Cruise lines usually make you select your preferred time when you book.
Breakfast and lunch are served over several hours, and you can choose to eat buffet style or have your meal served in the dining room by the wait staff.
Dinner isn't as flexible, not if you intend to eat in the main dining room. Evening meals are always the most elaborate, requiring smooth coordination and prompt service so that your the dining experience is all it should be.
Dinner seatings are divided into early and late, or first and second seatings. The early seating is between can be as early as 5:15. Late seating may start or 7 or 8 p.m. depending on the size of the ship.
The hours that your ship will be docked in port should determine the seating you choose. Go over the itinerary carefully before making this decision.
For instance, if your ship stays in several ports until 6 or 7 p.m., you don't want the early seating. If the ship always departs by 5 p.m., then it really depends on how you want to spend your evenings.
What time is the evening show? Is it presenrted once or twice?
If you have children, they will probably influence your seating time, and it's likely to be the earlier one.
However, depending on your ship, you can forget this kind of scheduling and eat in the buffet dining room every evening at the hour that's most convenient to you. This also is a way to avoid the formal dress nights, should you choose to opt out.
Buffets often contain some items from the main dining room menus. Some cruise lines do a much better job in stocking their buffets.
Of course, there is always room service. Check the posted dinner menu outside the main dining room to select what you want, then call it in at the very start of the first or second seating for the most prompt service.
And don't forget to
tip, even just a little.
Go to Cruise Ship Menus.