Planning a Disney Cruise Line vacation can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time setting sail. But figuring out your food options is particularly challenging, especially if you’ve never sailed on one of Disney’s very own cruise ships. While many details are different on a Disney cruise, the dining system is particularly unique – Guests aboard all ships get to participate in a special rotational dining system. You may be asking yourself, What is rotational dining? How does it work? And most importantly, how do I know which restaurant I am eating at which night?
We’re answering all of your questions! Keep reading for your full guide to rotational dining and what to expect ahead of your next Disney Cruise Line vacation.
What is Rotational Dining?
Disney Cruise Line uses a system called rotational dining for their cruises. All five of the Disney Cruise Line ships include three different restaurants for Guests to experience during dinner throughout the entity of their vacation. And yes, you’ll get to dine at each one of those three locations over the course of your trip!
In order to allow every Guest on board to dine at every restaurant, Disney uses rotational dining. Upon boarding the Disney Cruise Line ship, each stateroom will be assigned a dining time, a table number, and a restaurant schedule.
In addition to keeping the same table number throughout your cruise, you will also keep the same dining staff. That means every night, no matter which restaurant you’re eating at, your assistant waiter, waiter, and head waiter will all follow you, making for an intimate and one-of-a-kind dining experience.
In regard to dining times, there are two options. The first is the main seating which occurs at 5:45 PM, with the second seating at 8:15 PM (just note that these times can vary if you’re sailing in Europe). Disney Cruise Line offers an evening show every night in the Walt Disney Theater, which will typically run twice. This way, whether you have the first or second seating, you can still attend one of the two shows that night.
How to Find Your Rotational Dining Schedule
Disney makes navigating the cruise ship and your plans easy thanks to the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app. Before you set sail, make sure you download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app because not only will this app map out all of the events happening that day, but it will tell show you the dining rotation and dinner time you and your family will follow for the entirety of the cruise.
As soon as you arrive onboard the ship, the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app will show you your restaurant schedule and table number for each evening’s meal. It’s also where you’ll be able to find out if you’re in seating one or two each night (the time of your meal will be clearly displayed!).
What If You Have Two Staterooms?
If you’re sailing with a larger party and have booked more than one stateroom, just be sure to contact Disney or your specialized travel agent as they can put in a note, informing the dining team of your reservation, and allowing them to seat both staterooms at the same dining table. This way, your entire family can enjoy dinner together every evening.
Requesting a Specific Dining Rotation
If you’re hoping to get a specific dining rotation on your cruise, it is possible! But to request any kind of customization, you’ll need to call Disney Cruise Line in advance of your sailing date. It’s best to call about a month to two months in advance. You can put in a request for a particular rotation schedule, dinner seating time, or other personal need. While it’s not guaranteed that you’ll get exactly what you ask for, Disney Cruise Line does try to grant your request when possible. Oh, and keep this tip in mind: Earlier seatings tend to be the most popular, so you may have difficulty nabbing the first seating!
Another customization you can make, if needed, is special meals to suit any dietary restrictions or needs. You can easily make these requests online if you have food allergies or adhere to a particular diet. While some requests can be made onboard the ship, it’s always a good idea to check in advance to ensure Disney can potentially meet your needs.
Can You Skip Rotational Dining on Disney Cruise?
While none of the dining assignments are mandatory onboard your cruise, if you choose to skip your dinner seating for that evening, you may miss out on a specially-themed menu and restaurant, all of which are included with the price of your cruise. However, we know it can be totally tempting to want to swap one of your rotational dinner meals with a special reservation or dining experience, especially with so many different options available onboard.
For those sailing on a longer itinerary, such as a 7-night cruise, skipping one night at your assigned dinner rotation to enjoy a more relaxing dinner poolside or to have a special night out at one of the adults-only restaurants may not be as “make or break” compared to if you’re on a shorter cruise, such as a 3- or 4-night. That’s because during these shorter sailings, you will only dine in three assigned restaurants once. On the longer cruises, you may dine at the restaurants two or even three times – and that means skipping out one evening to enjoy Palo may be the right option for you!