Carnival and Royal Caribbean Dining Changes, What You Need to Know

Here’s everything we know about the main dining room (MDR) changes the two major family-friendly cruise lines are making (you’re not going to like them).

Royal Caribbean (RCL) – Get Free Report and Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) – Get Free Report have made food a central part of the cruising experience. In many ways, dinner in the main dining room (MDR) serves as the anchor of your cruise experience.

No matter what you did during the day, whether you spent it as a family, with friends, or by yourself, dinner brings everyone together. For passengers on both cruise lines, the meal isn’t quite as formal as it once was. Some people dress for dinner, others opt for more casual clothes, but the dining experience remains pretty traditional.

Once you sit down, multiple waiters take care of you through a meal that includes soup, salad, appetizers, main courses, and dessert. It’s all served at a leisurely pace with the option to add items to your order as you go.

Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival offer menus that change each night while also having a section of items that are always available. In addition, the two cruise lines have generally been all-you-can-eat, allowing customers to have as many entrees as they want.

In the new year, both cruise lines plan different changes to some of those longstanding MDR policies.

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Carnival Adds New Dining Limits

In November, Carnival sent an email to booked passengers telling them about changes to its dining options, attempting to explain the changes.

“We have all experienced the impact of inflation, higher fuel prices, and supply chain challenges; At Carnival, we have worked very hard to minimize the impact on our guests. We have reached a point with our food costs, however, where we must take some modest but specific actions, which we know most of you have done yourselves, whether with your dining out patterns or shopping to stock the refrigerator or pantry,” the cruise line shared.

That’s relatable to a point, but the cruise line is using the economy to change a long-standing policy.

Starting with sailings last November, the cruise line began charging $5 per entree after the first two. That means that passengers can still order multiple main courses, but for every entree after the second one, they will pay $5.

Royal Caribbean Makes an Even Bigger Change

While Carnival took a fairly modest step to control food costs, Royal Caribbean is making a pretty major change. After testing new menus toward the end of 2022 on Symphony of the Seas, the cruise line has decided to implement those changes fleetwide.

The cruise line will be slimming down its menus, giving each night a theme, and getting rid of the “classics,” which include chicken, New York strip steak, spaghetti bolognese, and appetizers like shrimp cocktail, escargot, and French onion soup.

This menu section served two purposes. It offered some very basic choices for cruise passengers not looking to try something new. That’s a major positive for passengers of teenagers too old for the kid’s menu, but who have not fully adopted adult tastes. 

In addition, the “classics” menu offered appetizers including shrimp cocktail, French onion soup, and escargot that many passengers enjoyed ordering every night of their cruise. The changes will make the MDR menus less expansive and while all the “classics” will be available on some nights, they will no longer be available every night,.

The cruise line has said that it’s making these changes, not for financial reasons, but to improve the speed of service. Royal Caribbean has not shared the new menus — they were still being worked on in December — but the changes are expected to begin being rolled out in January across the fleet. 

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