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Why Are Set Dining Times (MDR) So Important To You?

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We're going on another cruise with some friends coming up on the Grand Princess.

 

When we booked I choose Anytime dining but much to my surprise our friends insisted on early dining time of (5:00).

So I went back and requested the same time and luckily we were given the same time dining. They indicated that the early dining time was more preferential considering entertainment options later in the evening. I'm easy going so we obliged but when cruising I'd like not to be on a schedule and like having the flexibility of dinner times.

 

So this will be my first cruise out of many were we are locked in to set dining, I just hope I'll be hungry at 5?

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I like traditional set dining times (though not at 5 pm) for several reasons:  The passengers are well-distributed, so there's no waiting at more popular times; Having the same wait staff is nice because they're better able to learn likes and dislikes, and act accordingly with recommendations or service ideas; When traveling solo, I liked knowing I would be dining with the same people each night -- it gave me a chance to have better conversations with them, rather than going through the introductions and standard "where are you from" types of questions.  If it turned out I didn't like the people at my table, I could change it, of course. 

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31 minutes ago, calliopecruiser said:

I like traditional set dining times (though not at 5 pm) for several reasons:  The passengers are well-distributed, so there's no waiting at more popular times; Having the same wait staff is nice because they're better able to learn likes and dislikes, and act accordingly with recommendations or service ideas; When traveling solo, I liked knowing I would be dining with the same people each night -- it gave me a chance to have better conversations with them, rather than going through the introductions and standard "where are you from" types of questions.  If it turned out I didn't like the people at my table, I could change it, of course. 

 

With non-traditional any time dining (different names on different cruise lines) you can also make reservations, which avoids any waiting at popular (or any other) times; you can have the same table and wait staff if desired, which also means you can dine with the same people if they so choose. (We typically cruise with others so we typically also dine with them, or dine alone, so random stranger conversation is not an issue with us).  Anytime dining also provides flexibility with port times or other activities that may compromise set dining times and your schedule can be easily adjusted day to day for any ship entertainment, etc.

 

Nothing against traditional dining, but obviously for all the reasons mentioned, this is our preferred option.  And to the OP, having to try to fit a 5:00 PM dining time every night into our preferred cruising schedule would be an impossible nightmare.  Our flexible preference is 6:30 - 7:30 on any given night.  Just my opinion...

Edited by leaveitallbehind

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On every cruise with exception of 2 we have selected 5 PM dining.At home I eat dinner at 4:15 PM .On a cruise in 2018 we were invited to join 2 couples that we met on a cruise in 2017 for 8 PM dining.On our cruise last month we were with people that we became friendly with in 2018 and we were invited to join them for 8 PM dining.

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I might possibly be persuaded to do a late traditional dining. But 5:00 every night? No thank you. That's way too early for us - we normally eat around 7:00 at home, and frequently later on vacation. I don't want to rush back to the ship early on a port day,  then rush to shower and change for dinner - all before 5! No time to relax and have a drink before hand. And I'd probably be hungry again by bed time. 

 

OP- you might want to squirrel away some food from the OVC in your cabin mini fridge so you could have a snack before turning in.

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We did late traditional for years... if I was going to the MDR, that is my preference... less crowded, less busy, no rush.

 

Since the MDR menu is not what it use to be, now we do the buffet and Crown Grill... usually do at same time daily, now we do early... because buffet is less busy early (also enjoy the sunset early) ... same with Crown Grill,   plus we don't like going to the entertainment so later any more... skipping the MDR entirely has opened up our options on dinner and entertainment.   Princess sold anytime dinning, on idea that you can plan you dinner around other activities.  We find by using the buffet and Crown Grill we do the same thing without waiting in line for any time dinning for a menu that not recalling us anymore.  

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We choose early seating since it's close to our normal dinner time. Also, hubby is diabetic and he can't wait too long to eat. 

