The main dining rooms on Carnival Cruise Line’s ships are a staple for guests. They add to the overall cruise experience, as cruisers generally value food and service.
Carnival’s dining rooms consist of varied menus and experienced and attentive staff. Having dinner in the main dining room (otherwise known as MDR to the seasoned cruiser) is a three-course affair.
Should you choose not to eat in the main dining room, you’ll also have plenty of other options, free or for fee, around the ship, as various dining venues are available. In other words, you will not be hungry during your sea vacation.
This menu guide to Carnival’s Main Dining Room will provide insightful information about where to dine, what dishes to eat, and an overview of the cruise line’s main dining rooms!
Where it’s located
Carnival offers both Set-Time Dining and Time Dining, which gives guests more flexibility, making it an excellent option for those who don’t necessarily want to be on a set schedule.
READ MORE: 31 Carnival Main Dining Room Tips
Most Carnival ships have two dining rooms, but although the Spirit-class ships (Carnival Pride, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Legend, and Carnival Miracle) have only one dining room, they still offer traditional Set-Time and Your Time Dining options.
Carnival’s signature “Sea Day Brunch” is also served in one of the main dining rooms. Because of its popularity, it’s typically served in the larger dining room, which is located in the aft (back).
What to Expect in the Main Dining Room
Now and then, Carnival tinkers with the menus. One thing’s for sure, though: any change, no matter how small, will surely be appreciated by guests.
Given that Carnival ensures that people have a great experience, they take the feedback they receive on changes very seriously.
Currently, the Carnival fleet offers two separate menus: the American Table menu and the American Feast menu.
- American Table: This is your typical main dining room menu with a selection of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts. This is the rotating menu you’ll find each cruise night, except on formal nights.
- American Feast: This is the menu offered in the main dining room on formal nights, and it’s not all that different from the American Table menu. This menu will be provided once or twice per cruise, depending on the length of your sailing. Formal nights are also the only evenings in which tablecloths are used in the main dining rooms.
The experience usually takes 90 or so minutes. If you are crunched for time, you should consider eating dinner at the Lido deck buffet or another venue offering a more casual experience.
Carnival offers two different dining programs, and you’ll generally select one when you book your cruise. Traditional Dining, which allows you to eat at the same table with the same people at the same time each night, is generally served at 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.
Your Time dining lets you decide what time you’d like to eat. But be aware that because Your Time dining is in demand, you must request this option as soon as possible.
If you find it unavailable on your sailing, recheck it once you’re on board to see if there are openings.
In 2020, Carnival moved on its HUB app to allow guests to check in for Your Time dining and receive an alert when the table is ready. This avoids the long lines at the entrance of the dining room.
What should I wear?
Carnival breaks dinner up into two evenings: cruise casual and cruise elegant.
Carnival’s website says the main dining room does not permit cut-off jeans, men’s sleeveless shirts, tee shirts, gym or basketball shorts, baseball hats, flip-flops, or bathing suit attire.
For men, they may wear khakis, collared shirts, and dress slacks suits in the main dining room. Tuxedos, a sports coat, and a tie are not required. However, cruise elegance is a great photo opportunity, and you can dress as fancy as you’d like.
Carnival also lists jeans forbidden for elegant evenings, but in our experience, they tend to look the other way as long as the jeans are excellent. You can read their dining room dress code policy here.
Summer dresses, blouses, casual dresses, pantsuits, and capris are all acceptable for casual cruise nights.
Carnival Main Dining Room menu explained
The menu in the main dining room is pretty straightforward, but it can be overwhelming, given all the options available.
Since we know a lot of people want to know at least the basics of what will be available, we thought it might be helpful to take a look at both the American Table and American Feast offerings and break down the menus.
Keep in mind that selections change periodically, so what you’ll find below is more an example of what you’ll discover than a written-in-stone guide.
If you’re the type of person who loves kicking things off with an appetizer (or three), Carnival’s menus have you covered. Generally speaking, you’ll find about 10 different options in Carnival, with the always-popular shrimp cocktail available every night.
Some of the other tasty treats they offer to start your meal include:
- Fried Calamari
- Chilled Vietnamese Roll
- Strawberry Bisque
- Smoked Chicken Quesadillas with salsa
- Smoked Poblano and Corn Soup
- A variety of salads
Dishes to try
While this is one of our favorite menu sections, it’s not for everyone. However, what you’ll find here are items that, as the name suggests, aren’t exactly everyday fare.
Found just beneath the appetizers, you never know precisely what you’ll discover. But for folks who are open to trying something new, this is a tasty option.
