Food glorious food – the lowdown on cruise holiday dining

One of the main attractions of a cruise holiday has got to be the delicious food on offer.

And it’s not just that someone else is doing the cooking for two weeks – although that’s a big enough draw card in my book.

It’s more the prospect of an unlimited variety of freshly cooked, gourmet food, the sort you wouldn’t normally eat at home.

And let’s face it, isn’t that why there’s a gym on board, to work off all those extra calories every day?

But there’s so much choice about where to eat on cruise ships these days.

Gone are the days of traditional dining, when there was only one choice – or two choices if you counted the 6.30pm sitting or the 8.30pm sitting.

You sat at the same table every evening in the main dining room, with the same people, where you were served by the same wait staff for the duration of the cruise.

You can still do this of course and many people prefer to.

It’s a way of getting to know other guests on the ship and to receive a more personalized service from the wait staff as they get to know your likes and dislikes throughout the voyage.

Cruise lines offering the more traditional style of dining include Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, Disney, Holland America Line, MSC,

Royal Caribbean Dining

Royal Caribbean Dining

Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and Cunard.

The smaller cruise ships, and a few of the larger ones, offer ‘open seating’ dining options. The main dining room operates like a normal restaurant where you can sit where you like.

This option means on any given evening you can choose your tablemates, or dine alone,

The disadvantage with this type of set-up is that you don’t get the same wait staff every night and the service is more impersonal. You may also have to wait for a table and experience slower service.

Cruise lines offering open seating in their main dining rooms include Azamara, Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Hurtigruten, Norwegian, Oceania, P&O Australia, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Princess, Regent, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, SeaDream, Silversea, Star Clippers, Uniworld, Viking River Cruises and Windstar.

Several cruise lines — Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean – offer both traditional assigned seating and open seating. At the time of booking, guests choose assigned (early or late) or open seating.

But what about all the other choices for dining on a cruise ship?

Take Holland America Line’s ms Oosterdam, visiting Auckland in November this year.

Pinnacle Grill on Oosterdam

Pinnacle Grill on Oosterdam

You have the choice of five restaurants, as well as complementary 24-hour room service, an outdoor buffet bar, a taco bar, an ice cream bar, and a stirfry or pasta buffet.

The Vista Dining Room is the main dining room on the Oosterdam, and offers both set and open seating. The Terrace Grill offers a more casual style of eating and serves hamburgers and hotdogs. The Lido Grill, a buffet restaurant, again is more casual. A more formal restaurant, The Pinnacle Grill, offers regional cuisine, while the Canaletto Restaurant offers Italian cuisine.

Another ship visiting these shores in November, Celebrity Solstice, offers 10 restaurants and cafes, as well as poolside grills, gourmet pizza, gelateria and complementary 24-hour room service.

The Grand Epernay Dining Room is the main dining room and offers both set and open seating.  The Blu café offers continental cuisine, the Murano, classic and continental cuisine, the Tuscan Grille is an Italian Steakhouse, and Silk Harvest offers Asian cuisine.

Add to that the Bistro on Five, which sells salads, sandwiches and crepes, the AquaSpa café, where you can get smoothies, the Café al Bucio & Gelateria for speciality coffees, pastries and gelatos, and the Mast Grill, and you can see why this ship is an award-winning cruise ship!


Thanks to Rachel Sturges for this article.


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