The ultimate guide to cruise ship food and dining

Erica Silverstein

Admit it – you think of cruises as floating smorgasbords, bastions of gluttony with all-you-can-eat lobster tails and molten chocolate cake served 24/7. You imagine onboard restaurants as an overcrowded, at-sea outpost of Golden Corral or perhaps a formal banquet hall straight out of the Titanic movie.

Clearly, you haven't been on a cruise in a long time.

It's true that a day aboard a cruise ship can revolve around food. Three days into a sailing, I start getting that feeling where I wake up stuffed from the night before and also hungry for breakfast.

My personal pledge to eat only eggs for breakfast, salads for lunch and skip dessert at dinner usually falls apart quickly, as I can't keep away from the sugar-laden dessert tables, always-available pizza and cheese-heavy entrees.

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Yet a modern-day cruise ship is more akin to your local downtown, with multiple restaurant choices and a range of cuisines on offer. You can find healthy or vegetarian food, ethnic options and everything from fast-food burgers to upscale molecular gastronomy dishes. Meals can be quick or lengthy, formal or casual.

The choice can be overwhelming for a new cruiser – as can the complicated rules around who can eat where and when, while wearing what. Even if you don't live for food, you'll want to peruse this guide to cruise ship food and dining to get the lay of culinary land before your next sailing.

Is food included on a cruise?

You do not have to pay for food on a cruise – but you might want to.

Unless you're sailing on an all-inclusive luxury cruise ship , you'll find two types of restaurants on board a cruise ship: free venues and extra-charge, specialty restaurants.

The included dining venues are typically the main dining room or rooms, large banquet-style spaces that serve sit-down dinner off a wide-ranging menu. On some ships, you will be assigned to a specific main dining room; other ships, such as Norwegian Cruise Line' s fleet, will offer a couple and you can choose which one to go to on any given evening. Smaller vessels may only have one main dining room on board.

cruise ship dining options

The other standard included option is the buffet , typically located near the pool. The buffet will offer multiple themed stations (salad bar, carvery, deli, pasta station, dessert bar, etc.) and will either be self-serve or have crew ready to portion out food from large serving dishes for you. Once you've filled a plate, you find your own table, either indoors or sometimes outside. You can go back for seconds, thirds, fourths until you're full.

Other included cruise food options will vary by ship and cruise line. Many have poolside grills serving burgers and hot dogs. Some will have casual cafes and complimentary pizza, Mexican, Asian, fried chicken and barbecue restaurants or food counters.

Some cruise lines – such as Royal Caribbean , Celebrity Cruises and Holland America – have special restaurants reserved for VIP guests, usually a mix of passengers in the top suites and the most frequent cruisers on that line. These dining venues are included in the cost of the cruise yet may require reservations for dinner.

Related: What's included in your cruise fare?

What is specialty dining on a cruise?

Specialty dining is the cruise industry name for onboard restaurants you have to pay for. Some charge a flat cover charge to dine there; others price dishes a la carte, as you'd find in most land-based eateries.

These extra-fee cruise ship restaurants cover a wide variety of cuisines and styles. You might find a family-style Italian trattoria, group dining at a teppanyaki grill or a French bistro perfect for date night. Steakhouses are common, though they can have American, Brazilian or Italian influences. Sushi and Asian-fusion restaurants are popular, as are broader seafood venues, both upscale and lobster shack-style.

Royal Caribbean has a new southern comfort food restaurant , and its molecular gastronomy venue, Wonderland, is definitely something different. Carnival partners with Emeril Lagasse to offer a New Orleans-themed Creole restaurant.

If you're an uber-foodie, you'll want to look for intimate Chef's Table dining events for a gourmet meal paired with wine, personally planned by one of the onboard chefs.

For specialty restaurants, you'll want to make reservations in advance, though walk-ins are allowed if tables are available. Try to book your favorite eateries online in advance of your sailing; if not, make it a priority to get dining times lined up as soon as you can on your first day on board.

Related: The 7 best meals you can have at sea

What is open dining vs. set seating on a cruise?

When you book many big-ship cruises, you'll be asked to choose early seating, late seating, or flexible or anytime dining. What does this mean?

Lines like Carnival Cruise Line , Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Princess manage the flow of passengers in and out of their main dining rooms by assigning cruisers to specific dining rooms and times.

Passengers who choose set-seating dining will opt for an early dinner (usually around 5:30 or 6 p.m.) or late dinner (between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.). They will be assigned a specific table and have the same waiters every night. A table might be one four-person family or it might be a mix of unrelated singles, couples and groups gathered at a 10-person table. Desirable two-tops can be hard to come by.

cruise ship dining options

Because not everyone wants to eat at the same time and with the same people every night, cruise lines reserve a number of slots for a flexible dining option. You might see these referred to as "My Time Dining" or "Anytime Dining." Guests who choose this option can show up at the main dining room for dinner anytime during designated open hours (typically 5:30 to 9 p.m.).

The catch is you might have to wait for a table, and you might not be able to get the table size you want at the time you want. You might score a two-top on one night and have to eat at a group table the next or wait an hour to be seated. On the other hand, if you make friends on board who also chose the flexible dining option, it's easy to meet up for dinner.

Several lines have done away with the assigned dining concept, most notably luxury lines such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea and Seabourn , but also brands such as Norwegian Cruise Line and Virgin Voyages . The ships in these lines offer multiple onboard dining venues where you either make a reservation or try your luck as a walk-in, as you would at any land-based restaurants. Most will have one main dining room venue that is larger and does not require reservations or extra fees to eat there.

Related: A beginners guide to picking a cruise line

Is food available around the clock?

You might be thinking that, with so much for breakfast, lunch and dinner, why would you want to eat at any other time? I can think of several reasons.

On sea days, it's blissful to sleep in and have a late breakfast, which then bumps your midday meal to an odd time. My kids are always hungry for mid-morning or afternoon snacks, or post-kids club/pre-bedtime treats. Late-returning shore excursions can mess up your meal schedule – and sometimes you just need that 1 a.m. pizza after a night of dancing or bar hopping.

So, yes, cruise ships offer food around the clock, though the options at off hours can be limited.

Most ships have a 24-hour dining option, typically pizza or a cafe with premade items like cookies and mini sandwiches. Breakfast options can often run from 6 a.m. to 11 or 11:30 a.m., with full breakfast offered at typical dining times and continental selections offered early and late. Some lines also do a sea-day brunch to accommodate your lazy morning.

Mid-afternoon is often a tricky time for snacks. Some lines run an afternoon tea with petit fours and crustless sandwiches, or have a deli or burger counter open from late morning until early evening. Look for cafe venues that might have some fruit or something a tad less greasy. The self-serve ice cream and frozen yogurt stations are often available all day long.

The buffet usually closes around 9 or 10 p.m., though some lines might offer a limited selection of fried, late-night favorites for the party crowd.

Many all-day options are free of charge, but some, like Royal Caribbean's Playmakers Sports Bar, charge for food.

Is there room service?

Yes, cruise ships offer room service, and that's another 24/7 dining option for hungry travelers.

Historically, room service was free – an amazing perk of cruising, compared to hotels. But after years of cruise ship hallways cluttered with trays of half-eaten cheeseburgers at 3 a.m., the cruise lines decided to take a different stance.

Now, most lines offer a complimentary continental room service breakfast. Depending on the line, all orders outside of breakfast will come with a per-order charge, or the room service menu will have a mix of complimentary and extra-fee dishes. Some lines include hot breakfast, while others charge for eggs and pancakes delivered to your cabin.

All-day in-cabin dining menus will offer a limited selection of salads, sandwiches, hot entrees, desserts and kid favorites. At peak dining hours, you might have to wait up to an hour for your order to be delivered.

Consider tipping your room service delivery person a dollar or two to say thanks for not making you walk a few flights over to the buffet or all-night pizzeria.

Related: 11 extra charges on cruise ships that will drive you nuts — and what to do about them

Do solo travelers have to dine alone?

No. Solo travelers have many options to meet others and break bread with their shipmates.

Singles who choose early or late seating will be put at a shared table with other solo travelers or families so they don't have to worry about dining alone. Request a larger table to get a larger social circle.

If you prefer flexible dining, ask to be seated at a group table when you approach the hostess stand.

Some cruise lines will offer hosted tables for solo travelers, especially on luxury lines where dining is always flexible. These lines may even employ gentleman hosts to guide the conversation and make sure everyone feels welcome and included. Inquire with guest services or the maitre d' and they can get you sorted.

Sometimes single traveler meetups will be held during pre-dinner cocktails, with the idea that travelers can head to the buffet or another onboard eatery for dinner together afterward.

Solo cruisers can also take the initiative and invite fellow cruisers they meet at trivia or on a tour to join them for dinner at a specialty venue or fast-casual dining spot.

Can cruise ship restaurants accommodate my kids?

Yes. Cruising is a family vacation , and onboard restaurants know all about your child and her love affair with chicken nuggets.

With the exception of a handful of cruise lines that don't allow children on board, such as Viking , nearly all cruise lines will offer kids menus with all the greatest hits: chicken tenders, pasta, burgers, hot dogs, and sometimes grilled chicken or a small steak. Kiddos can start with fruit plates or chicken noodle soup and end with ice cream sundaes or chocolate cake. They can also order off the adult menu, or switch back and forth.

Some cruise lines will have pureed baby food on hand ( Disney Cruise Line will puree it for you), but don't assume it's available. Check with your cruise line before booking.

cruise ship dining options

Ships will have high chairs and booster seats on hand in all dining venues.

One handy tip: If you've got a picky little eater, save mini boxes of cereal, yogurt cups and muffins from the breakfast buffet to keep on hand for snacks later in the day. Sometimes it's hard to find peanut butter and jelly at lunch, so I've been known to make sandwiches in the morning to serve up at noon.

Can you bring food on or take food off of a cruise ship?

I might be the only person to cruise with Zip-loc bags full of snacks…but I bet I'm in good company.

Cruise lines allow passengers to bring a reasonable amount of packaged food on board, and I'm all about stocking up on protein bars and snack bags of pretzels or trail mix to avoid hangry meltdowns (of kids and adults) on shore excursions or before a late dinner.

If you have a dietary restriction, you might have a greater need to bring along snacks you know are safe to eat.

When it comes to taking food off of a cruise ship, it's up to each port to decide. In general, it's not OK to bring fresh fruit or meat off a ship. I have, however, smuggled my share of pastries and peanut butter sandwiches off ships to eat when I'm feeling too cheap to buy food in port, and no one has ever complained. It's also perfectly fine to pack your pre-packaged snacks in your day pack – and bring back local chocolates, rum cakes, hot sauces and other packaged, edible souvenirs when you return.

Will a cruise ship accommodate my food allergies and dietary restrictions?

Whether you're vegan, vegetarian, lactose or gluten intolerant, low-carb, low-salt, kosher or allergic to certain food items, cruise lines can generally accommodate your dietary needs.

As someone who does not eat meat or shellfish, I've had no problem feeding myself with the available menu items on board. Some cruise lines will put icons on their menus next to vegetarian or gluten-free items, but it's hit or miss across the industry. You can always ask the waiters to find out if a dish contains ingredients you can't eat, and in specialty restaurants, the chef can often create a dish to accommodate your dietary restrictions if there's not an obvious choice on the menu.

If you require specific food items on board (dairy-free milk, gluten-free bread, kosher meat, etc.) or have severe allergies, you or your travel agent should always contact your cruise line's accessibility department ahead of the cruise to inform the ship about your dietary restrictions. This allows the cruise line to ensure the ship is provisioned with special food items and flags you in the system for the restaurant staff.

On the first day of the cruise, be sure to meet with the maitre d' or other designated food and beverage officer to introduce yourself and discuss dining options. On some lines, you'll get the dinner menu in advance to mark with the items you prefer so the galley can prepare your food to your specifications. At the buffet, a crew member may be assigned to show you which items should be avoided.

In general, however, cruisers with severe allergies or strict restrictions will do better in a sit-down restaurant than a buffet, which has a higher risk for cross-contamination.

Passengers who keep kosher can get kosher meals at no extra charge, but they will be pre-packaged, rather than made from scratch in the ship's galleys. The exception is specific kosher charters, where rabbis will come on board and ritually clean a section of the ship's galley. Halal food is not that common and lines like Royal Caribbean, which do carry it, only do so on select itineraries.

Do I need to dress up for dinner?

Cruise line dress codes have come a long way since the Titanic. You will never have to don a gown or tuxedo to eat dinner on a modern-day cruise ship.

That said, most cruise lines have some kind of evening dress code . Most nights are a dressier version of casual, with shorts and ratty T-shirts banned but jeans allowed. (Though if you're sailing a luxury cruise line, expect a dressier crowd and no jeans in the main restaurant.)

One or two nights will be designated for fancier dress; think wedding guest attire such as cocktail dresses and jacket for men. On big-ship lines, these are usually optional, and you can always escape the dress code by going to the buffet.

Some specialty restaurants will have a dress code distinct from the main ship one, so check if you plan on heading to the more expensive, upscale eateries on board.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

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Frommer's - Home

Dining on a Cruise: The 10 Best Tips and Tricks

Maximize your culinary experience—without blowing your budget—with these cruise dining hacks. 

By Gwen Pratesi

February 14, 2024

Dining on today’s cruise ships is much more exciting than it was even a few years ago. Cruise lines are collaborating with renowned chefs and creating innovative culinary venues. Additionally, some companies are focused on serving sustainable seafood and offering plant-based and healthy alternatives. 

Oft-quoted cruising expert Stewart Chiron, aka “ The Cruise Guy, ” contends that dining has become one of the top reasons people choose to cruise, with many ships having better dining venues than land-based options, he says. And on some ships, that’s true.

With so many dining options—some that are included in the price of the trip (usually categorized as “complimentary” by cruise lines) and others that come with additional fees (known as “specialty” dining)—it’s smart to map out a dining plan before you board. 

To that end, you’ll want to consult your cruise line’s website or download the company’s mobile app well before you head to the port. Knowing what’s available ahead of time—and at what price—will give you the best culinary experience whether you’re sailing with a mainstream line or aboard a luxury vessel.

That's also where you can peruse meal and drinks packages to figure out whether they make sense for you and your budget. 

The following 10 tips and tricks for cruise dining will further enhance your time at sea. 

cruise ship dining options

Find deals on specialty dining—and get the timing right. 

Look for specialty dining packages before your cruise, either on the cruise line’s website or through your travel agent. Some lines, like Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean, offer reduced pricing for the first night of the cruise. 

You’ll also find promotions once you’re on the ship, such as lower prices and free or discounted bottles of wine with your meal. So keep your eyes peeled.

Another option is to save the specialty restaurants for lunchtime, when prices are typically lower.

If possible, make reservations for your top selections for specialty restaurants in advance of the cruise to make sure you can secure a table. Otherwise, you’ll want to book your specialty dining as soon as you board the ship.

Avoid the buffet on embarkation day.

You and everyone else you just saw boarding the ship will have the same idea to head straight to the buffet on embarkation day, so consider your other choices. Check to see what’s open (and at what times) on your cruise’s planning app. 

Less-crowded alternatives might include the main dining room, one of the specialty restaurants (usually at a discount on embarkation day), or the outdoor grill. Your stateroom category might come with other options, too. If you’re staying in concierge-class accommodations with Celebrity , for example, you get a private welcome-aboard lunch after boarding the ship. 

cruise ship dining options

Plan your specialty dining around the main dining room menus.

The menu in the ship’s main dining room, where meals are complimentary (i.e., included with your cruise), typically changes daily, though there’s an always-available selection of standbys such as Caesar salad, shrimp cocktail, and grilled steak, chicken, or salmon on the menu every day. Depending on the ship, the main dining room may be one large venue, or you may find several smaller restaurants serving the same dishes. 

Check your cruise app to see the week’s offerings before making specialty restaurant reservations so that you don’t pass up a meal that you’d enjoy in the main dining room (and that you won’t have to pay extra for).

As Gillian Clark, a cruise consultant at Cruise Specialists, part of Internova Travel Group, puts it: If you love lobster, you don’t want to miss lobster night in the main dining room . 

Note that a special menu in the main room is usually offered during an “elegant attire” evening aboard the ship, if your cruise is doing one of those.

Order multiple dishes at meals. 

