Food and drink on a cruise ship

food and drink

One of the highlights of a cruise vacation is the food. Most meals and snacks are usually included in the price of your cruise.

Dining rooms and restaurants onboard ship

At least one dining room will offer seated breakfast and lunch with waiter service and free seating.

The traditional evening dinner service is at fixed times in two sittings, and you can choose to be seated at the same table every evening. You can book this through your travel agent, or arrange it with the maitre de after boarding. Table sizes vary from 2 to 10, and unless your party occupies an entire table, you will share the table with other passengers. This is conducive to forming lifelong friends, and preferable to having to get to know new fellow diners every evening. Your waiter will also get to know the individual needs and preferences of each diner this way.

Many cruise lines have realized that some guests prefer more flexibility, so now offer open seating with the same menu as the scheduled sittings. You may have to wait for a table, depending on how busy the restaurant is and if you are waiting for a larger table.

The buffet restaurant is often open 24 hours a day and may be a better option for guests who are not interested in formal nights or prefer a more relaxed approach. The food available is of the same quality, but there may be more limited choice. This option also helps with packing and luggage allowances as you do not need to pack more formal clothing and shoes.

Reservation-only specialty restaurants offer exceptional gourmet cuisine and service, with a surcharge for each diner of some 10 to 20 dollars. If you usually dine at the fixed sitting, you should inform your regular waiter the day before.

Dinner dress code

The dinner dress code depends on the cruise line, and the requirements of each company can be found on their website or in your booking instructions.

Most cruise lines accept casual wear, such as a collared shirt and slacks for the men, and smart casual wear for the ladies. There may be one or two formal nights per week, with a tux or a dark suit for the men, and evening wear for women.

Luxury cruise lines may request formal or semi-formal wear every evening.

Guests who arrive for dinner wearing jeans, shorts or beachwear will be frowned upon.

Snacks on tap

On many ships, as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner, you can wander up to the poolside bar and order a snack whenever you feel like it, or grab a snack at the buffet 24 hours a day.


All about the drinks on your cruise

Drinks such as tea, coffee, lemonade, and juices are freely available at all times. Other drinks such as wine, mixed drinks and beer are not usually included on most cruise ships.

There are usually well-stocked bars on-board cruise ships, offering a good selection of drinks, and dining rooms have good wine lists, which can be ordered by the bottle or by the glass. Bar prices are often cheaper that you would expect, as all ingredients are duty and tax free.

On some cruise lines you can purchase drinks packages for a substantial additional fee, offering, for example, unlimited soft drinks (a “pop pass”), coffees, or wine.

It is forbidden to take alcohol on-board a cruise ship, and any found will be confiscated until the last day of the cruise. You may be permitted to take on-board a bottle or two of wine, as well as soft drinks.

Cruise lines will not serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, and tend to require at least one occupant of each cabin to be a minimum age.

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