My thoughts on pros and cons of Second Seating

Tim3888

Earning My Ears
Joined
Aug 30, 2017
On our first two cruises we had early seating which is close to our normal dinner time. On this past cruise we got stuck with second seating. We have three children (6 year-old twins and a 10 year-old) and we had some concerns. 8:15 just seemed crazy late to eat dinner. I’ve seen others here with similar concerns, so figured I’d share the good and bad of getting Second Seating, with children.

The good:
- The day on the ship felt longer and less rushed

- We got to see most of the shows and our kids actually stayed awake for them (in the past they either fell asleep or were too sleepy to want to go to the late shows to begin with)

- The pools and Aquaduck are nearly empty during First Seating dinner time. The Aquaduck frequently had no line during this time and we could ride as many times as we wanted


The bad:
- The first day was rough. The first day on the ship is a long day (get up early, go from Orlando to the port, board, etc.). By 8:15 our kids were wiped and cranky, and one fell asleep at the table (the head waiter kindly offered to push two chairs together – I am sure they are used to having kids fall asleep there).

- We basically ate 4 meals a day because we were still hungry at our normal dinner time and ate by the pool then

- My wife and kids often only picked at their meals because they were full from having eaten earlier (I did not have this issue as much myself… though that seems like a different problem)

- Overall dinner was less enjoyable. It was just off for us to finish dinner after 9 PM.

Overall: The negatives were what I expected, but there were also more advantages than I expected. Not sure if we will go back to First Seating on our next cruise or stick with Second (I booked us a First Seating since it fills up quickly, but possible we may switch over to Second), but I am more open to doing Second Seating again than I would have thought before trying it.
 

Tasmen

Crazy Cat Lady
Joined
Oct 25, 2006
We have always done late seating. That said, all our cruises to this point on Disney have been on ships that left from the East Coast and we are West coast folks. We treated late dining as if we were eating on the same time at home given the time difference. This upcoming cruise we are cruising within our time zone and went with early dining. I'm going to be curious to see which we end up preferring. The points you hit on as pros for late dining, definitely were pros for us. Add to that the bonus of not having to rush to get everyone showered/presentable after a day at port before going to dinner.
 
  • pixiedustedme

    Planning is half the fun
    Joined
    Mar 4, 2019
    We've always had late seating and like it that way. I've heard that there are more kids at early seating & that it's louder- no thanks. We also like having a full day before having to stop everything & get ready for dinner. 5:45 does feel a bit early for dinner for us, too. A late dinner gives us time to get really hungry again after having had lunch.

    I agree that late seating wouldn't work for people who are used to eating early and can't adjust to a mealtime change on vacation, and so always eat shortly before dinner anyway. That would ruin dinner.
     

    doublesided

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 28, 2016
    Your fears are mine. We are waitlisted for main and if we get late we will just be eating in cabanas except on days it's not available. That's just too late for us to eat and I don't want to eat multiple meals. As it is normally I am a 2 meal a day person, I'm just not hungry that late and I know we will be hungry at our usual dinner time. Thanks for justifying this for me!
     

    cgolf

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 21, 2012
    I wonder if this depends on where you live, midwest here. We tried late seating once and we were so hungry it was ridiculous. We tried not to snack before dinner, so that we could enjoy it once we got there. It was definitely quieter in the dining room, but it just didn't work. At home we have eaten between 5 and 6 for years so the 5:45 time always worked out great for us. For us too the late service was to relaxed, we like our food coming faster. It seems that the early service they try to turn the dining rooms over quicker. I could see where some would like the more relaxed late seating so that they could sit and talk about the fun things they did that day while they are enjoying their meal:)

    What I would like to see DCL add is my time dining, we have become spoiled by it. It is really nice on excursion days so you don't have to rush to get to the 5:45 seating.
     