One of the perks of having a meal in the main dining room: You can order more than one item for each course. So if several interesting dishes on the menu catch your eye, ask to try them. 

For some items, like pasta, you can request a smaller portion. If you’d like a larger serving, such as a dinner-sized portion of an appetizer, you can ask for that, too. 

On lobster night, there’s typically a steak option for carnivores, so don’t be shy about ordering surf and turf for dinner.

cruise ship dining options

To save money on wine, go for a bottle at dinner—or BYOB.

Ordering a bottle of wine is usually less expensive than ordering several glasses. If you don’t finish the bottle at dinner, your server can hold it for you until the next evening—or you can take it back to your stateroom to enjoy at another time. 

If you have a special bottle of wine that you’d like to bring on board and open during your cruise, most lines will allow at least one unopened bottle of wine or champagne when you’re boarding the ship, though there may be a corkage fee. 

Be sure to read the line's list of prohibited items carefully to find the exact amount of wine you're allowed to carry on. Ships are strict about passengers bringing outside booze. 

Explore modern buffet alternatives. 

Food stations with international cuisine and made-to-order dishes are replacing many of the old-fashioned cruise buffets.

Among the cool new concepts are Indulge Food Hall, a complimentary venue on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Prima class ships, Prima and Viva . This casual eatery features well-prepared specialties from around the world, including Asian noodle dishes, Spanish tapas, and Indian chicken tikka masala. Best of all, you order your selections from as many venues as you’d like on an electonic tablet at your table, and servers will bring your food to you. 

Look for special food-focused events.

Special complimentary dining events can be found on the cruise app in the ship’s daily schedule. You don’t want to miss lavish brunch buffets (complete with ice sculptures), outdoor barbecues, and lunches with sushi and fresh seafood.

Some of these festivities are part of the lines’ signature dining and entertainment events during which the ships pull out all the stops, as at Windstar’s international barbecue that’s served outdoors under the stars or Azamara’s White Night party .

cruise ship dining options

Seek out quiet breakfast spots. 

If you don’t have time for a sit-down breakfast in the main dining room but don’t want to deal with the morning madness at the buffet, most ships have options for a quiet breakfast on the go, some with an additional cost.

Sample morning offerings with a view in the Observation Lounge on Norwegian Bliss , Encore , or Joy . Try Norwegian specialties at Viking’s Mamsen’s restaurant . Or opt for a healthy meal at Eden Café on Celebrity’s Edge class ships, Edge , Apex , Beyond , and Ascent . 

Holland America Line’s Grand Dutch Café is another cozy choice on the Koningsdam , Nieuw Statendam , and Rotterdam ships. 

Dine in your cabin with free room service. 

Many cruise lines offer some type of complimentary room service (though some items may come with small fees or upcharges). It’s a special treat to have a leisurely breakfast or dinner on your balcony at least once during your cruise. 

Princess Cruises will even deliver your order anywhere on the ship when you use the MedallionClass app’s OceanNow feature . If you’re sailing with a luxury line, like Silversea, you’ll have access to 24-hour room service and can order from the main dining room’s menu. Your butler can arrange for a private soiree in your room.

If your accommodations are in one of the expensive ship-within-a-ship private sanctuaries, such as Norwegian’s The Haven or MSC’s Yacht Club , you’ll have extensive room service offerings, also delivered to your room by your personal butler. 

Ask about items not on the menu.

Special dining requests are not unusual, especially if you’re sailing on a smaller luxury cruise or river ship or are booked in the ship-within-a-ship area or in a concierge-level stateroom or suite. If you have a craving for something that’s not on the menu, ask if the chef can prepare it for you—your chances of success will improve if you give the kitchen 24-hour notice. 

Likewise, ships can accommodate restrictions based on food allergies and plant-based diets. If you’re traveling with kids, you can view preset children’s menus online and speak with crew members or customer service reps about special requests. The ship likely has jarred baby food available or might even be able to make you some fresh purees for the littlest seafarers in your party. 

If servers know that you like, say, spicy Asian food, they may even offer you some of what the chefs are whipping up for themselves in the kitchen. 

And it just may be the best thing you eat on your cruise.

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Inside the main dining room Silhouette on Celebrity Equinox.

Tom Mascardo / CC BY-SA

Inside the main dining room Silhouette on Celebrity Equinox.

Beginner's guide to dining on a cruise

Anytime dining is on the upswing as diners look for casual experiences.

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Cruiseable team

On a cruise ship

CruiseClout score: 95.0

In the old days, cruise ship dining was an elegant affair taking place three meals a day plus an option for an afternoon snack served during tea time. No more.

Today, modern ships offer a wide array of dining options, from basic meal service all the way up to luxury specialty dining experiences. And, unlike land vacations, your meals are included in your fare. 

If you're new to cruising, here's a Beginner's   guide to dining options on a cruise , with eight key takeaways.

Sheri from CruiseTipsTV offers some helpful tips about dining on a cruise. 

Where you will eat

Main restaurant:  Nearly all cruise lines have a main dining room available for sit-down service during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Typically, you'll find that the venue offers a range of traditional American and Continental dishes served in a large, banquet-style room where you may have to share a table with other passengers.

Look for local cuisine and an innovative menu of gourmet specialties at AmphorA Restaurant, the main dining room aboard Windstar Cruises' Star Pride.

Satellite restaurants: Many ships offer less formal dining venues that serve casual fare. On board you might find a self-service buffet, pizzeria, poolside grill or even a New York style hot dog cart.

In your room: Most cruise lines offer complimentary room service (although this is not an option on some river cruise ships), though Norwegian and Royal Caribbean charge a small service fee for orders delivered between midnight and 5 am. In our experience, the menu is often limited and the food often so-so. 

Specialty restaurants: A new trend in the cruise industry is the addition of specialty restaurants , also known as alternative restaurants. Specialty restaurants generally provide superior service, better food and sometimes dazzling decor. Examples include Carnival's steakhouses, Holland America's Pinnacle Grill, Princess's Crown Grill and Sabatini's, and Disney's Remy and Palo. Tip : Dine at a specialty restaurant on the first night, when it tends to be less crowded. 

150 Central Park on Oasis of the Seas offers a six-course tasting menu featuring distinctive  ingredients paired with wines from around the world.

$$$: How much it costs to dine

For the vast majority of luxury and premium cruise lines — Crystal Cruises, Oceania , Seabourn , Regent Seven Seas , Windstar — the cost of the main restaurant and s pecialty restaurants is included in your fare. (See All about specialty restaurants  and our roundup of the best cruise ship restaurants .)

For mainstream (mass market) cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Holland America, dining in the main restaurants on board is included in your fare, while it costs extra to dine in a specialty restaurant (although Royal in particular sometimes adds surcharges to certain items on the menu in the main dining room). 

Also, remember that the mainstream cruise lines charge for bottles of water, soda and specialty coffee drinks that you order outside of the main dining room. 

Assigned seating vs. open seating

A lot of first-time cruisers wonder, Will I be forced to eat with a lot of strangers? In general, no. Here's how it works: 

Traditional assigned seating

Can a dessert be a work of art? The Blu Chocolate Floating Island with Orange Blossom Crème Anglaise at Celebrity's Blu restaurant.

Many larger cruise lines maintain the tradition of two dinner seatings each evening: at 6 pm and 8 or 8:30 pm. When booking, you'll be asked which you prefer. You may want to choose the earlier seating if you plan to go to a lot of shows, and you can request a small or large table or a seat near a window, but there's no guarantee it will be honored. Early seating is often fa­vored by those cruising with kids and some se­niors.

You generally don't get to choose your table mates with assigned seating. Upon embarkation , the first thing many veteran cruisers do is to check out their table assignment; sometimes you can make changes once on board. One upside of assigned seating is that your server gets to know your tastes and preferences when you return on subsequent nights. Cruise lines offering assigned seating in the main dining room for dinner include Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Crystal, Disney, Holland America, MSC Cruises, Princess and Royal Caribbean.

Open seating

A big trend on cruise ships is the prevalence of Anytime dining or what Norwegian calls Freestyle Cruising . This is the rule, rather than the exception, on nearly all luxury cruise lines and it's becoming the norm on some mainstream cruise lines.

Head to La Cucina, a casual Italian trattoria on your Norwegian Cruise Line ship, for meals with large portions, perfect for sharing with family or friends.

Open seating — an option that lets you eat when you want and with whom you want — has been around for a long time on luxury and smaller ships (including Star Clippers ). Several years ago Norwegian Cruise Line introduced Freestyle Dining to its ships, to positive results. More recently, Royal Caribbean introduced the concept of dynamic dining — no set dining times, no assigned seats, no required formal nights — to mixed results on its Quantum class of ships. Note that with open seating, you sometimes have to wait for a ta­ble or make a reser­va­tion each night. 

Our advice: Go ahead and socialize, at least on some nights! Part of the excitement of cruising is the potential to meet interesting new people — perhaps even people with diverse backgrounds, cultural identities or political beliefs. You can scurry off with your companion to a specialty restaurant or a casual satellite dining spot on one or two nights while mingling with strangers at a table for 6, 8, or 10 people on other nights. 

Cruise lines that offer open seating in the main dining room include Azamara, Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Hurtigruten, Norwegian, Oceania, Paul Gauguin, Princess, Regent, Royal Caribbean, SeaDream, Star Clippers, Uniworld, Viking, Windstar and the luxury lines. Note that some cruise lines offer both assigned seating and open seating.

Breakfast and lunch are usually open seating. Note that several of the cruise lines listed above — Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean — offer both assigned seating and open seating. 

Making reservations

If you opt for open seating, in some cases you'll need to make a reservation to reserve your spot. Check with your travel agent or the cruise line. 

Head to La Terrazza on your Silversea cruise for authentic Italian cuisine prepared with flair and passion.

There's a certain amount of decorum expected on cruise ships during dinner. That means, no swimsuits, tank tops, flip-flops, casual shorts and sleeveless tops. If you're in the mood for casual, head to the smaller informal restaurant near the pool. 

Dress codes on cruise ships vary by cruise line and by evening – many cruises feature one or more formal nights. Some cruise lines enforce the dress code and may offer to bring out a suit jacket for the gentleman. Others apply the dress code only sporadically, though some upscale cruise lines will turn you away from dinner if your attire is not up to snuff .  On most nights, "resort casual" is the rule. (See Cruise outfits: What to wear on each cruise line .)

Diners and waiter at the Princess Grill aboard Queen Elizabeth.

Formal dining 

Formal dining has given way to casual dining on most cruise lines in recent years. Traditionally, cruise lines set aside one evening on a 7-night cruise for a formal night, when people dress in evening wear. On lines such as Princess, Cunard, Crystal, Seabourn and Silversea, you'll see quite a few men don tuxedoes on formal night, while most wear dress slacks and a sport coat. If you wear slacks and a dress shirt you'll be OK. 

Dine al fresco and watch the sun set over shimmering waters during your SeaDream sailing.

Al fresco dining  

If you've ever enjoyed al fresco dining on a cruise ship — having breakfast, lunch or dinner on deck on a sunny day — you know what a glorious treat it is. On cruise lines such as SeaDream , Silversea ,  Viking , Ponant , Seabourn , Azamara and Windstar , you'll likely have a chance to indulge. 

Dining options you'll find on board

The dining options below are available on most of the mainstream cruise lines. So check to see which of these are included on the cruise you're considering: 

Signs aboard Queen Elizabeth let guests know about the dress code and when formal nights take place.

  • Sit-down meals served by wait staff in the main dining room
  • Formal dining, often on one night of the cruise on many ships (but you have the option to skip it)
  • 24-hour dining venue (available on some ships)
  • Room service (note that some ships charge a fee for delivery after midnight)
  • Outdoor dining at night around the pool deck during poolside parties (Azamara and Holland America Line, for example)
  • Dining under the stars (Silversea's Hot Rocks or Tastes on Crystal Cruises, for example)
  • Balcony dining (a hallmark on Princess Cruises especially)
  • Special dining with the chef events (Princess, Seabourn, etc.)
  • Special wine-pairing dinners in "vintage rooms" (Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, MSC Cruises)
  • Rotational dining, where the room literally moves, as on Disney Cruise Line
  • Alternative dining venues (Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, et al.)
  • Coffee bar (regular coffee and pastries included, specialty coffees at nominal extra charge) 

What's not included 

Here are some items that are typically not included with the cruise fare: alcoholic drinks, soft drinks (on some cruise lines — soda is included in the price on Disney sailings) and dining at specialty restaurants. Special packages are often available for guests to purchase that include alcoholic drinks, soft drinks or specialty restaurants. This will vary by cruise line, so check for your cruise line’s policy or ask your travel agent.

For Bahamian and Caribbean cruises that stop at the cruise line’s private island, such as Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay, dining on the island is also included in the cruise fare.

Jog or speed-walk on a dedicated track during your Explorer of the Seas sailing.

Do everything in moderation

Don't forget: Even though you can order two entrees and three desserts or help yourself to a midnight buffet or wolf down double cheese bacon burgers, resist the temptation (but go ahead and order a couple of decadent desserts). We know friends who put on 5 pounds during a weeklong cruise — because they don't pace themselves and they don't exercise. Stay active on your cruise: Go on long walks on shore. Hit the gym or spa. And show some restraint. 

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You've got a foodie in you — everyone does! Awaken and delight yours on a Carnival cruise with delicious main dishes, tempting desserts and general yumminess everywhere you look.


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Private Dining

Cruise Line Dining

Explore the different cruise line dining options.

Cruise ship dining has evolved significantly and cruise lines now offer an abundant number of restaurant choices and dining options. One night you may want to enjoy casual dining with the kids and the next night a romantic dinner in an elegant gourmet restaurant. Some ships now offer more than twenty dining venues allowing guests to experience a variety of different flavors and atmospheres each day.

Dining times have also changed. Traditional dining is still available on many cruise lines where guests can choose a specific dining time and table size and usually will enjoy the same wait staff throughout the cruise. In addition to traditional dining guests can now also choose more flexible dining times on most cruise lines. Open dining options allow guests to eat when they want each day in a variety of complimentary restaurants. Reservations can also be made at specialty restaurants, usually for an additional fee.

Select your cruise line below and explore the different dining options and culinary experiences that are offered. Browse each restaurant type and get your taste buds ready for an amazing culinary experience at sea!

Contemporary Cruise Lines

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line takes pride in catering to foodies. With options like the Seafood Shack, Guy Fieri's Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina, the latter for those who love Mexican cuisine, there's something for everyone. From fan favorites to fine dining, explore all of the options that Carnival Cruise Line has to offer!

Costa Cruises

Famous for their enticing Italian restaurants, Costa Cruises will take you on a culinary adventure that you'll never forget. Costa has partnered with world famous Michelin-star chef Ettore Bocchia to combine Italian hospitality with some of the most memorable meals ever to be served at sea. Italian food is just one of many available cuisines on available on a Costa Cruise.

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruises feature everything from fun treats to the most delectable meals in a fine dining experience. Hang by the pool and enjoy Frozone treats, grab a slice of pizza at Pinocchio's Pizzeria or enjoy a four star meal Royal Court. Make time for Royal Court Tea and the family can enjoy great food with their favorite Disney Characters.

MSC Cruises

With all of the amazing dining options on an MSC cruise, no matter the choice you make you're bound to have a great meal. With options like Tex-Mex specialties, great Italian fare at Eataly, an up tempo treat at the Galaxy Disco Restaurant or many of the other onboard eateries, both simple and complex, you'll have to be sure to make time to enjoy everything the MSC Cruises team of chefs has to offer.

Norwegian Cruise Line

NCL offers a wide variety of complimentary dining options in the main dining rooms, buffet areas and even their amazing Asian-fusion eatery. The culinary adventures continue in Le Bistro, with fine French cuisine that will tantalize your palate. Churrascaria, a Brazilian Steakhouse is another popular option with travelers that you won’t want to miss. Norwegian Cruise Line can take your cruise vacation to the next level with their stunning array of dining options.

Princess Cruises

Fame chef Curtis Stone has partnered with Princess Cruises to bring the best flavors in the world to your plate. The Salty Dog gastropub, Share, Sabatini's and Crown Grill are some of the most popular dining options onboard. Princess Cruises also features the unavoidable delights of the Chocolate Journeys program to bring you sinfully delicious chocolate creations. This and much more make Princess Cruises a great option for cruising foodies.

Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean is all about Taking pride in ushering in the next era of dining at sea. Rediscover American fare at the American Icon Grill after a long stay at the pool. Experience the height of contemporary cuisine at Chic where the food is as beautiful as it is delicious. And whatever you do, don’t miss Wonderland, where the atmosphere is a mixture of exciting tastes and presentations straight out of a magic show. Royal Caribbean has something for every member of the family.

Premium Cruise Lines

Azamara Cruises

Azamara Cruises has a vast array of dining options for you or any member of your traveling party. Azamara offers six different dining options, including room service, specialty dining, fine dining and everything in between. Some of their more popular restaurants onboard are Aqualina, Prime C, Discoveries Restaurant and the Patio, all with their own distinct offerings. They also cater to those with special dietary needs and restrictions.

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruise allows fans of the hit cooking competition Top Chef to experience the excitement of fine cuisine in person. You can participate in Quick Fire challenges yourself or let the pros do the work in one of their many legendary eateries. Main restaurant, Luminae, Qsine, Blue and Murano are just a few of their highly recommended restaurants serving up cuisine from around the world. From interactive experiences to haute-cuisine with the most amazing views, Celebrity Cruises will satisfy whatever craving you have.

Holland America Line

Holland America cruise travelers get to enjoy the 'As You Wish' dining only offered on this cruise line. With restaurants to suit every mood and palate, you can pre-schedule dining at the time of your choice or be spontaneous and, you guessed it, dine as you wish. Try the Pinnacle Grille or Le Cirque for whimsical, award-winning dishes sure to delight the entire family. Dining with a large group? Check out Canaletto, where dishes are served to be share with your friends and family. Holland America has everything from poolside snacks to the finest dining experiences.

Oceania Cruises

Oceania Cruises doesn't take the easy route when it comes to onboard dining. With culinary offerings from legendary Master Chef Jacques Pépin, you'll enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will be the culinary experience of your year - or decade. Oceania offers multiple dining venues for breakfast, lunch or dinner, including Toscana and Polo Grill. Coffee lovers will love Baristas, a delightful coffee bar to enjoy before or after meals. Come and explore all of the amazing dining options Oceania Cruises has to offer.

Viking Ocean Cruises

Dining onboard Viking's ocean cruise ships is a truly beautiful experience which surrounds guests with incredible views. The ship offers a variety of restaurants including the World Cafe, Manfred's, The Restaurant, the Pool Grill and Mamsen's. In The Restaurant the floor to ceiling windows open up to provide an al fresco dining experience where guests can enjoy a mix of international cuisine with local and regional specialties. All restaurant's including the specialty restaurants are complimentary (except the Chef's Table) and include beer, wine and soda with lunch and dinner. The Chef's Table experience is not to be missed.

Luxury Cruise Lines

Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises takes pride in their exceptional cuisine. They are 'authentic yet inventive,' striving to balance creativity with perfect execution of classic dishes. With modern choices, Italian classics and even Asian offerings for all aboard a Crystal Cruises ship to enjoy. Enjoy the charming and romantic Prego or the Vintage Room before treating yourself to an ice cream sundae at the Trident Grille and Ice Cream Bar. Up late? Drop in to the Bistro for Hors d'Oeuvres served up fresh long into the night. Your culinary dreams will be fulfilled in any of these amazing restaurants, all available on ships in the Crystal Cruises fleet.

Cunard Line

The Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria aren't new to the world of high end cuisine. Anyone who has enjoyed a meal at the Verandah can tell you the chefs on these ships are the best at sea. Try the a la carte menu at the Princess Grill for some of the most mouth-watering seafood you'll ever have the pleasure of enjoying. Cunard also has many more laid back dining options and even the opportunity to have the meal of your dreams in your own luxury stateroom.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

The Regent Experience is about avoiding short cuts at the expense of the dining experience. Ships in the Regent Seven Seas fleet serve up fresh produce obtained from trusted markets at various ports of call. Dry-aged prime meats as well as fresh seafood offerings are just a few of the items you'll find in their specialty dining outlets. Chartreuse, Pacific Rim, Prime 7 and Signatures are just four of their many high-end offerings. Looking for delicious food as you want it, when you want it? Look no further than the Regent Seven Seas fleet.


Seabourn Cruises restaurants may have simple names (Restaurant and Restaurant 2, just to name a few) but the food offerings from these eateries are far from ordinary. You'll enjoy the finest plates served up by some of the most renowned chefs at sea on a Seabourn Cruise. In-suite dining is available 24/7 in case you fall in love with your amazing stateroom but those who venture out will find meals they won't soon forget. Cruise on one of the luxurious ships in the Seabourn fleet and see what fine dining is all about.

SeaDream Yacht Club

SeaDream Yacht Club serves up some of the finest international cuisine available in the most luxurious settings. From the moment you enjoy your Welcome Aboard cocktail to the last bite of your last meal onboard, SeaDream Yacht Club's unbeatable staff of chefs will keep you guessing and smiling. For full private yacht charters, SeaDream can create exact custom menus to delight even the most particular of palates. Come see what the yachting world has been enjoying for years - the most delicious food in the most amazing destinations.


Silversea cruises know that you understand what great food is all about. The main dining room, The Restaurant, offers fine dining at your leisure. Silversea understands that you expect a high quality dining experience and you don't want it to interrupt your cruise vacation plans. Atlantide is a favorite of many guests with the best in food and drinks the sea has to offer. La Dame by Relais & Châteaux offers the most upscale French cuisine one can find from Paris to Australia and beyond. Come see what Silversea diners have been raving about.

Windstar Cruises

When it comes to your dining choices on a Windstar luxury cruise, the sky's the limit. Becoming one of the highest rated cruise line dining options as rated by travelers isn't easy and staying there is even harder. Then again, one meal AmphorA or Candles will easily remind you why they remain so popular with the foodie crowd. Take a journey on one of the finest ships, enjoy the finest food and see what Windstar Cruises is all about.

River Cruises & Unique Cruise Lines


Come see what Gold-Medal dining is all about on an AmaWaterways river cruise. This is a cruise line that always continues to reinvent and pushes the boundaries of culinary limitations all in search of the best dining experience around.

American Cruise Lines

American Cruise Lines dining offers up sustainable cuisine as you enjoy the most stunning river views imaginable. American Cruise Line chefs explore the world, choosing only the finest ingredients to create an ever-evolving menu of delights.

Avalon Waterways

Avalon Waterways has a wide variety of dining options and Chefs Karl and Leo Wrenkh not only promise tantalizing local flavors, they deliver on that promise. From buffets or afternoon tea to regional specialties and bistros, Avalon Waterways brings the most delectable cuisine to river cruising.

CroisiEurope River Cruises

CroisiEurope Cruises features the work of Michelin-starred chefs creating your favorites while allowing you to create new favorites yourself. Cruise European river chains and explore destinations both geographically and in the culinary sense. Investigate what CroisiEurope Cruises can offer and you'll find the food culinary dreams are made of.

Crystal River Cruises

Dining on a Crystal River Cruise is an extraordinary experience boasting Michelin star gourmet in an intimate and elegant environment. Guests can dine in a variety of venues including the main restaurant, the Palm Court, the Piano Bar, the Pantry and the Bistro.

Crystal Yacht Cruises

Dining on Crystal Cruises new yacht cruises offers Michelin Star gourmet dining in a relaxed country club ambiance. Dining options include the Yacht Club, the Grill, the Terrace & Patio Cafe and the Pantry. The innovative chefs and exceptional service combine to create an incredible dining experience.

Fathom Cruises

Fathom Cruises is travel with a purpose. Chefs prepare your every meal with sustainability and other environmental concerns in mind. With a menu that has a global vision to match their global goals, Fathom Cruises will help you serve a great good while showing you the world both on deck and on your plate.

Scenic Luxury Cruises

Scenic Cruises stays focused on the finer details so it should be no surprise to even seasoned travelers that their dining options are top notch. From a stress-free handmade pizza by the pool to a fine dining experience you will never forget, Scenic has exactly what you're looking for. Come experience the world on a plate with Scenic Cruises.

Star Clippers

Star Clippers dining options are varied, as you would imagine. Start your day staring at the most stunning river views with an impressive buffet-style breakfast, loaded with your favorites. And end your day with a five course menu with dishes destined for social media posts that will make even your best friends jealous. Come see what Star Clippers Cruises has to offer and you'll leave with a new taste for the finer things in life.

Uniworld River Cruises

Uniworld's culinary team will take you to the heights of the dining experience. With the single goal of creating the ultimate dining experience, Uniworld has set out to offer what you want, when you want it. This award-winning team understands culinary excellence. Explore all of the stunning dining options Uniworld Cruises has to offer.

Viking Cruises

Viking River Cruises takes dining on a beautiful riverboat to a new level. Viking River Cruises has all the flexibility in dining options you would expect from a cruise provider of this stature including open seating main dining for meals, early bird breakfasts and casual snack options during the day and evening. Experience the Viking River difference with plate after plate of the finest food in the world of river cruising.

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Jamie's Italian Meat Cheese Charcuterie Planks of Food Hero


Published on July 18, 2019

Royal Caribbean's Instagram for Live Updates

Food is an important aspect of any vacation — for many, it even tops the priority list. And when you cruise with Royal Caribbean there are so many opportunities to dig into incredible meals — especially if you’re sailing on an Oasis Class or Royal Amplified ship . From global flavors at complimentary fan-favorites across the fleet — like Windjammer, Café Promenade and the Main Dining Room — to elevated fare served at specialty restaurants, every bite onboard a Royal Caribbean ship is just as impressive as the record-breaking slides , spectacular shows, and game-changing family experiences that make these thrill-filled vacations so unforgettable.


Windjammer Carving Station

First things first — if you’re new to cruising, one thing to remember is that there are two kinds of restaurants onboard: complimentary and specialty. Complimentary restaurants are completely covered by your cruise fare, no matter what time of day you choose to drop in for a bite. All Royal Caribbean cruise ships serve complimentary dining in the Main Dining Room , Café Promenade and Windjammer Café or Windjammer Marketplace (the name varies depending on which ship you’re sailing on, but the dining experience is the same). On some ships, you’ll also get to enjoy spots like Sorrento’s Pizza, Solarium Bistro and Park Café free of charge, and that’s not even scratching the surface of all the choices you have.

Grilled NY-Strip Steak -  Chops Grille

Specialty dining, like the contemporary American steakhouse Chops Grille, Izumi Japanese Cuisine, and Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver, serve guests for an additional charge unless you purchase a specialty dining package , but more on that later. If you’re not sure which restaurants on your sailing are complimentary and which are considered specialty dining, take a look at your Cruise Compass once you’ve checked into your stateroom.


Solarium Bistro Breakfast

No matter what kinds of new discoveries you have scheduled on your itinerary, the ideal way to start any day is with something delicious. Without a doubt, Windjammer is one of the best places to have breakfast onboard, and it’s available on all Royal Caribbean ships. Solarium Bistro, another buffet-style option, is a good adults-only alternative that’s available on select cruise ships . You’ll find all your favorite breakfast items at these complimentary dining options, from just-pressed fruit juices, healthy yogurt and fresh-baked pastries to eggs cooked any way you want, in a casual self-serve setting.

Parfait Dessert, Coastal Kitchen

The Main Dining Room is also a great choice for complimentary breakfast that’s available fleet wide — in the morning it offers a buffet filled with classic hot and cold dishes, plus an a la carte menu. For an additional charge, you can start your day with unlimited bubbly by taking part in the Sip, Tour, Brunch . And if you’re cruising in a Sky or Star Class suite, you can enjoy complimentary breakfast at the exclusive Coastal Kitchen , open only to suites guests and Pinnacle Club-level members of the Crown & Anchor Society. Want in on a little-known secret? Though it’s a specialty restaurant, Johnny Rockets serves a classic American breakfast free of charge on Oasis, Allure, Harmony, Symphony, Wonder and Utopia of the Seas.


Hooked Seafood Lemon squeeze on Lobster Roll

Somewhere in between your morning surf lesson on the FlowRider* surf simulator and your intergalactic laser tag face-off in Battle for Planet Z, you’re bound to work up an appetite. Fortunately, there are plenty of places onboard for you to refuel.

If you’re craving something hearty and rustic, you can dig into your favorite family-style Italian comfort food either at Giovanni’s Table or at Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver. Each one of these hits-the-spot specialty restaurants is available on select ships across the Royal Caribbean cruises. If you’re in the mood for a taste of New England, Hooked Seafood serves up freshly-caught goodness, like lobster rolls and the already-famous Messy Fish Sandwich, on Symphony and Navigator . If you want to catch your favorite sports match or follow up lunch with round of Skee-ball or Connect Four, head to Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade for icy-cold brews, burgers, wings and more on Symphony, Navigator and Mariner of the Seas — just make sure to save room for the colossal four-scoop Touchdown Sundae, served in a mini football helmet. Just finishing it is a victory in and of itself.

On the complimentary side, Windjammer, Solarium Bistro and the Main Dining Room are all great lunch options where you’ll find lots of delicious variety. And if you want to keep lunch on the lighter side, Vitality Café offers healthy specialty wraps, fresh fruit and yogurt, and all kinds of wellness-inspired smoothies to power up your day.


Park Cafe's Kummelweck Sandwich

There are so many epic things to see and do on a Royal Caribbean cruise, it’s easy to find yourself racing from one thrilling activity to the next. Don’t want to take time out to sit down and savor a meal? No problem — Royal Caribbean makes it easy for you to still enjoy fantastic flavor on the go as you zip between decks and attractions.

The delicious stone-baked pizza at Sorrento’s is a portable guest favorite, and the roast beef Kummelweck sandwich at Park Café has achieved legendary status among cruisers. And guess what? Both restaurants are included in your cruise fare. You’ll find six creative variations of the best gourmet hot dogs you’ve ever tasted at the complimentary Boardwalk Dog House , and if you’re cruising on Symphony or Navigator of the Seas, don’t miss out on the crazy good burritos, tacos, chips and guacamole at El Loco Fresh . Although it may seem like specialty dining, the insanely delicious Mexican fare served quick and easy at this hot spot comes at no extra charge. Feel free to go back for seconds — or thirds.


Hibachi Chef Cooking

An extra special occasion — or travel buddy — calls for an extra special dining experience. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday or anniversary, planning to propose, or just want to dial your family dinner up a notch, Royal Caribbean has several specialty restaurants that bump up the wow-factor and go above and beyond in every way.

Steakhouse classics like succulent lobster and perfectly grilled cuts of prime meat at Chops Grille — available on most ships fleet wide — will impress even the most discerning palates, while the whimsical décor and avant-garde dishes at Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine on Symphony, Harmony and Quantum Class ships will blow your mind and woo your plus-one. Each of these specialty restaurants is a perfect choice if you’re looking to take your date night to the next level.

At Izumi, fresh hand-rolled sushi and exotic Asian-inspired dishes will transport you to the Far East. On Oasis Class ships, it even offers hibachi-style seating where you can watch talented chefs prepare your meal right in front of you. And for the ultimate VIP dinner, head to Chef’s Table and indulge in a five-course gourmet feast and wine pairing prepared and presented by the ship’s Chef de Cuisine and an expert sommelier in an intimate setting. Perfect for foodies, this unforgettable specialty dining experience is a bucket list must for many seasoned cruisers, and you’ll find it on most of the fleet.

Of course, dinner in the Main Dining Room is always an exceptional affair accompanied by dedicated service and personalized touches — and it’s completely complimentary on every ship. If you are celebrating something or want to surprise someone with a special treat, just speak to the staff and they’ll be happy to help make your dinner even more memorable. And if you want an occasion to get dressed to the nines, make sure to dine in on Formal Night.


Johnny Rockets Kid Eating Hamburger

Little ones can be hard to please, especially if they’re picky eaters. And while many of them might want to make a bee-line for the walls of sweets at Sugar Beach or the complimentary soft-serve ice cream offered daily on the pool deck, there are lots of dining options serving snacks yummy enough to tempt them into noshing on something more substantial.

Johnny Rockets is always a great choice if you’re cruising with children, because who can say no to specialty milkshakes, burgers and golden waffle fries? Windjammer is also a great go-to, with its self-serve buffet-style setup and endless number of choices at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even the Main Dining Room offers a kid’s dinner menu with crowd-pleasing finger-foods like crispy chicken tenders, fresh-baked pizza and juicy burgers — not to mention decadent desserts.

