What Main Dining Room Options Are Available For Dinner On A Typical Carnival Cruise?
Typically, there are three options for main dining room seating at dinner on a Carnival Cruise. The three options are called "Early Seating", "Late Seating" and "Your-Time Dining".
- Early Seating - The Early Seating option is a dining option that allows a cruiser to have dinner at a set time, enjoy the same table, and have the same waitstaff each night of the cruise. Generally, this option has the fixed time being a 5:30pm dining time. If you select this option your Sail & Sign card will reflect what time you should report to the dining room.
- Late Seating - The difference between late seating and early seating is the time. The Late Seating option is a dining option that allows a cruiser to have dinner at a set time, enjoy the same table, and have the same waitstaff each night of the cruise. Generally, this option has the fixed time being a 7:45pm dining time. If you select this option your Sail & Sign card will reflect what time you should report to the dining room.
- Your-Time Dining - This dining option allows cruisers the flexibility to come to the dining room between a certain time for dinner. On most cruises Your-Time Dining is avaialble from 5:30pm to 9:00pm, but on Alaska cruises the dining times may be earlier. With this option you show up at any time between the range of times printed on your Sail & Sign card. After the Covid-19 pandemic check-in is highly encouraged through the Carnival Hub App which will let you know when your table is ready. If no table that can accommodate you is available you will be given a pager. When a table becomes available you should be notified via the Carnival Hub App. For additional information regarding the Carnival Hub App Your-Time Dining Check-In feel free to read my post by clicking here.
How Do I Know Which Option Is Best For Me?
All three options have positive and negative characteristics for each cruiser that can differ. Here are some things you should keep in mind when trying to determine which of these options is best for you:
- Early & Late Seating Cruisers That Do Not Arrive Within A Specific Time Will Not Be Allowed To Dine - If you choose early or late seating dining and you come too late to dinner the dining room staff will not allow you to enter the dining room. Instead, you will have to eat in the buffet or order room service. I think the current policy is guests will be turned away after 30 minutes. This is because seating guests too late into the meal will create extra work for the waitstaff and slow down the dining process for other cruisers. If you feel like what time you will want dinner is uncertain or you do not know if you will be able to be timely to the dining room, do not pick early or late seating. Instead, you might be better off with Your-Time Dining because you will have a flexible range of time to go to dinner.
- Early or Late Seating Could Mean You & Your Group Get Seated With Other Cruisers - Sometimes tables for Early and Late Seating causes random groups of cruisers to be seated at the same assigned table for the cruise. For example, let's say a group of 3 are cruising together and another group of 3 people are also cruising together. The dining team onboard could assign both of these groups of 3 to be seated at the same table. Dining assignments for early or late seating could cause you to be seated with strangers, but there is still a chance you will have an assigned table that only has your group of cruisers. It depends on how the seating assignments for the cruise are done by the onboard dining team! Your-Time Dining does not guarantee you will get a private table, but the chances are much higher if you do not want to sit with others.
- Consistency of Dining Vs. Flexibility - Trying to decide between Your-Time Dining and one of the traditional seating times is a debate between consistency and flexibility. Early or late seating gives cruisers consistency of waitstaff, table, and dining room. However, Your-Time Dining gives a range of time flexibility, but there is still a good chance you can request the same table and waitstaff if you would like (depends on availability).
- Cruising Round-Trip From Barbados? - The problem of picking which dining option should not exist for you because Carnival advertises cruises round-trip from Barbados have to pick Your-Time Dining.
How Do I Actually Pick What Dining Option I Want?
If you booked directly on Carnival's website, after booking you will be able to select your dining time from the online booking manager. If you booked with a travel agent or Carnival representative directly, they should be the ones to handle the selection of dining. You should tell your travel agent or representative which dining option you want.
If my preferred option is not available, what happens?
Usually a waitlist is available for an option if it is full. If you have a second choice dining option I recommend you go with that choice (if it is not full too).
Is The Food & Menu The Same Between The Options?
Regardless of whether you choose Early Seating, Late Seating, Or Your-Time Dining the food is the same! You should have the exact same menu options as the cruisers in the other dining room.
Can I Change My Dining Assignment Once Onboard?
Unfortunately, the answer depends. Once on your cruise you should go see the dining team & maitre'd to ask if you are able to change dining assignments.
Does My Main Dining Room Dinner Assignment Apply At Breakfast Or Lunch?
It does not! Typically, Carnival ships serve a Sea Day Brunch in the dining room that is open seating. When traditional breakfast and lunch seatings are offered these are also open seating. Tables are assigned by the hostess station when someone comes to check in for the particular meal. Carnival usually has brunch available in only one of the ship's main dining rooms.
This post was updated on Saturday, August 13, 2022 to reflect some changes made after the Covid-19 pandemic.