Dining Room Etiquette for Cruise Ships – Fine dining is one of the highlights of cruise ship vacations. Many of the rules we follow on land also apply at sea. Here’s a refresher.
Rules in the Main Doing Room
Many people prefer dining at a large table because it provides the opportunity to meet fellow passengers. Seatings are traditionally set about 6:00 and 8:00 or thereabouts. Open seating is often an option. For your own groups you would want to request a table in advance. Let us assume you are at second seating dinner at a table for eight.
- Always arrive on time. The waitstaff usually do not take dinner orders until everyone is in their seats. It helps keep things on schedule.
- Introduce yourself on the first evening. This gives everyone an opportunity to meet and converse as equals.
- If you plan to change tables, do it after the first night. If there is an issue (everyone speaks a different language, or you feel the personalities are not a good match) ask the maître d’ to move you to another table. Your fellow passengers might sense the same problem.
- Respect the dress code. It’s a sign of respect for your fellow diners. If you choose to wear a tee shirt on the formal night, you might be spoiling the experience for the couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.
- Make conversation with the person to your left and your right. It’s another sign of respect. These conversations are easiest to hear.
- If you order wine, offer it around the table. Generally speaking, different people buy the wine each night. Everyone takes a turn. If you do not want to follow this protocol, politely decline the offered wine, order your own wine by the glass, buy a bottle and keep it to yourself or order and pay for the drink you prefer.
- Do not start eating until everyone is served. This ritual is followed for every course. The exception is when the unserved person says: “Please start.”
- If you will be absent, let you tablemates know in advance. The nest day, they can let your waiter know, so they aren’t waiting for your empty seats to be filled.
- Tip at the end of the voyage. Tipping might be included in your fare, but we also hand our waiter and assistant waiter white envelopes containing cash. They work hard.
Rules in the Specialty Restaurants
Many ships have multiple dining venues. The rules you follow ashore also hold at sea. In addition to the above rules, consider the following.
- Make reservations in advance. It helps the restaurant staff plan.
- Arrive on time. The staff assumes a table will be occupied for a certain time period. They may have other diners coming in with later reservations.
- If your plans change, call and cancel. This frees up your table for other diners.
Generally speaking, fine dining is the high point of many cruises. It keeps us coming back!
Cover photo: Queen Victoria Britannia restaurant dining room, credit Bryce Sanders