Is your stomach rumbling yet? Regardless of what kind of food or setting you’re in the mood for, you’ll never be short on opportunities to treat yourself when it comes to dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise. And you can get in on all the flavorful action with a beverage or specialty dining package — keep reading for more information on those.


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Eats That Are Included

You have so many options (that don’t cost extra).

Our chefs do more than make your favorites (or new favorites) from scratch. They share their love of cooking with you. Choose from regional cuisine that connects you to the local culture and comfort food like, say, the best pizza at sea. Enjoy a sit-down meal in our main dining room or a grab-and-go snack from the fan-favorite International Café. And always ALWAYS save room for our decadent signature dessert, a chocolate hazelnut bar.

Fine Dining Options

Elegant restaurant-style dining rooms offering an amazing variety of multicourse gourmet selections… all included!

An array of new menu flavors

Discover our Main Dining room menus — reimagined by our Executive Chefs and international culinary team throughout the fleet. Sail with us and savor every dish, from authentic Italian pastas to exclusive family favorites shared by world-renowned chefs, all included in your cruise fare.

Decadent desserts

It’s your vacation, so indulge! Each evening, you’ll have your choice of delectable desserts to choose from in our dining rooms. Perennial guest favorites include the Princess Love Boat Dream, traditional New York cheesecake and create-your-own sundae. You’ll also find freshly baked made from scratch pastries offered in The Pastry Shop, Horizon Court, Amuleto and World Fresh Marketplace.

Breakfast & lunch dining

If you'd like a sit-down breakfast or lunch at a more relaxed pace, visit a main dining room where the menu is overflowing with choices. Soak in your surroundings and try one of our crafted dishes highlighting global flavors, with gracious wait staff to take care of your every need. Sit-down dining in our dining rooms is included with your cruise fare. Check your stateroom TV for hours of operation.

Cruise Food On Deck - Head Up to the Open Air

Our buffet plus pizza, burgers, tacos and desserts with a side order of amazing ocean views

World fresh marketplace

An ever-changing menu of regional specialties and comfort food favorites, fresh fruit and salads, vegetables and desserts. In our World Fresh Marketplace or Horizon Court, you'll find easy (and easy-to-please) dining any time of day – breakfast, lunch or dinner – with waiters ready to serve you fresh offerings and bring you your favorite beverage. Our World Fresh Marketplace menu is offered in Horizon Court on select ships.

The Pastry shop

It’s just this side of impossible: passing up the sweets and made from scratch pastries offered at the Pastry Shop in Horizon Court, World Fresh Marketplace and Amuleto. Cookies, pies, cakes, pastries … not to mention desserts that are a revelation in themselves. They’re too tempting to resist, but that’s kinda the point. You’re on vacation; enjoy!

Top-Deck pizza by the slice

It’s the “Best Pizza at Sea” says USA TODAY and we couldn’t agree more. Harkening back to our Italian heritage, our Neapolitan-style pizza is hand-tossed and freshly baked right on deck. From traditional margherita and pepperoni to the daily specials, you’ll find it nearly impossible to pass by without grabbing a slice – or two.

Grilled burgers and Hot dogs

This isn’t fast food, it’s fresh food fast – right on deck. Our burgers are homemade and buns are baked throughout the day. Enjoy a juicy cheeseburger, perhaps a brat with sauerkraut, or even a grilled chicken sandwich and other cruise food daily specials. And be sure to complement it with a side order of golden fries.

Soft-Serve Ice cream on deck

When you want to cool down, or just have a craving for something sweet, head on deck for complimentary soft serve chocolate or vanilla ice cream. You can also purchase handcrafted ice cream sandwiches, iced coffees and frappés at Coffee & Cones.

Charges apply for select items.

Movie & munchies

Watching a hit film poolside with Movies Under the Stars®? Complimentary soft-serve ice cream is only a few steps away, while servers are on hand with popcorn during nightly screenings. Want more without missing a moment of the movie? Order anything you like – a burger and beer, a slice of the best pizza at sea and a soda – with OceanNow®, and your food and drinks will find you.

Additional charge applies for OceanNow delivery.

In the Atrium

When the craving hits, head to the heart of the ship for small bite choices that will surely satisfy

24-hour International café

Located in the Piazza you’ll find the International Café. Open around the clock, there's always something delicious to nosh on from breakfast parfaits to grilled paninis and gourmet salads, daily soups and a host of tasty desserts including freshly baked cookies. You can also get a variety of specialty coffees, teas and more.

Dining venues vary by ship and are subject to change. Beverage charges apply.

Milk & cookies

Is there anything better than the smell of chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven? (The answer is no.) So we make sure you have that experience every day with fresh-baked cookies available around the ship, including in the International Café and our buffets. Grab an ice-cold glass of milk, and make it a moment. And if cookies aren’t your thing, you’re sure to find something sweet that is.

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cruise ship dining options

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cruise ship dining options

Lakshmi Durai

One Comment

Dining on a cruise ship, 5 types of cruise dining styles on a ship.

Cruises offer some of the most tantalizing meals that cannot be missed while on board. The quality & quantity of food onboard is unbelievable. Cruise lines take incredible care to show off the best of cuisines from tempting appetizers all the way through decadent desserts. Most of the cruise ships offer not just three meals a day but sumptuous food at any time of the day.

It is important for the cruise ships to have more dining options as they are floating resorts carrying many guests. While every dining program is a little different, most cruise lines stick to certain similar traditions, with a few distinct differences.

Here is some general guide to dining on the high seas.

Main / Traditional Dining: Most of the Premium Cruise Lines have open seating for breakfast and lunch, but offer two separate seatings for dinner:

Early / Main dining – The main dining is generally between 6 pm and 6:30 pm. You may suggest this to your guest traveling with small children who need to stick to a set meal and bedtime schedule and to those who like going to bed early.

Late Dining – Late dining is generally between 8 pm and 8:45 pm. Most of the Middle Eastern guests prefer the late dining as they don’t want to feel rushed for dinner after a day in port.

All dinner seatings are on a request basis and are assigned on a first come first serve basis by the cruise line. The sooner your guests book their cruise, the better their chances of getting their dining preference.

Freestyle / My Time Dining: Some cruise lines offer an alternative to the traditional Early and Late Seating option. Some calls it My Time dining & some calls it personal choice or Free Style dining. Instead of giving the guests a set time to have dinner, they let the guests eat when they want, where they want and with whomever they want. The flexible dining option allows guests to choose when they dine in the main dining room onboard, on a day-by-day basis which gives more flexibility for the guests to spend their day as they wish to enjoy more time in a specific port of call one day and dine later that evening than another.

Casual Dining: If your guests do not want to dress up formally for the dinner, they have the choice of casual dining. Most of the cruise lines offer casual dining which is buffet style dinner and also set up to order from the menu with table service (in the evening). This serves as the best choice for those guests who do not want to worry about packing formal wear.

Alternate Dining: Most cruise ships feature a number of alternative restaurants in addition to their no-charge dining rooms and buffets. These specialty restaurants offer guests more personal experience along with menu items not found elsewhere on the ship, but most of these venues come with a cover charge. The popular themes of these specialty & boutique restaurants include Italian ristorante, French bistro, Asian sushi bar, American steakhouse and many more. The choice of specialty restaurants & cafes on board the new & young ships are plenty to pamper your guest throughout the cruise.

Healthy Options: For those concerned about their diets, more and more cruise ships offer light meals with low fat and low calories. All of the cruise lines offer healthy alternative menus or spa menus. So if your guest want low-fat, low-salt, low cholesterol, vegetarian or any other type of diet, they are available. It is best however to notify the cruise line ahead of time of any special dietary needs. For example, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises cater to food allergy, Kosher, Indian, Vegetarian and Gluten Free Diets

Table Size: When you book a cruise for your guest, you will be given a choice between a small, medium or large table at dinner. A small table seats 2 – 4 guests; a medium, 6 – 8 guests; and a large table seats 8 – 10 guests. The cruise line will then do their best to seat your guests with passengers in a similar age group; families with other families; singles with singles and honeymooners with other honeymooners.

Book a cruise & enjoy the best experience of eating onboard!

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cruise ship dining options

Cruise Dining

Get a lil taste of the (very) good life at sea.

Warning: The content depicted on this page may cause increased appetite and intense desire to sail with us. Viewer discretion is advised.

20+ eateries on us

From the Test Kitchen and our lively Korean BBQ, to our red hot Mexican and our incredible food market — all our eateries are included.

Menus by Michelin-starred chefs

World-class chefs like Brad Farmerie (of PUBLIC in NYC) and Sohui Kim (of Gage & Tollner and Insa in NYC) are a few of the minds behind our menus.

No buffets or big dining halls

With intimate spaces and diverse options to match your mood, we’ve ditched the one-big-dining-hall experience and the waste it creates by saying goodbye to buffets.

Late-night bites

Whether you feel like getting breakfast from our 24/7 diner or a late-night slice from The Pizza Place — if your schedule doesn’t stop, nor does ours.

 Always bringing fresh ingredients and made-to-order cooking to the table, our foodie-approved eateries offer everything from food truck faves to ten-course feasts — perfect for crushing any craving.

Steak & Seafood

Mixing sophistication and nostalgia with stunning views of the ship’s trail, The Wake brings a modern twist to the classic chophouses of the mid-20th century. In fact, just entering The Wake is an event in and of itself. And once you've made your way down the grand staircase, you'll enter a world that harks back to the old steakhouse, three-martini-lunch days of Madison Avenue ad men. But, thankfully, with gender equality now and, you know, no cigar smoke.

Fare with Flare

Razzle Dazzle

The go-to option for cool and casual dining on board – serving dinner, breakfast and… *dramatic head turn*...all day boozy brunch..


Razzle Dazzle by Night

Let us dazzle you with daring dishes and disco beats..

Upscale Mexican

Inspired by Mexico’s red-hot culture and sexy food scene, the experience at Pink Agave goes far beyond the usual taco. Shareable, social, and spicy — it transports you to the vibrant streets of Mexico City on an immersive odyssey of local cuisine. With our Crew to take you on a highly curated dining journey, the largest selection of tequila and mezcal at sea, and DJ beats to amp up the energy, we won’t judge if you order one of everything… and end up dancing on tables by the end of the night.

Lively Korean BBQ

If you're into hands-on meat grilling and soju drinking, our Korean BBQ is *the* perfect spot to do all that with maximum social engagement (IRL, of course, but feel free to 'gram it if you want). Interactive, energetic, and really fun, every meal at Gunbae begins with a Korean drinking game that includes a complimentary shot of soju. And since we all have that one friend who insists on being the meat master, this is the time to roast the master while the master roasts the meat. GUNBAE!


Extra Virgin

Wait, there’s (a lot) more.

We’ve replaced the traditional single dining hall with an array of mouthwatering eateries always included so that you don’t have to eat the same thing in the same place with the same people you don’t even know every day. You’re welcome.

The Test Kitchen

Specially designed for the boundary-pushing tastebuds onboard, the laboratory-like Test Kitchen is both an eatery and an unconventional cooking school. Inspired by Escoffier's Ma Cuisine, its evolving, chef-driven tasting menus are presented as an ingredient list — but the cooking techniques, presentation, and flavors are explored in ways you've never seen. With innovative and experiential classes like Mixology and coffee labs, you’ll try different methods and components for unique results.

Lick Me Till… Ice Cream

Our whimsical ice cream shop harks back to warm summer nights spent in family-run parlors — if the scoops were complementary and our onboard talent ran the joint. With six home (er... ship) made flavors to choose from and a featured flavor announced in theatrical fashion by our fabulous Happenings cast every day, our scoop shop is the perfect stop for a mid-day or late-night snack. Vegan? Don't worry — we got you covered.

Featuring the same Mediterranean-inspired menu as its indoor counterpart, The Dock brings you the ultimate in lounging with the wind in your hair and the sun (optionally) on your face. Like an elegant cabana caught between the chill, seaside perfection of Ibiza and the rustic-chic resorts of Brazil, The Dock allows you to kick back and sip from our rosé or spritzer menu and leisurely indulge in mezze bites until your next adventure calls.

The Dock House

An effortlessly elegant yet cozy counterpart to the view-focused scene outside, The Dock House delivers bright flavors with live acoustic sounds. Enjoy some flame-grilled skewers or bites like house-made pita and dips from the roving Mezze cart. Detox with a fresh-pressed juice, retox with Mediterranean-inspired cocktails, or peruse the selections of our rosé and spritzer program. Part elegant Ibiza cabana, part rustic-chic resort — The Dock House is always full-on delicious grazing all day.

The Pizza Place

No pre-cooked pizza slices sitting under warming lamps here. At The Pizza Place, you have complete control over your pie — from the dough to the cheese, a little cracked pepper, a little ricotta, and any other topping you want… Or you can just choose from the class menu and lounge on the hammocks outside. Featuring a beach club-inspired design with white and pastel-colored furniture and navy-striped accent pillows, this spot is a perfect late-night, post-drink, hunger-buster go-to.

The Social Club

The Social Club is an ode to carnival classics both in fare and in spirit. From fairground staples like pretzels and hotdogs to modern takes on milkshakes and floats (which can be spiked with a lil booze for an adult-friendly upgrade), our signature drinks and treats are just as photogenic as they are stacked high with cookies, frosting, and candy. But we don’t call it “social” for nothing — this dinner is perfect for playing a good game of air hockey, shuffleboard, foosball, and more.

The Galley is your go-to for a quick bite, meal, or pick-me-up throughout the day. Featuring a mix of shops and food-truck-style carts, each spot has a unique concept with signature dishes that change to suit the time of day. The Galley boasts (takes a deep breath before reading an impressively long list) a dedicated bakery and pastry shop, a panini shop, a burger grill, a taco shack, a sushi bar with bento boxes, a noodle bar, a soup and salad stand, and a 24-hour American diner. And exhale.

Noodle Around

From NYC’s busy streets to our delightful lady ships, chef Waki Ng’s noodles steal the show wherever they go. Richly-flavored masterpieces for which Chinatown’s Shinka has won several awards, they found a new home in The Galley, snuggled between the udon soup specials on Noodle Around’s slurp-worthy menu. Go on, order up your bowl, and get to slurping — we know you want to.

Reviews as spectacular as life on board tastes

While our Crew keeps the energy, cocktails, and good times flowing — we’ll hand the mic over to our Sailors and let them tell you about our eateries.

From novice cruiser to loyal customer

The food, the choices, and the availability were amazing. As a solo traveler, sit-down dining wasn't a priority. And the options are endless.

Tremendous experience!

The food, and variety of choices were exquisite. The choices of restaurants such as the Test Kitchen, Razzle Dazzle, the Wake, Dock House, and The Galley are so many choices for healthy, vegan, fish, or meat lovers.

Best Cruise EVERRR!

Michelin-star restaurants and great quality food. From the minute you step on the ship, it’s a party - but a first-class party!

Not just your ordinary cruise

The best food I’ve ever had on a cruise ship, and all the wonderful people we met. The ship offers so many different things to do, eat, and drink unlike any other cruise line I’ve seen.

Specially designed to transport you to a different time and place, our eateries are the perfect backdrop for the long-lasting memories you’ll make.

The solution for midnight cravings. or 3 am cravings. whenever you get them, really., everything you need to know about our dining experiences, the stirring places for all your pour decisions.

Where world-class libations meet untamed inspiration for a delicious, palate-provoking experience never seen at sea (or land).

Awarded Best Overall Cruise Line (and more!)

An epic vacation depends as much on the travel destination as it does on accommodations and food — so we built 4 gorgeous lady ships with the best of it all.

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Deliciousness with a Side of Sea Breeze.

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Enjoy a four-course meal and a great bottle of wine. Or grab a burger hot off the grill. Dress up. Dress down. Sit with your friends or make new ones. Dine inside or Oceanside along The Waterfront. Only Norwegian offers the freedom and flexibility of Freestyle Dining, which means no fixed dining times or pre-assigned seating. So follow your mood, not a schedule.

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Always Enjoy Free

Free Specialty Dining

Feel free to tantalize your taste buds when you choose Free Specialty Dining with Norwegian's Free at Sea.

