Is the dining experience on board really as a good as
Yes, and maybe even better! You won't believe the varied selection of
entrees, appetizers, salads, soups, vegetables and desserts, every time
you sit down. And there's virtually no limit on what or how much you can
order. Both your wait staff and kitchen staff work unbelievably hard to
ensure you are satisfied and happy after every meal. Just because your
cruise ship offers plenty of delicious food doesn't mean you have to come
home a few pounds heavier. You can choose low-cal, spa, or fitness menu
selections that are just as tempting as the regular menu. Additionally
the fitness centre isn't far away - jog, do aerobics, work out in the
gym, swim, golf, play tennis, and much more. Burning calories was never
so much fun! The best thing about dining on a cruise ship is you never
see a price on the menu.
What about meal times?
Like many things on a cruise, there are choices and more choices. During
the day, there are many different places to eat - in the formal dining
room, on deck in a casual setting, in a pizzeria, at an espresso bar -
just to name a few. At night, most ships offer several venues. Some ship's
dining rooms can accommodate all guests at one time, known as single seating.
Many ships offer you a choice of several eating times, and others encourage
you to come to dinner whenever you like (open seating). More traditional
ships have two seatings in their formal dining rooms, which differ only
by time: typically 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Frequently, you can choose
to dine at night someplace other than the formal dining room, such as
in an intimate restaurant that features Italian, Chinese, Japanese or
Southwestern cuisine. More and more cruise lines are opening up their
informal Lido areas to evening dining, where the dress and dishes are
always casual and you may even be able to eat out under the stars. And
a large number of ships also offer romantic in-cabin dinners. The choice
Additionally, most ships have 24-hour room service. Some lines are even
letting you order off the dinner menu (during dinner hours) if you prefer
to eat in your cabin.
Is it better to eat dinner early
Typically, Early Seating hours for dinner are between 6:00 and 6:30 pm.
If you have Late Seating you'll sit down for dinner between 8:15 and 8:45
pm. Which time is better is a matter of personal preference.
Our CMEatSEA Coordinators can review group functions and assist you in deciding what time is best for you.
Some things to consider when trying to decide between Early or Late Seating
Early Seating is preferable if:
- You don't like to go to bed on a full stomach.
- You generally go to bed between 10 pm and Midnight.
- You are taking a very "At Sea" intensive
itinerary with multiple days spent on the ship. On these days you do
not need to worry about getting back to the ship in time for dinner.
- You are an early riser.
Late Seating is preferable if:
- You are a night owl, who catches a second wind
later in the evening
- You don't want to feel rushed for dinner after
a day in port.
- It takes you or your spouse a long time to get
ready for dinner.
- You don't mind finishing your meal around 10:15
or 10:30 pm.
Other factors to consider include:
- Your itinerary
- Eastern Caribbean cruisers like Early Seating because
of all the days at sea.
- Western and Southern Caribbean cruisers like Late
Seating because of all the ports.
- 3 and 4 night cruisers like Late Seating because
they party into the night.
- European and Exotic Cruisers like Early Seating
because they tend to be older passengers who prefer to eat earlier.
Who you are travelling with:
- Family Reunion Groups like Early Seating because
of the variety of age groups travelling.
- Families cruising with small children prefer Early
Seating so that they can stick to a set meal and bedtime schedule.
Many of today's cruise lines including, Carnival,
Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Princess, are now offering alternatives
to having dinner in the dining room or room service. For example, Norwegian
Cruise Lines now has the Bistro on all of their ships, which is a separate
à la Carte restaurant open between 6:30 and 11:00 pm where you
can go to dinner anytime you'd like. NCL also offers "Freestyle Dining"
where you can dine when, where and with whom you like. Carnival, Princess,
and NCL are now using their upper deck breakfast and lunch facilities
to offer a buffet version of their dinner menus. These restaurants are
more casual allowing you to be more flexible with your mealtime and attire.
Since the Caribbean is still the most popular cruise destination, Late
Dining always books first and is often on a wait-list 6 months prior to
sailing. (Carnival does not confirm dining arrangements at the time of
booking. Your assignment will be made once you board the ship). If you
want to confirm a particular seating, we recommend that you book early.
You can approach the Maitre'd in the dining room if you are unhappy with
your dining arrangements and he or she may be able to make other accommodations
for you, but this is not guaranteed.
Is there a dress code for dinner?
Dressing for dinner falls into 3 categories: Formal, Informal (also called
semi-formal) and Casual. Since there are many types of outfits women can
wear, we won't comment on this - just dress to compliment the men.
