On all of our past sailings with Carnival, we’ve always opted for dining in the late seating to ensure everyone in our group would be able to dine together – regardless of shore excursions, on-board activities, etc. that may run into the late afternoon making it difficult to herd everyone together for the early seating. Since the summer of 2010, Carnival has offered “Your Time Dining” on its entire fleet, and we decided to try it on our last cruise.
When booking, one has the option of early seating (6pm), late seating (8:15pm), or your time dining. Carnival’s literature indicates that your time dining is available from 5:45pm to 9:30pm, though from experience, the preferred time is between 6 and 9. On the first day, when our cabin stewardess introduced herself and reminded us about our dining choice, she indicated the best time was between 6 and 9 because of how the kitchen works. We’re not sure if she has friends in the kitchen that just prefer this, but this advice would likely serve you well in any land-restaurant, too. If you go in 10 minutes before close and spend two hours having dinner with five appetizers and two entrees (you know who you are), the staff may have some choice words for you – but they’ll still serve you with a smile.
Carnival’s dining options guide also says you may have to wait up to 20 minutes for a table. It was our experience, eating anywhere between 6:45 and 7:45 with a party of 7, we never had to wait longer than 5 minutes, and most night the longest wait was just getting everyone’s cabin number entered into their system (you can’t just walk in and say you’d like a table for 7, each guest must provide their cabin number before being seated).
The hostesses (assistant maître ‘ds?) can even take special requests – such as where you’d like to sit and if you prefer a specific waiter or waitress. We enjoyed sitting in the atrium area of the dining room, but we also requested a specific waiter a few times that we had on our first night who knew us by name. Even with special requests, the wait-time was minimal or non-existent.
We were very happy with the implementation and flexibility of Carnival’s your time dining. We rarely had any kind of wait, special requests were always accommodated with speed, and the flexibility was priceless – especially when traveling with a larger party.