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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. A 4-course menu is served at the same time at the same table with the same waiter 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 waiter 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 South-western 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.

Can I get a special diet?

Yes, cruise lines are used to adapting their menu's to accommodate a multitude of dietary needs e.g. low-sodium meals, Halal and Kosher meals, diabetic, peanut allergy etc.

Dietary requests must be made in advance of sailing. After you have booked online please contact us with details of your special dietary needs and we will pass this information onto the cruise line.

Click for more information on special diets.

Is there a charge for meals?

You can eat all you want on a cruise ship without having to pay for a meal as 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. Many of these specialty restaurants are comparable in quality to the finest restaurants on land.

The additional service fees range from £10 - £20 per guest depending upon the cruise ship and the restaurant. These restaurants book up very quickly, we recommend that you make your reservations as soon as you board your ship to avoid disappointment.

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... discreetly and politely.

Why do most cruise ships have two dinner sittings and which one should I choose?

Some ships' dining rooms can accommodate all passengers in one seating. But most ships have two seatings that differ only by time. Typically, Early Seating begins between 6 pm and 6:30 and Late Seating begins around 8:15 pm (specific dining times will vary by cruise line and sometimes specific itineraries). To choose, just decide whether you prefer to dine early or late then request your preference when you book.

Your seating and table assignment will be confirmed at embarkation. Either seating will allow you to see all shows and experience all the entertainment the cruise has to offer.

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 the other.

Early Dining is great if you are travelling 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.

Although many cruise lines are moving away from the traditional two dining times and as an alternative will allow anytime or mytime dining in the main dining restaurants which needs to be requested at the time of booking. With anytime dining, gratuities need to be pre-paid as different waiter/waitresses will be serving you each night.

As an alternative to the more traditional dining experience, some cruise lines now offer freestyle and casual dining (most notably Norwegian Cruise Line). This option provides guests with the flexibility to dine when and where they wish. You may also choose your dinner companions and request specific table sites rather than being assigned to a particular time and table for the duration of the cruise.

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 American themed 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.

For your convenience, in addition to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight buffets, many ships also offer complimentary room service.