Cruising: Dining Hours

March 14th, 2010
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In the months before taking this cruise, I found more than a few boosters who were happy to tell me how much they love cruises. They went on to dispute the various complaints and stereotypes about cruises. High up on that list was the dining situation.
Assigned tables and set dinner times they assured me are a thing of the past. Many cruise lines have multiple restaurant options and don’t require a set seating time every night. Carnival didn’t get the memo. The Imagination sports a single restaurant with table service, Spirit. Our seating was set for 6pm. Every night.
To those unfamiliar, here’s how it works. The restaurant only does two or three seatings a night and between them, they have to accommodate for all the guests on the ship. The times are assigned, so some people get to eat at a reasonable hour and the rest of us eat five minutes after lunch. Similarly, guests are assigned to large round tables, wedding-style. The same folks eat together every night. In our case everyone at our table was a part of our group, but if you’re with a smaller group or just a couple or family, you share the table and all the awkward conversation you want with strangers.
If you miss your seating and want a later dining time, you have to wait until the whole dining group has come in and then be placed in at any vacant spaces that are left.
I’m sure it all makes sense from the logistical perspective of trying to feed thousands of people, but it’s definitely not so friendly for anyone who wants some flexibility in dining.

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