Breakfast & Lunch: no special dress code, even in the dining room.
Shorts and tasteful t-shirts are acceptable. No swimsuits or cover-ups.
Shoes must be worn.
Dinner: no shorts. Many cruise lines also stipulate no jeans in the dining
room in the evening.
Casual: slacks and sport shirt
Informal: suit or sports coat with tie; some ships don't mention a tie
(i.e. Holland America)
Formal: dark suit or tuxedo, or nice sports outfit.
Some newer ships now have alternative dining facilities where you can
dress almost any way you want to. On a seven-night cruise they will normally
have two formal nights and one or two informal nights. Three and four
night cruises have one formal night. If you would really like to go completely
causal or informal, look into one of the "sailing ships" (Windstar
Cruises or Star Clipper) or one of NCL's "Freestyle" ships.
I have special dietary needs.
Can these be accommodated?
Most ships can accommodate salt-free, low-carbohydrate, Kosher, or other
However, this request must be made in advance, so be sure to advise your CMEatSEA Coordinator of this requirement when you book your cruise.
Again, you should speak to the Maitre'd or your waiter once you are on
board to make sure your advance request was received.
I prefer to eat in a non-smoking
environment. Is this available?
Almost every cruise ship sailing has smoking and non-smoking tables and/or
sections in the dining rooms and lounges. In fact, many cruise ship dining
rooms are now completely smoke-free, reflecting passenger requests. If
you want your dining table in a non-smoking area, advise us when making
your booking. In open-seating situations, you can advise your waiter or
the Maitre d' when being seated.
How do we let the dining staff
know we are celebrating a special occasion?
You can advise us of your special day when making your booking, and we
will be sure to pass this along to the cruise line. Most cruise lines
will offer a complimentary cake and a chorus of "Happy Whatever"
to help you celebrate the occasion. Your birthday or anniversary can be
made more festive with champagne, flowers, canapés, wine or cheese.
You can even arrange for a special private party. To be sure all the arrangements
are in place, confirm your special event with the dining room Maitre'd.
How do I get a table for two?
The more high-end cruise lines, such as Crystal, Radisson Seven Seas,
and Seabourn, offer more tables for two, so asking for one usually isn't
a problem. On the larger ships, there are fewer smaller tables and your
request may be more difficult to accommodate. Nevertheless, the newer
ships (circa 1995 and later) are being built with more tables for two.
We can never confirm a table for two we can only request it. The ship's
Dining Coordinator who works in the cruise line's corporate office makes
table and Dining Assignments. This person makes the assignments 2 weeks
prior to sailing and submits the list to the Maitre d' the week before
sailing. We make your request by submitting a letter to the Dining Coordinator
30 days before sailing, but it is your responsibility to remind us to
do this for you. Again, we can't guarantee you'll get it, but we will
make the request. If you get on board and you didn't get a table for two,
see the Maitre'd, as he or she may be able to help you if something is
What if I don't like the other
people at my table?
Rarely is this a problem. However, if you wish to move to another table,
speak with the Maitre'd. He'll make every effort to seat you with more
compatible dining companions...discretely and politely.
I am not a morning person. Does
this mean I can't get breakfast?
Unless you plan on sleeping right through until lunchtime, you will be
able to get breakfast in the casual café. Breakfast and lunch are
always available in the buffet or Lido. Breakfast is usually served until
10 a.m. or later. Breakfast and lunch used to be served at two seatings
in the dining room, but many ships now have an "open" dining
room - which means you can come at any time when they are open (e.g. 12
- 2 for lunch). Most cruise ships also offer 24-hour complimentary room
service so you can also choose to have a relaxing breakfast in your stateroom.
How do I handle tipping?
Your cruise taxes and gratuities are included in your registration fees. However, if you wish to reward service over and above the group gratuities, it is a matter of individual preference and the standards vary from cruise line to cruise line. The generally suggested guideline
is $3.50 USD each for your cabin steward and dining room waiter, and $2.00
USD for your busboy per person per day. Most cruise lines will offer you
a guideline, but how much you tip is completely at your discretion. You
can even tip the wine steward, Maitre d' or other individuals who have
provided you with outstanding service. A few cruise lines include tipping
in the price. Other shipboard personnel can be tipped for special services
at your discretion. Gratuities are normally handed out on the last full
day of your cruise. The Cruise Director will explain this to you during
the disembarkation talk and envelopes will be provided.