Advertisement

My family loves Royal Caribbean cruises — but you'll never find us eating in the ship's main dining room

The author wearing sunglasses and smiling on the Wonder of the Seas.
I love a Royal Caribbean cruise, but I don't take my family to the main dining room. Kristeen Cherney
  • My family and I regularly sail with Royal Caribbean, and love it.

  • We prefer to skip the constraints of the main dining room and formal nights.

  • Doing so helps us avoid crowds at the pool and stay flexible with what we eat and when.

My family of three loves cruising, and we try going on one Royal Caribbean cruise each summer.

But there's one typical sailing experience we always skip: visiting the main dining room — even on formal nights.

This is much to the chagrin of our cabin stewards, who probably prefer to have a set time when we'll be out of the room each night. Relatives and friends also tell us that we're missing out.

Still, we insist on skipping the main dining and formal nights. Here's why.

Committing to a set dinnertime doesn't fit our vacation mindset

Image of two cruise ships in water
We don't like having a tight schedule on vacation. Kristeen Cherney

Before setting sail, each group is supposed to select a dining time to stick with for every evening of the cruise.

It's similar to how we eat at a scheduled time each night based on school, work, and extracurricular activities when we're not on vacation.

But since our day-to-day lives are already so planned, the last thing we want is a set dinnertime on our cruise. With the exception of seeing a show or going on an excursion, we avoid strict schedules as much as possible on vacation.

Plus, depending on the day and any other activities we're interested in, we may not even want to eat dinner at the same time each night.

For its credit, Royal Caribbean offers a My Time Dining option, which allows guests to show up to eat in the main dining room at any time during meal hours if there's availability. This hasn't been enough to entice us to go, though.

We also prefer having flexible food choices and small bites

I've heard Royal Caribbean's main dining menu is quite good. But our family prefers to have more flexible food choices, particularly since one of us has sensory issues with food.

Since we tend to stay pretty active on the cruise, we'd also rather eat small bites throughout the day instead of a multicourse dinner.

There's no need for us to cause discomfort in the dining room and try to force a drawn-out dinner of multiple courses we don't even want to have.

Fortunately, most Royal Caribbean ships have plenty of options for a quick bite.

Sometimes we'll hit up the Windjammer buffet for dinner or dessert (or both) or get pizza from Sorrento's Pizza. If we crave an early dinner, we might get a Cuban panini from the ship's Park Café or a hot dog from Boardwalk Dog House.

Other times, we'll dine at a specialty sit-down restaurant that costs extra. Even so, that's just one meal of our cruise — not a nightly commitment to the main dining room.

We don't mess with formal wear and staged photos, either

Empty deck on Royal Caribbean cruise
The hours before formal nights are the best time to visit the pool.Kristeen Cherney

There are two formal nights on our typical seven-night cruises. For these special occasions, most guests get dolled up and have the chance to pose for professional photos.

But getting ready for a formal night could take my family hours. Although we always book a balcony room with a decent amount of space, we still have to share just one bathroom and limited counter space.

Also, the last thing we want to worry about on vacation is carefully packing and finding a place to hang fancy clothes so they won't get wrinkled.

We've also found that skipping formal night means we get more of the ship to ourselves. On these nights, the ship's main pool usually clears out midafternoon as people rush to their cabins to get ready, meaning there's more room for us.

I also really don't feel like we're missing out. On our way to grab pizza on formal nights, we've passed parents begging crying children to pose for an awkwardly staged photograph in clothing I'm certain is uncomfortable for them.

And we've seen many folks in suits and gowns leaving the main dining room to grab slices of pizza — which makes us question whether the special nights are all they're cracked up to be anyway.

Read the original article on Business Insider