Cruise Tips - Cruise Ship Food & Dining

  • Cruise ship dining has been described as the equivalent of average to really good hotel food.  That's probably fairly accurate.  Most meals won't be burned into your memory as the best you have ever had, but you will probably remember them as good meals, with an occasional top notch dining event.

  • Most cruise lines have some sort of food available twenty-four hours a day.  This ranges from buffets at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to formal dinners in the ship's dining rooms.  The ship's dining rooms are also usually open for breakfast and lunch.  There are also cookouts on deck, and snacks in the afternoons.  Plus, most ships now offer twenty-four hour room service at no charge.  As part of our cruise tips, we're going to strongly recommend eating in the dining room(s) as much as possible.  You rarely have to get dressed up in anything more than nice casual clothes for breakfast and lunch, and you'll have better food and better service than in the buffet lines.  Keep this in mind:  you paid for dining room service and the best food on the ship.  Why settle for anything else?

  • Dinner is more formal.  You will be assigned to a table with a group of other people.  When you book your cruise, you designate if you want to sit at a small, medium, or large table, and at an early or late seating time.  We always choose a large table, and have had some memorable friendships with our dinner companions.  If you are seated with people you don't care for, you can always request the Maitre D' move you to another table after the first night. It's not a problem. 

  • Most cruise lines have a few "dress up" nights for dinner, where men are required to wear suits or tuxedos, and women are expected to wear nice dresses.  If this really goes against your preferences, then consider a cruise line that offers informal dining at all meals.

  • In the dining room, you're in control.  Want two entrees?  No problem.  Don't like an entree?  Your waiter will whisk it away and substitute any of the other available meats, pastas, or fish.  This is your chance to try some of those unusual dishes you've always wanted to order, without feeling like you're wasting money.  Quite a few passengers will order two entrees.  Plus, you can enjoy your traditional favorites. 

  • In spite of what is written above, there are some awfully good meals cooked on deck, especially charcoal grilled steaks and fish.  And, if you are having withdrawal symptoms, most cruise lines offer hamburgers cooked outside nearly every day for lunch. 

  • Midnight buffets are usually held one or two nights during the cruise - not every night.  This is a chance for the chefs to really display their culinary abilities, and you really should attend.  The presentation of the foods will be just as impressive as the overall variety, and there will be a lot of food.  Eat a very light dinner that evening, maybe even take a nap, and enjoy a cruising tradition.

  • There are lots of jokes about gaining weight on a cruise, and unfortunately many of them are true.  But there are also many dieters who hold to their regimen onboard the ship.  Most cruise lines offer low calorie meals, low fat dishes, and vegetarian meals -- but check with the cruise line if it's important to you. 

  • Cruises are really all-inclusive vacations, with several exceptions.  Alcoholic beverages are not normally included on most cruise lines, and (for some odd reason), soft drinks are usually extra.  Watch your bar bill carefully, as it can add up quickly.  Your food, entertainment (live shows), movies, lectures, concerts, etc. are all included.


Useful Links

Guide to Travel Insurance

Norwalk Virus & Cruise Ship Illness

CDC Sanitation Inspection Results for Cruise Ships








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