New Dining Fee Introduced on Two Carnival Cruise Ships

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Carnival Cruise Line has updated its specialty dining fees with a new charge added to one popular venue aboard the cruise line’s two biggest ships, Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration. The new charge applies to dinner at Cucina del Capitano, the Italian eatery found on the Excel-class ships and a number of other ships in the Carnival fleet.

Free Meals Reduced at Dining Venue

Travelers setting sail aboard Mardi Gras or Carnival Celebration since the two ships debuted in July 2021 and November 2022, respectively, have been enjoying free lunches and dinners in the popular Cucina del Capitano restaurant, but new fees have now been added to dinnertime.

The minimal $8 fee applies only to dinner, and only after a guest’s first free dinner in the Italian restaurant. All passengers can continue to enjoy lunch in Cucina del Capitano as frequently as they wish on each cruise with no additional charges.

The addition of the fee is the same as was added to ChiBang, the unique dual-menu Chinese and Mexican restaurant onboard Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration. That venue had an $8 fee added in April 2023 for every dinner after a first free dinner. At the time, the fee was a “test” that has obviously proven successful.

Cucina del Capitano offers an authentic Italian experience for guests, with Italy-inspired décor and family-style service in a homestyle atmosphere. Brick walls and metal accents provide a rustic feel, while photos of Carnival Cruise Line’s history and family photos from the line’s Italian officers give a personal and endearing touch to the space.

Cucina del Capitano Wall
Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz

The menu is infused with homemade touches from officers’ families, with delicious options to give every diner a true taste of Italy. Meatballs, minestrone, Caesar salads, risotto, veal, and of course a selection of amazing pastas are on the menu, along with sweet treats like gelato, lemon sorbet, and more.

The lunch menu is simpler with fewer selections, but still offers guests delicious choices for a range of preferences.

The restaurant has been a hit with guests, and was voted the best specialty dining venue of 2022 among all specialty restaurants on all ships and cruise lines by Cruise Hive readers.

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What About Onboard Carnival Jubilee?

Of special interest has been whether or not Cucina del Capitano would be a free venue when the new Carnival Jubilee debuts from Galveston in December 2023. The Italian restaurant was free with no restrictions on the number of lunch or dinner visits for the inaugural seasons of both Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration.

Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald has confirmed that Cucina del Capitano will be free onboard Carnival Jubilee, though the length of the “inaugural season” may vary.

Carnival Jubilee at Meyer Werft
Carnival Jubilee at Meyer Werft

“How long is the inaugural season? The answer is I really don’t know. It could be a year as it was on Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration and it could be a bit less,” Heald explained.

There are several reasons why the restaurant is offered free when the ship debuts. With the popularity of a new shop, Carnival Jubilee is sure to be sailing at or over her double occupancy capacity of 5,282 passengers, and providing more free dining venues for mealtime seatings helps alleviate some crowding at the main dining rooms and buffet.

Furthermore, offering Cucina del Capitano for free gives guests the chance to try the new restaurant and spread the word about its deliciousness, which can encourage more reservations once a nominal fee is added.

In addition to being found aboard the cruise line’s three Excel-class ships, Cucina del Capitano is also a mainstay on Carnival Breeze, Carnival Horizon, Carnival Magic, Carnival Panorama, Carnival Radiance, Carnival Sunrise, Carnival Sunshine, and Carnival Vista.

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