Anytime dining or traditional?

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22 Posts
Joined Oct 2012
We're cruising on the Golden Princess next summer with extended family
(5 familes, 17 people). My MIL organized the trip and chose to do the anytime dining. I've never cruised and am trying to understand how it works. Do you just show up and wait for a table, or can you make a 6:00pm reservation for "tonight" when you get up in the morning? Or does it work both ways? Also, are there formal nights when you do the anytime dining? Thanks!
Shanghai, PRC / Sete, France
3,902 Posts
Joined Jun 2002
Originally posted by cb at sea
The food should be exactly the same. Both take place in the MDR.
We love traditional BECAUSE of the tablemates....we just enjoy having others to talk to! We can (and do) eat by ourselves most of the time at home (empty nesters!) and enjoy the company of others!
None of the shows conflict with either of the traditional dining times, and there's still plenty of time to be "active"....
Give traditional a try. It's certainly the more "fun" option!
The food should be the same in both systems - but it rarely is.

And for very good reasons.

When we invented "Traditional Dining" back in the 1980's, we did it because ships had gotten too large to accommodate everyone for dinner at the same time - which is what REAL Traditional Dining is. So we decided to feed you in shifts - like in a factory or high school. That is what traditional dining has become today. There are many really good reasons (mostly financial) to do it this way. If most everyone eats at the same time, we can cook everything at the same time - in very large quantities. This requires far fewer cooks to accomplish the same job. Instead of one cook preparing 3 or 4 steaks at the same time (like in your local restaurant or in open dining on a ship), he can prepare 100 steaks at the same time, giving far less attention to the one you are about to eat.
And since everyone eats at nearly the same pace in traditional dining, we can accomplish serving the food with far fewer waiters. They feed you on a production line.

With Open Dining, people arrive at all times and eat at different paces. Our cooks are forced to prepare the food in small batches, giving them more time to pay more individual attention to what they are doing. Open Dining requires 20% more waiters to do the same job, since guest arrivals are unpredictable and we cannot serve everyone the same thing at the same time.

On ships that offer both Traditional and Open Dining, ratings for service are typically higher in the Traditional Dining rooms - not because the service is better, but because it is more predictable. And that pleases the average diner.

But the food quality ratings are always higher in the Open Dining rooms, where more care and attention has been taken in preparing your food.

If you are more interested in having the waiter know in advance that you want your salad dressing on the side, and your iced tea waiting for you, you should choose Traditional Dining.
If you are more interested in eating better prepared food, go for Open Dining.
Columbus, OH
3,871 Posts
Joined Apr 2011
Originally posted by BruceMuzz
If you are more interested in having the waiter know in advance that you want your salad dressing on the side, and your iced tea waiting for you, you should choose Traditional Dining.
If you are more interested in eating better prepared food, go for Open Dining.
That is some very interesting and helpful insight Bruce. Thanks for sharing that! It makes a lot of sense once I thought about it. I would rather have great food with okay service than okay food with great service.
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New Cumberland,PA, USA
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Joined May 2000
Ahhh Bruce Bruce Bruce! We know you spent a lot of time working on ships....but we have spent a lot of time (more then 2 1/2 years) cruising on ships (more fun then work). We have actually found that doing open (Anytime, Select, etc) dining has lots of advantages for those who like to dine pretty late (after 8). We do notice that the quality of our food prep is normally somewhat better (you pointed out the reason) but we also love the quality of service. When folks dine early the waiters are under pressure to get their charges out of the dining room as soon as possible so they can accomodate the later seating or later diners. But when you go into the MDR after 8 the only pressure on the waiters is to get everyone out so they can go "home." But most waiters actually seem to enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere that happens with later diners and we usually (not always) get terrific service. There is another aspec to fixed dining that can be very problamatic. Most ships now have multiple alternative dining venues and many passengers try some (or all) of these restaurants. We prefer a large table because we enjoy the socialization. But we (and others we know) have had large tables at fixed dining times when the others at the table may not show-up because they decide to eat elsewhere that night. A table of 8 feels very empty if there are only 4 (or even 2). This never happens with Anytime dining since we always ask to share a large table and they always fill up.

