Most of the new cruise ships offer several dining options. Of course you have the traditional early and late seating for dinner except on Norwegian Cruise Line. You also have 24 hour room service and buffet style dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner on many ships. Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line offer dining whenever you want between 5:30pm and 10:00pm. You can sit with different people every night or opt for a table just for you and your family. This style of dining is preferable to some because of the flexibility. If you are out on a shore excursion until 6:00pm you don't have to worry about hurrying back for dinner.
If you like to know what time you are dining be sure to set up your dining time when making your cruise reservation. Also, if you have specific dietary needs be sure to tell your cruise consultant. If you have a medical problem such as diabetes that requires you to eat at specific time request a note from your physician so that this can be forwarded to the cruise line. Most cruise lines will try to accommodate such requests.
The larger cruise ships have tried to come up with alternate dining for passengers who want a little more selection on their cruise. The 2 most popular alternate dining specialties are Italian and Steakhouse/Seafood restaurants. On all ships you have to make reservations in advance and there is a small service fee for the exceptional food and service given in these restaurants. It is usually $15.00 to $30.00 per person extra. This will be charged to your shipboard account. You may also opt to have a romantic 4 course dinner served to you on your balcony. This dining experience is only offered on Princess Cruises. You will have a full set up including linens. The cost is usually around $100.00 per couple. This is a great idea if you are on your honeymoon or celebrating an anniversary. The service and menu is the same as in the dining room with the added advantage of dining with a spectacular view of the ocean. Alternative dining has blossomed over the past several years and more of the newer ships are striving to offer more and different options for their clientele. It's great to see these positive changes with the larger cruise ships. I hope you will at least try the alternate dining experience just once. It is time and money well spent.