Dining at the Captain’s Table on a cruise ship is always a special treat. Not only is it a thrill to get invited, but makes for a fun night, and long-lasting memories. Traditionally the Captain hosted the special table (and still does on some ships), but depending on the cruise length, availability of the Captain, two seatings etc, this honor often goes to the Hotel Director or Assistant Hotel Director. Still known as the ‘Captain’s Table’ by most, or ‘Hotel Director’s Table’ this sole dining table is normally in a prime dining spot, and is waited on by the best waiters the dining has to offer.
The Captain’s Table has changed somewhat (don’t want to use the word diminished) over the last few years due to the abundance of flexible (anytime) dining, multi-dining rooms depending on cabin booked, specialty dining, more casual ‘formal nights’, etc, but traditionally when there was only the main dining room for dinner, this was (and still is) a big deal to get invited.
We’ve been fortunate to dine at several Hotel Director’s Tables, and it’s always a wonderful night. Typically you receive a verbal request, followed by a formal written invitation confirming the date and time of the dinner. Every time we have been invited (and it is tradition to do so), you are requested to meet in a lounge at the specified time, where a reserved seating section awaits you and your fellow Captain’s Table mates.
It is at the Lounge where you are introduced to your fellow seat-mates by the ship hostess, and are offered a complimentary drink or Champagne, while you get acquainted with the other passengers. The time of the pre-dinner cocktail gathering is typically the actual time of the First or Second seating dining time.
The first time we were invited, I thought this was strange meeting at 8:30pm, when dinner started at 8:30pm, however this is intentional by the ship. The event is typically on Formal Night, and after 15 minutes or so of meeting your table-mates, you are escorted (some might say marched) to the Captain’s Table. Normally you haven’t finished your drink when they escort you down, so Celebrity Cruises requests you leave your unfinished drink, and the server will bring it down for you (don’t worry, they won’t get it mixed up!) Royal Caribbean offered nice Champagne which we finished before leaving for dinner.
On Celebrity Cruises ‘M Class’ ships, you walk down the main stair case while music is playing, and hope you don’t trip while the whole dining room is watching you! You then walk all the way to the aft Captain’s Table, which is elegantly set with white table cloths, fresh flowers, wine glasses and your name card, indicating where you are to sit (pre-arranged by the hostess.)
As you sit down, you are told to glance up towards the balcony where a ship photographer takes a couple photos of the table. You will receive the complimentary photo usually by the time you go back to your cabin, where it is placed on your bed. It normally comes in a folder too, with each passengers name and their seated position at the table.
At dinner, you normally have a special personalized menu you can take with you, and the wine is complimentary and free-flowing throughout the meal. So no one passenger dominates the conversation, the Hotel Director (or host) includes each passenger as much as possible. We actually prefer having the Hotel Director as they are directly responsible for all aspects of the hotel side of the ship (food, drink, cabin, entertainment etc – basically most everything by Engineering and Navigation), and they have many interesting experiences both on board as well as land, and they are generally very easy to talk to, without feeling so intimidating in the fancy setting.
Normally the Host has to leave right after dessert, but most passengers at the Table wish to remain for awhile as they are having such a good time. This is normal, (and expected), and usually exchange contact information with each other. When we’re in the Penthouse or Royal Suite, we usually invite the guests by for a cocktail party later in the cruise.
Dining at the Captain or Hotel’s Table is truly memorable, and here are some of the tables we’ve been lucky to have been invited too.