I think it’s about time to pay proper respect to the good old-fashioned cruise ship buffet.
It’s long been a staple of cruising, but it’s getting overlooked, especially when it comes to dinner time.
Consider this: More and more cruise lines are introducing new ships with fancy specialty restaurants and joining partnerships with celebrity chefs on upscale cuisine. Plus, the cruise lines are also refurbishing their older ships to add new specialty dining options.
I’m not against these restaurants. They tend to have great-tasting food and wonderful service. I love the good steakhouse or Italian meals. You can also enjoy Asian specialties, sushi eateries and French cuisine. Great. But it comes at a price (usually, a hefty one).
So, I want to take a look at the underrated buffet venue and give you my 10 reasons to have dinner at your cruise ship’s buffet.
At the cruise ship buffet, you can go have dinner when YOU want anytime it is open. Perhaps you’re up for a later meal. Or, maybe you get famished after a thrilling excursion in the waters and on the beach in the Caribbean and want a meal as soon as possible. So, you’ll go early instead. Or maybe you want two dinners. Go back twice. Anything goes at the buffet.
It Saves Time
Dinner at the cruise ship buffet is a big time-saver. If you go as a couple or with just family and friends, you can eat quickly without the idle “getting to know you” chit-chat that comes when you sit down with your new tablemates (strangers) in the main dining room. While it’s often fun to get to know new people (and I have enjoyed a set dining time with people who became friends) it’s not always the case that you want to exchange biographical details over a meal that can last three hours.
This might be my favorite reason to eat at the cruise ship buffet. When you hit the buffet, you serve yourself. You don’t have to wait for excessively long periods between courses. (Sometimes, you just want to get on with the eating so you can get on with your night). You can pick exactly what you want to put on your plate and sample it first to make sure you like it before you commit to a full portion. If you order at a restaurant off the menu, you might get a dish that wasn’t exactly what you had hoped.
It Offers Variety
The range of food available on the cruise ship buffet makes my head spin. You get salads, breads, dozens of desserts, pasta, Asian cuisine, Indian dishes, pizza, burgers, fish, prime cuts from the carving stations, soups and so much more. While I often just “settle” for something on the main dining room menu, I always find something I like at the buffet.
It Allows You to Dress as You Like
If you dine at the buffet, you can dress up as you wish. Comfy casual, shorts and tank top or jeans. There is no dress code in the buffet.
You can even go to dinner in your bathing suit if you like. This is handy if you want to get stay at the pool all day. Just grab your dinner and head back out to enjoy the movie under the stars on the big screen while wading in the pool or enjoying the hot tubs.
It Can Be a Take-Away Meal
Feeling like an evening in to watch the game or a movie? Or maybe you want to eat on your balcony. You can quickly fill your plate at the buffet and take your meal to the cabin.
It’s Easier for the Kids
Buffets venue offer a less-formal environment. So, youngsters can be a little more rambunctious and noisy in these restaurants without causing a fuss. You can also easily get foods they will like among all the available items.
It’s a Chance to Eat Under the Stars
You can grab your plate of food from the buffet and head outside to the lido deck to eat in the warm, sultry night on a Caribbean cruise. If your ship is showing a movie on the big screen poolside, even better. You can plan for a romantic dinner-and-a-movie combo under the starry skies.
Specialty restaurants come with a cover charge or a la carte menu pricing, which means that you will pay upwards of $40 or more per person for your meals at these places. Compare that with the cruise ship buffet, which is included in your cruise fare, and you can see why many people would choose to reduce the overall cost of their vacations.
Now we really get to the heart of the matter for those of us with big appetites. The cruise ship buffet offers a chance to go back for as much as you like. It’s your vacation, so feel free to splurge a bit!
John Roberts is a freelance writer and operator of InTheLoopTravel.com. He writes about cruising and active travel, highlighting how people can connect with the world and other cultures through rewarding travel experiences.