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I eat when I am hungry at home. Hate having a "meal time". Never understood those that enjoy family meals. There are 4 of us at home when sons are back but 4 adults cant be hungry at the same time all the time.

 

Yet on our cruise we did the set dining time. 6:15pm. I loved it. Maybe it was the huge amount of exercise but it just worked.

 

Plus it meant the wife could see all of the shows (I hate them but needs must)

 

Then plenty of time for relaxing drinks, usually on the outside deck just sitting looking out to sea. Ah the joy.

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Just seems strange to want to eat inside, when (depending on the  cruise of course) it is still warm and sunny outside - the best part of the day in my opinion. 

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12 hours ago, leaveitallbehind said:

you can also make reservations, which avoids any waiting at popular (or any other) times;

I didn't realize that it was always an option. 

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6 minutes ago, calliopecruiser said:

I didn't realize that it was always an option. 

It's certainly not an option on every cruise line,  as it is an inefficient use of tables.  You certainly can't do it on P&O (UK).

Edited by wowzz

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While our usual time for dinner is anywhere from 7:00 to 8:00 PM, we find it very easy to adjust to 5:00 to 6:00 PM - just as you would if you went from Eastern Time Zone to Mountain Time.  The fact that eating a bit earlier frees up much of the evening for other activities makes it preferable to an 8:00 PM time — particularly on a cruise ship, where dinner easily takes an hour and a half or more.

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35 minutes ago, calliopecruiser said:

I didn't realize that it was always an option. 

It is at least with RCI, Celebrity, and NCL.  You can make them in advance through your cruise planner or on board, and can change them as needed.

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If you are eating at 17:00, when on earth do you eat afternoon tea ? We need at least 3 or 4 hours between tea and dinner.

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I strongly prefer to not have a set dining time. I always want to spend as much time as possible enjoying being ashore. (My cruises aren't Caribbean or beach cruises.)  There is no way I'd eat dinner at 5:00 pm voluntarily for an entire cruise...

 

I mostly travel solo and prefer the so-called "Anytime Dining" option and sharing a table with others. I find the introductions take only a couple of minutes (not sure why it seems onerous to some) and I enjoy meeting a number of different people during the course of the cruise. 

 

On the ship that I have cruised primarily for the past decade, eating outside on the terrace was a big plus, weather permitting, but the ship was small and not all ships offer such an option where you can have a table outside and choose to order from an (albeit more limited) main dining room menu OR go to the buffet.

 

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20 minutes ago, DarrenM said:

Afternoon tea?

 

Is it the 1930s still?😉

Come on Darren, surely you like a cup of tea and a piece of cake in the afternoon! 

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This may come as a surprise, as I am English, but I dislike tea. Wouldnt say I hate it, as hate is a word I use for Karaoke.

 

Strangely with my currrent rotund form, I dont eat cake either.

 

More of a savoury guy.

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Open seating.  7 PM preferred. Never bother with afternoon tea service.  

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2 minutes ago, iancal said:

Open seating.  7 PM preferred. Never bother with afternoon tea service.  

19:00 - just having one last drink before going back to the cabin to get ready for dinner.

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For us it's not the time that's important with set ("traditional") dining.

 

It's our table being there and waiting for us, the same table-mates & the same waiters. You actually get to know your table-mates, with none of the endless round of introductions and immediately-forgotten names that you get on "anytime" shared tables. We've often ended up exploring ashore with table-mates, and still correspond with some.

"Same table mates" can backfire if they're not our type, but we've been lucky, and in any case if it doesn't work out you can ask the Maitre D'  to change your table - that happens a fair bit after the first night.

Clashing with entertainment is rare, since the production shows are twice-nightly to co-incide.

 

Late sitting rather than early sitting. few kids or very elderly, and the staff don't need to rush us out to make way for the next sitting.

But 5.00 pm ??????????? Helfire, we're often only just back on board from a port-of-call !!!

 

"Anytime" has its pros & cons too.

