If you choose flexible dining times on your sailing, when it comes time for dinner, you will be able to just go to the main restaurants and ask for a table. If you have made reservations for a specialty restaurant, you will check in at your reservation time. If, however, you have a set dining time with assigned seating, you will do this a little different. Usually on your key card, you will have your restaurant (if more than one), dining time and table number indicated. This may be in a code. At the time you are assigned, you will go to the restaurant and find your table. You may be seated with other folks on your cruise. Table sizes usually are 4 to 10 though I have seen a couple that are larger than that. I have found that the larger tables usually take a bit longer to be served. The server tries to have all the food out at the serving station before starting service.
Each night you will go back to the same table, with the same tablemates and servers. This is great because you get to know your servers and they get to know you. We always see the service getting better and better as the cruise goes on because of this.
Disney’s system is a little different, but basically the same idea. They do not offer flexible dining times at the main restaurants. Instead they offer what is called “rotational dining”. They have three main restaurants that are the same size with the same tables (size, number, etc.). Each night of the cruise you rotate to a new restaurant. You will be seated at the same table number (it may be in a different location in the restaurant however) with the same tablemates and serving staff. This gives you a different experience each night. Since there are three restaurants, on a three night sailing, you are given the opportunity to try each one out once. On a four night sailing, you repeat one restaurants, but with a different menu (usually the Pirate Night menu). On a seven night sailing, three of the nights are the rotational menus while the other four nights are specialty menus. Each room is a different theme so you get a new experience.
On Disney, your key card (called the Key to the World card) will show your dining rotation as indicated with an F or S for first or second seating and then a 1, 2 or 3 for which rotation. Your table number will also be noted. They will also put the initials of the restaurants that you will dine in. For a 4 night sailing, you may have APPT, PTTA or TAAP rotation which would put you in Animator’s Palate, Parrot Cay and Tritons in the order as indicated. This would be on the Disney Wonder. On the Magic, Tritons is not there and instead Lumiere’s will be on your rotation.