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It depends, in our case, as to who we are cruising with. Last year we tried Princess for the first time and enjoyed the freedom of "open choice" dining. this meant that we could dine at the time we chose each evening and consequently managed to enjoy "sailaways2 without having to think about rushing to get ready for dinner. We enjoyed the choice of restaurants and never had to use any of the "signature restaurants". Our choice was wide, we enjoyed the company of many interesting people and still enjoyed the formal evenings no matter which restaurants we chose. Our cruise was from Quebec to New York on Grand Princess, a ship to be enjoyed again this year on a round Britain cruise.
Hello.... This is often difficult to decide on initially but when you look at your normal way of doing things it usually sorts itself out. I have friends who always choose the early sitting because they feel that their evening starts better and they fit the entertainment in just as they like it. It also allows them to have a late night snack if they want it or go to bed and make an early start for excursions the next day. Two other friends always eat later in the evening at home and therefore the second sitting allows them to fall in with this, they also find that the first sitting is a rush and they don't like to be rushed to dinner. They find that the evening’s entertainment suits them as well although they are not keen on table members who hang on well past show time but feel it is rude to break up the dinner table. You have, on many ships now, one sitting or open dining which is an answer if your ship provides it. I am and always have been a late diner as I also hate to be rushed and prefer an aperitif to an after dinner drink. Follow your instincts and if you don’t like it go and see the Maitre d’ and he should be able to change your dining time. Heathe.
Easiest way to decide is to work out what time you want to go to bed assuming you are getting up at say 7-30am for breakfast before a day trip. If the answer is 11-30pm to after midnight -take second sitting - if it is 10-30 -11-30pm take first sitting. We used to be second sitting and are now first .... it's called age!!!
Always have booked second seating at dinner> If you are doing Shore excursions you dont want to find youselves with very little time to get ready for dinner! However if you are on the ship all day, no problem. It all depends on what you want. We always at home eat at 7pm. On our cruises 6.30 is to early, 8.30 just a tad to late, but we have found a happy medium. 8.30! Catch up on sleep when we get home.
We prefer to book late sitting for a variety of reasons: 1st sitting is too early and can be a rush if you have been out on excusions - we prefer to return from trips, have afternoon tea & a relax before getting ready for dinner. You have the option of attending an earlier show should you wish or, a later one after dinner and/or just having a lovely meal with interesting company and retiring to the bar with new friends after a strole around the deck, before dancing the night awa.
My wife and I started out as early diners but after a couple of cruises changed to the later sitting. We found that quite often our afternoon activities were being curtailed in order to have enough time to get ready for first sitting dinner.We also like to have a pre-prandial drink or two! You will find that there are pros and cons to both sittings. For example, if you choose the later sitting and want to attend the after-dinner show you will probably not get to bed before midnight - which is fine if you're a night bird but can be tricky if you've got to get up early next morning for a shore excursion. Your onboard experience will eventually dictate which sitting suits you better but, as Heather says, more and more ships are offering some form of open dining. I am a fan of Princess Cruises "Anytime Dining" and Cunards Grill accommodation both of which put you in charge of your evening schedule.
What time do you eat at home - try to pick a time that his closest to that. Early ususally has more children and is more rushed as you have to get back from port, washed changed etc. Late gives you more time for a few drinks before dinner (sometimes too many drinks if it is a very late seating!), less likely to go to the shows if they are before dinner, less likely to gorge yourself on the midnight buffet. Or you could choose a line that has Anytime dining and go when you want to - you are on holiday after all.
We always choose the second sitting. This allows for a more leisurely meal to enjoy the lovely food and drink. On most ships it still allows you time to attend the late show.
We normally opt for first sitting, othersise I tend to drink too much waiting for dinner. It also allows you go to the show and the syndicate quiz - on 2nd sitting this would be an either or.
Having been on many Cruises we have found 2nd sitting the best, 1st sitting you seem to be rushed out so 2nd sitting tables can be laid up, also if your out for the day you are clock watching so you get back in time for 1st sitting, the fun beings later in the evening and once your out of 1st sitting its very quiet less people around and can find yourselve wondering what can we do.