We guess it doesn’t really matter what cruise ship or line you find yourself on, everyone always ends up eating in one of two dining areas time and time again; either the main dining room or the buffet (self-service style).
The main dining room is the more formal of the two options with waiter service and set menus that will change every night, whilst the buffet is the more relaxed, informal of the two choices that gives guests the chance to pile their plates high.
If you’re yet to do your first cruise, note that you’ll find your cruise ship’s buffet is always open, with ever changing food options from breakfast to lunch to dinner right through to midnight snacks.
Assuming that you’ll want a mix of your formal, fancy evening meals and an all-you-can-eat type of situation, here are ten tips on how to make the most of your cruise ship buffet…
Waiters Are Your Friend
Yes, cruise ship buffet restaurants are meant to be self-service but that doesn’t meant there won’t be staff hovering around eager to help! If you need your plates clearing so you’ve room for seconds, or even fourths, the staff are there for you- even if you want a new drink whilst you’re eating.
The buffet has the freedom of a self-serve situation with the added bonus of waiting service so you’ve still got that luxury cruise-feel…
So I Can Just Turn Up Whenever I Want And Start Eating?
Yes, pretty much! You may find the buffet is closed for half an hour or so here or there as the staff swap over from breakfast to lunch or lunch to dinner but we’re sure you can wait on the sun deck with a drink for just thirty minutes or so, right?
A note of warning however: you may have heard of the famous cruise ship midnight buffet, filled with glorious late night feasting. Well sorry to disappoint but we’re afraid to say that due to the amount of food that used to get wasted these don’t tend to happen much any more.
That means you need to plan ahead with a bit of a late dinner if you think that you may be hungry come midnight.
But then comes the beauty of room service…
What Should One Wear To A Buffet?
Another great thing about the buffet, there is no dress code! Don’t get us wrong, you can’t just stroll in from the pool in nothing but your bikini, but the lack of dress code does bring the phrase ‘elasticated bands’ to mind, does it not?
Don’t get put off that second or third helping by trousers that have become mysteriously tight; just plan ahead slightly and you’ll be fine.
It also means if you haven’t planned ahead and are in the middle of a strict holiday itinerary you’ve set yourself onboard and have forgotten all about stopping for lunch, you can just walk straight from your current activity to the nearest buffet with no worries about your attire…
But I’m Allergic To Everything…
This is probably the one (and only) time the buffet may let you down. A cruise ship buffet will always have separate sea food/vegetarian options and they’ll try to label some foods as wheat or gluten free when appropriate, but on the whole you’re going to need to ask the servers behind the counters what ingredients are in each particular dish you’re trying.
Obviously it will always depend on what kind of allergy you have and how severe it is, but if it is fairly bad then you may want to consider eating in the main dining room where the waiters can take care of your needs personally.
Starving Yourself Doesn’t Work (So Don’t Do It!)
You may be tempted to starve yourself ahead of your big buffet session blow out, but don’t forget the stomach is like any other part of the body- for optimal performance you need to exercise it.
If you starve yourself in preparation of a big meal your stomach might actually shrink, meaning you won’t be able to eat as much! So if you want to get the most out of your buffet then make sure you’ve eaten normally beforehand. All the more reason to love cruises! The eating never stops…
Exercise Isn’t A Taboo On This Holiday
Believe it or not, if you head to the gym an hour or two before a buffet visit, you’ll get your metabolism running hot so even if you stuff yourself silly at lunch your body will burn a good bit of it off!
You won’t magically be able to eat much more than your usual amount (unless you really build up an appetite), but at least you shouldn’t put on too many extra calories and can eat your holiday weight with less guilt…
Go On, Be Brave. Have Another Snail…
Don’t forget that on this holiday, the food is free! All inclusive is a luxury we wish came with every holiday, but this is why we favour cruises.
That means you’re never going to have a better chance to try all those foods you’ve fancied but didn’t order because you were worried you wouldn’t like them. Try anything you like and if it’s not to your fancy then just go and get something else.
This way you’ve lost nothing, tried something new, and have gained another holiday story to bring home to your friends that doesn’t just include making them jealous of the destinations…
Always Check The Desserts Out First
Heading to the dessert stations before you’ve even had your starter may seem counter intuitive but trust us… there’s nothing worse than having a great time in the buffet, enjoying all your favourite meals then waddling out an hour or two later only to see some tasty looking treats that you just don’t have room for.
It’s truly heart-breaking (especially if they’re not there later because you’ve spent so much time getting through your first courses).
We’re not saying you have to have dessert; we’re just saying make sure you look first so you at least know whether it’s worth saving room for or not.
All Cruise Ship Buffets Are Amazing… But Some Are More Amazing Than Others
If your grandparents were anything like ours then no doubt you grew up with such pearls of wisdom as “look after your pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”, or “it’ll get better if you leave it alone”. Perhaps the one that’s stuck with us the most however is “you get what you pay for”.
Whilst all cruise ship buffets will be amazing, if you book yourself on to a six star luxury cruise ship you’ll find yourself in for an extra special buffet treat like you never could imagine.
The fish stations will come stocked with lobster, there’ll be oysters on ice. In fact Oceania (who spend more on raw ingredients than any other cruise line) will use the same top quality beef they use in their speciality steakhouse restaurant to make the burgers that are served in the buffet. Now that’s quality…
Make Sure You Bring Some ‘Spare’ Clothes
If you’re truly planning on making the most of your cruise ship’s buffet then it’s going to take some forward planning. What you don’t want to do is find yourself on a two week cruise only to find none of your clothes fit by the second week (and believe us, it’s happened!)
On longer voyages, ‘in the know’ cruisers will bring sets of clothes for the first week and the second… with the second week’s set being a size bigger (honestly – people really do this).
Obviously we’re not encouraging anyone to over eat to an unhealthy extreme, but you are on holiday and a cruise ship buffet will have a tremendous amount of variety and choice that would be a shame to waste…
Do you usually opt for a buffet onboard or are you a big fan of the main dining room? What’s your favourite part of onboard dining in the buffet? Which cruise line does the best lunch time food? Leave us your cruise ship buffet stories below in the comments and take a look at some more of our exclusive tips below…
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