We're happy to share so haven't had a long wait, even at busy times. Yes, there's the lottery of who to share with.

We learned a long time back to say "yes, if the speak English" when asked if we were prepared to share.

And we'll slide away from the line to peruse the menu in fine detail, then join the line further back if we don't like the look of folk in line near us :classic_blush:

Fine if you want to meet lots of folk, tho it does come with that repetitive small-talk. And it's just the one night with any we don't gel with

And on many occasions we've gelled so well with folk we've been thrown together with, that we've arranged to meet up before dinner on subsequent evenings & go to the dining room as a foursome / sixsome, etc. We did that on one Royal Caribbean cruise and ended up as a very convivial table of eight - same table, same waiters, same time each evening, just like a hand-picked group on traditional dining. :classic_smile:

 

JB :classic_smile:

ps Shame on you, Darren, you're a traitor to your country. :classic_biggrin:. I believe that on sea-days, taking late-afternoon tea and cake is a requirement in P & O's terms & conditions :classic_biggrin: 

.

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Prefer open seating.  Too much rusihing around for 5pm dinner and its too early for us.  

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2 hours ago, wowzz said:

It's certainly not an option on every cruise line,  as it is an inefficient use of tables.  You certainly can't do it on P&O (UK).

 

Not necessarily so.  On several lines a dedicated area or deck within the MDR is used exclusively for anytime dining and operates in a manner similar to land based restaurants - reservations are accepted with planned tables to accommodate those who have reservations (usually the same each night for the same party if desired), and walk up's are seated as available, usually with only a short wait. The remaining dining areas or decks are dedicated to traditional seating.  Very effective uses of tables.

Edited by leaveitallbehind

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Afternoon tea is great!  It's a time to meet up with friends on board and share what you've been doing since you last met, or make plans for the evening or next day.   I'm sure you could get a coffee or cocktail if you wanted it -- it's the activity that's more important.  (In the same way that I go out with friends "for coffee", but don't actually have coffee). 

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1 hour ago, John Bull said:

For us it's not the time that's important with set ("traditional") dining.

 

It's our table being there and waiting for us, the same table-mates & the same waiters. You actually get to know your table-mates, with none of the endless round of introductions and immediately-forgotten names that you get on "anytime" shared tables. We've often ended up exploring ashore with table-mates, and still correspond with some.

"Same table mates" can backfire if they're not our type, but we've been lucky, and in any case if it doesn't work out you can ask the Maitre D'  to change your table - that happens a fair bit after the first night.

Clashing with entertainment is rare, since the production shows are twice-nightly to co-incide.

 

Late sitting rather than early sitting. few kids or very elderly, and the staff don't need to rush us out to make way for the next sitting.

But 5.00 pm ??????????? Helfire, we're often only just back on board from a port-of-call !!!

 

"Anytime" has its pros & cons too.

We're happy to share so haven't had a long wait, even at busy times. Yes, there's the lottery of who to share with.

We learned a long time back to say "yes, if the speak English" when asked if we were prepared to share.

And we'll slide away from the line to peruse the menu in fine detail, then join the line further back if we don't like the look of folk in line near us :classic_blush:

Fine if you want to meet lots of folk, tho it does come with that repetitive small-talk. And it's just the one night with any we don't gel with

And on many occasions we've gelled so well with folk we've been thrown together with, that we've arranged to meet up before dinner on subsequent evenings & go to the dining room as a foursome / sixsome, etc. We did that on one Royal Caribbean cruise and ended up as a very convivial table of eight - same table, same waiters, same time each evening, just like a hand-picked group on traditional dining. :classic_smile:

 

JB :classic_smile:

ps Shame on you, Darren, you're a traitor to your country. :classic_biggrin:. I believe that on sea-days, taking late-afternoon tea and cake is a requirement in P & O's terms & conditions :classic_biggrin: 

.

I offer my humble apologies and will endeavour not to let the side down again.

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