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Enjoy a Wide Variety of COMPLIMENTARY DINING

All of our ships offer beautifully crafted menus in up to three Main Dining Rooms, a Buffet and a variety of casual eateries. With our chef’s original dishes made with the finest ingredients, your dining can be as fine or as fun as you want.

Main Dining Rooms

Main Dining Rooms

Choose from up to three main dining rooms serving a wide variety of delicious cuisine. Enjoy specially curated modern and classic dishes made with the freshest ingredients.

Beyond Buffets

Beyond Buffets

Our quintessential buffet is a crowd favorite for a reason. Available during breakfast, lunch and dinner, feel free to enjoy our meat carving station, made-to-order omelets, pasta and more. Best part, it’s complimentary.

24 Hour Eatery

24 Hour Eatery

Classic pub fare offered in a relaxed atmosphere. With popular dishes like the Reuben Sandwich and Fish n’ Chips, this eatery has all your favorite comfort foods!

Indulge in Norwegian Exclusive SPECIALTY DINING

When you want a unique culinary experience, our specialty restaurants offer a variety of tastes for every palate. Now through The Norwegian Edge we are bringing an even higher standard of excellence to our dining with upgraded menus and new exciting venues. Whether you're indulging in succulent meats at Moderno Churrascaria, savoring French cuisine in Le Bistro, or enjoying fresh Mexican flavors at Los Lobos, you’ll be sure to discover menus as fresh as the ingredients and cuisine that looks almost too good to eat.

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Dig Into Authentic Texas BBQ at Q's

Dig into some authentic Texas BBQ at Q Texas Smokehouse. All our smoked meats are infused with delicious flavors and come with all the traditional sides.

Moderno Churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse

Our authentic Brazilian steakhouse is a must. Start with an impressive salad bar, but save room for skewers of slow-roasted meats carved tableside by our Pasadores.

French Gourmet

A contemporary take on classic French cuisine. Surround yourself in chic décor and rich fare plates. Perfect for a romantic night out for the deux of you.

Food Republic

This delicious Asian-Latin fusion cuisine served tapas style is perfect for sharing. Food Republic is open for lunch on sea days and dinner nightly.

Italian Dining on Norwegian

Dine on Italian classics prepared using the finest ingredients at La Cucina. Or explore a new wave of flavor with a fresh take on old-world fare at Onda by Scarpetta.


Gather around a shared table as a skillful chef perfectly prepares steak, chicken and seafood on a large steel grill at Teppanyaki. In the mood for sushi? Pull up a chair at any one of our sushi bars for some traditional Japanese fare, including Nama, our new contemporary sushi house offering upscale sushi and sashimi prepared by master chefs.

Los Lobos

Bienvenido a Los Lobos, a premium Mexican restaurant celebrating traditional flavors with a modern twist. Chefs serve up new favorites like Carne Asada marinated in guajillo chiles and tequila or Tres Leches Cake with Coconut Cream.

Seafood at Ocean Blue onboard Norwegian

Indulge in our newest seafood concept, Palomar, featuring flavorful Mediterranean inspired dishes and an exclusive eco-friendly wine list. Dive into an ocean of flavor with other incredible seafood options like Ocean Blue, Bayamo and The Raw Bar, serving some of the finest and freshest ingredients at sea with perfectly paired wine selections and cocktails.

Spanish Tapas Bar - Pincho

Enjoy a taste of Spain's cuisine at this lively tapas bar. Sip on delicious sangria as you savor an array of small plates, like Manchego Cheese and Iberico Ham, or Cod Croquettes and Garlic Shrimp.

Choice Cuts at Cagney’s Steakhouse

An American-style steakhouse where succulent choice cuts of Angus beef are incredibly flavorful and perfectly prepared. Make sure to order our famous Parmesan truffle fries.

Gourmet Desserts at Coco's

Indulge your sweet tooth with decadent treats such as French macarons, chocolate bonbons and gourmet cupcakes at Coco's, Dolce Gelato, or The Bake Shop.

See What We Offer for FAMILY DINING


Freestyle Dining provides dining choices that satisfy even the pickiest eater in the family. Grab a burger hot off the grill or sit down for a four-course meal. Dress up. Dress down. You'll find more dining options than days of your cruise, and you're free to enjoy them all on your own schedule.

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cruise ship dining options

24/7 Dining Options On Cruise Ships: What You Need To Know

Table of Contents

If you’re considering going on a cruise, then you’ve probably heard about the incredible dining options available on board. From luxurious restaurants to casual buffets, cruise ships strive to cater to every taste and craving. But what if you’re someone who wants to eat at any hour of the day or night? Look no further! In this article, we will explore the world of 24/7 dining options on cruise ships, and everything you need to know about satisfying your hunger at any time of the day. So get ready to embark on a culinary adventure like no other!

Types of Dining Options

When it comes to dining on a cruise ship, you’ll find a wide variety of options to suit every taste and preference. From elegant main dining rooms to casual buffets, specialty restaurants to convenient room service, there’s something for everyone. Let’s explore each type of dining option in more detail to help you make the most of your dining experience onboard.

Main Dining Rooms

The main dining rooms are the heart and soul of the cruise ship dining experience. These spacious and stylish venues offer a perfect setting for enjoying delicious meals with your fellow passengers. With their elegant decor and attentive service, the main dining rooms create a memorable dining experience.

Features and Amenities

The main dining rooms on cruise ships are designed to impress. From beautiful chandeliers to stunning ocean views, these venues offer a luxurious ambiance that elevates your dining experience. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply enjoying a meal with your loved ones, you’ll feel like royalty in these grand dining rooms.

Meal Times and Seating

The main dining rooms usually offer traditional dining times, typically with assigned seating. This means you’ll have the same table and dining companions throughout your cruise. However, some ships also offer flexible dining options, allowing you to dine at a time that suits you. It’s worth noting that different cruise lines have different dining policies, so it’s best to check with your specific cruise line for details.

Menu Options

The menus in the main dining rooms are carefully crafted to cater to a range of tastes and preferences. From succulent steaks and fresh seafood to vegetarian and vegan options , there’s something to please every palate. Additionally, the menus often feature regional specialties and dishes inspired by the ports of call, allowing you to immerse yourself in the local cuisine.

Specialty Restaurants

For those seeking a more elevated dining experience, specialty restaurants are the perfect choice. These intimate and upscale venues offer a unique culinary journey, with an emphasis on fine dining and exceptional service.

Reservation Requirements

To ensure a table at a specialty restaurant, it’s advisable to make a reservation in advance. This is especially true for popular restaurants with limited seating. By securing your reservation ahead of time, you can guarantee a memorable dining experience at your preferred time and date.

Additional Charges

While dining in the main dining rooms is typically included in the cost of your cruise, specialty restaurants often have an additional charge. This charge can vary depending on the restaurant and the cruise line. However, many passengers find that the elevated dining experience and exceptional cuisine offered in these specialty venues are well worth the extra cost.

Cuisine Options

Specialty restaurants on cruise ships boast a diverse range of cuisines to tantalize your taste buds. From Italian trattorias and French bistros to Asian fusion and steakhouse classics, the options are endless. These restaurants often feature celebrity chefs, bringing their signature dishes and culinary expertise to the high seas.

Casual Buffets

If you prefer a more laid-back dining experience, the casual buffets onboard cruise ships are sure to please. These relaxed and informal venues offer a wide variety of options to tempt your taste buds, with the added convenience of self-service.

Variety and Availability

Casual buffets on cruise ships are known for their extensive selection of dishes. From fresh salads and hearty soups to international favorites and mouthwatering desserts, there’s something to satisfy every craving. The buffets are typically available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, ensuring you never go hungry.

Self-Service vs. Staffed

One of the advantages of casual buffets is the ability to customize your meal exactly to your liking. You can choose from a wide range of dishes, serving sizes, and condiments. However, some cruise lines also offer staffed stations where chefs prepare made-to-order specialties, such as omelets or pasta dishes, right in front of you.

Theme Nights

To add some flair to your dining experience, many cruise lines feature themed nights at their buffets. From Mexican fiestas to Mediterranean feasts, these special evenings provide a chance to indulge in a specific cuisine or culinary tradition. The buffets are adorned with themed decorations, and the menu features dishes associated with the chosen theme.

Room Service

For the ultimate convenience and privacy, room service is an excellent option. Whether you’re looking for a quick snack, a leisurely breakfast in bed, or a romantic dinner for two, room service allows you to dine in the comfort of your own stateroom.

Availability and Timings

Room service is typically available 24 hours a day, allowing you to satisfy your cravings at any time. Whether you want a late-night snack or an early-morning coffee, the ship’s dedicated room service staff will be at your service. Most cruise lines offer a comprehensive room service menu with a range of options to choose from.

The room service menus on cruise ships are designed to cater to a variety of tastes and preferences. From comfort foods to healthy options, you’ll find a wide selection of dishes available for delivery to your stateroom. Some cruise lines even offer specialty items or upgraded menus for an additional charge, allowing you to indulge in a truly memorable meal.

Service Charges

It’s important to note that while the food from the room service menu is typically included in the cost of your cruise, there may be additional charges for certain items or for delivery during specific hours. These charges can vary depending on the cruise line, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the specific policies before placing your order.

Dietary Restrictions and Allergies

Cruise lines strive to accommodate passengers with dietary restrictions and allergies, ensuring that everyone can enjoy their dining experience to the fullest. Whether you’re vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose intolerant, or have other special dietary needs, the ship’s culinary team is committed to providing you with suitable options.

Accommodating Dietary Needs

When making your dining reservations, it’s advisable to inform the cruise line of any dietary restrictions or allergies you may have. This allows the culinary team to prepare appropriate meals for you throughout your cruise. From customized menus to specially prepared dishes, the cruise line will work to ensure that your dietary needs are met.

Special Requests

In addition to accommodating specific dietary restrictions, cruise lines are often more than happy to fulfill special requests. Whether you have a favorite comfort food or a specific dish that holds sentimental value, don’t be afraid to ask. The culinary team will do their best to accommodate your request and make your dining experience as personalized as possible.

Allergen Information

If you have food allergies, it’s essential to communicate your needs clearly to the ship’s dining staff. They can provide you with detailed information about the ingredients used in each dish, helping you make informed choices about what to eat. Additionally, many cruise lines have allergen menus or symbols on their regular menus to highlight allergen-free options.

Inclusive vs. Extra Charges

When it comes to dining on a cruise ship, it’s important to understand what’s included in the cost of your cruise and what may require an additional charge. While many dining options are included, there are certain extras that you may choose to indulge in during your voyage.

What’s Included

The main dining rooms, casual buffets, and room service are typically included in the cost of your cruise. This means that you can enjoy a wide variety of dining options without incurring any additional charges. It’s important to note that specialty restaurants and certain menu items may require an extra cost.

Extra Charges and Gratuity

Specialty restaurants are one of the main areas where you may encounter extra charges. These charges vary depending on the restaurant and cruise line, so it’s best to check with your specific cruise line for details. Additionally, it’s customary to leave a gratuity for the dining staff who provide attentive and excellent service throughout your cruise.

Beverage Packages

In addition to dining options, many cruise lines offer beverage packages that allow you to indulge in a wide variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. These packages can be a convenient and cost-effective way to enjoy your favorite drinks throughout your cruise. The details of the beverage packages, including pricing and inclusions, can vary between cruise lines.

Late-Night Options

If you find yourself craving a midnight snack or a late-night meal, don’t worry—cruise ships have you covered. Many dining venues onboard offer late-night options to satisfy your cravings, ensuring that you never go to bed hungry.

Availability and Menu Limitations

While not all dining options may be available late at night, there are usually venues that cater specifically to night owls. These venues may operate on reduced hours, but they offer a range of dishes to choose from. Although the menus may be slightly limited compared to daytime dining, you can still expect to find plenty of tasty options.

Alternate Snack Options

In addition to the late-night dining venues, cruise ships often provide alternate snack options for those looking for a smaller bite to eat. From pizza parlors to ice cream stations, you can find quick and delicious snacks available throughout the ship. These snack options are perfect for satisfying your cravings between meals or for a quick bite on the go.

24-Hour Cafes

For those who prefer a more relaxed and laid-back late-night dining experience, 24-hour cafes are a great option. These cozy venues offer a variety of snacks, sandwiches, and pastries for you to enjoy at any time. Whether you’re craving a warm cup of coffee or a freshly baked treat, these cafes are the perfect spot to unwind after a night of dancing or entertainment.

Healthy and Wellness Choices

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle while on a cruise is easier than ever, thanks to the variety of healthy and wellness choices available onboard. Cruise ships are equipped to cater to health-conscious passengers, ensuring that you can make nutritious choices even while on vacation.

Healthy Eating Options

Whether you’re looking for low-calorie options, gluten-free alternatives, or vegetarian and vegan dishes, cruise ships have a range of healthy eating options to suit your needs. From fresh salads and lean proteins to whole grains and plant-based meals, you’ll find a plethora of nutritious choices on the menus. Healthy eating has never been so delicious!

Fitness and Spa Offerings

In addition to healthy dining options, cruise ships often offer a wide range of fitness and wellness activities. From state-of-the-art fitness centers to group exercise classes, you’ll have ample opportunities to stay active while onboard. Additionally, many ships have luxurious spas where you can indulge in rejuvenating treatments and therapies for total relaxation and well-being.

Vegetarian and Vegan Options

Vegetarian and vegan diets have become increasingly popular, and cruise lines have taken note. Most dining venues offer vegetarian options on their menus, ensuring that those following a plant-based lifestyle can find something delicious to eat. Some ships even have dedicated vegetarian or vegan specialty restaurants, where you can enjoy a variety of innovative plant-based dishes.

Tips and Etiquette

While dining on a cruise ship is a delightful experience, there are a few tips and etiquette guidelines to keep in mind to ensure a smooth and enjoyable dining experience for everyone onboard.

Dress Codes

Different cruise lines have different dress codes, so it’s important to be aware of the specific policies before heading to the dining venues. Formal nights may require elegant attire, while casual nights may allow for a more relaxed dress code. It’s always a good idea to pack a range of clothing options to accommodate various dress code requirements.

Respecting Meal Times

Cruise ships have set meal times for a reason, and it’s important to respect these schedules. Arriving on time for your assigned dining time ensures that all guests receive attentive service, and the dining staff can maintain an efficient flow of service. If you prefer a more flexible dining experience, opt for open-seating or anytime dining options.

Tipping Policies

Tipping is customary on cruise ships, and it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the specific tipping policies of your cruise line. Some cruise lines automatically add gratuities to your onboard account, while others allow you to personally tip the dining staff. It’s important to acknowledge the hard work and excellent service provided by the dining staff by leaving an appropriate tip.

In conclusion, dining on a cruise ship offers a vast array of options to suit every palate and preference. From elegant main dining rooms to specialty restaurants, casual buffets to convenient room service, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable culinary journey. Whether you indulge in gourmet cuisine, savor international flavors, or opt for healthy and wellness choices, your taste buds will be delighted from the moment you step onboard. So, sit back, relax, and embark on a delectable adventure. Bon appétit!

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The Ultimate Guide To Dining On A Cruise

B ack in the days when ships like Titanic cruised the oceans, dinner for first-class passengers was an involved affair with guests donning their finest clothing and lingering for hours over lengthy courses. And while this kind of dining experience is still offered, it is far from the only one. There's always food somewhere on the ship, and while that is pretty incredible, it can also seem overwhelming. This ultimate guide is the perfect resource for navigating the options and knowing what to expect.

Cruise lines approach these setups in various ways, with different options and events on every ship. Two well-known ones are Disney Cruises Character Breakfasts and Viking Cruises' lovely al fresco dining. That's in addition to main dining halls, buffets, specialty restaurants, and food-themed excursions -- we're just getting started here.

Many experienced cruisers plan these trips to revolve around eating, but these seafaring vacations have many other activities onboard that shouldn't be missed. So while it's fine to prioritize some foodie experiences, understanding the often complicated options can save you time and money. After you read this guide, you'll be prepared and even more eager to enjoy your cruise.

Read Over All The Options When Booking

Before booking a cruise, research the dining options to get an overall picture of what the ship offers. Each liner should have a link to all the different eateries on their website. The food and certain non-alcoholic drinks are included in the price but there are usually dining options with added fees. As for beer, wine, and cocktails, these are also served everywhere on the ship. You can pay-as-you-go but if you plan to have a lot, it makes sense to purchase a drink package. There might be options for basic and top-shelf, which can save money in the long run.

