Dining Questions

By Miss Julie | December 22nd, 2006

  • Q: What are different meal seatings?

  • A: Some ships’ dining rooms can accommodate all passengers in one “seating.” But most ships have two seatings, which differ only by time. Typically 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. To choose, just decide whether you prefer to dine early or late. Whichever seating you choose, remember that one of the best ways to make new friends is to ask for a large table. In addition, some ships offer alternative dining rooms, such as Italian, Chinese, Japanese or Southwestern themed restaurants, separate from the main dining room.

    You will have dinner between 6 pm and 6:30 pm at Early Dining. Late Dining. You will have dinner between 8:15 and 8:45 pm at Late Dining. You may want Early Dining if:

    – You are travelling with small children who need to stick to a set meal and bedtime schedule.
    – You don’t enjoy that bloated full feeling before bedtime
    – You generally go to bed between 10 pm and Midnight
    – You are taking a very “At Sea” intensive itinerary
    – You are an early riser

    You may want Late Dining if:

    – You are a night owl, you catches their 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

    There are some trends with regards to itineraries and the popularity of a particular dinner seating.

    – Eastern Caribbean cruisers like Early Dining because of all the days at sea
    – Western and Southern Caribbean Cruiser like Late because of all the ports
    – 3 and 4 night cruisers like Late because they party into the night
    – Family Reunion Groups like Early because of the variety of age groups travelling
    – European and Exotic Cruisers like Early because the older passengers who sail prefer to eat earlier

    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. This is a separate a la carte restaurant open between 6:30 and 11:00 pm where you can go to dinner anytime you’d 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 meal time and dress.
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  • Q: Will I miss breakfast if I am not an early riser?

  • A: The answer is – NO. Unless you sleep past lunch time. Breakfast and lunch are always available in the buffet. Breakfast is usually served until 10 a.m. or later. Many ships now have an “open” dining room – which means you can come at any time when they are open (i.e. 8 – 11 for breakfast). This not to be confused with “open seating” which means that you’ll sit at whatever table is open.
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  • Q: Is cruise ship dining as good as I’ve been told?

  • A: Everything you’ve heard about cruise ship dining is true. You’ll find a varied selection of entrees (appetizers, salads, soups, vegetables, and desserts, too) every time you sit down. And there’s virtually no limit on what or how much you can order. But, just because your cruise ship offers plenty of delicious food, doesn’t mean you’ll come home out of shape. You can choose low-cal, spa, vegetarian or fitness menu selections that are just as tempting as the regular menu. Best of all, the one thing you’ll never see on a cruise ship menu is a price. Because all your meals are included!
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  • Q: Can I get a special diet?

  • A: Most ships can accommodate salt-free, low-carbohydrate, Kosher, or other diet preferences. However, this request must be made in advance.
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  • Q: Can I eat anytime I want? What about room service?

  • A: Most ships have room service available 24 hours a day. Some lines are even letting you order off the dinner menu (during dinner hours) if you prefer to eat in your cabin. You can eat all day if you want. The answer is yes, you can eat anytime you want.
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  • Q: What if I don’t like my tablemates?

  • A: Rarely is this a problem. However, if you wish to change tables, speak with the maitre d’. He’ll make every effort to seat you with more compatible dining companions… discretely and politely.
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  • Q: Are there non-smoking areas?

  • A: Virtually all ships have smoking and non-smoking sections in the public rooms. In fact, many dining rooms, and even some entire ships, are now totally smoke-free, reflecting passenger requests. If you want your dining table in a non-smoking area, just specify such. On board, in “open-seating situations,” you can advise your waiter or the maitre d’.
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  • Q: Can we celebrate a special occasion?

  • A: Absolutely! Most cruise lines will even treat you to a complimentary cake and a chorus of “Happy Whatever” to honor the occasion. Your birthday or anniversary can be more festive with champagne, flowers, or canapes. You can even arrange for a special private party.
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  • Q: What about tipping?

  • A: Tipping is a matter of individual preference. A general rule of thumb is to plan for about $3.00 per person per day for your room steward and dining room waiter, and about half that amount for your busboy. (A few cruise lines include tipping in the price and will so inform you.) Other shipboard personnel can be tipped for special services at your discretion.
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