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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dining on a Cruise Ship

I bumped into friend, neighbor, and fellow cruiser the other day and our conversation turned to cruising.  And, while our conversation sailed from one topic to another about cruising in general, the subject of dining on a cruise ship surfaced.  Let’s talk more about dining on a cruise ship. . .

Part of the cruising experience is enjoying being served during a meal.  Yes, that meal may take a bit longer than a pizza or burger.  Yes, there will an expectation of tipping your servers at the end of the cruise—more about that later.  Yes, you may be seated with other guests.  And, yes, your servers want you to enjoy your meal.

Time:  Dining on a cruise ship in a main dining room does take time.  That’s why there are usually “dinner seatings” and guests are assigned a time.  Some cruise lines have “free style” cruising, but if you want to eat something other than a buffet, you’ll have to make reservations for a specific time.  One reason the dining takes more time is that there are courses to the meal:  appetizer, soup and salad, entrée, and dessert.  On Disney Cruise Line, there is typically a “show” of sorts in some of the main dining rooms.

Sometimes it can be difficult for a child to sit through a meal that may take 90 minutes or more.  The “show” helps, especially at Animator’s Palette.  We also come prepared with toys, hand held games, etc.  On Disney Cruise Line, you will find crayons and children’s menus for coloring, etc.  We have also had the boy’s entire meal—minus dessert it if it something that would melt—served when we are served our appetizer.  When he is done eating, he heads to the kids club and everyone enjoys the rest of the meal time.

Tipping:  It is a cruise line expectation to tip those that serve you.  Some cruise lines have “service charges” rather than specific tips.  There’s a great web-site that will help you calculate your tips or service charges—click here.  Yes, tips are per person, so children, even wee ones, count.

Interestingly, I have read in some on-line forums, about cruisers forgoing the main dining rooms and opting for other dining options on board citing reasons such as the meals are too formal, take too much time, and the food is too “gourmetish.”  The husband and I were visiting about this the other night and I’m speculating some folks may avoid the dining rooms to reduce tipping.  Hmmm. . .

Eating with others:  Depending on the size of your travel party, you may be seated with other guests for dinner.  Of our 3 Disney cruises, we have shared tables with other cruises twice.  On our first cruise, we were seated with a family of 5 from Miami.  It was the first Disney cruise for both of our families.  We enjoyed the company, but it wasn't until our last cruise that we looked forward to dining with our tablemates who were a family of 3 from New Jersey.  Disney did a great job of pairing us up. . . it was the 3rd cruise for both of our families, we had children about the same age, and had similar occupations--even though I have no idea how Disney knew that!

It can be great fun to visit with others over a meal, especially after a day of adventures in port.  And, while this can concern some prospective cruise guests, I assure you, it will be just fine.  Go ahead, give it a try. 

Please, enjoy your meal:  Chefs and dining room servers want you to enjoy your meal.  This means that you can order pretty much whatever is on the menu.  I have had a meal of just appetizers before.  Now, while this didn’t concern my server, he still wanted to make sure I was satisfied.  If you see two salads you want to try, go for it!  The husband has ordered two entrees before.  Go ahead, it’s okay.

One day the boy was going through the buffet line for lunch and put steamed broccoli on his plate—he loves steamed broccoli.  Well, as sometimes will happen, his tray fell.  And, while he was getting a new one there was either no more steamed broccoli or he overlooked it in the line.  A few minutes later, a whole plate of steamed broccoli was delivered to him.  We will always remember that.

On our last cruise, one of the dinner meals featured asparagus as a side vegetable with one of the entrees.  Asparagus is the husband’s favorite.  Our table mates ordered that same entry and since we knew them pretty well by this time, when their plates arrived, the husband ended up with a heap of asparagus from their plates to his.  Our server noticed this and soon a plate full of asparagus arrived at the table.  And, while the husband loved every bite, he felt the affects later—if you have ever eaten asparagus, you will know what I’m talking about. 

If you order something that you try and don’t like, don’t hesitate to send it back or ask for something different.  Your servers will be offended if you don’t like your meal.  Want something that isn’t on the menu?  Ask.  Chances are, what you are asking for is being served somewhere on the ship and your server could get it for you.  This is your cruise and your wait staff wants you to enjoy your meal.

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