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31 Carnival Cruise Main Dining Room Tips

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We could all use more tips for taking a cruise, right? Especially when it comes to one of our favorite parts of the day – dinner time!  Here, we’ve come up with every tip and trick we can think of for the main dining room on Carnival Cruise Line ships. Enjoy!

Tips for the Main Dining Room

Main dining room

Main Dining Room on Carnival Sunshine.

1. Scout out the dining room when you board.

The first thing people do when they get onboard is head straight up to the lido deck for food. Divert from that ritual; find your dining room. The ships have two different dining rooms and you don’t want to go to the wrong one for dinner.

2. Avoid the main rush.

Every dining seating, cruisers rush the front doors of the main dining room like they haven’t eaten in days. The doors open promptly at the assigned time. If you wait five minutes after the doors open, you will avoid being trampled by cruisers who haven’t eaten in hours!

3. Get a pre-dinner cocktail.

If you want a cocktail with your dinner, consider stopping by a bar before you get into the main dining room to avoid the slow drink service there.

4. There are two different dining rooms.

Is your dining room midship or aft? This goes back to studying the deck plans before you get onboard and finding out exactly where you’re sitting. Typically one dining room is assigned to traditional dining and one is for anytime dining.

5. Anytime Dining has a better chance to get a private table.

If you want to sit with just your family or significant other during your sailing, you’ll have a better chance doing to do that with anytime dining. Accommodating your request is still available with traditional dining but it’s on a first-come first-serve basis.

6. Order pasta as an appetizer.

If you see a pasta dish on the menu you want to try but don’t want the whole thing, order it as an appetizer. They can bring it out in a smaller portion.

7. Order appetizers as an entree.

Same goes with an appetizer that you’d want as an entree. On a recently sailing I ordered escargot as an entree and appetizer. I had garlic butter pumping through my veins!

8. Tell the dining room on embarkation day about diet restrictions.

The cruise line will cater to your dietary restrictions. Many cruise guests are now gluten-free or have allergies. Make sure you let the cruise line know on embarkation day about dietary needs you may have.

9. Befriend your server.

Be friendly with your server; they are there to make sure you have a wonderful dining experience, but they’re also human. Interact with them, if you have traditional dining they will be your server throughout the cruise.

10. Order more than one appetizer.

You’re on vacation, don’t be afraid to splurge. Double down on those shrimp cocktails.

11. Tip your server for premium service.

If a server goes above and beyond for exceptional service, don’t be afraid to let them know.  

12. Don’t over-order.

You can order however much food you’d like and the ship won’t run out of it. After you’re done with your steak, order a second, but try not to let it go to waste. Don’t feel obligated to order everything at once.

13. Tip your waitstaff the first night.

Extending a gratuity the first night can go a long way. You’ll be surprised on what little unexpected surprises you may find. I usually tip my server the first night because I enjoy getting my food early.

14. Save your calories.

Did you know that 3,500 calories is equal to a pound? You’re going to be onboard for multiple nights. Just because you can order multiple desserts doesn’t mean you have to. Everything in moderation.

15. Don’t feel obligated to order every course.

Just because there are different sections of the menu, don’t feel like you have to eat something from every section. Heck, if you want to skip straight to dessert, do it! You’re on vacation.

16. You can ask for a new table.

If you don’t care for your table mates or the ones around you, feel free to ask to be moved to another area. The dining team will do their best to accommodate you.

17. Be adventurous with foods.

Alligator tail, snails in garlic butter, frog legs, conch. Chances are you’ll be exposed to a whole new menu on your cruise. These foods have been eaten by 1,000’s of cruisers. Try something you typically wouldn’t eat!  You never know what you’ll have a newfound love for.

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18. Get two scoops of cream with the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.

Carnival's signature Warm Chocolate Melting Cake served in the main dining room.

Carnival’s signature Warm Chocolate Melting Cake served in the main dining room.

Make sure you get TWO scoops of ice cream with your warm chocolate melting cake, it makes it that much better.

19. You can order off the kid’s menu.

Feel like eating basic in the main dining room? Ask to see the kids menu. Here you can order items like spaghetti and meatballs, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, mac-n-cheese, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Also, for dessert, you can order a banana split!

20. They let you order something else if you don’t like your dish.

This isn’t marriage, just because you said “I do” doesn’t mean you’re committed to the dish. If you don’t like something, kindly ask if you can order something else. You dining team will be happy to bring you out another dish – no questions asked!

21. Ask for extra napkins.

Some of the nights the ship may not use tablecloths and we know what an issue this can cause with silverware touching the table. Ask your server for extra napkins to set your silverware on.   

22. Keep an eye on your kids.

Don’t let your kids ruin other people’s dining experience. Keep an eye on them and don’t let them run wild around the dining room. There is a lot of foot traffic with servers carrying big trays in and out of the dining room. You don’t want your little one to get plowed over.

23. Don’t be late.

Carnival is enforcing a rule where if you’re 30 or more minutes late, they will ask you to enjoy dinner at the lido deck marketplace. Plus, arriving 30 minutes late for dinner is just rude.

24. Talk to the maître d’ on the first day for requests.

The maître d’ and dining team will have set hours on embarkation day where you can discuss dining needs. Pay close attention to the times because it’s usually a two hours window. This is where table requests and dietary restrictions should also be discussed. However, it’s always best to let them know about your dietary needs before you even step onboard the ship.

25. The dining room will hold your wine for a corkage fee.

This is at the discretion of your server, but Carnival’s website says:

A $15 USD corkage fee, per 750 ml bottle, will be charged should guests wish to consume their wine or champagne in the main dining room, steakhouse or bar. A corkage fee is a charge exacted at a restaurant for every bottle served that was not bought on the premises.

26. You can request an ocean view window.

One of the best views in the main dining room is by a window, especially an aft window. If the ship is heading in the right direction, you can catch an amazing sunset.

27. Late dining is more fun.

Unlike early seating, where the dining team has to flip the dining room for the next seating, there isn’t any time constraints for late dining. It seems to have a more relaxed and laid-back vibe.

28. Participate in the singing and dancing.

Swing your napkins in the air, do the conga line, get up and dance! You’re on vacation so don’t hold back. No one is judging you!

29. Look at the menus before you sail.

You can find the menus by ship and right online. A lot of people on the Cruise Critic message boards upload the menus. Also, check out the website ZydecoCruise.com; he updates Carnival Cruise Line food menus and photos.

30. Take pictures of your food

People may look at you like you like you’re strange but tell them you want to try to cook the dish when you get home. I recently replicated my version of Carnival’s Warm Chocolate Melting Cake and it turned out fabulous.

31. Be patient

Last but neat least, be patient. Chances are your dining team has a handful of tables that they are catering to. If you’re in a hurry, let them know when you first get there and they can make your table a priority.

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