The flexible dining concept was pioneered by Norwegian Cruise Line and now exists in some form on several lines including Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean. Carnival began testing the concept on Carnival Legend and Carnival Liberty last year and, according to an official statement, made the decision to expand the program across its fleet due to "exceptional guest feedback."
Here's how Carnival's Your Choice Dining works:
When you book a cruise on a ship that will have the program in place in time for your sailing, you will be given the option of requesting traditional dining (early at 6 p.m., late at 8:15 p.m.) or "Your Time" dining. With the latter, you can have dinner in the main dining room anytime you like between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m., though these times may vary slightly depending on ship and sailing date.
Dining assignments will be made on a first come, first served basis. So, if you have your heart set on one or the other, consider booking earlier rather than later.
If you are already booked on an upcoming Carnival cruise, and Your Choice Dining will be implemented on your ship before you set sail, you'll be contacted via e-mail or by your travel agent with the option to switch to Your Time or retain traditional dining.
Didn't get your preferred choice? Ask to be put on the waitlist. Waitlists will be cleared prior to sailing and guests will be notified via e-mail of their confirmed dining assignment.
Once onboard, Your Time guests are able to request any table size or waiter. If there's a wait when you'd like to eat, a pager will be provided so that guests can grab a cocktail or mill about the ship until their table is ready.
As of today, Your Choice Dining is available on Carnival Legend and Carnival Liberty as well as Carnival Sensation, Carnival Paradise and Carnival Miracle. Your Choice Dining will come to eight more ships by the end of this year: Carnival Conquest, Carnival Elation and Carnival Pride by the end of April; Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Spirit in mid-June; Carnival Dream in late September; Carnival Ecstasy in mid-October; and Carnival Glory in mid-December. Carnival Fascination will get Your Choice in February 2010.
Dates have not been set yet for the rest of the fleet, but, again, complete rollout is expected by summer of next year. According to a statement from the cruise line, implementation is being staggered so that modifications can be made to table configurations in each ship's dining room. The goal is to offer more tables that seat fewer guests so that folks who choose Your Time don't end up having to share space with strangers if they so choose.
Have you tried Your Time dining on Carnival? Tell us about it!
--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor