One of the most important aspects of cruising is the culinary experience. That’s not to say that everyone who cruises is a glutton, wanting to stuff themselves with as much food as possible, but that part of the cruise experience is enjoying the wide variety of foods and venues available, including the fact that you have to do nothing to assist in the food’s preparation, serving, or cleanup. A cruise is about being pampered, and multiple offerings of readily available food is part of that offering.
Dining can also be a large part of the social experience, and if you desire, mealtimes can be an occasion where you get to know your fellow cruisers (see next week’s blog ‘When Should I Eat?’. As such an important part of your vacation, I will be writing a few blog posts on the various dining options available at sea. This first entry regards the main dining rooms.
Every cruise ship has at least one main dining room. This is the dining room that is included in your cruise fare, which does not cost extra to visit (although occasionally some cruise lines might charge extra for one or two specialty dishes, which are completely optional).
The main dining room(s) always serve(s) dinner, and usually a sit down breakfast as well. Often on sea days, these dining rooms will also be open for lunch. In the main dining rooms, you can expect a reasonable level of service, with at least two waiters (a main waiter and an assistant waiter) assigned to your table, tablecloths and elegant china/silverware/glassware, as well as a fancier menu than the more casual dining options on the ship (more on casual dining in a couple of weeks).
It is typical to offer a variety of foods, so as to have something to please every taste palate. Most cruise lines have ‘always available’ offerings, usually including a beef, a chicken, a main course salad, and a salmon dish. As indicated, these dishes are available every night, should the daily menu not suit your tastes. The daily changing menu will offer appetizers (both hot and cold), soups (often one of them cold, the remainder hot) and salads, along with main entrees (usually including a pasta dish, and always with vegetarian options). After your meal, a cheese plate is usually available, as well as a fruit plate, and a more traditional dessert menu from which you can indulge.
Many people worry that the food in the main dining room will be ‘too fancy’ for their tastes. What cruisers often do not realize is that the kitchen is usually able to customize your meal for you. If you only want the meat from one dish, but not the side dishes, that can be brought to you. If you’d like to make an entrée out of an appetizer, you can be served a larger portion. If you want to switch out a side dish for French fries or rise or a baked potato, that can be made to happen. If you try something and do not like it, you can always try something else. In short, your waiters will do everything within their power to please you, and to make sure you enjoy your dining experience. If you’re not comfortable with what is on the menu, you are always free to ask for the waiter’s suggestions, and they can help you decide on your meal. From the opposite perspective, if you want to try everything, it is often possible to have the waiter bring multiple dishes, so that you can have a taste of everything you see.
One little known secret to eating in the main dining room is that on family-friendly cruise lines, there is a children’s menu, but anyone can order from these dishes, regardless of age. If you’ve had a difficult day in port, and you simply want a hamburger, chicken nuggets, or spaghetti and meatballs, the kitchen is happy to oblige. You never have to feel restricted in your choice in the dining room!
You will likely spend many of your mealtimes in the main dining room, so make sure you let your waiter know your likes and dislikes, and explore the wide variety of dishes available to you!