If you’re preparing for your first cruise, you’ve probably heard about the food: it’s fantastic. On any cruise ship, food is plentiful, expertly prepared, and delicious. Plus, there can be lots of choices for where, when and how to dine, especially on larger ships.
Even if you’ve cruised before, you may be surprised by how much has changed since the days when the only choices for dinner were the 6:00 seating or the 8:30 seating in the main dining room.
Where to Eat
Today, many cruise ships offer a wonderful variety of places to eat. On larger ships, the choices can be almost dizzying, and even small ships usually offer more than one restaurant.
Main Dining Room: This tends to be an elegant sit-down venue with fantastic service and a mix of American and international cuisine. Depending on how the dining room is set up, you may share a table with other passengers, which can lead to good conversation and fun. The “MDR” is often open for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner, with a dress code in the evening.Buffet Restaurant: Most ships have at least one, often located on an open-air deck. These are casual venues (although it is considered polite to put a cover-up over your swimsuit). Passengers help themselves to prepared salads, entrees and desserts. Be polite and don’t cut the line.
More Options: Additional options for casual dining can include outdoor grills, hot dog stands, pizzerias, and bakeries, which are great if you have hungry kids and need a quick snack. One of the newest trends in casual shipboard dining is gastropubs, where you can enjoy a craft beer and high-end pub food.
Room Service: Your stateroom can be a dining venue, too, as most ships offer room service 24×7.
By the way, all of the dining choices above are customarily included in your cruise fare, although there may be nominal fees for specialty items (such as lobster or sushi) or late-night room service.
Specialty Restaurants: Many ships also have specialty restaurants that charge an additional fee, per people or per item. These high-end venues can be well worth the nominal cost: they serve incredible food and truly memorable experiences. These are often intimate spaces, perfect for a romantic or special-occasion dinner. Some are associated with award-winning chefs like Jose Garces, Nobu Matsuhisa and Thomas Keller, whose land-based restaurants can be nearly impossible to get into.One dining tradition that has disappeared from many ships is the midnight buffet, which used to be a staple of the main dining room (and the cause of much lost sleep).
If you’re worried that cruise ship dining is all about prime rib roasts and Baked Alaska, don’t be. You can certainly enjoy top-quality meats and elaborate desserts on board, but cruise lines are responding to changing tastes in food and dining, too.
Some cruise lines are bringing the farm-to-table style of dining to the open sea. They source fresh, local and organic ingredients while in port and serve them that night. While this isn’t always practical on larger ships with thousands of mails to prepare each day, it’s becoming more common on smaller ships, especially those from luxury cruise lines.
Cruise chefs are also designing menus that reflect the region a ship is sailing in: think tapas, street-style tacos, kabobs, satay, kimchi, ceviche and much more.
Before you sail, let the dining staff know about any special dietary needs that you have. This includes food allergies or intolerances, vegetarian or vegan diets, paleo and low-carb diets, and low-salt or low-fat diets. Cruise line chefs are accustomed to accommodating all kinds of requests and will give you delicious food that stays within the borders of your diet.
Don’t hesitate to remind your server of your special needs, too, as a double-check.
Plan Before You Sail
To make the most of your ship’s dining options, do a little strategizing before you sail: Cruise Specialists can help you make a dining plan! Select a specialty restaurant to try, and make a reservation before you board. Pick a few nights to dress up for the main dining room, and others to visit the casual spots on board. And, don’t forget to bring a healthy appetite!
Of course your Cruise Specialists consultant will help you figure all of this out as well!
Let us help you find the perfect cruise for your taste buds!