1. Home
  2. Planning
  3. Cruise Tips and Advice
  4. 9 Things Not to Do in a Cruise Ship Main Dining Room
9 Things Not to Do in a Cruise Ship Main Dining Room (Photo: Holland America Line)
9 Things Not to Do in a Cruise Ship Main Dining Room (Photo: Holland America Line)

9 Things Not to Do in a Cruise Ship Main Dining Room

Updated September 21, 2017

Although cruising is markedly less formal now than it was decades ago -- allowing for jeans at dinner, fewer set dining times, no tablecloths -- you'll still want to maintain a certain level of decorum when you're dining onboard. Check out these nine things not to do in a cruise ship main dining room, and please keep them in mind on your next sailing. If you do, we can almost guarantee a more pleasant meal for you and those at your table.

1. Don't Show Up Late or at the Wrong Time

If your ship doesn't offer a "dine when you want" option, or if you didn't sign up for it, be sure you know the time at which you're scheduled to show up for dinner. The dining room on your ship can't accommodate everybody simultaneously, so cruisers are usually divided into two seatings (early and late). If you show up at the wrong time, you might not have a seat. Similarly, if you're scheduled for a specific seating in the MDR, don't show up late. Not only does it delay ordering for others at your table if you're sharing one, but it also forces your waiters to rush you through your meal in order to get you in and out within the allotted timeframe.

2. Don't Ignore the Dress Code

Some people like to dress up to eat, while others would rather walk the plank than put on a suit or cocktail dress. Regardless of your stance, it's rude to flagrantly ignore the stated dress code. If you'd rather wear cutoffs and a tank top to dinner, your best bet is to hit up the buffet. We acknowledge that this is a personal and touchy subject, but overall, it's about having respect for the caliber of the venue in which you're dining. You really should not sit down to dinner dressed like you're headed to bed or to the pool.

3. Don't Be Rude to Your Waiter

Be considerate. Your waiters have likely already worked a 10-hour day by the time you sit down for dinner. They do their best to take dozens of orders and juggle heaping plates of food, all while remembering your name, asking you about your day and remaining cheerful. If you have an issue, be sure to take it up with the correct party: If you're not happy with something on your plate, ask your waiter nicely if it can be fixed. If you have a problem with your dining time or table assignment, seek out the maitre d' to request a change. Above all, you're more likely to end up with a suitable solution if you're polite than if you're rude.  

4. Don't Drink Too Much

We know you're on vacation, and all the better if you've purchased an alcohol package. But keep in mind that overdoing it during dinner is generally considered bad form, especially if you're sharing a table with people who aren't your travel companions. We all know alcohol can cloud your judgement, and the last thing you'll want to remember (or not remember) from your cruise is that time you had one too many and made a spectacle of yourself in front of hundreds of strangers.

5. Don't Bring Up Controversial Topics

Religion and politics: Few subjects polarize people as much as these two. Avoid these topics of conversation at dinnertime, especially if you're dining with people you don't know well. Imagine the tense discussion, impassioned debate and potentially awkward silence that could follow. Stick to conversation that centers on the trip -- what you did in port, how you liked last night's show, etc. -- or general pleasantries like where people live or where they've traveled.

6. Don't Brag

Cruisers who boast about how little they paid for their sailing, repeatedly tell you how many cruises they've taken or find a way to mention their loyalty status at every turn, tend to be the biggest bores and often come off as arrogant. Don't let yourself be one of them. It's great if you've had the chance to sail frequently, and you absolutely have a right to enjoy the hard-earned perks that come with it, but you don't need to brag.

7. Don't Order More Than You Think You Can Eat

If you find yourself torn between two different dishes, go ahead and order both -- unless, of course, you don't think you can actually finish both. Just because it's not costing you anything doesn't mean you should be wasteful. Additionally, don't let your waiter (or tablemates) pressure you into ordering something you don't want. If you're too full for dessert, simply say so, and be firm.

8. Don't Forget Your Table Manners

Although there's no need to pretend you've just graduated from charm school, it's a good idea to maintain a certain level of dignity as you dine. General rules of etiquette: Don't eat with your hands, don't talk with your mouth full and don't twirl your napkin. (We know that last one is a hot-button topic among many cruisers, but seriously, nobody wants someone else's crumbs flying into his or her food.)

9. Don't Overstay Your Welcome

There's often nothing nicer at the end of a long day than a leisurely dinner. Take your time, and savor your food, but know when to say when. If you're lingering over your coffee while all of your fellow cruisers have vacated the dining room, it's probably time for you to leave. Be conscientious of the fact that the waiters have to clean up your table, either in time for the late seating (if you're assigned an early dining time) or for breakfast the next morning.

Popular on Cruise Critic

Best Time to Cruise
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. For example, fall foliage enthusiasts will find September and October the best time to cruise Canada/New England, whereas families prefer to sail in summer when temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.
8 Best Luxury Cruise Ships
The moment you step aboard a luxury cruise ship, a hostess is at your arm proffering a glass of bubbly while a capable room steward offers to heft your carry-on as he escorts you to what will be your home-away-from-home for the next few days. You stow your things (likely in a walk-in closet) and then emerge from your suite to get the lay of the ship. As you walk the decks, friendly crew members greet you ... by name. How can that be? You just set foot onboard! First-class, personalized service is just one of the hallmarks of luxury cruise lines. You can also expect exotic itineraries, varying degrees of inclusivity in pricing, fine wines and gourmet cuisine as well as universally high crew-to-passenger ratios. That being the case, you might think any old luxury cruise ship will do, but that's not quite true. Like people, cruise ships have their own unique personalities -- and some will be more suited to your vacation style than others. Lines like SeaDream might not offer the most spacious suites, but their intimate yachts can stealthily visit ports that large ships can't manage. Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises are owned by the same parent company but Regent offers a completely inclusive vacation experience, while Oceania draws travelers with a more independent streak. Take a look at Cruise Critic's list of best luxury cruise lines and ships to see which one resonates with you.
How To Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin: What You Need to Know
Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Choosing a cruise ship cabin can be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion. Cabins fall into different types or "categories," and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it's helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel: Inside: the smallest-sized room, with no window to the outside Outside: a room with a window or porthole (a round window) with a view to the outside, often similarly sized to an inside cabin or a bit larger; also known as oceanview Balcony: a room featuring a verandah that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck Suite: a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks It's the permutations (size, view, location, amenities and price, for example) of the four basic cabin types that can make choosing difficult. In addition to knowing your cabin options, you need to know yourself: Do you tend to get seasick? Do you prefer to nest peaceably on your balcony rather than hanging with the crowd around the pool area? Conversely, is your idea of a stateroom simply a place to flop into bed at 1 a.m. -- no fancy notions necessary? Are there certain amenities you are willing to splurge on, or can you simply not justify paying for unnecessary perks? The answers will help guide you toward selecting the best stateroom for your money. If you're feeling overwhelmed by choice, we'll help you get started with this guide to choosing the best cruise cabins for you and your travel party.