After we have decided on the ship and the itinerary for our next Disney Cruise Line voyage, the next decision for us is which dining time to select. Main Seating or Second Seating?

Dining Times on Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line pioneered the concept of rotational dining where guests rotate between the ship’s main dining rooms each evening, but while the venue may change, your serving team stays with you. 

Two standard dining times are offered each day. The earlier dinner is served at 5:45 pm, while the later seating is at 8:15 pm. These times may vary by itinerary, so be sure to check your DCL Navigator app.

For us, the early time is a little too early, and the late, is – you guessed it – a touch too late for my tastes. Maybe a Pros & Cons analysis is in order… here are a few of my thoughts, but please keep adding to them in the comments! With a few sailings on the horizon, I need all the help I can get.

Main Dining Time: The Pros

A 5:45 dining time is going to be a much more family-friendly option for guests sailing with children. You eat first, then head off to your evening show in the Walt Disney Theatre or other evening activities.

If you are looking to enjoy adult-friendly fun, an early dinner time allows time for your dinner to settle before heading to the pubs and nighttime entertainment.

Main Dining Time: The Cons

Let’s face it, 5:45 pm is early. Even for someone who lives on the East Coast, it can be hard to be ready and in the mood for dinner at that hour. You have to be mindful of afternoon activities and Port Adventures, and you need to be on time. With a dinner service after yours, lingering too long is frowned upon.

Second Dining Time: The Pros

An 8:15 dining time allows for a much more leisurely pace to your afternoon. Your “showtime” at the Walt Disney Theater is going to be before dinner, but it is entirely up to you whether or not you go to the show at all – and we often skip the show if it’s one we’ve seen a few times.

Pro Tip: During the first dining hour (and when the first show is on) is a great time to enjoy the pool and slides with much smaller crowds while there is still a bit of daylight in the sky.

The later dining is also a bit more adult-centered. However, families will be happy to know that your servers can offer your kids a slightly quicker dining experience, and you can then take them to the Youth Activities Center, while you and the other adults in your party finish dinner at a more leisurely pace.

Second Dining Time: The Cons

An 8:15 pm start time isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but a 10:15 pm finish time is. On one sailing, it always seemed like we were being served our appetizers as other tables were finishing their main courses. Our older kids often just got up and left before dessert was even offered. We did kindly ask for quicker service, but it just wasn’t in the cards.

After a long day of fun, a late meal will put me straight to sleep. I’m tired. My family is tired, and even if there is an evening activity I want to participate in (like fireworks at sea!) a full belly may make me too sleepy to join in the fun. 

Other considerations

One thing to consider is your home time zone vs. your sailing time zone. This is especially true on a shorter cruise when you don’t have as much time to physically adjust to the new time. 

Keeping kids on a familiar schedule is tough enough on vacation. Add a touch of jet lag, and deciding when to eat dinner can be a full-on debate.

Check out: Dining Options When Rotational Dining Doesn’t Work for You (note: at this time Cabanas is still not offering dinner service)

Also, the Main Seating (or early dining) typically fills up first. When in doubt, select the first seating. You can usually change to the later dining time if you find that it will suit your travel style better.

Your Thoughts

Have you experienced both dining services? Which one worked best for you and why? Are you strictly devoted to early dining, or is the late service the only one for you? Let us know over on Facebook or on the Disboards. I clearly need all the help I can get.

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