CRUISE FOOD – Your Guide to Eating Your Way around a Cruise Ship.

Food, Glorious Food!

Food and Cruising, Cruising and Food, Cruise Food – some things were made to go together! 

Some choose to cruise for the chance to visit exotic locations, others to experience life on the high seas, but always there will be the FOOD!

The choices can seem over-whelming at first – how are we going to fit all this cruise food in??

One thing is for absolute certain – you will not go hungry on a Cruise!

I have an admission:

On our very first cruise we didn’t have a clue, we had no idea what to expect when we stepped on-board.  We had been talked into the cruise by friends, so we decided to just wing it and learn as we went.

Our first meal was dinner in the Buffet restaurant, we didn’t know we could have had a bite to eat when we boarded, we didn’t even realise there were options other than the buffet to dine at!

Since that first cruise experience, I have made a point of becoming well-versed on all things cruise food! Mainly because food is one of my favourite things in the world, and I don’t want to be in a position where I might miss out on a new food experience, ever!


So today I want to give you a taste of what you can expect in the food department when you board your cruise.


Cruise Food 101

  • Food can be divided into included (free) options, and additional (pay an extra charge) options.
  • There are plenty of included food options available to enjoy without paying any extra, if you don’t want to. We have completed a 14-day cruise without spending any extra on additional dining options (and remember I love food, I didn’t feel that I missed out).
  • Most ships have food available 24/7 – yes you heard right, you can eat somewhere at any time of day or night.
  • Every ship has both a Main Dining Room (MDR) AND a Buffet Restaurant – both are included (free) in your cruise fare.
  • Your Daily Program (see last week’s blog for info about Daily Schedules/Programs) will list all the dining options available and the hours of operation for each day.  Note that on Port days lunch is usually not available in the Main Dining Room.
cruise food dining hours
  • Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are available in both the MDR and the BUFFET, and you can choose where you would like to dine for each meal.
  • The Buffet is a casual eatery – come as you are.  However, there is a dress code for the MDR (Smart Casual, unless it's a Formal Night) – please respect the staff & your fellow guests by dressing to the correct standard for your cruise. Dress codes are readily available on-line to check what you should wear before you cruise.
  • Depending on the size of the ship there can be more than one MDR. This is simply to fit everyone in, each dining room serves the same menu.  You are generally assigned to one dining room and dining time for your cruise.

Cruise Food in the Main Dining Room:

  • The MDR is an “a la carte” Restaurant – this means you choose items from a menu.
  • In the MDR you are looked after by a team of waiters, they take your order and serve you at the table, so it is much like dining out at a regular restaurant.
  • The cost of the MDR is included in your cruise fare. Sometimes there will be additional items offered that cost extra if you want to indulge further but remember there is still a full menu to choose from that is included.
  • There is a new menu for every dinner service, featuring different dishes each night. Some ships will also feature a “favourites” section on their dinner menu that has the same dishes each night.
  • The Breakfast and Lunch menus may be the same each day (but not always, and this is ship dependant too).
  • You can check out the new menu each day before you decide to dine at the MDR. The menu is displayed outside the restaurant.
  • Lunch and Dinner menus offer Entrée, Main and Desserts as well as a range of extra sides.
  • Dinner service also includes a bread basket to start.
  • The serving sizes in the MDR are on the small side – in our opinion they are the perfect amount to allow you to fit in a three-course meal every day!
  • Most waiters will happily allow you to order more than one item for each course if you find you would like more food, or if you just can’t make up your mind what to have!
  • You can usually ask for a main as an entrée or vice versa.
  • Be aware that waiters are working on a group of tables during the service, so they will take orders together to make the process smoother.  Remember how many people are being served at once and help the waiters out by being ready to give your order when they ask for it.
MDR cruise menu
MDR cruise menu
cruise food dessert
cruise food main

Other Cruise Food Locations you may find on your ship:

Every Ship also has additional dining options beside the MDR and Buffet. 

These vary from ship to ship, and some options are included (free) while others will be charged to your on-board account.

Ice-Cream Parlour

Takeaway/Grill – usually on an outside deck for things like Burgers, Hot Chips, Pies, Hotdogs

Café/Deli  – for Speciality Coffee, Cakes, Sandwiches


Celebrity Chef Restaurants

Other Themed Restaurants – eg Italian, Asian, Mexican

Steak and/or Seafood Restaurants

Sushi Bar

cruise food dining


Or Are You Hungry For More…..

Tune in next week for Part Two of Cruise Food, including all you ever wanted to know about the buffet!