The choice of meals and style of dining varies immensely across the hundreds of cruise and river ships sailing around the oceans and along the world's waterways. There are menus created by world renowned chefs and speciality restaurants offering everything from lobster to linguine to sushi and steaks, to the more European style dining and afternoon teas. The great choice of food on a cruise means it's a guarantee that there's something to what every diner's appetite.
It's worth remembering that meals are included in the price of your holiday and that cuisine is a very important part of the whole cruise experience. The types of meals served vary considerably depending upon the cruise line and size of ship.
Typically, the day will begin with a full breakfast with a wide choice of items in the main restaurant, or alternatively, a buffet style affair. At lunchtime there's generally a choice of dishes in the main restaurant, or you may prefer a café or visit to a pizzeria or enjoying a freshly cooked hamburger by the pool. For those that get peckish later in the day, there's afternoon tea followed by dinner when you are presented with an extensive menu.
By their nature, river vessels are small and in most cases have one restaurant. Ultra luxury ships vary in size from small to medium, with the number of restaurants reflecting the space available.
On a number of the larger ships, there can be 15 or more different dining options ranging from French bistros, grills and steakhouses through to pizzerias, tapas bars and ice cream parlours.
The style of dining has been transformed dramatically over the recent years. More cruise lines specialise in open dining with no set meal times, no allocated places and no formal dress code. This allows passengers to dine when they wish and with whom they wish.
Alternatively, you may choose to sail with a cruise line that offers the more traditional style of dining where you are assigned a specific table with the same dining companions and service staff throughout the cruise. On large ships, there will generally be two separate sittings for dinner.
A number of cruise ships also offer speciality restaurants with their own décor and different style of cuisine and dining. These restaurants can include Italian, Asian, Continental and Grills and may have a celebrity chef associated with them such as Marco Pierre White, Aldo Zilli, Nobuyuki 'Nobu' Matsuhisa or Atul Kochhar. A supplement is generally payable should you wish to dine in speciality restaurants.
On many river and ultra luxury cruises, the culinary dishes and accompanying wines reflect the regional cultures and traditions of the area. Chefs and sommeliers work together to create the perfect gourmet meal.
So together with a great variety of food on a cruise there is also the choice of dress code. What to wear on a cruise for dinner differs dependent upon the cruise line and may vary from black tie, to informal to casual or even all three.
During the day, the food options are equally as varied from a full breakfast in the dining room or perhaps you would prefer a more casual start to the day and have a buffet-style breakfast. Lunch can be in the dining room, a buffet or perhaps at a pizzeria or a grill which can be found inside and out on deck.
Some of the most frequent questions are:
What is early or late sitting?
Cruise lines may offer two sittings for dinner. Early dining takes place around 6.15/6.30pm while late dining is normally around 8.15/8.30pm and you usually select your dining time when booking.
What is open seating?
This simply means that the passengers can dine with whom they like, when they like (within the dining hours).
What is single seating?
This means that you can choose when you want to eat (within the dining hours) and will have a designated table.
What is flexible dining?
Some cruise lines offer flexible dining, which allows you to choose when, where and with whom you wish to dine, however reservations may be required.
What is alternative dining?
Alternative dining gives passengers the option to dine in a separate restaurant to the main dining room - often smaller speciality restaurants. These can often be á la carte and may attract a supplement.
Many cruise lines offer food and wine themed cruise holidays. Read more