  • KashasMom

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 28, 2012
    Late dinner works fine for us. We like going to the shows first and then dinner. For us, whether we go to a 5:45 dinner or a 6:00 show we don't get any more time in day as some people mentioned. Going forward we'd only go to a couple of shows so per cruise so that won't apply. Two things we don't like are having nothing to do after dinner and also going to bed so soon after eating but 5:45 just seems way too early to eat.
     

    dad of 3 addicted to DCL

    Waiting for July
    Joined
    Aug 14, 2017
    We had a similar experience to you. We had late seating on our first cruise and were so overwhelmed that we forgot to have the late afternoon snack. Switching to early seating solved the hangry problems, but - as you mentioned above - the day was very compressed. Moving to late dining was a blessing. Having a snack mid afternoon (or directly after returning from shore) along with a coffee for Mom & Dad, got us through the day. Balancing the size of the snack was trial and error. The past 7 cruises we've followed this pattern and it's worked wonderfully. Late seating 'stretches out' our day, allows for less rushed prep for dinner, return from shore and whatnot. Our family is a big fan of second seating.
     
    Last edited:

    quickcat

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 28, 2011
    Thanks for posting! Yes we are definitely early dining people too. Your list is basically the same as ours. We ate way too much. We were the same as you and had to eat two dinners almost every night.
     
  • cadien

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 19, 2017
    We live in Central time and tend to eat dinner around 7 so late seating works great for us. I think time zones are a big part of it. Our son has a slice of pizza around 5:00 to tide him over but DH and I are fine going from lunch until dinner.
     

    YawningDodo

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 16, 2014
    We have always done late seating. That said, all our cruises to this point on Disney have been on ships that left from the East Coast and we are West coast folks. We treated late dining as if we were eating on the same time at home given the time difference. This upcoming cruise we are cruising within our time zone and went with early dining. I'm going to be curious to see which we end up preferring. The points you hit on as pros for late dining, definitely were pros for us. Add to that the bonus of not having to rush to get everyone showered/presentable after a day at port before going to dinner.
    This basically sums up my thoughts on early vs. late. Coming from the mountain time zone, my strategy on my last cruise was to basically ignore the time change. Normally I force myself to adjust when I go to Florida (i.e. Disney World) so I can be up for rope drop, etc., but on the cruise I just slept in and ate all my meals later. If I were going to make an effort to adjust to the time zone I might like late dining less, and I think if we ever do a baja cruise or Alaska we'd want early dining, since the time zones would be working against us on late dining.

    I did find it stretched out my eating schedule anyway, if only because 8:00 sounds late even if you're eating lunch at 2:00, etc. I kind of liked that, though; I never ate particularly heavy meals in the morning or daytime, so I'd just have a lot of small meals and snacks.

    I wonder if this depends on where you live, midwest here. We tried late seating once and we were so hungry it was ridiculous. We tried not to snack before dinner, so that we could enjoy it once we got there. It was definitely quieter in the dining room, but it just didn't work. At home we have eaten between 5 and 6 for years so the 5:45 time always worked out great for us. For us too the late service was to relaxed, we like our food coming faster. It seems that the early service they try to turn the dining rooms over quicker. I could see where some would like the more relaxed late seating so that they could sit and talk about the fun things they did that day while they are enjoying their meal:)

    What I would like to see DCL add is my time dining, we have become spoiled by it. It is really nice on excursion days so you don't have to rush to get to the 5:45 seating.
    I will say I wished sometimes the service was less relaxed on late dining. While it was nice to linger some nights, it sometimes made me late for nighttime events I wanted to attend. I missed about half of the Snuggly Duckling stuff with the Tangled thugs because I was still at dinner, and on Pirate Night I ended up skipping dessert at AP to get to the last Jack Sparrow meet and greet of the night.
     

    LaraValentine

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Mar 7, 2019
    Thank you so much for your insight! My first DC I had a late seating which we loved, but that was pre-kids and for this cruise I'll have a 3, 5, and 7 year old so I requested earlier seating. The older two wouldn't have minded 830 (on girl scout and ballet nights we sometimes eat around then out of necessity) but the 3 year old would be in hysterics staying up that late, she'd need to be in my arms the whole time and I wouldn't get to eat. I don't mind if she falls asleep in my arms during the theater show, I think it'll work out well for us.
     

    Kpitts17

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Nov 12, 2018
    I didn't mind in theory the late timing of dinner, but when our dinners lasted a minimum of 2 hours and we didn't get done until 9:00pm at the earliest, this became quite the issue. Even though I'm about to reach 30 and supposedly in the young crowd and we went for our honeymoon, no kids, this was not the best. I enjoyed having the show before dinner, but after dinner, we were wiped and didn't enjoy the after hours events or bars sadly. We're signed up for main dining this coming October, mostly because we're traveling with my parents this time, but I'm excited to see the difference (pros and cons!)
     

