Cruise Tips9 Tips for Eating in the Main Dining Room on a Cruise

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:

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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.  At the end of the week, you’ll also 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. However, it is important to note that you don’t want to waste any food.

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.

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 5:30 pm and the other is around 8:30 pm or even 9:00 pm 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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J. Souza
J. Souza
Jon is the co-founder of Cruise Fever and has been on 50+ cruises since his first in 2009. As an editor, 15-year writer on the cruise industry, and avid cruise enthusiast he has sailed with at least 10 cruise lines and is always looking for a great cruise deal. Jon lives in North Carolina and can be reached at [email protected].
Cruise Tips9 Tips for Eating in the Main Dining Room on a Cruise


  1. 1st time cruiser: Alaskan cruise on the Carnival Legend out of Seattle. Heat wave in Alaska during the last week of June, 2019. 80’s in Skagway, middle 60’s in Seattle (where we live). Great timing!! Ship gets a 5 out of 10 rating. Rooms not equipped with enough outlets for all of our chargers/CPAP, etc. We were on the deck just below the main deck and had to listen to chairs being moved around on the deck above all the time. WIFi costs extra. (While in port, we tapped into a neighboring ship’s FREE WiFi.) Ship had hand sanitizer dispensers, but I never saw a crew member wiping down public surfaces/handrails. (They probably did, but I never noticed them.) 4-hour port calls are ridiculous. Overall, a “nice” time was had by our group of 6, but not a “great” time. Lots of crew members. They kept the eating tables cleared in the buffet areas and the ship looking clean.

  2. I think before booking any cruise you need to do some research on the atmosphere/style of cruising to expect. The atmosphere and “rules” vary from one cruise line to another. I have been on 8 different lines and the only one I try to avoid it Carnival. To me it feels like I’ve gone on spring break with a bunch of adults trying desperately to relive their college days. Under dressed for the dining room, loud obnoxious behaviour around the pool, kids allowed to run wild while their parents ignore their antics, and just generally kind of tacky on every level. I clearly remember a fellow in a suit staggering down the hall with a bucket of beers. Dressed up for formal night but couldn’t hide the lack of class. I know it makes me sound like a snob but if I’d rather not be trapped on a ship with a bunch of loud drunken morons. I’ve taken 3 Carnival cruises over the years. The first one without knowing what to expect, and the other two because the group of friends I was travelling with insisted on them due to the cheap price. I’ve come to the conclusion that Carnival cruises are generally among the cheapest because they are expecting to make their profits selling lots of alcohol once you are on board. If you don’t drink a lot yourself, and can find a quiet place to avoid the drunken nonsense of other passengers you can cruise very cheaply and in peace. After many years of cruising I now just want a fun but respectful atmosphere where I’m not constantly hunting for a quiet corner to read a book or gaze at the ocean without children and drunks bumping my lounge chair.

  3. Chill out Shelly, it’s obviously going to be cruise line dependent. What a shame the line you chose was so poor. Try Celebrity, they are truly awesome and the food is amazing at all venues.

  4. We saw people wearing shorts and t-shirts during a formal dinner. No one was turned down. The whole tux or suit thing is way too exaggerated.

  5. Your advise sucks!!! I just came back from an Alaskan cruise on Princess and the food sucked! Actually the food in the buffet was better than the formal dining room. I was told that your waiter would cater to you but that was not the case. Silly reviews like yours leave people with a false assumption.

  6. My husband has never taken a tux or a suit. A navy blazer, dress shirt and tie are really all that is necessary. Especially if you are on a long cruise and want to travel on the light side luggage-wise.

  7. Must be the staff or that particular ship because I was on carnival in October and we could order as much as we wanted in the dinningroom.

  8. I love the escargot on the Disney Cruise Line. It’s only offered on the menu of one of the restaurants. But because we have the same waiter follow us to each restaurant each night, I make the request on the first night to have the escargot ready at my table during the appetizer portion of the dinner each night, regardless of which restaurant I’m in.

    • I Barcelona is an easy port. The bad news is that I wouldn’t take NCL anywhere. Poor food and non friendly staff for the most part. Blame Top Management for this. Room stewards are great as they do work hard. Take it from a 40 year cruiser on most all lines. Just my opinion.

  9. My son and new daughter -in-law just went on a cruise with Carnival. The dining room dinner was not endless anymore they told them.

    Needless to say they were highly disappointed. Not only that the buffets opened at 12:00pm and closed at 2:30pm. I am writing Carnival at the dissatisfied service as this was their honeymoon getaway.

  10. We have sailed Royal Caribbean 8 times and have enjoyed every time anytime dining.
    We are not rushed, and have been satisfied every time, sometimes seated alone at a table for 2 and with others. Royal Caribbean has given us the best dining of any ship/

    They don’t even mention the spa steam room, and the sauna on each ship. I have enjoyed a day in the sunshine and swimming, and enjoy going to the steam room before showering and going to dinner. It is wonderful how the steam just seems to be the best thing to awaken you for the evening. Every ship has a steam room.

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