Cruise Tip Tuesday | Picking Dinner Time

Cascade Dining Room Lunch Time

On many cruise lines, you have to pick a dinner seating time when you book the cruise.  Usually there are two options called “early” seating and “late” seating.  Early seating would be sometime during the 6 o’clock hour in most cases.  Late seating would be during the 8 o’clock hour.  If you have early seating, you will usually go to the evening show after dinner.  If you choose late seating for dinner, you will go to the show before dinner. 

If your cruise line requires you to choose, how do you decide which one?  Here are some things to consider:

  • If you tend to call it a night fairly early, go with the early seating.
  • If your ship will be in port 1 or more times during the early seating dining, you might want late seating so that you have as much time in port as possible.  Though, you could always go to the buffet that night for dinner if you miss your main dining room seating time.
  • If you have young children and plan to take them to the dining room with you most nights, definitely go with early seating.
  • If you have children that want to play in the children’s program as much as possible and do not care about seeing the shows, go with early seating.  You can then feed them and drop them off at the kids playroom so that you will have the show and much of the evening to yourselves.
  • If you are a late riser and eat all of your meals later than normal then consider the late seating.
  • If you are an early riser and usually eat all of your meals on the early side, go with the early seating.

We personally as a family with young children pick early dining when we must choose.

If your cruise offers a “freestyle” dining option, such as NCL offers fleetwide, then you can go to the dining room any time it is open.  The dining room (or rooms) will be open from around 5:30pm to 10:00pm or so.  If you do not want to have to wait to be seated, the best times to go would be early and late.  Getting to the dining room before 6pm was what was best for us on the NCL Spirit in January of this year.  By the time we were done with dinner (usually around 7pm), there was a line out the door.  Even though it felt early, it was nice to not have to wait to be seated.  Mykids were also able to go play most of the evening.  There are other food options available later besides the main dining rooms, so if we did not eat a lot at dinner we would not have to go to bed hungry. 

photo credit: prayitno

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