CRUISE TIPS: There is usually open seating for breakfast and lunch in the main dining room. Be adventurous with the menu because if you don’t like something you can send it back for a replacement. And if they have two things on the menu that you like ask for both of them. My husband, John, always orders the Filet Mignon and the Lobster Tail when they are served on the same night. Many times he tells the waiter to bring what the waiter recommends for that evening.
This means you don’t have to choose first or second seating. (First seating is 6:00 to 6:30 and Second seating is usually 8:00-8:30). There can be more than one restaurant where you just walk in when you are ready to dine. Every ship will ask for your dining preference when you book your cruise. You can indicate first, second or flexible dining, whichever will make you more comfortable. The newer ships have a 24 hour dining spot which is always casual so if you don’t want to do the formal nights you don’t have to, although I find dressing up to be quite fun.
You will have many options for each meal. You may have any meal delivered to your room, taken in the buffet restaurant or in the dining room. There is usually outdoor dining around the pool with hot dogs and hamburgers, pizza, salads, even Tacos.
There are also alternative dining rooms available on some ships that require an additional fee but the service and food are generally 4 to 5 star and worth it if you want to splurge.
In my experience families with young children and people who go to bed early usually dine in first seating. But if you don’t want to be on a schedule or want to meet new people every night, go for the alternative dining option. Of course you can always ask for a table for two, but be aware that there are only a few of them.
If you make a special request one night, John always asks for blue cheese, your waiter will bring it every night. They pride themselves on remembering your tastes. (This only happens when you choose traditional dining). On one cruise we asked for Melba toast, and you bet, every night we had Melba toast. There is one thing I always make clear to the waiter. I am not a big eater but I like to taste everything. I tell this to them the first night so they don’t think I am unhappy with the food. It is their job to keep you happy and they take it very seriously.
If you don’t want to eat in the main dining room almost all ships have a Lido café where it is casual but you order from a menu and are served by a waiter. It’s one of the many choices if you don’t want to participate in a formal night or if you just want to eat by yourselves. On Carnivals single cruises they encourage this style of dining so the singles can meet more people. There are exceptions to this but not many. On some of the newer ships the Lido is open 24 hours a day.
On most of the cruise lines they offer the food of the region that you are visiting. While on Hawaiian cruises expect to be served Hawaiian food. When on an Alaskan cruise you will be given the choices of salmon and Alaskan king crab legs. It makes more fun to dine on the local cuisine.
All of the cruise lines offer healthy alternative menus or what they call spa menus. So if you want low-fat, low-salt, low cholesterol, vegetarian or any other type of diet, they are available. It is best however to inform your travel agent of any special needs so they can notify the cruise line ahead of time. If you have special dietary needs make sure the cruise lines knows before hand. For example, Royal Caribbean cruises cater to food allergy, Kosher, Indian, Vegetarian and Gluten Free Diets.