The Debate: Early Dinner vs Late Dinner on a Royal Caribbean Cruise

Are you planning a Royal Caribbean cruise and wondering whether to choose early or late dinner? Look no further! In this video by Royal Caribbean Blog, the pros and cons of both options are explored to help you make an informed decision. The main dining room on Royal Caribbean ships offers a complimentary three-course meal every night, and the choice between early and late dinner seating depends on personal preference and priorities. Early dinner seating, around 5:30 or 6 PM, appeals to families with kids and those who like to go to bed early, while late dinner seating allows for more pre-dinner activities like shows or drinks. Additionally, there is a flexible option called My Time Dining, which allows passengers to make reservations or show up when they are ready to eat. So, depending on your desired evening entertainment or daytime activities, you can choose the best dining option that suits your needs.

Early Dinner

Pros of Early Dinner

Choosing an early dinner seating on a Royal Caribbean cruise has its advantages. The early seating usually takes place around 5:30 or 6 PM, allowing you to free up your evenings for shows and other activities taking place around the ship. If you enjoy going to bed early or have young children, the early dinner seating is ideal as it allows you to be in bed by 9:30 PM, ensuring you are well-rested for the next day of activities. Additionally, if you’re worried about feeling hungry later on, you can still find late-night snacks available at places like Sorrento’s or Cafe Promenade. Families with kids and those who prefer an earlier bedtime often find the early dinner seating to be a convenient option.

Cons of Early Dinner

While there are benefits to choosing the early dinner seating, it’s important to consider the potential downsides. If you prefer to dine around fewer children or want to prioritize evening entertainment, it might be a good idea to skip the early seating. There’s also a possibility of being seated next to a larger family, which may impact the overall dining experience. Additionally, the early dinner seating can make it difficult to attend sail-away festivities on embarkation days as it tends to overlap with this exciting event. It’s worth noting that the early seating is a popular dining option, so if you prefer this option, it’s recommended to book it as early as possible.

The Debate: Early Dinner vs Late Dinner on a Royal Caribbean Cruise

Late Dinner

Pros of Late Dinner

On the other hand, choosing a late dinner seating has its own set of advantages. The late seating usually commences after the early seating is concluded and allows for a more relaxed dining experience. Dinner is typically served no earlier than 8 PM, giving you ample time to enjoy pre-dinner activities like drinks or an early show. The wait staff during late seating is generally more relaxed since they don’t have to worry about setting up for another seating afterwards. If you prefer to have a leisurely afternoon by the pool or exploring the port before returning to your cabin, the late dinner seating allows for more flexibility in planning your day.

Cons of Late Dinner

While late dinner seating offers its perks, it’s important to consider the potential drawbacks. One of the significant disadvantages is staying up late every evening for dinner. This can impact your sleep schedule and energy levels the next day, especially if you have daytime activities planned. It’s crucial to evaluate whether you’ll want to engage in other activities after eating and how that might affect your overall cruise experience. Additionally, since the late seating is after the early seating, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be seated next to your desired company. If you value specific tablemates and waitstaff, the late dinner seating may not be the best option for you.

The Debate: Early Dinner vs Late Dinner on a Royal Caribbean Cruise

My Time Dining

Pros of My Time Dining

For indecisive individuals torn between early and late dinner, my time dining offers a flexible option. My time dining allows passengers to make reservations during specific hours for the main dining room ahead of time or simply show up when they’re ready to eat. This option gives you the freedom to vary your dining time throughout the cruise, ensuring you can eat at a time that suits your plans or preferences. Whether you want to have dinner at 6 PM one day and 8 PM the next, or prefer to dine around the same time each night, my time dining accommodates such flexibility.

Cons of My Time Dining

While my time dining provides flexibility, it’s essential to consider its limitations. My time dining is not considered traditional dining, meaning you won’t have the same tablemates and waitstaff every evening. Instead, you will be seated wherever there is an open table. This might impact the personal connection and familiarity that some cruisers enjoy with their servers. Additionally, my time dining requires you to plan ahead by making reservations or potentially facing lengthy wait times if you arrive without a reservation. If having consistent tablemates and building relationships with the waitstaff are priorities for you, my time dining may not be the ideal choice.

The Debate: Early Dinner vs Late Dinner on a Royal Caribbean Cruise

Factors to Consider

Evening Entertainment

When deciding on a dining time, it’s crucial to consider your priorities, such as evening entertainment. If you enjoy shows, live music, or other evening events, it’s essential to choose a dining time that aligns with the schedules of these activities. Typically, the shows operate opposite the dining times, meaning early seating guests have shows after dinner, while late seating guests have shows before dinner. By considering your preference for evening entertainment, you can ensure that you have ample time to enjoy these events without feeling rushed or sleepy after a full-course meal.


Convenience is another factor to weigh when choosing a dining time. If you prioritize daytime activities, such as excursions or lounging by the pool, a later dinner seating might be preferable. It allows you to make the most of your afternoons without having to cut them short to get ready for dinner. On the other hand, early dinner seating may be more convenient for families with young children or those who prefer retiring early. By evaluating how your dining time aligns with your desired cruise activities, you can optimize both convenience and enjoyment.

Daytime Activities

Daytime activities play a significant role in determining the best dining time for your Royal Caribbean cruise. If you plan to embark on excursions or engage in various onboard activities during the day, opting for a dining time that allows you more time in the afternoon can be beneficial. Choosing a later dinner seating allows you to fully enjoy your daytime activities without feeling rushed or sacrificing valuable relaxation time. However, if attending sail-away festivities and indulging in the main dining room experience on embarkation day are priorities, an early dinner seating might be more suitable.

The Debate: Early Dinner vs Late Dinner on a Royal Caribbean Cruise

Traditional Dining

Pros of Traditional Dining

While the options for early, late, and my time dining provide flexibility, traditional dining still appeals to many cruisers. One of the advantages of traditional dining is the opportunity to build relationships and familiarity with your tablemates and waitstaff. Throughout the cruise, you’ll have the chance to get to know your servers and have them learn your preferences, enhancing the overall dining experience. Traditional dining also provides a sense of routine and consistency, which some cruisers find comforting and enjoyable.

Cons of Traditional Dining

However, traditional dining is not without its downsides. If you prefer a more flexible dining experience or value changing your dining time throughout the cruise, traditional dining may not be the best option for you. Additionally, traditional dining requires guests to commit to a specific dining time for the entire duration of the cruise. This lack of flexibility might not align with some passengers’ preferences or unforeseen changes in their daily plans. It’s essential to consider your desire for flexibility and variety when evaluating traditional dining.

The Debate: Early Dinner vs Late Dinner on a Royal Caribbean Cruise


Choosing the best dining option for your Royal Caribbean cruise is a personal decision that depends on your preferences and priorities. Whether you opt for early, late, or my time dining, each option offers its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Considering factors such as evening entertainment, convenience, daytime activities, and the desire for traditional dining experiences can help guide you in making the right choice. Remember that there is no right or wrong decision when it comes to dining time on a cruise, as each option caters to different preferences and lifestyles. It’s all about finding the option that suits your needs and allows you to make the most of your cruise vacation.