Certain cruise ship restaurants require reservations and the time slots can get taken quickly. This can be very disappointing if you and your companions show up at the ship's most popular restaurant, only to find that no tables are available. The only other option might be to head back to the buffet, where you had lunch earlier in the day. Bummer.

That problem can be avoided by choosing a dining plan and making reservations when booking the cruise -- if you decide to change your mind, you can always eat elsewhere. Also, decide about purchasing a drinks package in advance so you won't have to worry about that while onboard.

Understand The Dining Times

When a ship has 24/7 food you won't be as restricted and you might decide to grab something at one of the smaller cafes or buffets  late at night, just because you can. However, the big cruise lines generally have set mealtime options for their main dining halls. There are usually different seating options and reservations may be necessary. Otherwise, you can show up during the allotted meal time. Expect breakfast to be served from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and lunch from about noon until 2 p.m.

Dinnertime is generally from either 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., or from 8 p.m. onward, depending on the slot you're assigned. These are rough estimates since open dining can be from 5:30 until 9:30 at night. And if you book excursions and aren't onboard at mealtimes, you'll eat elsewhere. These off-ship adventures might include food in the price; otherwise, you'll be on your own.

Main Dining Room

The main dining area may have a buffet or offer sit-down service, and this is typically the largest place to enjoy meals. The wait staff set up the tables and may take orders and bring food, or just be there to fill coffee cups and stay on top of cleanup. This is often the place where cruisers eat most of their meals. One section might be separated for flex-time diners and another might be designated for those with reservations. And, on the largest ships, there might be more than one main dining room.

Even when the main dining room doesn't have a buffet, feel free to order more than one entrée. This is not looked down upon, though it's also not a free pass to waste food. You can linger awhile at the table but if you see that people are waiting to get in, it's polite to finish up and move on to the next activity.

Specialty Restaurants

Cruise ship specialty restaurants are separate from the main dining hall and while some are included in the price, others cost extra: Celebrity Cruises' Edge ship has a steakhouse, a French bistro, and a casual seafood spot on the top deck and the price paid might be worth the experience.

These restaurants and similar ones offer sit-down service and food options not found in the main dining halls. There will always be at least one elegant choice but there might be modestly priced ones, too. Eating at one each day could end up being pretty expensive and some people reserve them for special occasions. Still, many cruise line specialty restaurants rival the top eateries around the world and can be a highlight of your cruise. If you decide to go for it, expect to spend considerably more time at the table than you would in the main dining hall.

A cruise ship buffet is a beautiful thing for so many reasons. Besides eating as much as you like, you can sample unusual foods and generally be done in less than an hour. There will be multiple themed stations to browse, with everything from made-to-order omelets and salad bars to Mexican food. The chefs behind the counters might serve the food, and many will even sing for you. There are also stations with things like fruit or plated desserts that cruisers can take for themselves.

Since people usually show up at buffets according to their own schedules, how busy they will be is hard to predict -- there could be no waiting time or long lines at some of the stations. However, these usually move fast, unless it's made-to-order food. Showing up early can help, but some food might not be ready. Arriving near closing time is never a good idea, since there might not be as much of a selection left.

Room Service

Depending on the size of the cabin, room service can be a great option. Some have private balconies with tables and chairs or large indoor eating areas, but others aren't as comfortable in this respect. Room service can be great if you're not feeling well or don't feel like schlepping to the dining room: The thought of opening up the cabin door to see breakfast waiting for you on a tray is quite appealing. And after you're finished eating, everything will be taken out of the room the next time it's cleaned.

Many cruise lines offer complimentary room service breakfasts but that might only include basics like coffee, pastries, and a few other light items. That can work well when you have an early excursion departure time. Not all ships do this and most charge convenience fees for delivery. Norwegian Bliss offers 24/7 room service with a $9.95 per-order charge, with a few exceptions.

What To Wear

One of the best things about cruising is being able to wear what you want most of the time. Cruise ship dress codes are more casual than they were 100 years ago but formal wear is still common -- and also expected in some restaurants. Breakfast and lunch are often come-as-you-are, especially at outdoor buffets set up by swimming pools. Many people show up in swimsuits, but you might be more comfortable wearing a coverup and sandals.

Dinner can be different unless it's enjoyed in a very casual setting. People will arrive in bathing suits for this meal in the main dining rooms but it can feel better to get changed. You'll want to dress up more for specialty restaurant meals and, if there is a formal night, black tie might be specified.

Certain cruise lines are more casual than others. Carnival is possibly the most laid-back, while Crystal Cruises guests are donned in stylish resort wear and switch to more elegant clothes in the evenings. Ones like Disney, Holland America, and Norwegian are in the middle. Pack a little bit of everything, but make sure that everything is comfortable -- you'll be doing a lot of walking to get to the restaurants, especially on larger ships.

Dealing With Food Allergies

Dealing with food allergies on a cruise does not have to be a major challenge when the proper precautions are taken. The culinary staff handle these matters frequently and should be eager to help. The allergies can be explained to the cruise line representative or your travel agent when booking, but it's important to follow up when you check in. With severe allergies, alert them as far ahead of time as possible -- some cruise lines require 90 days advance notice. Don't be shy about asking to speak with the dining room manager or other staff members before eating, either.

The chances of having an allergic reaction are higher with buffets since there's more variety and much of the food is made earlier. Be careful with excursions too, since there will be local food. The last few tips for cruising with food allergies are just as important: Ask about onboard medical care, purchase travel insurance, and bring an EpiPen.

Get To Know The Dining Staff

You might think that cruise ship staff members have it easy, but, while it can be rewarding, they can work several months straight with few or no days off. The hours are long, and they often live in small cabins. This doesn't mean that they're all unhappy -- it's common to see big smiles and, as mentioned earlier, singing.

After a few days onboard, you'll start recognizing particular dining staff members and might even have a few favorites. They come from across the globe and the friendliest ones won't hesitate to exchange a few words with the guests. Return the favor and be pleasant to all the dining room employees because that will make their jobs easier. As for tipping, most cruise lines include gratuities with the onboard bills. Those get split up by servers and other ship staff members. Some luxury lines have no-tipping policies.

About Assigned Vs. Open Seating

There are pros and cons to assigned and open seating in main dining rooms and you can choose to do a bit of both when cruising. Assigned times require your presence when specified and that guarantees a table, but you may still have to wait if the restaurant is crowded. Assigned is also best when you have an activity dinner -- experienced cruisers know to pick the 6 p.m. seating so they can be in the theater seats by 8 p.m.

Open seating is great when you don't want to be restricted to set times. Want another hour in the pool? If the dining room is still open at 8 p.m., you can mosey over then, but you may have to contend with longer lines and slower service. And if you're with a large party, it might need to be split up between tables. But with assigned and open seating times, there's the possibility that you'll be seated with strangers. This might not be ideal for everyone, but it can be a nice perk for singles who cruise alone.

Dining With Children

Almost every cruise line allows children on board and some are more geared for family fun. The kids' menus are usually full of things like chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, ice cream sundaes, and other things children love. And, of course, they can have a ball at the buffet, but parents and caregivers should accompany younger ones when they're picking out the food and drinks. Disney Cruise Line and some others will even puree food for guests, but be sure to check about that before booking.

Older kids might be comfortable at formal specialty restaurants as long as they are happy with the food and setting. But don't force a young child to go somewhere they'll be dissatisfied because you won't be able to enjoy the meal. Cruise lines often provide babysitting services and have kids' clubs that serve food; these give parents a well-deserved break. The lines with the best kids' dining options include Carnival, Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean , and, of course, Disney.

Bringing Food And Drinks Onto The Ship

Guests are permitted to bring certain amounts of pre-packaged, non-perishable food and drinks on cruise ships but each line has its own rules. Norwegian prohibits all alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and unsealed food, and Celebrity doesn't permit alcoholic beverages and food that needs refrigeration. Royal Caribbean has a different policy that allows guests to bring a single, 750 ml bottle of champagne or wine and up to 12 (17-ounce maximum size) cans or bottles of non-alcoholic beverages. If you bring more than that, they'll hold it in storage until the ship returns home.

The savings will be negligible if you planned to spend less on a cruise by bringing your own food and drinks. It can be nice to bring a bottle of wine for the sailing and juice boxes and snacks for the kids to keep in the room, but overdoing it isn't worthwhile. And don't think that you can get away with sneaking stuff by -- things get through sometimes, but carry-on luggage gets x-rayed at the Port Authority and checked bags are scanned.

Taking Food Off The Ship

If you're wondering if people disembark from cruises with pilfered food stashed in their bags, the answer is definitely yes. It's hard to resist doing so with such an abundance of offerings and many get away with it. But, while it might feel like getting something for free, it drives cruise costs up for everyone. Feel free to take the packaged cookie and candy samples from the spa but it's unwise to fill up Ziploc bags with muffins from the breakfast buffet.

As for bringing ship food into ports, countries have different regulations that may apply. Never take fresh fruits, vegetables, or meats in because they could be confiscated and you might be fined. The ships usually have signs advising passengers about this. It's okay to include pre-packaged snacks in your backpack and to bring purchased food and drink back to the ship, subject to the cruise line's regulations.

The Importance Of Pacing Yourself

Cruises are often compared to floating smorgasbords and there's nothing wrong with a bit of overindulging. It's pretty much impossible to taste every single food and drink offered onboard, but plenty of people give it their best shot. There's no limit to how much you can eat at most meals, and some of the specialty restaurants even allow guests to order more than one entrée. Therein lies the problems associated with overdoing it.

Without boundaries, guests are more likely to order seconds, thirds, and fourths, and to keep piling up plates at the buffet. And you might feel like all the different restaurants also need to be sampled. However, it's vital to pace eating on cruises because consuming too much makes people feel tired and lazy -- sleeping half the day away is a waste of money. Drinking too much alcohol is also ill-advised because it can produce the same results. Excess food and drink also make people feel ill and if that's combined with seasickness... well, it can get messy.

Enjoying Food On Holiday Cruises

Holiday cruises can be a blast, with all of the beautiful decorations, themed events, and extra-special food choices. Many singles, groups, and families opt for these trips because the experience is less stressful than home holiday gatherings and they get to have copious amounts of gourmet food. Carnival Cruise's 2022 Christmas Menu was quite impressive, with apps like ribeye tartare. There were traditional entrées like turkey and stuffing, but also more adventurous ones like guava glazed chicken and stuffed pork belly. The menu also had vegetarian and vegan entrées, plus desserts like hazelnut pate and pecan pie.

Norwegian Cruise Line served eggnog at the pool on their Christmas 2022 cruises and traditional Thanksgiving dinners in its main dining rooms for those November cruises. That's not to say you're obliged to eat traditionally if you go on a cruise during the holidays -- guests who aren't interested in that kind of food also have the option of visiting the other restaurants, which will still be open.

Special Dining Events

Cruisers who book trips might get so caught up with meal plans and reservations that they forget about making reservations for some of the unique experiences that ships offer. For example, Royal Caribbean has a sushi-making class that allows participants to roll up and then eat what they create. Other options might include a barbecue night or a French cooking class. Windstar offers Culinary Shore Excursions that incorporate wine tastings, market tours, and other food-and-drink-related activities.

Yet one of the most sought-after dining experiences is a meal at the captain's table. This is typically reserved for VIP guests but it's possible to be chosen by a staff member. The key is to catch their eye with your style and charisma or to be a frequent cruise line guest that gets noticed. We can't promise that you'll get an invite, but with the right look, attitude, or smile, one never knows.

Read this next: The Complete List Of Sushi Rolls, Ranked

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The Best Culinary Experience at Sea Reaches Delicious New Heights

Celebrity Apex® is designed to connect you to the destinations you’ll visit like never before, and one way it does that is by bringing the flavors of the world to you—right on board. Embark on an unrivaled culinary journey, with 29 distinct restaurants, bars, and lounges to choose from, including our brand-new Craft Social Bar. Savor new globally inspired menus crafted by our Michelin-starred chefs, featuring some delicious new dishes. You won’t find another dining experience like this at sea—or anywhere. Satisfy your appetite for exploring by booking an award-winning vacation aboard Celebrity Apex.


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On Celebrity Apex, we’ve stretched our culinary imaginations to introduce exciting new menus and dishes across our seven delicious specialty restaurants, from Fine Cut Steakhouse to Raw on 5 to Eden Restaurant—and more. You’ll also discover an entirely new Le Petit Chef® animated experience in Le Grand Bistro that will bring your tabletop to life. All this is just a taste of the culinary delights that await you in the specialty restaurants aboard Celebrity Apex. So join us and discover how we’ve elevated specialty dining to a true art form.

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Exclusive Restaurants for The Retreat and AquaClass Guests

Luminae at the retreat®.

Dining on Celebrity Apex is an exclusive affair for guests of The Retreat with access to a private restaurant, Luminae at The Retreat. Luminae is sumptuously designed by Kelly Hoppen, CBE and features menus that change daily as well as selections from Chef Daniel Boulud that are not available in any other restaurant on board.

AquaClass ® guests will enjoy this exclusive restaurant featuring clean, crisp flavors and inventive cuisine complemented by an extensive list of sustainable and bio-dynamic wines. Everything here is undeniably delicious. Pair all of that with personalized service, inviting surroundings, and natural light, and you have the fresh and bold experience of Blu.

Bars & Lounges on Apex

Whether you want handcrafted martinis, ice-cold craft brews, or delicious specialty coffees to perk you up, the bars and lounges aboard Celebrity Apex® offer something for every mood. Kick back at tried-and-true favorites, like Café al Bacio, the Pool Bar, our ever-popular Sunset Bar, and the stunning Martini Bar—and discover a brand-new favorite at Craft Social Bar, featuring beer, wine, and cocktails. They’re all here waiting to serve up unforgettable experiences on our revolutionary new Celebrity Apex.

Featured Bars

The martini bar.

Enjoy handcrafted cocktails under the glow of the Grand Plaza’s stunning LED chandelier, which features nightly choreographed light and flair bartending shows.

The Magic Carpet

The Magic Carpet is designed with comfortable seating, a full bar, and space for live music performances, so it truly is a destination itself on Celebrity Apex®.

The Retreat Lounge

Exclusive to guests of The Retreat®, this warmly inviting lounge is open 24/7 and offers a new fully stocked and expertly staffed bar, as well as gourmet bites and live entertainment.

The Retreat Pool Bar

Guests of The Retreat enjoy exclusive access to the indulgent, inviting Pool Bar with private cabanas and plush loungers.

Café Al Bacio

This Italian-inspired café located along the Grand Plaza is the perfect place to gather with friends and relax with delicious specialty coffees and sweet treats.

Whether you’re a morning person or night owl, this dynamic venue has something for everyone, from daytime activities like DJ classes and archery to evening productions that will entertain you long past your bedtime.

Il Secondo Bacio

Located within Oceanview Café, Il Secondo Bacio offers specialty coffees and freshly squeezed juices to go along with your meal or enjoy on their own.

Tantalize your senses with a collection of craft cocktails that perfectly match the chillful, playful, and wonderful vibes of Eden.

The Sunset Bar

With a casual country club atmosphere and some of the most spectacular views aboard, this is the perfect spot to watch the world go by with a cocktail in hand.

The Pool Bar

Sip on refreshing cocktails as you unwind poolside, losing yourself in the live music and gentle sea breezes.

Craft Social Bar

Pull up a seat in our comfy new venue, offering a wide selection of craft beers, wines, and cocktails on tap, as well as comfort food bites elevated to delicious new heights.

Alternative Dining Options

Craft social.

In addition to a wide selection of craft beers, wines, and cocktails, Craft Social also has a full menu of snacks and small bite plates, including mac n’ brie, Kobe beef sliders, and crispy glazed chicken wings. 

Room Service

Turn your stateroom into a private dining room with one phone call. Whether you crave a gourmet breakfast in bed, a leisurely lunch, an intimate dinner, or even a late-night snack, our dedicated staff is at your service. We completely understand why you wouldn’t want to leave your stateroom, so immerse yourself in the luxury of enjoying a carefully crafted menu delivered right to your door. 

