9 Tips for Eating in the Main Dining Room on a Cruise

When you are on a cruise you have a few options to consider when it comes to breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Some people do not realize that dinner is not the only meal you can eat in the main dining room.  You can eat lunch or breakfast in the main dining room (usually) and the food can be quite good.  It just takes longer to eat since it is a more formal setting so many people just opt for the buffet for a quick bite to eat before they hit the pool or basketball court.
Here are a few tips for eating in the main dining room on a cruise ship:

Always go to the main dining room at least the first night

I know some people that have gone on cruises but never ate one time in the main dining room.  Not only is the food usually much better in the main dining room, but the service is amazing as well.  But you should always check it out the first night to see if you like it or not.  It’s better than not going all week until the last day and regretting not going sooner.  If you want a more laid back eating atmosphere you always have the buffet or grill somewhere on the ship, but most cruise lines pride themselves on the quality of food in the main dining rooms.  And at the end of the week you get to hear the wait staff sing to you.

Order as many entrees as you want

Ordering food on a cruise ship is no time to be bashful.  The quality of food can vary from average to superb and you don’t want to miss out on any of the finer dishes.  You can order several entrees if you want, or even several appetizers.  The wait staff will bring you anything on the menu in pretty much any quantity.  If the dish you have been given is distasteful to you in anyway don’t feel you have to eat it.  The waiter will take it away and replace it with something else on the menu.  It’s kind of like eating at an all-you-can-eat-buffet without having to get up from the table.

Bring a suit or tux for formal night

There are photographers all over the ship ready to take your picture as you walk toward the dining room as well.  There is also usually a night where you can meet the captain and you may want to be dressed up for that.   And for those worried about getting their suit wrinkled, most ships have a laundry service that can iron your suit for you, or you can even rent a tuxedo from some cruise ships.

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Order what you want as early as possible

The later in the meal that you order something the longer it will be before it gets to your table, and if there is a show that starts right after dinner you may need to hurry.  It’s easy to see someone else’s dish and then want the same thing and ask for it, but remember that this delays the whole dinner process, especially if you are eating with a bunch of other people.  The wait staff likes to keep everyone on the same course at the same time, so if you order another entrée while everyone else is waiting for dessert it might delay dessert for everyone.  So if it looks good in the menu just order it at the beginning.

Pace yourself or keep to that diet

It’s easy to gain a good 10-15 pounds during a cruise, but just because there is food all around you doesn’t mean you have to eat it.  Just pick out some of the best foods and leave the rest.  Of course, you can always hit the gym during the cruise to try to shed some of those pounds, but most people never live out those good intentions when vowing to hit the gym every night.  Fortunately, most cruise lines offer a menu for those wanting to go light on the calories.  There is usually a vegan section of the  menu as well to keep you on tract if you are trying to maintain a certain diet.

Get to know your wait staff

These are some of the nicest people you will meet.  They will be taking care of you for the duration of the cruise so make sure you take care of them as well.  Be friendly to them and leave an appropriate tip at the end of the cruise if you feel it was deserved.  You will meet wait staff from all over the world and it can be a lot of fun hearing their stories as you get to know them.

Request a table for two well in advanced

There are not many tables for 2 in the main dining room because they want to seat as many people as possible in the room.  So if you are on your honeymoon or just want to be able to eat privately with your special someone make sure you ask for that well in advance of the cruise.  These tables always fill up fast.

Don’t feel you are stuck with the dinner time you have chosen

There are usually two dinner times for each cruise ship.  One is around 5:30pm and the other is around 8:30pm or even 9pm on some ships.  If you choose the 2nd seating dinner but then realize that you would prefer the first one, you can usually switch without too much complication.  Only if that seating time is already full will you have any issues.  There is no sense in feeling stuck with that seating time if it does not fit in with your cruise schedule.  Most cruise lines also offer a form of “Anytime Dining” that allows you to eat whenever you would like.

You can switch tables if there is a problem

Many people do not realize that they can also switch tables.  If you are not getting along with the people at your table or there is any other reason for wanting a different table just talk to the Maitre d’ and he will take care of it for you.  I have found that it’s usually a pleasant experience meeting new people and getting to know them throughout the week, but if you are going to switch tables you should do it the first day if possible.


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  1. Gail G Buffalo NY says

    We check the menu on our tv screen ahead of time to get an idea of what we want to order so that we don’t have too much of a delay deciding when we get there.

  2. Tim Dye says

    It took me 2 Cruises to discover, that you didn’t have to order just one App. or Entree! Now I order 6 of each. And everytime I go into my room I pick up the Telephone. Cheese plate, coffee and Pastries. As soon as I get into my stateroom. Especially if I have a balcony!

    • Yourfriendlywaiter says

      That’s what the waitstaff calls animales my dear sir. It is just the mentality of the american guests that they absolutely have to eat theirs money worth even if it will make you fat or sick (then blame it on the ship rocking). Manners you throw out of the window. Just because you can order tons of food you must do it. I know your kind and I love to bring my guests food, when I see that they can handle it but that is like 1% of all guests I had. Shrimp cocktail and cesar salad measured in tons. You don’t know any better…

      The Waiter

      • glenda says

        i agree with the waitstaff. i am american and please do not lump us all into one catagory. you are very wrong about americans their are a lot of really nice people from america.

      • Judi Corra says

        I’m with The Waiter on the one. On the last cruise I was on, 2 sisters ordered everything that was on the menu between them each night. Although they took pictures of everything, they just ate one or two bites from each dish. What a waste!!!! I was thoroughly disgusted. If everyone on the cruise did this, then the fares would definitly rise.
        At times, I will order 2 of the same item, but all is eaten. I love the shrimp cocktail.

    • Dana says

      It also took me two cruises to realize that I can order more than one entree on formal nites!! So what my family and I did; we each order something different and tried each other’s entree. If we didn’t like it; we order something else!!

  3. Josie says

    This level of greed ( usually found in new cruisers ) usually subsides after the first day or two , but it’s simply greed , certainly has nothing to do with hunger .

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