There’s nothing to eat around here….said no one ever on a Cruise Ship!

Cruise Ship food

Food, food, everywhere

Everywhere you go, everywhere you look, there is food when you’re on a cruise ship.  Do you want pizza?  How about sushi? Or would you rather have a little bit of everything?  Dessert?  That’s covered too!

The first thing you do on a cruise

More than likely your first experience on your first cruise will involve eating.  As soon as you cross the gangplank, the crew will steer you towards the Lido Buffet for your first meal on board ship.  And what a meal that is! 

I advise on that first day that you first find a table, because that first day everyone is headed to the buffet first thing.  Sometimes there is additional seating on the upper level, which is usually less crowded.  Then have someone (the least hungry of you) save that table while the rest get their food.  Most ships will have multiple buffet lines to make things easier, and some will have kiosks around here and there with food or drinks.  Then of course, there will be a line for dessert.  But don’t worry, desserts on a cruise have no calories, right? You’ll walk it off.

And how much is this food?

And what does this cost me, you ask?  Absolutely nothing extra.  Quite a bit of the food on a ship is included in your cruise fare. Of course, if you want the top of the line experience at the specialty restaurants, you will pay more. But that is purely voluntary, and if you don’t want to pay extra, you will definitely not go hungry, and you will have a fine selection of food to choose from.  We have never paid extra for food, and we have been happy with the options we had to choose from.

Lido Buffet

First included option, of course, is the Lido Buffet.  You can eat there for any meal, and into the evening.  It’s always casual, although swimsuits and bare feet are frowned upon.  You can probably get away with a cover up over your suit, and sandals.  The selection is always plentiful and good. 

Usually around the pool area on the Lido Deck near the buffet you will also find pizza kiosks, hotdog and hamburger kiosks, and sometimes Mexican food kiosks. Look out in the back of the ship on the Lido Deck also for more food choices. The food choices will change every day, usually corresponding to whichever port that you are visiting.

Other restaurants

It depends on the ship for what other included restaurants that are available.  You can usually find out what is available by going to the ship’s website and looking over that particular ship’s description.  Also, Google that ship to see what you can find out about included dining.  Every ship is different. 

For instance, some of the Carnival ships will have Guy Fieri restaurants, either the hamburger restaurant, and/or the BBQ restaurant.  Both are excellent, and one of my favorite places to get lunch. 

On most Carnival ships on sea days, you can also get the excellent Sea Day Brunch, which is included.  The Sea Day Brunch, which has waiters and is not a buffet, will run from breakfast until around 11 am, and has some of the best food that Carnival serves. The Huevos Rancheros are excellent, always my choice. 

And then some Royal Caribbean ships will have Sorrento’s Restaurant for Pizza, or the Plaza Café  or Cafe Promenade for desserts and sandwiches. It’s a nice place to stop when you just want to relax with a bite of food.


For lunch, you can usually go to the main dining room that you are assigned to if you would like to be served, or you can go to the Lido Buffet or one of the additional restaurants on that particular ship. 

Guy’s Burgers on Carnival


Same for dinner, but the Main Dining Room is first class.  We always go there.  Most ships either allow you to choose “Your Time Dining” where you can get in line for dinner at any time, say from 5:30 until 9 or so, depending on the ship.  Unless you get there early, you will usually have to stand in line for a while.  It’s usually not too bad a wait though.  This is convenient if you don’t know what time you’ll be dining every evening. 

Royal Caribbean allows you to book your time ahead of time online, so that you can have different reservations for each night’s schedule. 

Or, you can book a specific time to dine the entire cruise.  Each cruise line has different times, such as the 6:00 PM seating and the 9:00 PM seating, but you’ll see the time choices online and can book it as you book your cabin.  We enjoy sitting with others on a cruise and meeting new people.  We’ve made some good friends that way.  However, if this isn’t for you, they will sit you at a table by yourself.  Just tell the hostess when she seats you.

MSC Meraviglia, L’Olive Dorée – L’Olivo D’Oro


And now to the food.  Some people complain about ship dining room food, but I’ve always found it, for the most part, to be excellent.  Things to be aware of are that you can order as much as you’d like to.  If you want two different appetizers, order them.  If you want two different entrees, feel free to get them.  Same with desserts.  And if you’re still hungry, order more.  Every dinner menu that I’ve seen in the main dining room also has a vegetarian selection. 

Elegant night

At least once, sometimes twice, each cruise there will also be an “Elegant Night” in the main dining room.  So, if you don’t like dressing up, this would be a good time to go to one of the other casual restaurants on the ship.  On Elegant Night, the dress code would be dressy, women wear dresses or nice pantsuits, men wear dress pants and a dress shirt.  You don’t really have to wear a jacket or a tie, but you should look dressed up.  They do follow the dress code, and can refuse to let you dine in the main dining room if you are dressed too casually. 

Normally on that night they will have prime rib or steak, and sometimes lobster tails.  You can get both if you want.  Just ask your waiter.  And my very favorite dessert of all time is the Chocolate Melting Cake on Carnival ships.  I am trying to branch out though.


Onto the waiters.  If you have an assigned dining time, you will get the same team of waiters throughout your cruise.  Normally, after the first day, your team of waiters will know your name, and eventually they get to know your preferences and anticipate your needs.  I love this. 

If you have “Your Time Dining” they will sometimes move you from waiter to waiter, but if you find a waiter that you like, it is perfectly acceptable to request him each night when you check in with the Hostess. 

We’ve found waiters that were way too slow, and requested a different waiter the next night.  This is your cruise, if you are not happy with something, let them know.  Most waiters are more than happy to please.  And once or twice during the cruise, depending on the cruise line, you’ll get to see them dance.  It’s so much fun, and you can join along if you’d like.


Drinks that are included in your fare usually include coffee (not specialty coffee), hot and iced tea, water, and in the morning, juices.  There is always a specialty coffee shop around that costs extra, and usually an ice cream shop.  You can get frozen custard for free near the Lido Buffet at any time of the night or day.

Room service

Room Service is a nice option if you don’t feel like going out to eat.  However, most ships are starting to charge for it, so check your ship’s website for more info.  And it’s always correct to tip the delivery boy a couple of dollars.

So, you can see that you will not starve on your cruise.  And you should allow yourself to enjoy the food, this is a vacation.  There are healthier options like fresh fruit and sugar free dessert if you need them.  There’s always a vegetarian entrée option also.  There’s the gym or the running track on the ship if you want to use up some of those calories, or take the stairs as often as possible instead of the elevator.  Bon appetite!

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