25 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
So timely that I found this thread! Hubby and I have enjoyed traditional dining on past cruises, but for our upcoming journey I've been thinking about anytime dining. Many thanks to all for your insights, it's definitely given me some more to think about!
Mission Viejo, CA
419 Posts
Joined Aug 2008
Since I eat most breakfasts and lunches in the MDR, I think I get the best of both worlds. or breakfast and lunch I constantly meet new people by sitting at larger tables and have had some great conversations. At dinner time, Traditional dining is nice since not only do you have the same table mates which can be really nice, but the wait staff gets to know your likes and dislikes as well. Also, if you have good wait staff, they seem to try harder to please you once they get to know you. So anytime for breakfast and lunch along with Traditional for dinner is a great combination!
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New York
68 Posts
Joined Sep 2013
So we're sailing RCCL on the Freedom in August. I have always gone traditional late seating and already put in for that, but now I am starting to rethink. There are 5 of us, my husband and I and our 3 sons, 21, 16 and 13. I really like the socialization with table mates. It has always been one of the things we've really enjoyed. Now it looks as if with any time dining, we can get the same wait staff and just request a large table so we will have table mates? And if we really connect with a group, we can just meet up with them again? This is really starting to appeal to me. We've never sat at a table where we've disliked our table mates, but there have been a few that have been very bland and it became a little quiet at times. When we took our oldest on a graduation cruise, they set us alone and we kind of had to fight it to get a larger table with table mates. I spend all day with these guys. I want to play with others! lol. I'm glad I read this thread. Think I'm going to talk to my hubby about seeing what his opinion is.
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2,043 Posts
Joined Oct 2012
When we first started cruising we always had fixed early seating. We now do anytime because it suits us better. I often found myself rushed on port days to get ready for dinner. Some port days we came back to tired to bother with the MDR. I always made a point to tell our tablemates when we wouldn't be there just so as not to have them waiting for us.

The best piece of advice my TA ever gave me was if you are going to go with a fixed dining time was to sit at a large table. Sure you can get a table for two if you want privacy. The one table she told me never to get as a couple was one for four people. At a large table you are sure to hit it off with at least one other couple. At a table for four if you don't hit it off with the other couple it can make for very awkward dining for the entire trip
New Jersey
73 Posts
Joined Mar 2014
We want early dining in the MDR, it wasn't available for our April 24 cruise on the EOS. We HAD to choose an option so we chose my time dining. And are on the wait list for 6:00 MDR. I've heard tipping maître D might help us get seating at our preferred dining time? Has anyone done this?

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2,494 Posts
Joined Aug 2009
I've never had to change my dining time but know some people that have changes theirs on several cruises by simply asking the Maitre d on day 1 if they could make the change. No tip necessary.

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Stone Mountain GA
9,524 Posts
Joined Jul 2009
cruise # 1-traditional dining-found out you can order seconds on lobster
cruise # 2-traditional dining sat with friends we were traveling with
cruise # 3 traditional dining sat with friends we were traveling with
cruise # 4 traditional dining, worst wait staff, table mates dropped like flies
cruise # 5 anytime dining-large roll call, ate often with roll call friends
cruise # 6 anytime dining-traveling with friends, never had a wait (7 p.m.)
cruise # 7 anytime dining-larger group of traveling friends-20 min wait

1-we love anytime, we do ask to sit with others, we don't have to explain to anyone why we are not coming to dinner, we can nap when we want, eat when we want and not feel rushed after a day on shore.

2. traditional if fine, a great way to meet people, learn new things, find out about other ships, excursions, etc. Have I ever stayed in touch with someone I ate with? No. but I have stayed in touch with some of my roll call buddies.

We have no problem dining with others at breakfast, lunch or dinner, we just like our own freedom of when we want to eat.
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4 Posts
Joined Mar 2011
We just returned from our second cruise. Our first had assigned dining. This one was anytime. The differences (for us) was that our waiters seemed completely uninterested in us and twice we were seated in corners alone, staring at a wall. The food was still DELICIOUS; but our service was not so wonderful. We did see a few lively waiters around; but we never had the pleasure of having them as ours. In contrast, our first cruise (assigned dining) offered excellent waitstaff service and the ablility to feel included in the dining experience. (We sailed on Carnival Triumph)
1 Posts
Joined Mar 2014
We are cruising on the Celebrity Equinox next July out of Rome and our group of friends (4 other couples) have all selected the late traditional dining time but my husband and I always like to go with the anytime dining just to keep our options open. Our friends have told us that we should choose the late traditional dining time instead so that we can link to their table and sit with them some nights. They said if we do this, we can still chose to eat "anytime" at the upstairs MDR if space permits.

Does anyone know if this is correct? I called Celebrity and was told we "could" still eat in the MDR (upstair) anytime even if we select an assigned dining time but I wanted to verify that with some fellow cruisers before I actually switch our reservation.

Thanks all! Jen
Mississauga, Ontario, but winter in Fort Myers, Florida
4,819 Posts
Joined May 2015
We were on the Carnival Valor last month and were on the flex dining plan. The food was usually pretty good and the service was always very good. Our problem was the wait. One night we waited in line for at least 30 minutes or longer only to be given a pager when we got to the front of the line. We then waited almost 45 minutes before we finally were able to be seated. This happened again a few nights later, although the wait wasn't quite as long as the first time. There were three nights where we did not eat in the dining room, but there was always a long line at the beginning of dinner time. Our previous experience with flex dining on Celebrity Constellation was much better as we never had to wait like we did on Valor. Our next cruise is on RCI Navigator of the Seas, and we are hoping the flex time dining will be more like our first cruise than our second.
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