Carnival Cruise Line announced this week that they're testing updated dining policies on the Carnival Glory and Carnival Conquest. On those vessels, dining times which had previously been 6:00pm and 8:15pm have been updated to 6:00pm and 8:00pm. saying that the change will enhance the dining experience for all guests. Makes sense yet? This will help: Carnival also announced that persons arriving more than 30 minutes late for dinner will not be seated in the main dining room, and be referred to the buffet dining area. Presumably, the fifteen minute-shorter gap between first and second seating will be easy to accommodate as they can now guarantee that no meal service will begin more than 30 minutes after the scheduled time, and the final meals should end a bit earlier.
This touches on a long-time challenge to cruise staff (and table mates). With thousands of meals being served, the timing of each course is pre-planned and carefully choreographed, but when passengers arrive late for a meal in a dining room full of people already starting their meal, the pace of service, and even quality and temperature of food can be thrown off.
The changes are effective immediately, and it's safe to assume that if all goes well, we'll see this rolled to the rest of the Carnival fleet at some point.
While things come up, it's not as if you ran into a traffic jam getting to the dining room on a cruise ship. If you are late (things happen, especially for this with large families and children), heading to the buffet, in my mind, is not being sent to the children's table. In fact, in recent cruises I've come to embrace the ship buffets for dinner, where options are frequently more plentiful and higher quality than during breakfast and lunch. Have a high-quality meal, optionally under the stars (on many ships at least), at your own pace - or delay the meals of others and cause an undo burden on the wait staff? As you might be able to tell, I'm a big fan of this change, and hope other cruise lines will follow suit, as in this case, I really do see a change that for the most part can only serve to enhance the guest experience.