Guide to Apex Dining

Home » Cruise » Disney Cruise Line » Disney Wish » Disney Wish Restaurants Guide With Menus

Disney Wish Restaurants Guide With Menus

We are back from a sailing on Disney Cruise Line's newest ship and have put together this Disney Wish Restaurants Guide with menus.

Disney Wish Restaurants Guide With Menus

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One of the  best new cruise ships  for 2022 has just set sail! Disney Cruise Line’s 5th ship, Disney Wish, is now sailing the Bahamas. We are back from one of the  first revenue sailings on this ship  and have put together this Disney Wish Restaurants Guide with menus so you can see what is available at the different restaurants onboard. Even if you are a DCL aficionado, you will want to have a look as there are many firsts for the brand on this new cruise ship.

Complimentary Disney Wish Restaurants

There are several dining options that are  included in your cruise fare on Disney Wish . These include the main dining rooms, the Marceline Market buffet, and some other casual options. With so many great offerings, you certainly do not have to pay extra for dining (if you don’t want to). Though, this new ship also offers a few specialty restaurants that are worth a try.

EXCLUSIVE SAVINGS: Save Big on Disney Wish Cruises!

Disney’s Rotational Dining Concept

Following suit with the other four Disney Cruise Line ships , Disney Wish features the signature rotational dining concept. Guests can select their preference for either an early (5:45 pm) or a late dining time (8:15 pm) for the duration of their cruise. But, on cruise embarkation day , you can try changing to a different time if your preferred time was not available pre-cruise.

Disney Wish Restaurants Guide With Menus

Then, guests rotate between the three complimentary dining venues on Disney Wish. Your waitstaff and same table number also rotate along with you so you can get to know the cast members during your voyage. Staterooms are assigned a particular rotation so as to disperse the crowds amongst the three venues.

On 3-day Disney Wish sailings, this means you will get to enjoy each of the three new restaurants once. Or, on a 4-day sailing, you will dine at one of the restaurants twice. You can check the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app once onboard the ship to see your specific restaurant rotation.

1923 (Deck 3)

The first of these Disney Wish rotational restaurants is 1923. Named for the year The Walt Disney Company was founded, 1923 is a celebration of the company. The décor in this venue pays homage to the golden age of animation and its Californian heritage. It includes drawings, props, and other tools of the trade.

This restaurant has two smaller venues, Walt Disney and Roy Disney, located on the portside and starboard sides of the ship respectively. These venues are aptly named for the men behind the Disney magic.

Disney Wish Restaurants Guide With Menus

The menu at 1923 features an array of appetizers, soups, salads, and entrees. The menu also features a vegetarian and Lighter Notes section, as well as a separate allergy-friendly menu. The Lighter Notes section includes one signature salad for the venue and a classic steak, chicken, and salmon dish offered across the three dining rooms.

Don’t forget to save room for the signature bread service and desserts either.

Some of our favorite dishes at 1923 included the burrata and prosciutto, filet mignon, and apple cheesecake. Of the three dining venues, we enjoyed the food the most at 1923.

On our 3-day sailing, 1923 also served breakfast on day 2 and day 3, as well as lunch on day 2. Breakfast on disembarkation morning was at whichever venue you dined at the previous evening.

1923 Dinner Menu | Cocktail Menu | Dessert Menu | Kids Menu | Allergy-Friendly Menu | Breakfast Menu | Lunch Menu

Worlds of Marvel (Deck 4)

The second of the complimentary Disney Wish Restaurants is Worlds of Marvel. This restaurant is the first Marvel cinematic dining adventure, where guests play an interactive role in an Avengers mission. Further, every table features an interactive Quantum Core, a brand-new device that can cause objects to shrink and grow remotely. 

During Avengers: Quantum Encounter, Ant-Man and The Wasp host a special presentation with the use of digital screens surrounding the venue. The characters might even make a special appearance to thank you for helping save the day when things go awry.

Disney Wish Bahamas Cruise Review

Of course, there is a menu that goes along with the show. The menu features selections from the real and fictional settings of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the same format as 1923, guests can select from apps, salads, soups, entrees, and desserts.

Some of our favorite dishes from World of Marvel included the jumbo fried shrimp appetizer and the desserts. The entrees were just average.

cruise ship dining options

Honestly, this was our least favorite of the dining experiences on Disney Wish.

World of Marvel also served lunch on embarkation day during our sailing.

World of Marvel Dinner Menu | Cocktail Menu | Dessert Menu | Kids Menu | Allergy-Friendly Menu | Lunch Menu

Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure (Deck 5)

The third of the Disney Wish main dining room restaurants is Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure. This theater in the round entertainment venue is Disney’s first Frozen-themed theatrical dining experience. This dinner show brings the kingdom of Arendelle to life to help celebrate the royal engagement of Queen Anna and Kristoff.

cruise ship dining options

Picking up where Frozen 2 left off, guests are invited to their engagement party on Disney Wish. Hosted by Elsa and Olaf, this celebration is catered by none other than Oaken’s Hearty Party Planning Services.

Throughout the meal, guests are treated to live music, character appearances, and special effects.

The Arendelle menu features dishes inspired by Nordic cuisine. Some of our favorite items included the the ham and cheese tart and the apple cake. The Norwegian meatballs entrée and Norwegian pancake dessert were just okay.

cruise ship dining options

This restaurants wins best overall dining experience for us, even if the food quality was better at 1923.

Arendelle Dinner Menu | Cocktail Menu | Dessert Menu | Kids Menu | Allergy-Friendly Menu

Mickey and Friends Festival of Foods (Deck 11)

Located in the center of all the action on the pool deck is the new Mickey and Friends Festival of Foods. These quick-service stations, styled after a seaside boardwalk, are the perfect spot to grab lunch, dinner, or a snack. This Festival of Foods is open most days from around 11 am until 6 pm with some stalls staying open later.

This open-air eatery features five themed food stalls: Mickey’s Smokestack Barbecue, Donald’s Cantina, Daisy’s Pizza Pies, Goofy’s Grill, and Sweet Minnie’s Ice Cream. Disney Wish is the first in the DCL fleet to offer dedicated quick-service venues for barbeque and Mexican-inspired fare.

cruise ship dining options

The Mickey and Friends Festival of Foods includes a sizable seating area nearby for guests to enjoy their meals.

During a 3-day cruise, it is tough to sample all the food options that Disney Wish has to offer. Though, we did enjoy the options here better than the Marceline Market.

Smokestack BBQ | Cantina | Pizza Pies | Grill

Marceline Market (Deck 11)

Named for Walt Disney’s early childhood hometown in Missouri, Marceline Market is a stylish food hall inspired by popular marketplaces around the world. Disney Wish’s take on the typical cruise ship buffet features a number of food stations, a bar, and both indoor and outdoor seating.

The Marceline Market includes a variety of cuisine from American classics, international selections, seafood options, soups and salads, baked goods and desserts, and more. There is even a kids section featuring items like Mickey waffles for breakfast and chicken tenders for lunch.

Disney Wish Bahamas Cruise Review

Be sure to make your way to the back of the venue as this is where the custom omelet station is in the morning and the seafood bar in the afternoon.

Marceline Market is open for breakfast (around 7 to 10:45 AM) and lunch (around 12 to 2 PM). Disney Cruise Line claims that the venue functions as a casual, walk-around dining experience for breakfast and lunch, followed by table-service at dinnertime with entrees cooked to order. However, it was not open for dinner on our sailing.

Room Service

Room service is available 24 hours a day on Disney Wish. Further, most room service items are complimentary on Disney Cruise Line for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Breakfast items are available for delivery from 5 am to 9:30 am, and the all-day menu is available outside of breakfast hours.

The room service menu includes items like sandwiches, salads, desserts, as well as continental breakfast items.

Breakfast Menu | All Day Menu

SCORE DEALS: Get Exclusive Rates on Disney Wish Cruises!

Specialty Restaurants on Disney Wish

While Disney Wish does offer a number of complimentary dining venues, this new cruise ship also features a few specialty venues. These venues do all have up-charges, which you should consider when budgeting for your Disney cruise .

If you plan to dine at either of the two specialty restaurants, you should make reservations pre-cruise, as popular dining times do fill up quickly.

Keg & Compass (Deck 5)

The Keg & Compass is a nautically themed pub that celebrates stories of the sea with its décor and theming. Essentially, this is Disney Wish’s version of a sports bar.

Disney Wish Bahamas Cruise Review

With a selection of custom craft brews available exclusively aboard the Disney Wish, a few cocktails, and some wine, this is a great casual spot to relax with friends.

The Keg & Compass also has an a la carte food menu in the afternoon and evening. These offerings include everything from buffalo wings, to a German pretzel, to bangers and mash, or fish and chips. Prices range from $8 to $16 for these offerings. Although, we did not see anyone order any of these items during our cruise.

Keg & Compass Menu

Inside Out: Joyful Sweets (Deck 11)

For all those with a sweet tooth, you will definitely want to check out Inside Out: Joyful Sweets on Disney Wish. Paying tribute to the films emotional characters, you will find statues of the characters and plenty of sweet treats.

This venue serves candy-filled chocolate memory orbs, cupcakes, fresh-made ice cream and gelato, and more at a la carte pricing. Ice cream pricing starts at $3.50 for one scoop and gelato at $3.75 for one scoop.

Joyful Sweets Menu

Wheezy’s Freezies (Deck 12)

Located near the Toy Story Splash Zone, you will find Wheezy’s Freezies. This quick-service station serves up a variety of frosty snacks and drinks to enjoy. These include sno-cones and dole whip. All items at this spot are an up-charge.

Disney Wish Bahamas Cruise Review

Sno-cones are priced at $3.50 and dole whip is $6. Of course, you can upgrade to an adult treat by adding a shot of rum to your dole whip!

Palo Steakhouse (Deck 12)

One of the upscale specialty dining venues on the new Disney Wish is Palo Steakhouse located at the aft of the ship. This restaurant is an evolution of the Palo restaurant found on other DCL ships. Now, Palo Steakhouse combines authentic Italian dining with a modern steakhouse.

In a setting inspired by Cogsworth from the Beauty and the Beast film, guests can enjoy an elegant dinner with ocean views as the backdrop. With warm wood tones, shiny metal, and ornate clocks, this venue feels very luxurious.

Disney Wish Bahamas Cruise Review

Palo Steakhouse’s menu features Italian classics alongside premium cuts of beef. This menu pairs perfectly with Italian wine as well.

While dining at Palo Steakhouse, guests can choose the Prezzo Fisso menu or order a la carte. The Prezzo Fisso menu includes Antipasti, Insalata, Il Secondo, and Dolce with more limited options for each category.

There is a $45 per person up-charge for the Prezzo Fisso menu. Palo also serves brunch for $45.

Reservations are required for this adult dining venue.

Palo Steakhouse Menu | Brunch Menu

Enchanté (Deck 12)

Enchanté offers the most luxurious dining experience on Disney Wish, also located at the aft of deck 12 on the starboard side. This specialty restaurant features a gourmet menu crafted by Michelin-starred Chef Arnaud Lallement. Chef Lallement also helped to create the menu for the French-inspired Remy restaurant on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.

With décor inspired by Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast, this venue is romantic and intimate with candlelight, shimmering light fixtures, a soft blue color palette, and metallic embellishments.

Disney Wish Bahamas Cruise Review

This 6-course dinner features expertly prepared dishes with seasonal ingredients from around the world for the most upscale and unique menu items.

In addition to dinner, Enchanté also offers a Brunch and Just Desserts dining experience. The Brunch features a glass of bubbly and a French-inspired 5-course prix fixe meal. The Just Desserts features a 5-course dessert menu served with coffee.

The up-charge for dinner is $125 with an optional extra wine pairing. The Collection experience is $195 with an optional extra champagne pairing. Additionally, there is an a la carte dinner menu if guests wish to choose their courses.

The up-charge for brunch is $75, and the dessert tasting menu up-charge is $60.

Like Palo Steakhouse, reservations are also required for this 18+ dining venue.

Enchanté Dinner Menu | Brunch | Just Desserts


Do you have plans to cruise on the brand new Disney Wish? What is your favorite Disney Wish restaurant? Drop us an anchor below to share your dining preferences on Disney Cruise Line ships.

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Disney Wish Restaurants Guide With Menus

DB & The Princess

Welcome Aboard! We are Don and Heidi, the husband and wife travel team behind We took our first cruise vacation together 13 years ago and have been hooked ever since. Follow along as we share our travel tips, cruise reviews, information on ports of call, and the latest cruise news to help you plan the ultimate cruise vacation. Are you ready to embark on your journey to “sea the world, one port at a time”?

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Island Princess Dining

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Free Dining

We found the food on Island Princess to be generally decent throughout with attentive and friendly waiting staff.

As far as special diets go -- gluten-free, kosher, vegan, etc. -- it is advisable to inform the cruise line six weeks in advance, although they say they can still cater well for special diets without advance warning.

Island Princess dining options include a choice of Traditional Dining -- the classic cruise experience that assigns passengers to set dinner times at 5:45 or 8 p.m. with the same table companions and waiting staff -- and Anytime Dining -- which offers more flexibility as passengers can have dinner anytime between 5.30 p.m. and 10 p.m. and sit with whomever they wish. Casual dining venues are available throughout the ship or you can eat in your own stateroom at any time at all, thanks to 24-hour complimentary room service.

A little map marked on the menus indicate regional dishes. On our Mediterranean cruise, these included Turkish chicken soup, Spanish gazpacho, seared diver scallops and snails glazed with shallots. Similarly, selections marked with a "V" identify veggie options, like grilled eggplant and chickpea fritters or mushroom and Emmental cheese quiche. Typically one main course meat-free dish is available every night.

Bordeaux Dining Room (Deck 5): This is one of two main dining rooms -- the other is the Provence -- featuring elegant decor in muted tones with lots of lovely wood and etched glass panels. There are a few tables for two -- though guests have to specifically ask if they want to eat a deux -- and some tables for four, but most are for six or eight. If you choose Anytime Dining, you'll eat here.

This restaurant seats 570 and is open for lunch on sea days only from noon to 1.30 p.m. Lunch menus offer items such as rollmop herrings with horseradish puree, fried tortillas stuffed with spicy beef or combos of soup, salad and sandwich.

Daily afternoon tea offers a selection of premium teas from Earl Grey to herbal -- or coffee if you prefer -- and comes with scones, pastries, finger sandwiches, soft background music and white-gloved waiters. Afternoon tea is served from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For dinner, choices might include oven-roasted prime rib with brioche potatoes or fillet of rockfish, while an "always available favorites" menu includes options like grilled salmon, beef medallions and corn-fed chicken. There are four choices on the dessert menu with the addition of "Princess favorites," which includes the Princess Love Boat Dream (rich chocolate mousse sitting on a chocolate brownie). As of 2015, Island Princess offers the Chocolate Journeys program, which allows guests to taste creations crafted by chocolatier Norman Love. One or two Chocolate Journeys desserts -- such as white chocolate cheesecake with vanilla mousseline and strawberry preserves or coconut mousse with dark chocolate cream -- are offered each night in the main dining rooms.

Open-seating dining is from 5.30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Provence Dining Room (Deck 6): This traditional dining room -- similar in style, decor and atmosphere to the Bordeaux -- is a more peaceful oasis to enjoy a leisurely breakfast than the self-service Horizon Court, particularly on sea days. Expect a standard selection of fruit juices, cereals, yogurts, pastries, smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels. For those who like to go the whole hog, there is sausage, bacon, baked beans, grilled mushrooms and eggs how you like them. On our cruise, there were no queues for tables at breakfast, though a request to eat at a table for two was met with minor irritation, even though there were several unreserved, empty tables for two dotted round the room. Breakfast is served by waiting staff from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Early dinner seating with the same menu as the Provence is at 5:45 p.m; late seating is at 8 p.m. Toward the end of the cruise, the napkin-waving, seagoing tradition of the Parade of Baked Alaska is always fun and came as a total surprise to my new-to-cruise companions.

Alfredo's Pizza (Deck 7): A side section of the Sabatini's restaurant morphs into Alfredo's Pizza at lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It serves complimentary pizzas, which are superior to those served in the grab-and-go pizzeria on Deck 14.

Bayou Cafe (Deck 7): A pub lunch is available here on sea days for no extra charge. It proves popular -- too popular when we were onboard and had a slightly chaotic feel. Menu items include fish and chips and cottage pie. Bar service is available.

