Main dining rooms are a cruising staple. You'll find one on just about every ship -- a large, opulent space with a wedding reception feel that serves as the "default" dinner venue for most passengers. The meals are included in your cruise fare, and there's typically no limit to how much you can order.
Foodies, however, tend to be underwhelmed. Main dining rooms aren't known to offer the best quality, which is why a number of passengers opt to splurge on specialty restaurants. On the flip side, there are a handful of main dining rooms that whip up some pretty drool-worthy dishes, making it hard to ever skip a night.
If you have a picky palate and a sweet tooth for tradition, these six best cruise ship main dining rooms are sure to whet your appetite.
1. Oceania's Regatta-Class Dining Rooms
The Grand Dining Room on Oceania's R-class ships (Regatta, Insignia, Nautica and Sirena) takes the cake when it comes to cruise ship main dining rooms, with unparalleled quality (a nod to the line's partnership with celebrity chef Jacques Pepin) and a more intimate vibe than the line's O-class (thanks to a smaller passenger capacity). Diners can indulge in dishes such as sturgeon caviar and duck a l'orange with braised red cabbage and almond potato croquettes, as well as an array of healthy, Canyon Ranch fare and, depending on the ship, hand-picked items from the line's specialty restaurants, Jacques and Red Ginger -- all served on china with crystal glassware.
2. Disney's Animator's Palate
You don't have to wish upon a star to experience a little magic in Animator's Palate. One of Disney's main dining rooms -- each ship has three -- brings characters to life while serving up tasty, innovative dishes. (Shrimp and caramelized onion cheesecake, anyone?) The space pays tribute to the art of animation through its decor, special effects and shows -- whether the room transforms from black and white into color, or diners' very own character drawings become animated and interact with Disney characters. (Note: Shows vary by night and ship.) If you're lucky, you'll even get a visit from a "real life" character.
Our Favorite Things Aboard Viking Venus
Cruise Critic and JJ Cruise : Our Experience Onboard Celebrity Edge (June 2021)
Our Celebrity Silhouette Cruise Experience: March 2020 vs. July 2021
Q&A with Celebrity Cruises' Captain Kate McCue (2021)
Back on Celebrity Silhouette: Here's What It's Like On One Of Our Favorite Ships 15 Months Later
Cruise Critic | EatSleepCruise: What's It Like Onboard Celebrity Edge?
Celebrity Millennium -- Video Tour & Ship Review (2021)
Celebrity Apex -- Video Tour of The Magic Carpet
Q&A: Cruisers and Crew Chat About The Joy of Cruising's Return
Celebrity Apex -- Eden
Celebrity Apex -- The Retreat
Celebrity Apex -- Video Tour of the Infinite Veranda Cabin
Q&A with Celebrity Apex's Cruise Director
Celebrity Apex -- Pools & Resort Deck
Celebrity Apex -- Embarkation Process (2021)
Celebrity to Restart from U.S. Homeport, PLUS Royal Caribbean Given Green Light for Test Cruises!
Rudi Sodamin Makes A Special, Thanksgiving-themed "Food Faces" Video For Cruise Critic
Coin Ceremony For Celebrity Cruises' New Ship, Celebrity Beyond
Martini Bar Bartender Pours 15 Martinis at Once on Celebrity Cruises
Disney Cruise Line Announces Disney Wish
Cruise Critic Tours Celebrity Edge
Celebrity Edge First Look: 3 Revolutionary Dining Experiences
Celebrity Edge Sneak Peek: Why You Should Be Excited About Celebrity Cruises' Newest Ship
Celebrity Edge Shipyard Hyperlapse Tour
Star Wars Day At Sea On Disney Cruise Line
How To Make Carnival Cruise Line's Famous Warm Chocolate Melting Cake - Video
What’s New On Celebrity Silhouette? - Video Tour
The Waterfront On Norwegian Cruise Line - Video
Best Spots For Adults On A Disney Cruise Ship
MSC Meraviglia Dining Guide
5 Best Restaurants for Free Eats on Carnival Sunshine
Photo Tour of Celebrity Reflection
4 Best Places To Get Craft Beer At Sea - Video Guide
Sneak Peek: "Beauty And The Beast" On Disney Dream -- Behind The Scenes Video
Sneak Peek: Disney Fantasy Highlights For Kids - Video Tour
Your Food’s Journey On Oceania Cruises - Behind The Scenes Video
Why Foodies Will Love An Oceania Cruise - Video Tour
HRH Prince Phillip Visits Cunard's Fleet
Royal Rendezvous: 3 Cunard Queens Arrive In Southampton
Celebrity Silhouette's Conveyance (2011)
Oasis Of The Seas Ship Tour -- Main Dining Room (2009)
3. Viking Ocean Cruises' The Restaurant
Simply named The Restaurant, Viking's main dining room is far from modest with its offerings. The cozy venue, which features floor-to-ceiling windows that can open to create an alfresco space, serves inventive cuisine while bringing onboard flavors from each destination. Its regional tasting menu features local staples (such as tapas and paella when the ship is docked in Barcelona) as well as daily specials and everyday options -- including readily available vegetarian, heart-healthy and sugar-free dishes. Craving the regional entree but want to start off with a Caesar salad? You're free to pick and choose what you please from all three menus.
4. Celebrity's Solstice-Class Dining Rooms
Celebrity is mainstream cruising's dedicated line for foodies. It offers top-notch free and for-fee dining options, and even has a partnership with Fine Cooking magazine and its Emmy Award-winning PBS show, "Moveable Feast," through which it offers annual themed cruises. The main dining rooms on its Solstice-class ships (Celebrity Eclipse, Equinox, Reflection, Silhouette and Solstice), however, are in a league of their own. They flaunt a fresh, "sophisticated chic" design, with a white color scheme, sparkling chandelier and large, exposed wine rack. As for the menu, options include Buffalo-style frog legs, cedar plank-grilled black salmon and vegetables.
5. Cunard's Britannia Restaurant
Step inside Cunard's Britannia Restaurant, and you'll immediately be transported back to the golden years of cruising. The Art-Deco-style space is one of the most beautiful main dining rooms at sea, enticing passengers to don suits and gowns, even on non-formal nights. All eyes are drawn to a sweeping double staircase and intricate, floor-to-ceiling art piece that varies by ship, while tuxedo-clad waiters serve quality dishes with poise. The menu is heavy on French fare, but for a true taste of the line's roots, go for British dishes such as chicken curry and roast turkey with all the trimmings.
6. Seabourn's The Restaurant
It's not surprising that The Restaurant is one of the best main dining rooms at sea, given that Seabourn is a member of the prestigious gastronomic society Chaine des Rotisseurs. Add to that Seabourn's partnership with three-star Michelin chef Thomas Keller, whose dishes (appetizer, entree, vegetarian entree and dessert in the French-American style) appear in The Restaurant on select nights of every cruise, and you can be sure the quality of your meals will be superb. Dinner menus include a classics section (available every night) as well as a changing menu of "inspired" dishes that might include black truffle risotto, char-broiled Iberico pork chops or flash-cooked fresh salmon with white and green asparagus.