Some items you will find on this menu are:
- Blood Sausage
- Escargot (snails)
- Alligator Tail
- BBQ Pulled Wild Boar
- Philadephia Pepper Pot (with Honeycomb Tripe)
- Braised Frog Legs
READ MORE: Carnival Cruise Food Reviews
Nightly entree menu
When it comes to entrees, you’ll find plenty of options from both land and sea. The portion sizes are generous, but don’t be shy if you want to order two entrees.
As with every menu section, you can order as much as you like. If there’s one department in which the menus might be lacking, it’s the vegetarian options.
Some of the entrees you’ll find on the menu include:
- Veal Parmesan
- Pan-Seared Tilapia
- Rosemary Lamb Shank
- Southern Fried Chicken
- Salmon Cakes
- Baked Ziti
- Crisp Portobello Mushrooms
- A Featured Indian Vegetarian dish (lentils, basmati rice, papadam, and raita)
If you want prime rib and lobster, you’ll find them on the American Feast menu. So yes, you’ll have to dress up if you wish to have your lobster!
From the grill menu
If none of the regularly listed entrees appeal to you on any given night, give this section a look. It offers some great selections and a bit of variety with the two main items — the beef and fish selections — usually changing daily.
Like the other menu sections we’ve discussed, these are complimentary. People sometimes confuse these for the upcharge items, which we’ll discuss a little bit later on.
Here are some menu items you’ll find on the From The Grill menu:
- Salmon Filet: Citrus and pepper rubbed salmon served with broccoli, carrots, and red potatoes
- Flat Iron Steak: Cooked with herbs and peppers, served with broccoli and baked potato
- Chicken Breast: Roasted with garlic and herbs, served with peas and carrots with red potatoes
- Pork Chop: Cooked with caramelized onions and served with stewed apples and mashed potatoes
The beef dish comes with a selection of BBQ Sauce, Béarnaise, Peppercorn, or Wild Mushroom sauce.
Every night, you’ll find six sides offered at the bottom of the main dining room menu. These are served in addition to whatever sides you have with your meal.
They’re individual-sized, not family-style. So, if you’re the kind of person who likes a whole lot of creamed spinach with your beef, make it a double order.
The selections can vary nightly, but they typically include items such as these:
- Baked Potato
- Broccoli, Carrots, and Onions
- Mac n’ Cheese with Bacon
- French Fries
- Creamed Spinach
Port of call menu
The port menus are unique to every destination. This can be found in the regular menu, which gives you information about the port of call. Some days, this section will feature a specific port, depending on your itinerary and sea days.
Sample Port of Call Menus
- Download a sample St. Maarten Port of Call Menu
- Download a sample Eastern Caribbean Port of Call Menu
Here’s an example of what you might find on the port of call menu.
Port: St. Maarten
The whole island is known for its excellent cuisine, partly due to its French influences. Creole, French, and West Indian cooking are particularly renowned. Many other nationalities have influenced the fare of St. Maarten because of its heavily diverse roots.
- Featured Drink: Island Martini. A refreshing mix of Bacardi Limon, Pineapple, and Orange Juices, and a touch of Grenadine. $9.50
- Featured Appetizer: Caribbean Bouillabaisse. Local Fish and Seafood in a Saffron Broth with Tomato, Fennel, and Sauce Rouille.
- Featured Entree: Coq au vin. Chicken Marinated and Cooked in Red Burgundy Wine with Mushrooms, Silver Onions, and Bacon, Finished with some aged Brandy.
The Steakhouse Selection is available for a $20 upcharge and offers guests a chance to get a cut of beef served in the steakhouse while in the main dining room. The steakhouse selections are available across all of their cruise ships.
Featured items here generally include:
- Broiled Maine Lobster Tail served with drawn butter
- Surf & Turf, Maine Lobster Tail with Grilled Filet Mignon
- Filet Mignon, 9 oz premium aged beef
- New York Strip Loin Steak, 14-oz
The main dining room’s dessert menu consists of three selections rotating every night. One of the selections offered each night is usually a low-cal, no-sugar treat. There are also coffees and teas available to complement your dessert.
Sample dessert menu
Some examples of desserts you might find on the menu are:
- Boston Cream Cake
- Orange and Almond Baked Cake
- Chocolate and Cheese Brownie
- Carnival Melting Chocolate Cake
- Fresh Tropical Fruit Plate
- Cheese Plate
- Selection of Ice Creams
Not too long ago, Carnival brought Baked Alaska back to their ships. It’s typically served on the final night of the cruise. And if a banana split is more your speed, ask to see a kid’s menu.
For an added cost, you’ll find a selection of dessert drinks listed at the bottom of the menu, along with cappuccinos, lattes, espressos, and the “Art of Tea” selection.