Carnival Cruise Line makes major main dining room menu change

Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean made massive changes to their main dining room menus last year. They did so in very different ways.

Carnival Cruise Line hired the famed chef Emeril Lagasse as its Chief Culinary Officer. That's not an honorary title like the cruise line making Shaquille O'Neal its Chief Fun Officer.

The pioneering chef actively worked to revamp the cruise line's nightly menus, which included adding some of his signature dishes each night. Lagasse also has three different on-board specialty restaurants on Carnival ships, and he will have an ongoing role with the cruise line.

"Aside from the restaurants, one of his most important tasks will be helping us nurture the next generation of culinary talent. ... Plus, when you cruise, keep an eye open for a special Emeril recommendation on the main dining room menu," Carnival said at the time of his appointment.

Royal Caribbean took a different approach to its main-dining-room overhaul. It took items off the menu, dropping daily items including a basic steak, salmon, chicken, and several classic appetizers that used to appear on the menu each night.

Now, each night has a theme including "Bon Voyage," "Italian," "Mexican," "Caribbean," "French" and more. And Royal Caribbean offers fewer menu items each night, which the company said was a choice based on speed of service and food waste.

carnival cruise line makes major main dining room menu change

Chef Lagasse has added a number of his signature dishes to Carnival's main-dining-room menus. Image source: Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival adds a new main dining room menu

In July, Carnival Brand Ambassador John Heald wrote that Carnival was adding vegan menus to all its ships. The cruise line had already offered vegan choices each night, but it did not have a full vegan menu.

"The reason I am posting this is that it gives me a chance to let all my vegan friends know that something special is coming. We are designing distinct vegan menus for breakfast, brunch, and dinner," he posted back in July. "We know that many now follow this lifestyle and we will do our very best to accommodate them when they cruise with us."

The vegan menus have been rolled out across the fleet and Carnival has another main-dining-room menu that it has recently introduced across much of the fleet. Heald discussed the move on his Facebook page on May 13.

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"A gluten-free menu is something that a lot of you have been asking for, and thanks to the wonderful culinary team at the mothership, we have introduced these to all the ships sailing from North America and they will be added also to the ship sailing from Australia," he posted.

Carnival passengers react to the new gluten-free menus

Many commenters on Heald's post were simply excited that Carnival has made gluten-free menus available in the main dining room.

"Thank you for sharing this John Heald, and please thank the beards for me for finally hearing the pleas of those of us who are gluten-free. Not all of us eat that way by choice," wrote Tamela Pollard Freeman.

Others were thankful but did have some questions.

"This is wonderful! As someone else mentioned, I would like to also be assured that there are kitchen protocols to ensure no cross-contamination happens (separate workstations, different utensils, dedicated bins, etc.), but so amazing to know there are safe options. Thank you," posted Sandra Dupuis.

Some passengers also shared their experiences eating gluten-free on Carnival ships.

"I was on a b2b sailing March 02-16 this year and was very thrilled with the gluten-free menu. There were lots of choices and variety. A couple of the meals were outstanding. I also very much appreciated the labels in the buffet. There always seemed to be at least 2 entree choices. And the gluten-free parfait at breakfast was another huge hit with me," said Elizabeth Cerins.

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Those thoughts were echoed by Beth Marchetti.

"As someone with Celiac who last week got to experience this amazing change and Carnival’s commitment, I am so happy. Thank you! No stress in selecting meals, I did not get sick, and the staff was very supportive," she wrote.

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