Supposing you are on a cruise ship crossing the Atlantic, what time is used on board the boat?

During the trip you will cross many time zones, so it is not feasible to constantly change your watch every time you cross into a new time zone. But how do you convey to passengers what time lunch will be served, and what time the evenings play will begin?

Are the timings of breakfast/lunch/dinner etc staggered to fit in with the daylight cycles? i.e is breakfast served from sunrise, even if that means it is 5pm?

  • 4
    FWIW Clocks on freighters are adjusted every time the ship crosses a time zone boundary, for an ocean crossing that would be usually once a day. There is a calendar posted somewhere informing everyone of the days the time changes. Obviously they have a tight work schedule and aren't on the ship for the fun but it's perfectly doable.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 13:16
  • 10
    "not feasible"? This isn't a plane, crossing a time zone every hour or so. When going north or south you don't even change, and when going east or west you're unlikely to cross more than one a day. Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 14:51
  • 1
    I was under the impression time zones often change going north or south when approaching island regions.
    – coburne
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 16:05
  • 2
    @coburne Depends on your definition of often. And for most of the trip, you could easily not encounter any island regions, should you not be planning on heading to one.
    – Poik
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 16:17
  • 2
    @coburne For a North/South time zone boundary, you need one territory to be in the “wrong” time zone (say to have the same time as a neighbouring country) or maybe some difference in the use of daylight saving time, both of which also happen on land. But otherwise time zones are generally East/West affairs.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 22:54

4 Answers 4


From at least one authority on the topic:

Whether clocks stay set on "ship" time or are changed as the vessel moves through time zones depends on the ship, the itinerary, and the time of year

so it'll depend on the company you use, and the zone of the ship and where it travels during the tour.

Most ships adhere to the time zone they are in and clocks are set forward or back to adhere to local time. Passengers are also advised to change their watches to the 'correct' time—there is usually a reminder card on your pillow before you go to bed. However, not all ships do that, particularly in the Caribbean! Some ships stay on "ship" time, which can be different from "island" time.

So the best authority is the ship itself, and they'll know from experience that people get it wrong, and will do their best to ensure you don't miss the boat.

From friends who have travelled on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, breakfast and lunch could be literally 'whenever we wanted' - there was often a buffet.

Disney, for example has seating times for dinner that you can request, and for breakfast, say, on their ship The Wonder:

Breakfast times vary daily, so please check the Personal Navigator—the Disney Cruise Line daily newsletter detailing all there is to see and do—for specific dates and times while onboard.

So yes, times can change, and meal times can change accordingly as well, so in the end you'll have to check with your operator and whether they have any special time-operations on the ship you're travelling on.


From seat61's page "Queen Mary 2, transatlantic ferry...":

What's [a westbound] Atlantic crossing like?

The QM2's clocks are put back an hour at 2am on five of the seven nights because of the time difference, giving you a welcome extra hour's sleep in this direction

What's an eastbound Atlantic crossing like?

The QM2's clocks are put forward an hour at 2am on five of the seven eastbound nights because of the time difference, giving you an hour's less sleep in this direction - if there's one reason why a westbound crossing can be nicer than an eastbound one, this is it! (update 2013: Cunard has tried the crazy idea of putting the clocks forward at midday on recent crossings, much to passengers dismay, as it can be confusing and means dinner is too soon after lunch!)


Ships runs on "ships time", they have a schedule when and if they change the clocks available for the passengers in advance. In my experience the ship stayed on the time from the time zone where we started the journey and didn't change the time when we stopped on some island in a different time zone. Which made it difficult to communicate with locals that I need to be back on the ship before some time.


I´ve been to a few cruises and they all have their local time (the ship time). It usually matches the time at the port of destination, but I can't assure it is this way all the times. All activities inside the ship (including meals) use this ship time. In every cruise i've been just the dinner in one of the restaurants (the most refined one) has a fixed time to start, but the other restaurants have a buffet and you can eat anytime they are open. And there will always be at least 1 open restaurant anytime!

In case the time changes, it is widely announced, and there will be a note in the daily newsletter you receive on your cabin every night.

One thing to keep in mind is to not use your cell phone as a clock! It may change time when you reach a different port.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .