Cruise Planning: Pros and Cons of Traditional Dining

When planning a cruise, there are a lot of decisions to be made, from the line and itinerary to the type of stateroom that’s right for you. And one of the biggest is whether to do traditional dining (meaning you eat at the same time and at the same table each night) or anytime dining.

What’s in a name?

While it goes by different names depending on the line, anytime dining basically means that you have the freedom to eat when and where you want without having to make a reservation. That’s not to say you can’t make reservations, only that you won’t need a reservation in order to get a table.

You can learn more about Anytime Dining here.

Typically, those choosing traditional dining are given the option between an early and late seating, with the former generally being somewhere around 6 p.m. and the latter falling around 8 p.m. In both cases, we’re talking about complimentary meals being served in the main dining rooms.

So what are the pros and cons to traditional dining?

Traditional Dining Pros

  • You don’t have to worry about making reservations each night, which gives you one less thing to have to worry about in the planning stages of your cruise.
  • Because you sit with the same group of people each night, it’s a great opportunity to make new friends. We know people who spent a week dining together and have become lifelong friends since.
  • Having the same waitstaff every night gives them the opportunity to get to know you. Don’t be surprised if by day three, they’re not only offering up suggestions based on what they’ve learned about your favorite dishes, but bringing you things to try that you didn’t even ask for.
  • There’s no waiting around for a table, as they’re going to get you in and seated as soon as possible.

Traditional Dining Cons

  • It can make scheduling a real bear. You’re unlikely to know in advance exactly what time events around the ship are taking place you might like to see, and yet you’re locked into a set dining time. (Of course, you can always opt to eat at a specialty restaurant or the buffet instead).
  • Because the staff has an entire room full of people to serve at the same time, it can sometimes feel a bit like cattle being processed. This tends to be truer of the first seating than the second, given that the latter doesn’t have a group of people anxiously awaiting their own turn to eat.
  • You will likely wind up seated with other passengers… and some might put the “strange” in “strangers!” You can always request to change tables, but that isn’t always possible, especially on a sailing that is full.
  • You could wind up stuck at the buffet. Carnival Cruise Line recently experimented with the idea of turning guests with traditional dining away if they arrive more than 30 minutes late.

Do you tend to prefer traditional or anytime dining… and why?


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