What are different meal seatings?
Some ships' dining rooms can accommodate all passengers in one seating. But most ships have two seatings which differ only by time. Early Seating begins between 6 pm and 6:30 and Late Seating begins around 8:15 pm. To choose, just decide whether you prefer to dine early or late then request your preference when you book. Which ever seating you choose, remember that one of the best ways to make new friends is to ask for a large table.
Many ships are now offering both alternative dining and choice dining options. This gives you the opportunity to enjoy special theme restaurants such as Italian, Chinese, Japanese or Southwestern restaurants separate from the main dining room and give you a chance to choose when and with whom you would like to dine. This varies by cruise ship.
Is it better to have Early Dining or Late Dining?
As a rule of thumb, Early Dining means you'll have dinner between 6 pm and 6:30 pm and Late Dining means you'll have dinner between 8:15 and 8:45 pm. There are many reasons why one dining may be better for you than an other.
Early Dining is great if you are traveling with small children who need to stick to a set meal and bedtime schedule; like to go to bed between 10 pm and Midnight; or you are an early riser.
You may want Late Dining if you don't want to feel rushed for dinner after a day in port; you love late-night social activities; and if you don't mind finishing your meal around 10:15 or 10:30 pm.
Is cruise ship dining as good as I've been told?
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.
Do I have to eat in the Main Dining Room?
One of the highlights of cruising is having plenty of options. Cruise lines know that people have different tastes in dining and offer many different choices to accommodate them.
The main cruise ship dining rooms are generally reserved for the traditional cruise guest. Dinner is served at the same time at the same table with the same wait staff and with the same guests each night. You can order from a set menu that changes daily. For most cruisers, this is one of the highlights of the cruise experience and gives them an opportunity to meet new people from all over the world and develop a relationship with a wait staff who has learned how to cater to their individual needs.
Many cruise lines now offer alternatives to this more structured dining experience. This not only includes casual dining venues like lido buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner; and pizzerias; but also more specialty, gourmet restaurants offering Asian, French, Italian and Southwestern cuisine. Depending on your tastes or mood for the night, you can eat anywhere you want, including room service, which is available on most cruise ships 24 hours a day.
Is there a charge for meals?
You can eat all you want on a cruise ship without having to pay for a meal. You can literally stuff yourself with some of the finest food you'll ever eat at one of many restaurants and eateries you'll find on your ship. And all this is included in the cost of your cruise fare. However, many cruise lines today now offer alternative dining options that may require a small service fee.
These "reservations-only" restaurants are small dining bistros that cater to a small number of guests every evening. They offer passengers a chance to break the normal routine and have a nice, romantic dinner for two without the kids to enjoy each other's company. Many of these specialty restaurants are comparable in quality to the finest restaurants like Mortons, Ruth Chris, The Palm, or Joe's Stone Crab. The additional charges range from $10 - $20 per guest depending upon the cruise ship and the restaurant.
These restaurants book up very quickly, so you should make your reservations as soon as you board your ship.
Can I get a special diet?
Most ships can accommodate salt-free, low-carbohydrate, Kosher, or other diet preferences. However, this request must be made in advance, so be sure to advise us of this requirement when you book your cruise.
What if I don't like my tablemates?
This is rarely 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.
Are there non-smoking areas?
Today, virtually all ships have smoking and non-smoking tables or non-smoking sections in the dining rooms and lounges. In fact, many cruise ship dining rooms are now totally smoke-free, and at least one ship is a completely smoke-free cruise ship, reflecting passenger requests. If you want your dining table in a non-smoking area, or prefer a smoke-free ship, just tell us! Onboard, in "open-seating situations," you can advise your waiter or the maitre d'.
What about tipping?
Tipping is a matter of individual preference. A general rule of thumb is to plan for about $2.50 to $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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