The Sneaky Trick To Avoid Assigned Seating At Dinner In A Cruise's Main Dining Room

Space on cruises is limited, and finding privacy can be a challenge. Typically, you're surrounded by people everywhere from the cruise ship pool deck to the billiards rooms, and the dining halls at mealtime are no exception. Passengers are often given assigned seats at tables that can accommodate more than one party. In other words, you and your partner or family members could be placed at a table with complete strangers, and the arrangements are usually organized even before your dinner starts.

Even if you consider yourself an extrovert, dining with others can, admittedly, kill the mood. A romantic evening with your significant other or a relaxing meal with friends can feel awkward when you're forced to converse with people you don't know. And because assigned tables are generally shared with the same group and waiter every night, getting stuck with company you just don't vibe with can negatively impact your whole trip.

Thankfully, there's an easy way to get out of an uncomfortable seating arrangement. At the start of your meal, find a dining staff member and ask to be given a smaller table equipped for just the number of people in your party. If there's space to spare, they'll usually be happy to accommodate your request. Or, to minimize risk, go to the head steward on embarkation day to request a personal dining table throughout your trip.

Consider flexible seating

Another way to avoid having tablemates crash your dinner every night (or vice versa) is to opt for flexible dining. Flexible dining allows you to show up at the main dining room whenever you're ready to eat (usually within a time frame around 5:30-8:30), without having to deal with seat assignments. Eating when and where you want can make it easier to survive a cruise with your kids (no need to worry about disturbing your neighbors with a fussy little one, for instance), or, if you're traveling as a couple, you may have a better shot of securing a private table for two.

However, just because you choose the flex dining option doesn't mean you'll never have to share your table with others. In fact, you might have to wait a while for seats to open up, and the first open space could still be at a table with another party. Also, keep in mind that many cruise lines will require you to select flexible seating before sailing, and there may only be a limited number of slots available. Book your cruise far in advance to secure this dining option.

How to make the best of assigned seating

Remember, the dining staff might not always be able to honor your request for different seating, and even the flexible dining option can run out quickly. If you get stuck with assigned seating next to people not in your party, try to make the best of the experience.

Some cruise lines make an effort to pair groups that have something in common, such as placing young families or seasoned sailors together. Establish similarities early on so you have something to chat about with your tablemates. You may even forge a new cruise friendship while sharing a meal!

If the conversation doesn't flow so easily, stick to basic cruise-related topics, such as excursion plans or your favorite onboard amenities. Your tablemates may even offer some ideas and inspiration for when you're planning your sea days. If, after a few meals together, you realize you need a break from the small talk but can't get out of assigned seating, skip dinner in the main dining room for a night or two and grab dinner in one of the specialty restaurants instead.