your cruise ship, along with your choices in the Main Dining Room of traditional dining or open seating, you can have upwards of 10-15 additional dining venues including complimentary options and some with an additional fee.
And don’t forget about the 24 hour room service!
Whatever you’re craving, whatever time you’re craving it, you’re sure to find it on your next cruise vacation.
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