    ScooterScott44

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 23, 2018
    I have shared this before but we have tried early dining a couple of times and have not been as impressed. Late dining has always worked even for our son over the years. As the OP mentions the cons, they are really mostly about balancing that afternoon snack.

    Part of the vacation experience is the change of routine. For us, even though early dinner would align better with our normal dining, it really feels like a vacation by changing things up, getting that afternoon snacks and not rushing to get ready or to dine. Even when finishing later a short stroll around the ship and reading before bed is enough to wrap up the day onboard.
     

    PendingPeril

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Mar 11, 2019
    I'd love to do late dining, but my toddlers turn into monsters if they either don't eat by 6pm or if they stay up late. Doubling down on that didn't seem like a great idea for us even though we could attempt to mitigate that with snacks and naps.
     

    lucky1

    Face Character
    Joined
    Aug 21, 1999
    On our first two cruises we had early seating which is close to our normal dinner time. On this past cruise we got stuck with second seating. We have three children (6 year-old twins and a 10 year-old) and we had some concerns. 8:15 just seemed crazy late to eat dinner. I’ve seen others here with similar concerns, so figured I’d share the good and bad of getting Second Seating, with children.

    The good:
    - The day on the ship felt longer and less rushed

    - We got to see most of the shows and our kids actually stayed awake for them (in the past they either fell asleep or were too sleepy to want to go to the late shows to begin with)

    - The pools and Aquaduck are nearly empty during First Seating dinner time. The Aquaduck frequently had no line during this time and we could ride as many times as we wanted


    The bad:
    - The first day was rough. The first day on the ship is a long day (get up early, go from Orlando to the port, board, etc.). By 8:15 our kids were wiped and cranky, and one fell asleep at the table (the head waiter kindly offered to push two chairs together – I am sure they are used to having kids fall asleep there).

    - We basically ate 4 meals a day because we were still hungry at our normal dinner time and ate by the pool then

    - My wife and kids often only picked at their meals because they were full from having eaten earlier (I did not have this issue as much myself… though that seems like a different problem)

    - Overall dinner was less enjoyable. It was just off for us to finish dinner after 9 PM.

    Overall: The negatives were what I expected, but there were also more advantages than I expected. Not sure if we will go back to First Seating on our next cruise or stick with Second (I booked us a First Seating since it fills up quickly, but possible we may switch over to Second), but I am more open to doing Second Seating again than I would have thought before trying it.
    We don't have young kids, but of our 11 cruises, we have been on early dining for the first 6 cruises and late dining the last 5 have been late dining and we did that because we didn't want to feel rushed back after a long port day and early dining seemed like we were rushed out of the dining room. One observation I have had lately, is that Dinner service on late has been very slow and generally we have been last to leave the dining room, by the time we left we had missed many of the activities that would start at 9:30 or 9:45. Unfortunately you seem not to be able to order just an entree and get it at the same as the appetizers, just the way they do the kitchen and services, to speed things up. I think on our future cruises, we will probably do Cabanas or bow out of dinner after the Entree, to speed it up.
     

    jrabbit

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 13, 2002
    we've had issues getting out of the MDR in time for the late night adult's only shows (vs. adult shows:earseek:) in Fathoms / Tube etc.
    BUT
    with an adults only group, going to the ships piano bar before dinner was a nice way to (further) relax and unwind between the WDT show and dinner. And we were able to partake of and enjoy refreshments ... vs main/early seating, then the piano bar (too full for a drink) then off to the main stage show.
     

    cheermom2four

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 24, 2015
    Great feedback from your perspective!

    We've always had late dining and on our next (4th) cruise we have late again. We did sign up for Main dining but we just love not rushing to get ready for dinner and the fact our now dd7 is able to stay up for the shows. The first night of dining it is rough with her as she's very tired from the day's excitement and does fall asleep at dinner (yes they will scoot two chairs together) and usually crashes right there. But by the 2nd night she is already adjusting.
     

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