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Friday,  April 19, 2024 11:48 AM 

Cruise dining: fixed or open seating?


Cruise dining: fixed or open seating?
Ming Tappin

Ming Tappin is a cruise industry expert and is the owner of Your Cruise Coach.

Choosing dining time on a cruise doesn’t have to be complicated. Hopefully these tips will help your clients make the right choice.

Contemporary and premium cruise lines offer fixed (early or late) and open seating options. Let’s look at each one and their benefits and trade-offs.

Early seating is at 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. Most ships leave port at 5 p.m., so instead of watching sailaway, enjoying a dip in the hot tub or watching the sunset, early diners will be back in their stateroom getting ready for dinner. But on the flip side, they'll be done dinner by 8 p.m. and can enjoy the evening’s entertainment and activities before retiring.

Late seating is at 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. Guests have that extra time to lounge or catch the early show before dinner, however, their dinner will end at 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. For early birds, it could be a challenge to stay up that late, and some don't like to go to bed with a full stomach.

The benefit of fixed seating is a guaranteed table with the same servers, who will learn your preferences. If you enjoy iced tea with your dinner, you’ll find an iced tea waiting for you every night, which is a nice touch. Your table mates are preassigned for the entire cruise and you also get to know each other. Many lifelong friendships have formed this way!

Those who want flexibility can opt for open seating. Dinner is served between 5:30-9 p.m. and guests can be seated with whomever they like. On a sea day they can eat early, and on a port day they can eat late so they could watch that sunset.

Keep in mind that during peak times between 6-7:30, there could be a wait for a table. But some cruise lines allow reservations - check on their policy. Open seating also means you will always be served by different staff - you’ll have to order that iced tea every night.

A word about waitlists... Early seating is most popular and your clients may have to be on a waitlist if they did not book 8-10 months in advance. Depending on the numbers, sometimes the waitlist will clear prior to sailing, otherwise your clients will need to speak to the maitre d' once onboard. For clients who must eat early, recommend they book early, or book open seating so they can dine at the time of their choice.

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