Dining onboard the cruise ship is a beautiful experience, complete with a soothing ambiance and the flexibility to decide what to eat, when, and where. Tantalizing meals, wide variety of cuisines and choices of dietary options will be on your menu. The quality & quantity of food on board is just amazing. Besides the traditional Main Dining Room entrees and midnight buffets, most of the cruise lines offer a variety of exciting and innovative specialty restaurants. Special dietary needs like vegetarian, vegan, gluten or lactose free are also catered for by most of the cruise operators. To add to the convenience factor, these items are usually clearly marked on the menu as well, however it is best to notify the cruise line of your special needs ahead of time.
By offering a variety of specialty restaurants on board, the traditional dining program also altered a bit but most of the cruise lines stick to certain similar traditions, of course with some distinct differences.
Most of the cruise lines have open seating for breakfast and lunch but offer two separate seating times for dinner. Early/Main Seating usually commences between 6pm – 6:30pm, and caters more for families with kids who like keeping their bed time routine and to those who are early birds when it comes to call it a night. Late Seating commences usually between 8pm – 8:30pm and caters more for those who don’t like being rushed for dining after a day on shore. You can request your preferred seating at the time of booking, however it is on a request basis and is assigned on a first come first serve basis by the cruise line. The preferred size of the table can also be requested, from small tables of 2-4 guests to large tables of 8-10. When assigning the seating, cruise lines always try to put similar age groups together, as well as families with other families and honeymooners with honeymooners. Once onboard, you also have the chance to change your seating if availability allows.
As a new tendency, some cruise lines came up with an alternative to traditional dining to give more flexibility to their guests when it comes to dining. Some cruise lines call it My Time Dining, others call it Freestyle Dining, and instead of giving the guests a set time for dinner, they give the freedom to the guests to eat when they want, where they want and with whomever they want. It gives guests the option to have different timings everyday for the Main Dining Room, based on their plans for the given day.
If you prefer casual over a more formal attire, there are casual options available on board, offering you both a themed buffet (themes vary every day) and an a la cart option.
Under the era of specialty dining restaurants, most of the cruise lines now feature a number of alternative restaurants in addition to their no-charge dining rooms and buffets. These alternative dining options offer a variety of cuisines in special settings that are not available anywhere else on board. These special theme restaurants include Italian Ristorante, French Bistro, American Steakhouse, Asian Sushi and many many more. Cruise Lines also offer healthier food options, placing low- fat and low-calorie meals on the menus. Specialty restaurants are usually available at an extra cover charge, or it is charged a la cart.