Saturday, May 28, 2011

What to Expect- Dinner

A Typical Carnival Dining Experience

Dinner was a lot of fun. I should first point out that you have several dining options for dinner. You can eat at the lido buffet, in the main dining room, order room service, or any other place around the ship you choose. I would say the majority of the people eat in the main dining room so that is what I’m mainly going to cover in this post. If you choose the lido buffet to eat, the entire restaurant is usually not open, but there will definitely be a part of it open. Usually they serve very similar to foods as the main dining room, but it is in a much more casual setting.

In the main dining room you can expect a seated 3 course meal that includes an appetizer, main entrée, and dessert. The early seating begins around 6:00pm and the late seating begins around 8:30pm. Dinner typically lasts anywhere from 1.5-2 hours. They typically have 3-6 choices of each course, and they do cater to special dietary restrictions. You just need to inform the maître d beforehand. I’ll most likely do a more in depth post later about the food.

In the dining room, they have tables of all sizes available ranging from 2 seats to around 10 seats. On the past cruise it was open seating, thus you could pick wherever you wanted to sit. I enjoyed sitting at the larger tables so we would have the opportunity to meet new people. This is always a gamble though, but considering we are all Backstreet Boys fans, ideally there should be less of a risk of sitting with a ‘dud’ than on your normal cruise.

Spirit Dining Room

Once you were seated, you can expect a head waiter and assistant waiter to be serving you throughout the evening. Your head waiter will take your order, make recommendations, and serve your food. Your assistant waiter usually does drinks, bread, and clean up. You will also have a few other people stop by the table including a sommelier- who is in the wine steward. You will have a cocktail waitress come around and take any other specialty drink orders. Sometimes the maître d will stop by just to see how things are going. And then you will probably have photographers making their way around the room to take pictures of you individually and/or the table as a group.

They do offer a variety of different foods, which change daily. They also have some basics that will be available to you every night. I would say the quality of the food is good, not great. But obviously that is subjective because apparently Brian hated the food. I didn’t mind it, but I’m also not very picky. Carnival is also known to be the fun ship so as they are serving dessert, the waiters will typically to do some sort of song and dance number. That’s always a lot of fun. Another thing to look out for is formal night. They typically have 1 night on every cruise designated to be formal night. You will see people get a little more dressed up than normal. Speaking of getting dressed up…let me quickly provide a quick run-down of what you should wear in the dining room.

Dinner Attire in the Dining Room

From Carnival's Website:
Cruise Casual Dining Dress Code: Gentlemen - Sport slacks, khakis, jeans (no cut-offs), dress shorts (long), collared sport shirts; Ladies - Casual dresses, casual skirts or pants and blouses, summer dresses, Capri pants, dress shorts, jeans (no cut-offs).
Not permitted in the dining room during the Cruise Casual dinner for ladies and gentlemen: shorts, gym shorts, basketball shorts, beach flip-flops, bathing suit attire, cut-off jeans, sleeveless shirts for men and baseball hats.

Cruise Elegant Dining Dress Code: Gentlemen - Dress slacks, dress shirts. We also suggest a sport coat. If you wish to wear suits and ties or tuxedos, by all means we invite you to do so. Ladies - Cocktail dresses, pantsuits, elegant skirts and blouses; if you‘d like to show off your evening gowns, that's great too!
Not permitted in the dining room during the Cruise Elegant dinner for ladies and gentlemen: shorts, gym shorts, T-shirts, beach flip-flops, bathing suit attire, jeans, cut-off jeans, sleeveless shirts for men, sportswear, and baseball hats.

Not so typical Carnival Dining Experience- Dining with BSB

The big question- do the Backstreet Boys dine with us? On the last cruise, yes they did. I honestly don’t expect that for the 2011 cruise, but maybe we will be pleasantly surprised. Since everyone ate at the same time, the Backstreet Boys were able to join us for dinner during the late seating. They had their own private section in the back of the dining room where they ate with their friends, family, and staff. They would typically show up a few minutes late, but stayed for the majority of dinner. They were known to walk through the dining room past fans to get to and from their table, say if they had to use the bathroom or step out for a moment. Though they seemed to take a backdoor, crew entrance to enter and leave. Security blocked off access to the area where they were seating, but for the most part I thought fans were pretty respectful. I did see a few girls try to sneak in, but not much besides that.

Not all Backstreet Boys were present every night. The number of BSB members present at dinner seemed to dwindle as the cruise progressed. By the last night I believe only Brian and Howie came. From what I understand, Nick and AJ ate upstairs at the buffet. However when Nick and AJ were present, they each got involved during the mini performance at dessert that the Carnival waiters put on for us. That was TONS of fun.

AJ dancing with Jessica at dinner (That's me in the lower left)

Since the Backstreet Boys ate with us and it was open seating, you could obviously guess that getting to the dining room early was important. On the first night, my friends and I lucked out picking a great table not knowing what was in store. As the cruise progressed, fans caught onto the fact that the boys were there and where they were seated. Thus in true Backstreet fashion, it did get rather ugly. Fans were lining up earlier and earlier. I’d say by the last night people started lining up 45 min to 1 hour early. That part did not bother me. But what did bother me was that some fans got very pushy and sneaky. They were cutting in line, pushing, cutting off wheelchairs (which really disgusted me), sneaking in to “ask the maitre d a question” then not get back in line, even sending men from their groups in early to go stake out a table and save seats. I personally got very frustrated by the whole experience. I hope that if the Backstreet Boys do eat with us this year, that Rose Tours brings some order to this process. Whether its assigned seats or having security present in line to monitor people.

Overall, great experience dining with my friends and the Backstreet Boys. Should they choose to eat with us again this year, I would be thrilled, but I’m not counting on it. If they choose not to eat with us, I will look forward to a much more relaxed dining experience.

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