Traditional or my time dining

Traditional or my time dining – what should you choose

One of the questions when booking a cruise will be your dining preference. Usually, you would have two options (at least on Royal Carribian and Carnival).  You can pick between Traditional dining and My Time Dining (on Royal Caribbean) or Anytime dining (on Carnival Cruise line).  If you decide to go with Traditional dining, you will need to select either an “early” or “late” option.

My Opinion: I usually choose My Time Dining; however, we reserve the same table and time for the entire cruise, that way, we have the same wait staff.

What are the dining options on a cruise ship

There is a longer article on this site about dining options.  But typically, for dinner, you have a choice of a buffet, restaurant-style dinner in the Main Dining Room (MDR), specialty restaurants (for an extra fee), and free casual dining venues.

The meals in MDR are included in your cruise fare price (however, they sometimes have few upgrade options). A meal typically consists of an appetizer, main course, and dessert (you can order multiple appetizers, entrees, and desserts for free).

What is Traditional Dining?

Traditional dining is set-time dining. Typically you will choose between “Early” dining ( around 5:30 PM) and “late” (around 8PM).  You will be eating at the same time each day and at the same table. If you are traveling as a couple or a family of four, you may end up sitting with another group of “strangers” at a large table.

Advantages of Traditional Dining

  • You will be assigned to the same table at the same time each day
  • You will have the same waiter and assistant waiter (as strange as it sounds, it’s awesome to build a relationship with your waiters. You get to know them a little and they get to know you.)
  • You might make new friends with people at your table and with many passengers from other countries you might learn a little about a different culture.
  • Traditional dining time is often built around main showtimes so you will not miss the show.

Disadvantages of Traditional Dining

  • You might feel rushed to get back to the ship so you can get ready for dinner on time
  • You might have to choose between going to dinner in MDR or participating in an activity on the ship
  • If you don’t enjoy meeting new people, you might end up not liking Traditional Dining. While they do have tables for two or four, those are limited.

What is My Time Dining

My Time Dining (Anytime dining) is a flexible dining option. You have an opportunity to reserve time on every day of the cruise or just come to the MDR when you are ready.  This option offers a lot more flexibility, but there are some drawbacks as well

Advantages of My Time Dining

  • You can be flexible on when you come to dinner
  • Typically you will be seated only with your group
  • You can still make reservations

Disadvantages of My Time Dining

  • Without reservation (or even with), you might end up having to wait
  • You might have a different waiter and assistant waiter every time you dine

What is the best solution

Everyone will have their own preference. I tend to choose My Time Dining.  Usually, my first stop when I board the ship is at the restaurant. I talk to the head waiter and reserve dining time for the whole cruise (usually we go with the 545PM option, which is very close to Traditional Time).  We keep the same table and time, so we tend to have the same waiter and assistant waiter (I really do enjoy this). However, this also gives us the flexibility to change reservations if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

When I am booking a cruise, My Time Dining option is no longer available.  What should I do?

Often if you are booking a cruise closer to the departure date, some dining options may not be available.  For example, My Time Dining fills up very fast, and so does the early dining option.  Often, when you get on a cruise, you will be able to switch to the option you want.  Make sure you talk to the head waiter as soon as you board the ship.

If I am late to Traditional Dining time, can I eat in the My Time Dining area?

No, that is typically not an option.  You can try to talk to the Headwaiter to see if they can switch your dining preference; however, it’s based on availability and not a guarantee.  You can always take advantage of a buffet or other dining options onboard if you cannot make it to Traditional Dining on time.

Is the menu the same during Traditional Dining or My Time Dining?

Yes, the menu is the same.  The menu does change every day.

What about breakfast and lunch? Do they also follow the same dining model?

Traditional dining and My Time dining options are only used during dinner.  They do serve breakfast in MDR (and lunch during days at sea). However, you don’t need to have time reserved.

Do I need to dress up for Traditional Dining?

No, there is no difference in dress code between My Time Dining and Traditional Dining.  However, there is a dress code for dining in MDR (basically, you cannot come wearing swimwear).

How do I make a reservation for My Time Dining?

There are few ways.  You can do it online before boarding, talk to the head waiter or call from your cabin to make a reservation.

Do they have large tables in the My Time Dining area?

Yes, if you are traveling with a group, they do have large tables in that area.

Is MDR the same for My Time Dining and Traditional Dining?

On most ships, the My Time Dining area is located on a different floor.  MDR usually spans multiple floors, so technically, you are in the same MDR.

If I have My Time Dining and forgot to make a reservation, how long is the wait?

The wait for a table could be long if you didn’t make a reservation, especially during popular times.  If you decide to go to the MDR right after a show, you may be waiting a while.  You can always try other dining venues to avoid the wait.

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