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Dining on a Cruise Ship

5 Types of Cruise Dining Styles on a Ship

Cruises offer some of the most tantalizing meals that cannot be missed while on board. The quality & quantity of food onboard is unbelievable. Cruise lines take incredible care to show off the best of cuisines from tempting appetizers all the way through decadent desserts. Most of the cruise ships offer not just three meals a day but sumptuous food at any time of the day.

It is important for the cruise ships to have more dining options as they are floating resorts carrying many guests. While every dining program is a little different, most cruise lines stick to certain similar traditions, with a few distinct differences.

Here is some general guide to dining on the high seas.

Main / Traditional Dining: Most of the Premium Cruise Lines have open seating for breakfast and lunch, but offer two separate seatings for dinner:

Early / Main dining – The main dining is generally between 6 pm and 6:30 pm. You may suggest this to your guest traveling with small children who need to stick to a set meal and bedtime schedule and to those who like going to bed early.

Late Dining – Late dining is generally between 8 pm and 8:45 pm. Most of the Middle Eastern guests prefer the late dining as they don’t want to feel rushed for dinner after a day in port.

All dinner seatings are on a request basis and are assigned on a first come first serve basis by the cruise line. The sooner your guests book their cruise, the better their chances of getting their dining preference.

Freestyle / My Time Dining: Some cruise lines offer an alternative to the traditional Early and Late Seating option. Some calls it My Time dining & some calls it personal choice or Free Style dining. Instead of giving the guests a set time to have dinner, they let the guests eat when they want, where they want and with whomever they want. The flexible dining option allows guests to choose when they dine in the main dining room onboard, on a day-by-day basis which gives more flexibility for the guests to spend their day as they wish to enjoy more time in a specific port of call one day and dine later that evening than another.

Casual Dining: If your guests do not want to dress up formally for the dinner, they have the choice of casual dining. Most of the cruise lines offer casual dining which is buffet style dinner and also set up to order from the menu with table service (in the evening). This serves as the best choice for those guests who do not want to worry about packing formal wear.

Alternate Dining: Most cruise ships feature a number of alternative restaurants in addition to their no-charge dining rooms and buffets. These specialty restaurants offer guests more personal experience along with menu items not found elsewhere on the ship, but most of these venues come with a cover charge. The popular themes of these specialty & boutique restaurants include Italian ristorante, French bistro, Asian sushi bar, American steakhouse and many more. The choice of specialty restaurants & cafes on board the new & young ships are plenty to pamper your guest throughout the cruise.


Healthy Options: For those concerned about their diets, more and more cruise ships offer light meals with low fat and low calories. All of the cruise lines offer healthy alternative menus or spa menus. So if your guest want low-fat, low-salt, low cholesterol, vegetarian or any other type of diet, they are available. It is best however to notify the cruise line ahead of time of any special dietary needs. For example, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises cater to food allergy, Kosher, Indian, Vegetarian and Gluten Free Diets


Table Size: When you book a cruise for your guest, you will be given a choice between a small, medium or large table at dinner. A small table seats 2 – 4 guests; a medium, 6 – 8 guests; and a large table seats 8 – 10 guests. The cruise line will then do their best to seat your guests with passengers in a similar age group; families with other families; singles with singles and honeymooners with other honeymooners.

Book a cruise & enjoy the best experience of eating onboard!

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