Carnival Cruises features a whole range of dining options while onboard. Below is a general overview of what you will find:
Main dining rooms
Most ships have 1 or 2 main dining rooms. One of them is usually open if you want a sit down breakfast or lunch. For breakfast and lunch seating is open so you can sit at any of the tables instead of your assigned dinner table. Breakfast is usually served from 7:45am-9:00am and Lunch is served from noon – 1:30pm. For dinner there are two traditional seating times (Early 6:00pm and Late 8:45pm) or you can choose Your Time Dining. Once you have selected Traditional or Your Time Dining you will need to stick with that option for your entire cruise. You cannot switch back and forth each day (although if you are on Your Time Dining you could go to dinner at a time similar to one of the assigned times.) With traditional dining you will sit at the same table every night and have the same servers every night. This allows your servers to get to know you which is especially important if you have any special needs (i.e. food allergies) or likes and dislikes. If you are a small group and have requested a large table you will be seated with other travelers for the duration of your cruise.
Your Time dining does not require reservations. You can dine in the main dining room at your leisure between 5:45pm and 9:30pm. Guests are seated on a first-come, first served basis depending on party size. Usually the wait is not longer than 20 minutes for a table however if there are only a limited number of large tables available so if you have more than 10 people you may need to split up and sit at different tables. If you select Your Time dining gratuities will automatically be added to your shipboard account.
Menus in the dining rooms will have a selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts created for that night. If there is a theme night they will follow the theme as well. If you don't care for the items on the menu most dining rooms also make a selection of basic entrees (steak, chicken, pasta, vegetarian) every night as well. There is also a children's menu with special selections and kid's favorites (chicken strips, macaroni & cheese, etc).
For a quick and casual Breakfast or Lunch head up to the Lido Buffet. Usually found on the Pool Deck they have stations of ready-made as well as made to order food. For breakfast you will typically find bacon or sausage, eggs, cereal, toast, muffins/pastries, a hot entree (pancakes, waffles, etc) and a made to order omelet station. Lunch usually has an assortment of hot and cold entrees, salads, sandwiches, etc. On port days Breakfast will be very crowded with everyone trying to eat and get off the ship. Lunch is the most crowded on sea days.
The Lido Buffet is open for dinner as well. It is a casual alternative to the dining rooms and specialty restaurants.
Grill & Pizzeria
The Lido Buffet has a separate area for Pizza as well as Grilled items. Hamburgers tend to be better when there is a line and everything is being cooked fresh. During slack hours, there may be lots of re-heating of patties and pizza slices cooked earlier.
Room service is included with your cruise however it is appropriate to tip the crew member who delivers it. The room service menus are limited but usually have continental breakfast, sandwiches and appetizers. If you order sodas or other beverages from room service you will be charged for them similar to ordering from a bar. Ordering room service is a great idea if you have late dining and want sometime to snack on while you are getting relaxing in your cabin or getting ready for the evening. Similar to a hotel you can leave a breakfast order out to be delivered at a specific time the next morning. Continental breakfast is served until 10am.
The Steakhouse serves USDA Prime steaks, chops and seafood. They also have an enhanced wine list that is different than the one you will find in the main dining rooms. There is an additional charge for specialty restaurants / steakhouses. On Carnival it is $30 per person plus gratuities. Beverages including liquor and wine are extra. Reservations are recommended for specialty restaurants. The Steakhouse is only available on Carnival Legend, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Pride, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Glory, Carnival Valor, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Splendor and Carnival Dream.
Many of the ships have a Specialty Coffee Bar. For those of you looking for Starbucks this is the place to go. They serve specialty coffees, pastries & espresso drinks. Just like a regular bar there is an additional charge for items ordered at the Coffee Bar.
On Carnival there is a charge for soda unless you order it in the dining room. At the beginning of the cruise they sell an unlimited soft-drink card. If you are a big soda drinker this is worth it. You can go to any bar and they will refill your soda at no additional charge for the length of your cruise.
Beer, Wine, Liquor, Specialty Drinks
Carnival does not allow you to bring your own beverages onboard. If you want an alcoholic beverage you will need to purchase it onboard. Any duty free liquor purchased in port will be held until the last night of your cruise when it will be delivered to your stateroom. Be sure to check bar tabs closely. Most ships automatically add a gratuity to your bar tab however the slip will still have a blank line for a gratuity.
Helpful Resources: Dining Guide by Carnival Cruise Lines Ship
Carnival Conquest Dining
Carnival Dream Dining
Carnival Destiny Dining
Carnival Ecstasy Dining
Carnival Elation Dining
Carnival Fantasy Dining
Carnival Fascination Dining
Carnival Freedom Dining
Carnival Glory Dining
Carnival Imagination Dining
Carnival Inspiration Dining
Carnival Legend Dining
Carnival Liberty Dining
Carnival Magic Dining
Carnival Miracle Dining
Carnival Paradise Dining
Carnival Pride Dining
Carnival Sensation Dining
Carnival Splendor Dining
Carnival Spirit Dining
Carnival Triumph Dining
Carnival Valor Dining
Carnival Victory Dining