Can you still have an outstanding experience in a cruise ship's main dining room? That's the question on many cruisers' lips as cruise lines focus their attention on myriad extra-fee, upscale specialty restaurants. These venues promise gourmet dining with menus crafted by celebrity chefs, exotic cuisine or novel eating experiences, and the exclusive feeling that comes with intimate, exclusive venues. With all the hype, some cruisers might feel they're missing out if they don't try all the alternative restaurants -- associating the once-beloved main dining room (or MDR, as it's affectionately known) with lower-quality or mass-market meals.
However, the MDR is far from a cafeteria with chandeliers; it's a chance to take advantage of a slightly formal (and free!) meal. You don't need an iPad menu or world-class chefs to dress up a little, try new and different foods, and have a fun and fancy three- or four-course dinner. And while we've all had a dish or two that fell flat or tablemates who we didn't love, we've also had yummy food and made new friends over many an evening meal. Besides, where else can you order three entrees or desserts and no one bats an eye?
If you've been overly dazzled by specialty dining or suffer from MDR ennui, try some of the following tips to help you customize your own dining room experience and solve problems before they escalate. From befriending your waiters to experimenting with new foods, you might find a few changes give you a new perspective on tried-and-true cruise-ship dining.