Cruise ship main dining room

7 Reasons Why You are Worse Off with Anytime Dining on Cruise Ships

Many cruise lines advertise anytime dining as a great perk. But the truth is, you are worse off going on a cruise with anytime dining. I think it’s better to have assigned seating. Having been on over 25 cruises, whenever I have a choice, I will always choose assigned seating over anytime dining, here is why.

What is Anytime Dining?

When it comes to having dinner in the cruise’s main dining room, you typically have two options: assigned seating (traditional seating) or anytime dining. 

Assigned seating is when you are designated a specific dinner time, table, and restaurant. Usually, there are two seating options available: an early one around 5:30 or 6 pm and a late one around 8:30 pm.

Anytime dining, on the other hand, is more flexible. You can go to the main dining room for dinner any time you want- allowing you to eat whenever you feel hungry, similar to having dinner at a regular restaurant.

Different cruise lines offer different dining options. Royal Caribbean, for example, allows passengers to choose between traditional seating and My Time Dining. On MSC cruises, Bella and Fantastica passengers have assigned seating, while Aurea passengers have the option of anytime seating. 

Norwegian Cruise Line offers freestyle dining (anytime dining). While, Princess Cruise gives you the choice of assigned seating or anytime dining.

Anytime dining on cruise ships

The Problem with Anytime Dining

Different Waiters

The main reason why I don’t like anytime dining is that you will get a different waiter each time you dine at the main dining room of your cruise ship. You won’t be assigned the same waiter every night because when you do anytime dining, the restaurant host will sit you wherever there is a free table. 

The problem with getting a different waiter each time you dine is that you won’t get the personalized service that cruises are known for. With a different waiter each night, they won’t know your preferences.

For example, with assigned seating, by day 2, your waiter will know what you like- that your kids will need white milk at dinner, that you want coffee with your desserts, and that you drink sparkling water instead of still water. 

With anytime dining, your waiter won’t know your preferences and you will have to start over again to let your waiter know what you want with your dinner. 

Aside from knowing your preferences, with assigned seating, you build a rapport with your waiter, making it a more enjoyable and personalized dining experience. I personally value the rapport, especially on long cruises.

Different Tables

Another reason why I don’t like anytime dining is that you will be assigned different tables each time you dine.  I prefer having the consistency of a dedicated table. 

Personally, I always ask for a window table away from the crowd. It would be much more convenient to have the same table for the entire cruise instead of having to request a window table every time I go to the main dining room for dinner.

Wait for a Table

One thing I find inconvenient about anytime dining is the waiting. Just like in a regular restaurant, you might have to wait for a table, especially during busy dinner times. 

On the other hand, with assigned seating, you arrive at your designated time and get seated right away. In fact, you can usually walk right in and go directly to your table without any waiting involved. I’ll like the zero wait time!

Anytime dining on cruise ships

Hard for Big Groups

If you are cruising with a big group, it’s going to be extra hard for you to get a table with anytime dining. That’s because there are limited number of big tables, so you will have to wait for one to free up. 

If there is a very long wait, you might end up having to be seated at separate tables, which takes the fun out of cruising together!

Food Allergies

One of the reasons why I’m not a fan of anytime dining is the lack of a dedicated waiter who knows your food allergies. It feels less safe having to explain your dietary requirements to different waiters each time. 

With assigned seating, you usually have a head waiter who takes note of your food allergies. They also provide the next day’s menu so you can place your order a day in advance. 

Having one person who knows about your food allergy requirements feels much safer than having to start over with a new waiter each time. At least that’s how I feel when it comes to going on a cruise with my son who is allergic to nuts!

Hard with Kids

When I go on a cruise with kids, I really don’t like anytime dining. Waiting in line for a table, especially after a long day at port with tired and hungry kids, is no fun. I definitely prefer having assigned seats when cruising with kids.

Make Reservations

If it’s available, make dinner reservations to minimize your wait time. For example, Princess Cruise allows you to book dinner reservations for each night of the cruise. This helps you avoid waiting in line while still allowing you the flexibility to dine at different times every night. 

I suggest making your dinner reservations for every night of your cruise- do it on the first day onboard the ship to secure the best dining times. Otherwise, you may end up with late 9:30 pm dinner time slots! 

Again, making dinner reservations is another extra hassle I’d rather not have to deal with when I’m on vacation! While if you have assigned seating, you don’t need to worry about making reservations! Check out: 10 Food I’ll Never Eat at a Cruise Buffet

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