On a freighter you do not eat in the dinning room. Dinning rooms are to be found on cruise ships.You eat in either the officer's or crew's mess. The choice is yours. Passengers usually opt to eat in with the officers. The mess is usually located on either the main deck, or one or two decks above the main deck, depending on the size of the ship. Either way, you will have 4-6 decks of stairs to confront to get to the mess from your cabin. Some ships have elevators, though I have never been on a ship with one.

On many vessels the meals won't be exactly the same in both messes. However, the crew can eat exactly the same food as the officers, or opt food to which they are traditionally accustomed. The main difference between the two is that the crew serves their own food...the steward is for the officers and passengers. The officers have benefit of linen table clothes and napkins, the crew does not.

The mess is usually configured either with four separate tables or two four place tables placed together. On my last voyage the captain and his wife, the chief engineer and first officer sat at one table, the four passengers at another, and the other officers at specifically assigned places at the other two tables. Where you sit is the decision of the captain, not that it really makes any difference. The only problem is that if there are no other passengers you may be seated with officers who's command of your language is very limited. This is a problem for Americans as their knowledge of a language other than English, is slim to none.

It has been my experience that coffee is served in the morning. Tea at other meals, including the morning and afternoon break, usually at 10 A.M. and 3 P.M. On some ships ice water is not served, so just ask for it. Many Americans prefer ice tea at afternoon and evening meals. Again you will have ask for it. In a couple of days the steward will learn your preferences.

The quality and variety of food can range from eatable to excellent. On most German ships "sweet" deserts are usually not common. However, there is usually a wide variety of cold cuts and cheese at every meal that Germans seem to prefer in lieu of deserts. If you ever want more of anything all you need do is ask for it. Some of the offerings will be strange to Americans, however, if the cook is first rate you will have some pleasant experiences. The quality of cooking is going to vary from ship to ship. I rather suspect that the bad cooks are don't last very long on the vessels which carry passengers. In my personal experience I have yet to be disappointed with the meals.

If you want an evening snack it's on a do-it-your-self bases. Remember to rinse off your own dishes before leaving them in the sink. Evening visits to the galley are always part of my ship board life.