Let's face it; food is one of the big draws of any cruise. When people who have never even taken a cruise before (there are a few) think of cruises, they think of food. There's always something to eat, more on some ships than on others, but more than plenty for everyone. On smaller ships most all the food is served on the Lido deck, buffet style or in the dining rooms at various times. Some have sushi bars on the promenade and most all have a Coffee/Dessert bar that features special stuff you'll need to (gladly) pay extra for. Larger ships may sport barbecues, delis, Chinese food places and even sit down restaurants. Most all of this is included in your cruise fare, some you'll have to pay a nominal fee for.
If all that is not enough or you just don't feel like leaving your stateroom, room service is available 24 hours a day with a limited but good menu. We use room service most frequently for two things. Breakfast on our balcony or in bed is a special treat. Bagels and cream cheese, fruit and fresh coffee are promptly delivered to you within minutes of calling. Our kids like to fill out a breakfast menu door hanger to leave out at night which tells them what time to bring it to you.
I'm usually up early and take the insulated coffee mugs we bring along up to the Lido deck for coffee then bring it back to the sleeping Queen. On many ships a continental breakfast bar is set up for the early slot machine players in the casino at but there's usually an early risers continental served on deck starting at . But that's for people like me that like to walk around and get it, then watch the breathtaking sunrises on deck. There are not too many of us but we are addicted.
This might be a good time to put in a plug for our "eat what you want and don't gain weight on your cruise" plan. Forget there are elevators on the ship. Walk everywhere. You'd be surprised just how much more you'll walk, how much better you'll feel, and how much more you can eat!
The Lido Deck
The Lido Deck- Always Casual
The Lido deck is always open with something to eat. Coffee, Tea, Lemonade, Hot Chocolate, and Fruit Punch are served around the clock. In addition the ships pizzeria is open 24 hours a day serving a variety of pizza, Cal zones and Caesar Salad, with or without Sliced Breast of Chicken.
In that same area the wide variety of food offerings starts early with a sunrise continental breakfast served until the full breakfast buffet opens and is served from about 7AM till almost Noon (for late risers). Exact times vary by ship and where you happen to be. On a day when the ship is in port early, breakfast will be offered a little earlier.
At Breakfast the buffet menu includes
Sausage links, Grilled Ham, Bacon,
Assorted cereals and Bagels with Cream Cheese and Danish
Grapefruit Half, Banana, Melon in Season, Baked Apple, Orange and Grapefruit Sections and Stewed Prunes
Chilled Juices: Orange, Grapefruit, Pineapple, Apple, Tomato and Prune
Cereals including Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes, Special K, Sugar Pops, Raisin Bran, Rice Krispies, All Bran, 40% Bran Flakes, Hot Oatmeal, Hot Cream of Wheat
All this is included along with a made to order omelet station. They?ll make you a fresh omelet right there with your choice of ingredients. They can also make cooked to order eggs there too.
Lunch and Dinner are also served here, buffet style and feature a wide variety of selections. Theme days are popular featuring Chinese, Mexican, Italian and American food on some ships.
A Typical Dining Room Experience
Your ship will have one or two dining rooms. Dinner is served in the dining room every night giving you a choice. You can dine at the self-service buffet area of the lido deck or have a sit-down table service dinner in the dining room.
Breakfast and Lunch may or may not be served in the dining room depending on the day. You can find this out by checking the ship's daily newspaper. Menus for the day's selections are posted outside the dining room. We usually stop by early in the day and check out the menu to be sure we don't miss any of our favorite entrée's and make our dining plans for the day.
When you make your booking your travel professional should ask you if you prefer early or late seating. The early dinner seating starts sometime between and 615 PM and the late seating starts sometime between and . There are advantages of both.
Guests with young children already know that the early seating may be just right for them. But it's also good for guests who want to get dining out of the way, leaving the whole night ahead open for other activities or just relaxing on deck. Teens prefer this seating because they won't miss out on any of the action on the Promenade decks where they all meet. Guests who want to be sure to get a good seat at the early show will also like this seating.
The late seating appeals to guests who are sun worshipers and just don?t want to give up one minute of sun. Those who have gone ashore and don?t plan on getting back until later may also like to eat at this later time. There is no best time and the menu is the same for both seatings.
One of the first things you need to do after boarding is to check your table and dining time assignment in the dining room. You'll find this information on your sign and sail card. Dining assignments are on a first-come, first-served basis. Someone who had booked their cruise earlier than you may have requested early seating and got it while you requested it too but booked later and did not.
If you find that your table or time is not what you want it to be all hope is not lost. There will be a Maitre d' available probably about on your day of embarkation to field any questions and requests you may have about your dining assignments. If you don't like what you've been given, get there right away. They try really hard to make everyone happy, its one of the big responsibilities of the Maitre d? and his staff, but there are only so many moves that can be made.
You may find that your request is made right then and there. You may also find that they will notify you later of your requested change by leaving a card in your cabin to tell you about it. This is fairly common and gives them time to match your request with what's available or likely to become available.
Service in the dining room is performed by your dining room team which consists of a waiter and his assistant. Often it is difficult to tell which is which and that really doesn?t matter all that much. If you have special requests (I like Iced Tea with lots of lemon for example) tell them on the first day at the first dinner. They?ll do all they can to make you happy. If they don't, go see the Maitre d' and let him know as soon as possible. He will fix it, that's his job.
The dining room is a great place to try things you might not otherwise get a chance to in "real life". The menu is set up in 4 courses; Appetizers/Starters, Salads, Entrees, and Desserts. The entire menu is presented at the beginning of the meal and you make your selections all at once. If, by chance, you don't find anything you like on the menu a steak or grilled chicken breast along with a baked potato are always available.
Gratuities to the dining room team you'll have for the duration of your cruise are included in the automatic gratuities you were charged on your shipboard account. You may tip in addition to that amount for exceptional service if you so choose but no other tips are expected. It is also customary to tip the Maitre d' at the end of the cruise for his service, mainly behind the scenes, on the cruise and this is not included in your automatic tips. An envelope will be left in your stateroom at the end of the cruise for you to present to the Maitre d' on the last dinner of the cruise. Don't miss this one either; it's one of the best.
Fun Food Events You Won't Want To Miss
Customarily served on days at sea in the middle of the afternoon, Tea Time makes a great break in the day. You'll find the exact time listed in the ship's daily newspaper but look for it around 3 or . You?ll find a little finger sandwiches and pastries served with an assortment of hot teas at tableside while classical music is being played in the background by one or more of the ship's musicians.
Also in the afternoon and a welcome respite from a hot Caribbean day is what I call Sundae Time. Usually on the Lido deck, an ice cream sundae bar is setup with all the toppings for you to make your own masterpiece. This is especially fun for kids but I see a lot of us older folks there too
Sometimes known as a Gala Midnight Buffet these can be one of the real highlights of any cruise simply for the way the food is presented alone. Ice Carvings will form the centerpiece of the room surrounded by an abundant display of culinary masterpieces that really showcase the abilities of the chef?s onboard. You'll want to go a little early and take your camera as there is usually a period of time when you'll be allowed to photograph whatever you like before the crowd is unleashed to devour it all.
Not all cruise lines have a Midnight Buffet these days. Some have none at all but have 24 hour buffets open, others have a Chocolate Buffet!