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Specialty dining reservations on excursion days?

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We want to try out as many of the specialty dining options as we can.  This will be our very first cruise so I'm not sure what time to make the reservations for.  For example, if we're on an excursion that returns at 5 PM should we give ourselves about an hour to get back on the ship and cleaned up before going to dinner?  What if the ship is leaving the dock at 6?  Should we book, say, for half an hour after leaving dock or will that be very crowded?

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Most excursions we have been on have been absolutely right on time getting back. So, no, I don't think you need to allow an hour to get back on board, but not a bad idea...get on board, change clothes, grab a drink, not be rushed.


I think crowds will pickup as the ship sails, if it is around dinner time. But if you have a reservation, you shouldn't have anything to worry about.


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The whole point of a reservation is that you are picking a convenient time.


Mrs Bear and I tend to eat late on cruises, so back on board time is rarely a consideration for dinner plans.

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We are similar to "TheOldBear" that we are happy to dine later (8pm is fine).  For we later diners, the port days are generally fine for alternative restaurants.  If you really insist on dining early, then only you can decide if rushing to get ready for dinner is worth the hassle.   One nice advantage to dining later is that, in recent years, it seems like more folks prefer to dine at tea time :).  This makes it easy for us to get reservations at 8 or 8:30.


Just a tidbit, but on Seabourn (a luxury line we really enjoy) the dining room (or Colonnade (Lido)) does not even open for dinner until 7pm!  Early diners are out of luck on that line unless they want to settle for the room service menu.





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I like to eat early, 6pm, and then have more time to sample the bars afterwards.


Usually like to get a table and comfy chairs at the sunset bar, Celebrity, and relax the night away, slightly inebriated.


But then I am always up early with a very early coffee (6ish) before going for a run.


Then a huge breakfast, because I earned it.

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OP, I really think it depends on the kind of excursion you had on any given day. An hour after reboarding the ship may be all you need if you've had a leisurely day ashore. But if you have been on a very strenuous, long excursion, you may find you need to add a bit of a rest period before  dinner. 

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Multiple thoughts: 

- Most excursions begin fairly early in the morning and return to the docks before noon.  Some companies run a morning and an afternoon excursion that might begin at, say, 1:00 and return 4:00ish. Your question really only matters if you choose the afternoon excursion.  

- The morning excursions seem to be more popular, as most people would rather get up, complete their activity, then have the option of staying in port a bit longer OR returning to the ship early afternoon for lunch onboard.  

- Yes to what an above poster says about tour companies returning you to the docks exactly when promised.  This is their job, and these companies do it seven days a week -- they can predict with accuracy how long it takes to drive to X, etc.  

- Note I said "return to the docks", not the ship.  The tour guide will return you to the docks, and you still have to walk to the ship -- many people will choose to shop or drink very close to the ship.  

- Depending upon the island, getting back to the ship might be very quick; for example, in Aruba you could just about throw a ball and hit the ship from the sidewalk, and no impediments exist to slow you down.  Other locations are different; for example, we were in Nassau in December: I think seven ships were docked that day, so that gives you an idea of how long the dock is, and island has a separate security checkpoint, which was a real bottleneck.  They really stared at my passport, which was odd because it's a new passport /the picture is current.  Anyway, I'd estimate it took us 30 minutes to get through the port security, walk the dock, then go through ship security.  

- Are you docking or tendering?  Tendering is less common now, but it is a much more lengthy process.  

- I personally aim to be back at the ship two hours before it sails; I don't cut things close.  Things can go wrong (small injuries that slow you down) or can go right (cute shop or bar you just have to visit).  

- I don't think an hour is enough to get back on the ship, have two people shower and dress and get to the restaurant.  I'd give myself 1 1/2 -2 hours.  If you're a bit early /late to dinner, they can usually accommodate you.  


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2 hours ago, Mum2Mercury said:

in Aruba you could just about throw a ball and hit the ship from the sidewalk,

Note: they frown on such things 🙂

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