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Set time, My Time, Any time?? Understanding Cruise Dining Schedules

Updated: May 17

Most ocean cruises offer pool side casual dining, a buffet and a main dining room. 

The main dining room offers guests an elegant full service restaurant experience on board their cruise. 


As you are preparing for your ocean cruise, one of the pre-cruise tasks is deciding on your dining preference for main dining. 

The cruise lines have a variety of options to select for your dining time. 

Here are some of the options and how they typically work.


Set Dining Times

The most common way to manage guests dining in the main dining room is a set dining time.  The cruise offers a set early dining time, for guests to arrive around 6pm, and a set late dining time, usually beginning at 8pm.  Your preferred dining time can be selected at the time of your cruise booking.  At Storyline Travel, we typically choose the early dining time for our clients since it is the most popular.  A benefit to the set dining time is your table and wait staff.  The restaurant assigns your table and this allows you the benefit of the same wait staff for the duration of your cruise.   

My Time or Any Time Dining

In recent years, cruise lines have introduced dining options that allow guests to choose their dining time each day.  This allows guests the freedom to adjust their meal time based on activities of the day.  There can be a short wait with any time dining, as seating is usually on a first come/first served basis.  You will also have different tables and wait staff each night.  It can be a fun experience enjoying different views from different tables and you might enjoy meeting more of the wait staff.  Getting to know the crew members is interesting as they can be from so many different parts of the world!  

Person showing their phone to person on computer

Reservations for Main Dining

Some cruise lines are allowing reservations each night to keep the dining rooms from being full during peak times and shortening the line of guests waiting for a table.  Each day you can check your cruise schedule and see what dining times are available to reserve for the day.  Depending on the cruise line, you might be able to set your dining times prior to embarkation. 

Mixing it Up

Depending on the cruise line and the design of the ship, you may find more than one of these options on your cruise!  The Regal Princess has 3 main dining rooms on board.  While you can enjoy an 'any time' dining schedule in all three main dining rooms, only the Allegra dining room offers a set time dining option. 

Disney cruise line crew member

Rotational Dining

For a unique option, try Disney Cruise line's rotational dining.  Guests choose their preferred dining time when the cruise is booked, either early or late.  Once on board, you are assigned a table number and wait staff.  Each night, guests check the cruise app for the assigned dining room.  As you move through the 3 different dining rooms each night, so does your wait staff!

Culinary adventures are a big part of the cruise experience! 

Storyline Travel works with you to design the cruise experience you desire and we can help you understand the dining options available on your next amazing journey!

Bon Voyage



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