Cruise ships are known for their vast quantities of high quality and unique food. In fact, the ships will sometimes tell you that the average cruiser gains one or more pounds per day aboard the cruise ship. Buying loose fitting vacation clothes is a good idea when planning a cruise vacation. It can help to be informed about what to expect about the dining experiences available on most cruise ships.
Not all food on cruise ships is free.
In a continuing effort to increase revenue and passenger options, many cruise ships now offer alternative upgraded dining for a fee from $5 to $25 per person. This can be available in special dining areas on the ship. It is also sometimes offered as special selections on the main dining room menu. You can relax knowing that you will not be allowed to accidentally order one of these. The servers will remind you of the up charge before placing your order. Most of the special dining areas require a reservation, but some offer walk in service. An example of the latter is “Johnny Rockets” on several of the Royal Caribbean ships.
A buffet runs most of the day and into the evening.
Almost all passengers are directed to the buffet that is set up to welcome passengers onto the cruise ship. While this spread is designed to wow the new guests, it actually is just a preview of the buffet that will be set up multiple times each day. Various salads, appetizers, entrees, and desserts are waiting for your consumption at breakfast, lunch, and supper. It is all you can eat.
Room service is available.
Room service will vary depending on the ship and the cruise line. All cruise ships offer room service. Many have an abbreviated menu that is offered continuously with special items added for breakfast choices. Some ships offer essentially the same menu as the main dining room at the time you are ordering. So, it may be possible to have lobster or prime rib in your cabin. Room service is free, but it is a good plan to tip the delivery person with a couple of dollars or more.
The main dining room is open for three meals per day.
Many cruisers like the elegance of fine dining in the main dining room whether it is breakfast, lunch, or supper. Generally, breakfast and lunch are first come first served seating. You will be escorted to the next open table or seats on the list. The evening meal is assigned seating on most cruise lines. You will eat at the same table with the same people each night. The Mater-D can arrange for special seating if you contact him or her ahead of time. Each night the menu will have the featured selections. These menus are posted outside the dining room a couple of hours early if you want to get a head start on choosing.
You can order as much as you want in the dining room.
You are allowed to order multiples of the items if you want. It is best to order these all at once because of preparation time. You can also order two or three different appetizers, entrees, and desserts if you want try a variety. While there does not appear to be a limit on orders, remember each selection is intended to be enough for most people. Unless you want to double or triple your waistline, you may want to order sensibly.
Other free specialty food shops are available.
If you are in the mood for a pizza, hamburger, hotdog, or some french fries, you will be able to find these around on most cruise ships. The price of these items is usually included when you purchase a ticket. Some extravagant dessert shops usually charge from $3 to $7for their items. These are often large enough to share.
Bars charge for their products.
Bars offer carbonated soft drinks and various adult beverages. Some cruise lines allow you to purchase a card for unlimited soft drinks or a reduced price for prepaying for a set number of adult beverages. Basically, you buy a card that is good for a dozen mixed drinks. Some ships offer a third option for a dozen or so virgin specialty drinks with a prepaid card. Whether you buy a preset quantity or one at a time from the bar, a gratuity is added to each purchase.