Traditional or Open Dining?

Cruise Dining Choices

Dining is considered one of the most important elements of a cruise holiday. Everything from elaborate dining rooms that look like they stepped out of the 19th century’s Victorian Period to the laid back atmosphere of the buffet on the upper decks, there’s a dish for everyone!

In the past, most cruise ships had set dining and the only choice a passenger was given was between ‘Early Seating and Late Seating’. Most Cruise lines still provide this service.


Traditional dining (the classic cruise experience) means that dining is at the same time (depending on cruise line and itinerary), the same table and with the same table mates each evening.

Early seating works well for those passengers who want to eat at the same time as they do at home which is around 6PM. If the cruise has consecutive days at sea, early seating is a good choice as it breaks up the day.

Traditional Dining with Cunard

The late seating is better for those who opt to stay up late and enjoy the ships nightlife as dinner is nearly always after 8PM. It is also a good choice if you plan to take advantage of the port of calls and don’t want to feel rushed in getting back in time for dinner.

The traditional dining experience is more social and you will be seated with diners of a similar age. Many lifelong friendships have been created at dinner on board a ship. You will get to know many new people and the conversation can be just as interesting as the meal!

If you are looking for the traditional experience, always request your preferred dining time when booking.


In recent years more and more cruise lines realised that their passengers were seeking a more casual dining experience. Although set dining times were standard on Disney Cruises, they designed their ships to give you the option of dining in a different venue each evening.

First introduced by Norwegian Cruise Lines, who took Disney’s idea up to a new level when they introduced an open seating policy. This revolutionary open seating policy can now be found on most cruise lines. Passengers can eat when they want and where they want and not only in the main dining room.

Several specialty restaurants have popped up from steakhouses to Teppanyaki style to seafood houses. Dining style and choices vary from cruise line to cruise line but most ships feature somewhere between 5 to 15 alternative dining experiences. As cruise lines continue to evolve and grow, more options are sure to be available in the future.



Those that like lounging around the pool all day will be pleased to hear that there are poolside buffets that are open for breakfast and lunch. The buffets serve up casual fare and are ideal for a quick snack.

An interesting new development are spa-like eateries that offer health food and this option is perfect for those looking to stay in shape whilst onboard.

Of course, there is always room service. Room service is a good option for those that want to rest in their room or simply want the convenience of not going out. However, the menus can be somewhat limited, although this might not be a concern for those that want fast service.

Cruise lines are always evolving but many still offer traditional assigned seating in the main dining room if requested:

No matter what you choose, traditional, open or indulging in the specialty venues, there will always be something new and exciting to please your palate.

Written by Veronica Shine