Cruise Dining FAQ
Q: What's cruise-ship dining like?
A: In a word, varied. There are many options available, from casual pizzerias and lido buffets to specialty reservation-only gourmet restaurants that offer different types of cuisine—French, Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean—you name it. You can eat a wide variety of salads, soups and desserts, and generally, you can have as much as you want. Meals are served at the same table by the same staff and with the same guests, but the menu changes every day.
Q: What time is dinner normally served?
A: Most cruise ships offer two seating options for dinner: early or main seating is served between 6pm and 6:30pm, while late seating is served between 8:15pm and 8:45pm. If you prefer to sleep and wake up early, go for the early seating schedule. But if you'd rather stay up late and enjoy social activities afterwards, then late seating is the way to go.
However, you also have the option of dining whenever and with whomever you want. You can order room service, which is 24-7, or you can choose alternative dining options that do not provide a fixed dining schedule. There are also ships that have "free-style" options in separate dining rooms that allow you to eat anytime during dinner hours.
Q: Do I have to pay for the meal?
A: Technically, you've already paid for your meals in your cruise fare. That means you can generally eat as much as you want without worrying about the price. However, as mentioned earlier, there are alternative dining options like reservations-only bistros or fine-dining restaurants that aren't free. Your expenses when eating outside the main dining room vary, depending on the restaurant and cruise ship. Let's not forget gratuities as well; whether you eat in the main dining room or go for room service, you'll have to spend for tips.
Q: Can I have special meals prepared for my dietary restrictions?
A: Yes, you can. In fact, cruise ships can accommodate a wide variety of dietary preferences, whether it's low-salt (or salt-free), low-fat, low-carbohydrate, low-protein, high-protein, no-dairy, vegan, vegetarian, Kosher and many other restrictions. Just see to it that you make your request ahead of time (i.e. as soon as you book your cruise) so that preparations can be made just for you.
Q: Are these smoking or non-smoking areas when dining?
A: Yes, there are. In addition to the areas, pretty much all cruise ships also have smoking and non-smoking tables in lounges and dining rooms. There are also cruise ships that are completely smoking-free, while there are others that have smoke-free dining areas and lounges. If you want to eat in a non-smoking area during your cruise, speak to a waiter or the maître d'. If you want to cruise on a completely smoke-free ship, ask the cruise company before you book your trip.
Q: What if I don't like my dining companions?
A: You have several options: you may ask the maître d' if you want to transfer to another table. You can also try the cruise ship's alternative dining options or order room service.