Princess Pizzeria (Deck 14): The pizzeria is located right across from the Movies Under the Stars screen. It offers a choice of three freshly made pizzas -- margarita, pepperoni and a rotating special each day. Open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Horizon Court (Deck 14): The stations in this pleasantly fresh area improve traffic flow, and we found fewer long lines than at other cruise ship buffets. Tables are pre-set with cutlery and napkins and waiting staff are always on hand to provide beverage service to each table, whether you order self-service selections or bar items. Breakfast offers a wide choice of both the usual suspects and some rather more unusual items; you might find mini potato and onion quiches, grilled mini steaks and cheddar biscuits with cheese sauce alongside dishes of sausages, bacon and eggs. The scrambled eggs were a daily disappointment; instead of being light and fluffy with a creamy texture, they were always an almost cold, solid mass. Breakfast is from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Choices include hot dishes such as macaroni and cheese and honey soy glazed pork spareribs, and there is always a rather good salad bar with lots of dressings and toppings, a variety of fresh pasta dishes, Indian specialties and wrapped grab and go sandwiches for those in a hurry or who don't want to miss a moment of sunshine. An enticing range of desserts, fresh fruit and yogurt is available, too.

Interestingly, on a couple of days during our cruise, individual shepherd's pies were on offer. When asked what they contained, the answer was, "beef of course" -- even thought shepherd's pie is traditionally made with lamb.

Light snacks, including several varieties of toasted sandwiches, cakes and pastries, are available between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

A casual dinner served from 5:30 p.m. to midnight has plenty of options. Starters might be Caesar salad, antipasto and two or three soups, both hot and cold; mains could be coconut vegetable curry, red snapper or roast chicken. Desserts are as sweet and tempting as they should be with cheesecakes, compotes and create-your-own sundae choices.

Iced tea, coffee, water and lemonade are always available on a complimentary basis.

The Horizon Court also has a children's area that serves child-friendly meals, such as chicken nuggets, salads, yogurts and ice cream.

Swirls Ice Cream Bar (Deck 14): Free ice cream in cones or tubs comes in vanilla, chocolate or strawberry flavors. If you prefer milkshakes, however, they cost $2.50. Open from10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The Trident Grill (Deck 15) : Glass-topped, metal-framed tables and white wrought iron chairs with pale green cushioned seats enhance this open air restaurant where classic American grilled food is cooked and served. The menu offers hamburgers, hotdogs, cheeseburgers, veggie burgers, bratwurst and fries. Open from11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Room Service: Complimentary in-cabin dining is offered 24 hours a day so passengers can dine in their pajamas if they feel like it. The menu includes salads, sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers and pastries and drinks such as iced tea, coffee and milk.

Breakfast via a door-hung card is available in your stateroom from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Choices include juices, fresh fruits, yogurt, cold cereals, breads, pastries, preserves and one hot item -- an egg, bacon and cheese breakfast muffin, which comes with or without ketchup.

Island Princess offers two restaurants that come with a reasonable supplement, Sabatini's and the Bayou Cafe Steakhouse. Passengers can also indulge in the Ultimate Balcony Experience or pop along to the Crab Shack (although it is not open every evening).

La Patisserie (Deck 5): This small coffee lounge seating 40 in the atrium is particularly busy on sea day afternoons. A limited selection of complimentary cakes and pastries is available. The selection of hot and cold drinks includes a vanilla bean latte ($2.75), hot chocolate ($1.50), raspberry caramel coffee ($4) and iced coffee ($1.25). Coffee cards cost $29 and allow you 15 coffees or teas. Alcoholic beverages are also sold here. Open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Sabatini's (Deck 7); $29 for adults and children over 13, $14.50 for children ages 3 to 12: Sabatini's , an Italian-themed restaurant -- complete with Roman pillars and Italian-esque wall murals -- features seafood specialties and other Mediterranean favorites. Dinner is served from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Waitstaff automatically serve a selection of appetizers to munch on while you decide what to choose from the menu. Menus offer a selection of hot and cold antipasti, handmade pastas and main courses such as roast Chilean sea bass, grilled cold water lobster tails and fettuccine Alfredo in a crisp Parmesan basket. Vegetarians fare better here than in the other restaurants, with options varying from hearty hot soups like lentil or mushroom and cold soups such as frosted coconut soup and iced peach Bellini soup, lots of pasta varieties, ricotta tart, baked zucchini with cheese and onion stuffing and potato gnocchi. The restaurant seats 108 and reservations are recommended, particularly on sea days.

Suite guests only can eat breakfast here from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

The Bayou Cafe Steakhouse (Deck 7); $25 for adults and children over 13, $12.50 for children ages 3 to 12: This New Orleans-style restaurant that seats 118 serves up Cajun and Creole specialties amid a background of live jazz. Dark decor manages somehow to give the space atmosphere. The menu offers appetizers such as smothered gator and crayfish bisque and is heavy on steak for the entrees section. If steak doesn't do it for you, you might prefer the seafood gumbo, sweet potato pie or jambalaya. Entrees come with a warm basket of Johnny cakes (cornmeal flatbreads). We found the food here didn't live up to our expectations and wine service was slow. Dinner is from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Crab Shack (Deck 14); $29: A cordoned-off area of the Horizon Court buffet becomes pop-up fish restaurant Crab Shack on select evenings. Finger-licking seafood comes with mallets, bibs and buckets. Dishes include spiced peel-and-eat shrimp or a mixed steamer pot filled with crab, shrimp, clams and mussels. Check the Princess Patter for open hours, as they vary.

Ultimate Balcony Dining; Champagne breakfast $45 per couple, lobster dinner $100 per couple: A meal set up and served on your verandah as part of Ultimate Balcony Dining is a special treat for honeymooners, those celebrating an anniversary or for cruisers who just want to indulge in a little luxury. Breakfast consists of a half bottle of chilled French Champagne, a warm basket overflowing with homemade pastries, cold smoked salmon with dill cream cheese and toasted lemon brioche, fresh fruit, forest berries and quiche.

The balcony dinner includes one pre-dinner cocktail per person, 2 canapes per person, a flower bouquet, one 8 x 10 picture per couple and a half bottle of chilled Champagne. The menu could include Pacific blue crabcake baked in a puff pastry crown and marinated chevre and mesclun field greens, broiled tail of cold water lobster, drawn lemon butter and vegetables or grilled filet of beef tenderloin, potatoes, vegetables and mushroom demi-glace. Desserts include the "extraordinary chocolate quartet mousseline."

Balcony breakfasts are served between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. and balcony dinners are served between 5.30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

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  • Amuleto - Sweets
  • Bayou Café & Steakhouse - Southern *
  • Bordeaux Dining Room - American
  • Churchill Lounge - Clubby Bar *
  • Crooners Bar - Martini Bar *
  • Horizon Court - Casual
  • La Patisserie - pastries
  • Lido Bar - Pool Bar *
  • Lotus Bar - Quiet Bar *
  • Princess Pizzeria - Pizza
  • Provence Dining Room - American
  • Sabatini's - italian *
  • Swirls - Ice Cream
  • The Bar & Grill - Fast Food
  • Wheelhouse Bar - Pub *

* May require additional fees

Find an Island Princess Cruise from $647

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I was one of the first guests on Royal Caribbean's $1,800-per-person Icon of the Seas. Nothing prepared me for what it was like on the world's largest cruise ship.

  • I spent three nights on Royal Caribbean's new world's largest cruise ship, the 9,950-person  Icon of the Seas .
  • The 1,198-foot-long beast was overflowing with flashy amenities I never imagined possible on a ship.
  • Kids might love the $1,775-per-person ship, but I spent most of my time overwhelmed.

Insider Today

Royal Caribbean's new Icon of the Seas isn't a regular cruise ship. It's a cool cruise ship — one that will overwhelm you so much, you'll end up retreating to your tiny cabin more than you expected.

Love it or hate it, the 250,800-gross-ton vessel is here and hard to ignore. At 1,198 feet-long and 20 decks tall, the Icon of the Seas and its rainbow spaghetti-like water park stands out from its comrades at Miami's bustling cruise terminal .

Get used to the sight: The new world's largest cruise ship will be homeported there for a year of seven-night cruises .

Looking at a ship of its size, it's hard not to wonder: Has science gone too far? Is it as overwhelming as it seems? Is it safe? Will it blow a hole in the ozone layer?! (The answers, in order, are: maybe, yes, yes, maybe .)

Royal Caribbean probably doesn’t care if you hate its new floating vacation destination.

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Because plenty of other people don't.

Michael Bayley, the cruise line's CEO and president, has been touting the Icon as "the best-selling product in the history of our business."

Like the travelers who scrambled to book it in 2022, spurring the largest reservation day in Royal Caribbean’s history, boarding the Icon has been a long time coming for me.

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I'm no cruise fan, but it's hard not to be intrigued by a floating resort promising an indoor waterfall, waterpark, and $100,000-a-week cabin .

I even traveled to Finland's Meyer Turku shipyard in 2023 to tour the ship while it was still under construction.

However, no amount of research or construction tours could’ve prepared me for my three nights on the Icon.

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Ahead of its January 27 debut, Royal Caribbean invited me on a complimentary, three-night preview cruise on January 20.

Reading a list of Icon of the Seas's amenities is one thing — but seeing it brought to life is another beast.

The cruise line has been marketing its new product as the “ultimate family vacation.”

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And that's exactly what it is — especially if a family's priority is to keep the children entertained.

If you have a toddler, have fun spending most of your time at Surfside.

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The open-air neighborhood has the aesthetic of a giant preschool with bright cartoon decals and small playgrounds (both dry and with water).

I am not a six-year-old, but who am I to resist Surfside’s snack stand’s complimentary churros?

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But I did not ride the carousel. Nor did I waste my money at the arcade.

Instead of Surfside, I spent most of my afternoon at Thrill Island.

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You've likely heard about this outdoor neighborhood's amenities, which include a six-slide water park and the Crown's Edge ride.

I'll admit it: I loved the water park.

The fear I felt on the 46-foot-tall drop slide was the first emotion I’ve experienced in weeks.

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Apologies to whoever heard my throaty yelp and subsequent choking when I slugged a mouthful of warm pool water.

The other slides were typical for any on-land water park — impressive for a ship. However, the two raft slides required more than one rider.

Again, it pains me to say that I loved the adrenaline-pumping Crown’s Edge.

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"Why don't you look scared?" another woman in line asked me as we suited up in our safety gear.

I admitted that I had no idea what to expect. Mentally, I responded with a regret-filled expletive.

After seeing the course, I quickly realized why she asked.

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I soon found myself contending with my fear of heights as I lept between the suspended platforms like a confused baby frog.

When the last one suddenly dropped from under my feet, I found myself suspended 154 feet above the ocean as I zip-lined back to the start of the course.

Thrill Island has quieter classics like a sports court and rock climbing wall.

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But between the drop water slide and Crown's Edge, the screams coming out of the neighborhood are unavoidable.

By the second afternoon, desperate for quiet, I trotted past the water park and mini-golf course to look for the ship’s adult-only outdoor lounge.

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I was greeted by a bar (duh), two hot tubs, a suspended infinity pool, and staggered rows of lounge chairs.

Unfortunately, I quickly learned this venue was more like a pool club than a quiet retreat.

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But if you're a parent, it could be the perfect kid-free getaway while your children are romping around the nearby waterpark.

The complement to Thrill Island is Chill Island, home to four of Icon’s seven — yes, seven — pools.

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Chill Island was so expansive, the walk to look for your favorite swimming hole could be considered a workout.

I could not have survived the excessive walking without Icon’s elevators, as frustrating as they were.

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The cruise ship had large elevator lobbies with touchscreen kiosks to streamline crowd control. Guests have to enter their desired floors to receive an elevator assignment.

But once inside — and often after a long wait — the elevators' display screens frequently glitched, leaving me confused about when my stop was coming up.

I, a certified baby, was overwhelmed by all of this. The elevators, the monstrous pool deck, the jungle-like waterpark.

cruise ship dining options

I found my peaceful retreat at Pearl Cafe, a casual grab-and-go option that looked like it belonged at an airport.

But for the most part, there was no escaping the loud music, visual overload, or crowds.

I could either pay extra to go to the spa or return to my cabin to escape the hustle and bustle.

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So, the latter, I did, maybe more often than I ever have on a cruise this short.

However, my ocean-view balcony cabin was blasphemously cramped for the world's largest cruise ship.

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A whopping 80% of its 2,805 cabins were designed for families.

Do we think a family of four could peacefully coexist in this 204-square-foot stateroom with a bathroom so small, my elbows were at war with the walls?

On the bright side, my cabin had a decent amount of storage and a TV with Chromecast.

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But imagine paying hundreds of dollars a night, per person, just to get towels that shed, two-in-one body wash and shampoo, and no conditioner.

(Guests in the $100,000-a-week Ultimate Family Townhouse get high-end Malin and Goetz toiletries!)

And I’ll say it — the food was mid.

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A month prior, my dinners on Regent Seven Seas' new ultra-luxury Seven Seas Grandeur included luscious caviar and succulent foie gras.

The Icon was not the Grandeur.

The buffet’s chilled, marinated calamari was unexpectedly my favorite bite during my three nights at sea.

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But the all-you-can-eat feast's other seafood options were tough and chewy, the avocado on the morning toast was questionably un-avocado-tasting, and the prosciutto was unusually dry.

The food hall, a first for Royal Caribbean, had refreshing options like crepes and Mediterranean-inspired wraps and bowls.

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My pita wrap was satisfactory despite the dense and dry falafels. But my dessert crepe was so sweet, the subsequent sugar rush could've had me bouncing overboard.

The complimentary three-deck main dining room had a rotating menu.

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But my dinner there was uneventful, and my supposedly beloved crab cake was crumbly and over-salted.

I still ate all of it.

Only half of Icon's 21 dining venues are complimentary. If you want luxurious lobsters and steaks, you’ll have to ball out on a specialty restaurant.

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But at upcharged Hooked Seafood, the only memorable dish was my appetizer of raw oysters.

If I still drank, I would’ve drowned my disappointment at one of the 20 bars and nightlife venues.

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College Me would've been delighted by the swim-up bar, walk-up Champagne kiosk, and do-it-yourself bar crawl at the Royal Promenade .

However, boring Adult Me was surprisingly satisfied with every watering hole's "mocktail" options.

At night, the Royal Promenade also hosted a family fun parade with energetic dancers and a leader who looked suspiciously like Cap’n Crunch.

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There's no better sight than a rambunctious family friendly parade next to bars full of drunk adults.

However, I found the Royal Promenade's adult-only comedy club and karaoke bar more entertaining.

But none of the shows topped Icon’s “Aqua Action!” and “The Wizard of Oz."

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The former is a dazzling display of divers, nine-foot-tall robotic arms, and synchronized swimmers.

I hate most song-and-dance cruise shows — they’re often boring, tacky, and cringe-worthy.

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But my ego was humbled by "The Wizard of Oz," its delightful Munchkins, and puppet Toto.

The set designs, costumes, and 16-piece live orchestra were impressive for a floating production.

Despite my disappointment with the dining and cabin, activities like the musical make Icon of the Seas a great option for families with kids.

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As a solo adult traveler, I wanted to see more quiet lounges. But the ship wasn't designed for travelers like me (someone who's scared of chaos and children).

On the other hand, I'm sure a chaos-seeking child would probably never want to disembark.

Sure, the tiny stateroom could lead to some bickering. And you'll probably end up walking several miles a day just to navigate the ship.

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It could be one of the most overwhelming and exhausting cruise vacations you'll ever take. (I disembarked Icon of the Seas two weeks ago, and I'm still trying to process everything I saw.)

But there’s likely no better option than Royal Caribbean's new mega ship if you’re a parent seeking an action-packed cruise that will keep your children sufficiently entertained.

cruise ship dining options

Icon has the typical kid and teen clubs. But given all the other amenities, these younger travelers probably won't spend much time there.

At least you could leisure away your afternoons at the adult-only pool club while your children terrorize the water slides nearby.

The new mega vessel will spend the rest of 2024 operating seven-day cruises from Miami to Mexico, the Caribbeans, and Royal Caribbean's private island Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Fares start at $1,775 per person for a windowless interior cabin.

cruise ship dining options

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