Once you have decided on the perfect ship and itinerary, you are ready to move forward with the cruise booking process. Prior to checking out, you will have to make a decision on dining style.
When booking a Royal Caribbean cruise, you have two options for dining: My Time Dining and Traditional Dining.
With Traditional Dining, you will have the same reserved seating each night of your cruise, and there are two seatings to choose from: first (early) and second (late). The early seating is usually around 5:30pm, while the late seating is around 8:00pm. The exact times, however, will vary according to your cruise itinerary.
Some guests do not plan on eating in the Main Dining Room each day or would rather do so at the time of their choosing. With My Time Dining, you can simply walk up to the host stand to be seated or make reservations in advance for your preferred time.
If you have selected My Time Dining for your next Royal Caribbean Cruise vacation, here's everything you need to know about how to book My Time Dining and secure your nightly dining reservations.
What is My Time Dining?
My Time Dining is great for guests who wish to experience a flexible dining schedule onboard their cruise. If, for instance, you plan on staying late in port one day but still wish to eat in the Main Dining Room, you could make a reservation for later in the evening, rather than miss out on the experience because you have early dining.
My Time Dining usually begins around 6:00pm and lasts until 9:30pm, giving you a wide range of times to choose from. The actual times, however, will vary by sailing. You will be able to see the exact times that My Time Dining is offered each evening once you book your cruise.
Unlike Traditional Dining, you will not be seated at the same table with the same wait staff if your choose My Time.
Rather, you will be seated wherever there is availability. You can, of course, request a specific table and waiter, but they may not be able to honor this.
Note that this only applies to dinner in the Main Dining Room. If you are purchasing a dining package or plan on eating dinner in one of the other complimentary venues, you may not find yourself putting too much thought into what dining style you'd prefer.
Breakfast in the Main Dining Room is first come, first serve, regardless on whether or not you selected My Time or Traditional Dining.
How to book My Time Dining?
When booking your cruise vacation
When you are reserving your cruise, you will be given the option to select "Traditional Dining" or "My Time Dining."
You will not be able to make your choice until the last step in the booking process; all passenger names will have to be entered first! At the same time, you will be able to add prepaid gratuities and vacation protection, if you choose to do so.
Even if you initially booked Traditional Dining, you can call your travel agent or Royal Caribbean directly to change to My Time.
You can even switch from My Time Dining to Traditional if you booked before understanding the differences, but you might end up with late dining depending on when you make the change, as early tends to book up quickly.
If you want, you can even try to switch onboard. Note, however, that this means you may not be able to have as flexible of a dining experience as you might be hoping for, especially if prime reservations have been secured in advance by other guests.
You also will not be able to switch after the second day, so you'll want to visit Guest Services and/or the Main Dining Room when you embark-- Guests can only participate in one dining style per sailing.
Making reservations via the Cruise Planner
As soon as you place the deposit for your cruise, you will gain access to the Cruise Planner. This is where you'll not only be able to make your My Time Dining reservations, but also where you can reserve shore excursions, drink packages, and more.
When you log into the Cruise Planner, all you have to do is navigate to the "Dining" tab and scroll down until you see "My Time Dining."
It is usually at the very bottom below the dining packages, specialty restaurants, and other exclusive dining experiences.
From there, you can go ahead and make a reservation for each night of your cruise. You will have to make each reservation individually and add them to your cart one-by-one.
Upon checkout, you will be charged $0.00, unless you are also purchasing other add-ons.
If you need to change or cancel a reservation for any reason, you will have to go into the specific order and cancel each reservation separately before you are able to rebook.
If you have multiple people in your stateroom or travel party, you can make multiple reservations each evening to accommodate everyone's preferences.
If, for example, two people would like to eat earlier around 6:30pm, you would make them their own reservation. The others could make a separate My Time Dining reservation for 8:15pm.
Reservations are highly recommended, as the wait time can be long if you choose to eat during the prime dinner hours of 6:30-8:00pm.
If you arrive as soon as the Main Dining Rooms open, you will be able to be seated shortly. The longer you wait to arrive, however, the longer you will have to wait for an available table.
Having to arrive early, though, defeats the purpose of being able to dine whenever you'd like. The best way to fully take advantage of the My Time Dining program is to make your reservations before you board the ship!
Once you have made your My Time Dining reservations, they will appear in your cruise calendar, both on Cruise Planner tab and Royal Caribbean's app.
Unlike Traditional Dining, My Time Dining is only marked as lasting for fifteen minutes. When planning your other evening activities, make sure that you allot yourself at least 75 minutes for your Main Dining Room experience.
If your My Time Dining reservation is at 7:15pm, do not make any other reservations until 8:30pm or later. You can, however, always tell your waitstaff that you have other plans, and they will do their best to serve you as quickly as possible.
You can wait to make your My Time Dining reservations until you board your cruise ship. Just head over to the Main Dining Room to speak with a head waiter, and they will assist you! Due to availability, however, you may not have as many times to choose from.
Another method is to just simply show up at the Main Dining Room each night when you are ready to eat. Depending on when you go, you may have to wait until there is an available table. During peak dinner times, you may have to wait as long as 45 minutes for a table.
If you have a smaller party, you might find that you do not have to wait as long as larger parties. It truly depends, though.
This is why we recommend making reservations for My Time Dining, whether that be in advance via the Cruise Planner or onboard by speaking with a head waiter.
Throughout the cruise, you may be able to change your My Time Dining reservations on the app or by calling the dining hotline from your stateroom's telephone, but it is dependent on availability.
Should you book My Time Dining for your next cruise?
The flexibility of My Time Dining comes with responsibility. If you are choosing My Time Dining because you are not a fan of either set dining times, you will need to ensure that you make nightly reservations as soon as possible via the Cruise Planner. If not, you might be stuck eating even later than the second seating!
It is possible to snag dining times around 7:00pm every night, but this is a highly desirable dinner time. The closer you get to your cruise vacation, the fewer reservations you may find.
Additionally, if you are traveling with a large party, you might find Traditional Dining to be easier. It is more difficult for the Main Dining Room to accommodate larger groups with My Time Dining, as there are fewer tables set for bigger parties.
Online, you can only book My Time Dining for up to eight guests. If you are traveling with more than eight people, My Time Dining might become a hassle. You may find that you are split up at different tables that are not located near each other.
Finally, the evening shows are often scheduled around Traditional Dining times with early and late showings. If you are unable to book show times in advance via the Cruise Planner when you are making your My Time Dining reservations, you may end up booking a dinner time that clashes with one of the shows.