Cruise Tips7 Tips for Eating and Dining on Cruises

7 Tips for Eating and Dining on Cruises

One of the things I love most about cruising is the food.  And while I don’t consider myself a “foodie”, I love the freedom and choices I can get.  But not everyone realizes what options are available, so here are a few tips for eating on a cruise ship that will make your vacation even more enjoyable.

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Tip #1: If you want it, order it

For some of you that have cruised a lot you will know exactly what I’m talking about here.  In the main dining room you will see a menu with a pretty limited selection.  But if you see something you like, and decide to order something else to come back to it another night, you will find yourself disappointed.

Often, those special entrees are only available that night only.  If you are split between two entrees or side dishes, just order both.  You can even order 3 or 4 entrees if you want.  This doesn’t mean you have to eat them all, but if they are especially good you shouldn’t have any trouble having some help in eating them.

If you are dissatisfied with the entrée you ordered don’t be afraid to ask for something else right away.  Many first time cruisers don’t even realize you can order anything you want in any quantity you want (within reason of course).  You already paid for this food so you might as well enjoy it and eat what you want.

Tip #2:  Give your taste-buds something different

A cruise is a perfect time to try some new food that you have never had before.  Since the food is already paid for you don’t have to worry about ordering the lobster tail and not liking it and wasting all that money.  But I’m pretty sure you will love the lobster.  You might find some foods you have never tried before in the menu and that’s the perfect time to give it a shot.  You never know.  You might just find a new favorite food that you order on every cruise after that.

Tip #3:  Don’t totally discount the buffet

Typically you are going to get better food in the main dining room than at the buffet.  But this varies from ship to ship and cruise line to cruise line.  But sometimes you just don’t have time to sit down and eat for two hours.  Especially if you have a large table and your dining friends keep ordering extra entrees it could take a while to get through all your courses since the servers wait for everyone to be done before proceeding to the next course.

The buffet usually has a great assortment of foods with all kinds of ethnic varieties.  And if you just want to eat real quick and run back to some fun, the buffet is a great way to do that without wasting a meal.

Tip #4: Try one of the specialty restaurants

You might loathe the idea of spending more money on a cruise when you already dropped a large sum just to get on the ship.  But some of those $25 or $30 per person specialty restaurants are amazing. They are great for special occasions too, like birthdays or anniversaries.  Just keep in mind that you will probably spend a good 90 minutes to 2 hours for dinner, but the food and service should be excellent.

Tip #5: Raid those late night buffets and cafes

Most first time cruisers are totally unaware of all the delightful food that is available 24/7.  Most ships have a late night buffet that is full of wonderful desserts, pastries, and other foods.  Sometimes this is in a different part of the ship from the normal buffet.  You can also find some cafes and pizza shops that allow you to get away from the large crowds at supper time but also are available at all kinds of odd hours so you can always find something great to eat.

On a family cruise, my brothers and I were able to raid a late night buffet full of cheesecakes and other desserts while watching a NBA Finals basketball game in the sports bar.  Doesn’t get much better than that.

Tip #6: Don’t get too amped up about room service

Yes, I love the thought of free room service, and if you have a suite you can probably get almost anything you want delivered to your door.  But room service on a cruise ship is not the same as room service on land in a fancy hotel.  The menu is usually very limited and offers the same foods you can get yourself by taking a short walk to the cafeteria.

It can be convenient for breakfast if you don’t feel like getting up too early to hit the buffet, but you should also remember to tip the staff person.  That being said, always order room service on the first night to see what the menu selection is and how the food is so you know for the rest of the week what you can expect.

Tip #7: Arrange your table accommodations before your cruise

Most tables seat 4 to 8 people.  But if you are going on your honeymoon or just prefer to have a table for 2 you can request it ahead of time.  I did this on my honeymoon and it was great having some privacy with just me and my bride.  Before you cruise you can also determine what dinner schedule you would like or even choose an anytime dining option.  If you find that you are stuck at a table with less than desirable dinner mates, you can always ask the maître d’ for another table for the next night.

You always have a wide selection of food on a cruise ship, and giving your taste buds an unforgettable journey helps to make the whole trip more fun.  If you want to eat health conscious you always have those options on the menu, but if you just want to stuff your face you can always hit the gym at some point and work off those calories.

Got any more dining tips for us?  Let us know in the comments below.

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J. Souza
J. Souza
Jon is the co-founder of Cruise Fever and has been on 50+ cruises since his first in 2009. As an editor, 15-year writer on the cruise industry, and avid cruise enthusiast he has sailed with at least 10 cruise lines and is always looking for a great cruise deal. Jon lives in North Carolina and can be reached at [email protected].
Cruise Tips7 Tips for Eating and Dining on Cruises


  1. I disagree with tip #1. Ordering 2,3 or 4 entrees is no better than the buffet hogs that load up their trays where they almost need a forklift to get it back to the table. It may seem “free” but in reality, it is included in your cruise fare so, as years progress, if many adhere to this tip, the cruise price over time will increase and/or the quality of the food will go down. If you see two things on the menu you like, order one today and ask your waiter/waitress if you could order the other tomorrow. In most cases, the chef will make acceptions.

  2. All good tips. I tried some things I would never have tried otherwise. Snails for example I like the garlic sauce the snail not much flavor. Frog legs found out I like them. Late night at least on Carnival no buffet long long line for Pizza very limited free room service menu but room service menu with a charge better . I did try the room service with a charge and what I had I thought was good and worth what I paid. We have done the extra fee restaurants on Carnival, Princess and RCCL. enjoyed all of them no complaints with any of them. We have only done the dinner buffet on Carnival ships I say just ok, room for improvement there but still ok. We always enjoy dinner in the MDR but on Carnival service can at times be a little slow, we still enjoy it .

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