Thought cruise dining began and ended with run-of-the-mill all you can eat buffets? Think again! Over the past few years cruise lines have completely reinvented the way they feed passengers. It’s goodbye mediocrity, hello brilliance! Today, food is now considered equally as important as destination itineraries, on-board activities and the customer service experience. In order to cater for higher passenger expectations cruise lines are reimagining the way they dish up breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in-between. The gourmet revolution has taken the cruise industry by storm and to shed light on the transformation we’ve answered some commonly asked questions. You’re welcome!
When is food available?
While most cruise lines stick to set dining times for main meals passengers will always have access to food and beverages. Room service is generally available 24/7 while cafes, snack bars, specialty outlets and fast food vendors are also open around the clock.
Do I need to have dinner at a certain time?
Lately there’s been a noticeable trend that’s seen lines move away from pre-set dining times and start to offer passengers more flexible options. For example, on P&O ships guests aren’t restricted by fixed settings at Waterfront, the main dining room. According to P&O senior vice-president Sture Myrmell this means “guests can dine when they like and with whom they like.” The Pantry is another innovation from P&O which replaces the traditional ship buffet with an exciting international food market featuring eight different options. Catch it on the Pacific Jewel in June, then Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden later in the year. Royal Caribbean’s Dynamic Dining concept also reflects the movement towards flexibility. Rather than opt for a traditional main dining room Oasis class ships transform the space into a handful of complimentary restaurants, each boasting their own unique cuisine and ambience. With no fixed dining times or seating plans guests are free to let their appetites guide the way!
What meals are included?
The majority of lines include all main meals in the price of a ticket. Complimentary snacks and extras are also available at other venues throughout the day. This means guests can always fill up, regardless of their budget!
Do I have to sit in the same seat?
In the same way that pre-set dining times have been shunned, so too have fixed seating arrangements. Seabourn president Richard Meadows explains the concept behind his line’s open-seating dining, saying that it “encourages spontaneity and enables guests to graciously meet new people by breaking bread together, which sees the start of many lasting friendships.’’
Do menus change daily?
One of the biggest misconceptions people have about cruising is the idea that they’ll be stuck eating the same food day after day. This couldn’t be further from the truth! P&O senior vice-president Sture Myrmell clarifies, “Every meal on our ships is fresh, every meal is different, and we place an emphasis on both quality and choice.” While some popular items remain throughout the voyage the majority of offerings in main dining rooms are switched up on a daily basis so guests can always sink their teeth into something new.
Do you have to dine at the same place every day?
Absolutely not! Thanks to concepts such as Dynamic Dining and The Pantry guests can still mix things up, even when taking advantage of complimentary meals. “You can start your day with full breakfast in the restaurant or fruit in your room, at lunchtime indulge in a bucket of prawns by the pool or a Thai green curry in Waterfront Restaurant, and then at night menus change again and you can enjoy shared plates at Luna or a meal at Luke Mangan’s Salt,” says Myrmell.
Does the destination influence the menu?
Cruise lines understand that when passengers travel they want to enjoy meals that enhance their experience and help them immerse themselves in new cultures, places and flavours. For this reason many cruise lines feature dishes inspired by local ingredients, traditional recipes and authentic flavours.
What if I feel like dressing up/dressing down/dining with the family?
The great thing about cruise ship dining is that there are so many options! “We like to give our guests a variety of dining options,’’ says Royal Caribbean commercial director Sean Treacy. “There’s a wide range in style and atmosphere to choose from – as well as the diversity of dishes from around the globe – so if you want to dress up or down, find somewhere lively or private, a place for the family to have fun or a romantic setting, you will find it on Royal Caribbean.” And it’s not just large lines like Royal Caribbean that offer diversity. Even smaller ships feature both casual and smart dining options for every occasion.
I’m a self-confessed foodie. Can cruise ships deliver?
Today’s cruise ships boast offerings from some of the biggest names in the business. When Royal Caribbean’s Ovations of the Seas launches it will feature 18 different restaurant concepts, including Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian restaurant. The legendary Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa is the mastermind behind Crystal Cruises’ Silk Road, P&O has secured Atul Kochhar and Marco Pierre White, as well as Britain’s baking queen Mary Berry.
Will I pay more to dine at specialty restaurants?
The simple answer to this question is yes. Often high demand specialty restaurants will call for a cover charge that varies from venue to venue. For example, on Royal Caribbean prices range from US$5 per person for a fix at Johnny Rockets burger joint to US$95 for the exclusive Chef’s Table experience.
Image sourced via Royal Caribbean Media Centre and P&O Cruises Press Centre. Credit: Royal Caribbean and P&O Cruises.