Food on a Cruise: What to Expect for Free

Did you know all of your food on a cruise is included in your cruise fare?

 

Not everyone realizes that the price you pay to get on board the ship includes three meals a day—or as many as you’d like, really. That’s right, there’s no shortage of food on a cruise. But is it any good? And will there be anything you like? The answer to both these questions is a resounding, “Yes!”

Whether you’ve got a hankering for sushi or steak, ice cream or apples, you’ll find something for every taste on a cruise ship. I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t like vegetables, and even I can find an overwhelming amount of delicious fare to chow down on. So, what can you expect for free? Let’s take a look.

Main Dining Room

Each night, a three-course, gourmet dinner is served in the main dining room. You’ll get your choice of three or four appetizers, entrees, and desserts, and you can order more than one of each if you’re feeling extra hungry. Typically, the menu matches with your itinerary, serving up local flavors whenever available. And you can count on lobster being featured at least once on your cruise. On most cruises, you can choose either an early or late seating in the dining room, though many cruise lines also offer a dine anytime option. In the morning, you can grab breakfast in the main dining room if you prefer being served over standing in line at the buffet.

Buffet

Day or night, you can always find a wide array of options at the buffet. It’s open bright and early, offering made-to-order omelets, sausages, cereals, pastries, and more. At lunch, you can find a variety of salads, soups, sandwiches, meats, vegetables, and other snacks. For dinner, the buffet often includes the same foods being featured in the main dining room. The only difference is that you have to serve yourself, and you can take as much as you want.

Poolside Grub

While the buffet is usually only a hop, skip, and a jump from the pool area, on most cruise ships, you’ll find a poolside, outdoor eatery. These quick-service restaurants typically offer up fast foods like burgers and fries. My personal favorite? Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint on Carnival Cruise ships. The fires are to die for.

24 Hour Snacks

Are you the type of person who likes a bedtime snack? Or maybe you want something greasy to fill your stomach after a night of partying. If you’re like me, you get hangry if you don’t eat every couple of hours. Have no fear…you’ll always have access to food on a cruise, whether it’s the wee hours or the middle of the night. Most cruise lines have a designated 24-hour restaurant where you can grab some chicken tenders, a chocolate brownie, fries, and other fan favorites.

Room Service

I cannot tell a lie…I have never ordered room service on a ship. I figure if I’m sitting in my room when there are so many amazing activities going on, I’m doing something wrong. But I recognize, there are times when you just want to drink a cup of coffee or an orange juice on your deck when you wake up in the morning. And you don’t want the hassle of having to get dressed and go get it yourself. Room service is always available with a limited menu.

Pro Tip: Depending on the time of day (like 2 a.m.) or the type of food you want (AKA an entire pizza), there may be a nominal charge for room service.

Sea-Day Specials

On some ships, you’ll find special food-based events on days when you’re at sea. These may include tasting menus or cooking classes. Watch your daily itinerary for times and events. Two of my favorites happen to take place on Carnival cruises. Each sea day, Carnival hosts an afternoon tea in one of the dining rooms. Choose from several specialty teas, and enjoy macarons, traditional English sandwiches, scones, and other delicious treats. Carnival also puts on a special sea-day brunch that includes some fun food selections. My favorite is the cereal-crusted French toast.

Specialty Splurges

In addition to all of the amazing free food on a cruise, there are a few specialty restaurants on each ship that cost a few extra dollars. These fine-dining establishments specialize in everything from Italian to French to Asian cuisine. If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to try something different, you can treat yourself to specialty experience, such the entertaining and flavorful Japanese teppanyaki restaurant on Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL). You will also find a cafe or bakery on most cruise ships where, for a few dollars, you can grab a sweet treat, such as gelato, cupcakes, or biscotti. If you’re a fan of the TLC hit show Carlo’s Bakery, you’ll be excited to know you can grab one of Buddy’s infamous cannolis on most NCL ships.

With the exception of the cafe and specialty dining venues, all of the food on a cruise is free. Tell us about your favorite foods to eat at sea on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook page.

 

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