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All You Need to Know About Dining on a Cruise

If you’ve never cruised before, the one thing you might not know is the food is exceptional. We’re talking anything from Michelin starred culinary treats to tasty takeaways. It doesn’t matter what you choose for breakfast, lunch and dinner, your taste buds will experience an adventure along with you.

You’ll taste cuisine from all over the world and if you’re lucky enough, you may even be joined by a celebrity chef or two on your sailing. Here’s everything you need to know about your cruising dining experience.

The choice is yours

Although there are dining options which allow you to dress to impress, there are plenty of relaxing and more casual options onboard – so you don’t need to worry about packing a tux or cocktail dress. If you’re a fussy eater, don’t worry as some cruise lines have over 20 restaurants onboard giving you plenty of options. Typically the bigger ships will have a wider variety of choice but even the smaller ships have more than a few dining options. There’ll be outdoor grills, hot dog stands, bakeries and pizzerias for those who just want a light or quick bite to eat, depending on who you’re sailing with.

You’ll have a main restaurant onboard which will often be where you’ll find your banquet-style meals, these often require a dress-code. This is the perfect opportunity to dig out your finest glad rags and indulge in a four-course feast with your cruising friends. If dressing to the nines isn’t your thing, then don’t worry, you’ll find a buffet-style restaurants much like your All Inclusive style resorts on almost all ships. Meaning you can pile your plate high with delicious flavours and don’t have to think about what you’re going to wear.

There’ll be everything from juicy steaks to Italian favourites, you’ll even find your American styled burgers and shakes onboard. If you have any dietary restrictions your cruise line should have options for low-salt, low-carb, gluten free, vegan and vegetarian eaters. If you have any severe allergies it’s best to alert your cruise line in advance.

Something special

Now and again it’s nice to change things up, that’s why cruise lines offer speciality restaurants which are a smaller more intimate setting. These restaurants will be themed with everything from steak houses, French bistros or sushi delights. It’s in these kind of restaurants you’ll find your celebrity chefs and innovative menus, luckily most cruise lines have at least one speciality dining choice and the dress code will be down to you. Although you’ll have to pay a supplement, trust us, it’ll be worth it! If you’re a foodie a couple looking for a romantic splurge or you’re celebrating a special occasion – it’s the perfect treat.

Before your sailing you should be contacted by your cruise line via email regarding booking your place in the speciality restaurants. However, if it’s a spur of the moment choice, you can reserve your place at the restaurant’s reservation desk. But be quick – you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to sample some of the finest dishes at sea.

Room service anyone?

Almost every cruise line supplies 24-hour room service completely free of charge – but make sure you check with your cruise line before you book a midnight feast.

The possibilities are never ending and with the option of breakfast in bed, how could you possibly say no? If you have a balcony room, you’re in luck as you could order a meal of your choice with a bottle of your favourite wine and enjoy a romantic meal under the stars. It’s room service like never before with a selection of pizzas, salads, sandwiches and many other tasty treats.

Even if you’ve chosen to dine in one of the ship’s restaurants, you’re welcome to take any leftovers back to room to snack on later.


Whether your kids are fussy eaters or will eat anything you pop in front of them, little ones have a selection of tasty foods to enjoy.

The main dining room will offer a children’s menu often with favourites like pasta, pizza and chicken fingers on the menu. However, children are more than welcome to order off the adult menu and you can always request a smaller portion of a regular dish. We don’t think they’ll want to after they see the endless amounts of ice cream and cookies though.

If you’re travelling with a baby some cruise lines such as P&O Cruises do have baby food free of charge. It’s worth keeping in mind that the majority don’t so make sure you request jarred food before your sailing, or you can bring your own if you’d prefer. You’ll find that food can be pureed for your tiny tots if needs be – but check with your cruise line before your holiday to ensure you’re well prepared.

Free-style vs traditional dining

If you choose to dine in the traditional way you’ll be given a choice of two times to head to main restaurant. This will be either an early or late sitting but both will be timed so if you’re planning on catching a show, you won’t miss a thing. Typically early dining times will vary between 5.30pm to 6.30pm and late dining will be roughly 7.30pm to 8.30pm. Your dining experience will last around two hours and cruisers will be assigned a table. There’s a good chance you’ll have the same waiter every night, that means they’ll get to know exactly how you like everything.

If you like to go with the flow, the option for flexible dining will be perfect for you. You’re free to eat whenever and wherever you want. Dress up, dress down, sit with friends or make new ones, indulge in a four course feast or grab a burger round the pool. There is so much diversity onboard you’ll find something to drive your taste buds crazy.

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