If you’ve been on a cruise before, you know that you can probably eat 24 hours a day on board any cruise ship.  From buffets and cafés, to snacks, room service and formal dining rooms, there are as many options of what to eat and where as there are hours in the day.

But the biggest change in cruising over the past decade has been in the area of dining.  Five star cuisine is no longer limited to two seating times in the formal dining room.  Now you can eat to your hearts content, whenever and where ever you like.

The important thing to figure out is what is covered in the cost of your ticket, and what’s extra, and whether you need to hit the gym to make up for all the extra carrot cake.

More Dining Options at Sea

The main dining room is always included in the price of your ticket, and so is room service (apart from the tip).  It used to be that the main dining room offered a choice of two set seating times, usually early at around 6:00 or 6:30pm, and late at around 8:00 or 8:30pm.  If you’re traveling with young children, you’ll likely want the earlier seating.  If you would prefer to avoid children, the later seating is your best bet.

While set dining times are still featured on many ships, more cruise lines are following in Norwegian Cruise Line’s wake by offering something called “Anytime Dining”, where you can eat when ever you like.  Some ships offer this on a first-come, first-serve basis, others ask that you make dinner reservations.

The main dining room will offer formal nights usually once or twice on your cruise.  Don’t stress if you hate wearing a tuxedo, there are a variety of other casual dining options also covered in your cruise ticket, so you don’t have to dress up if you don’t want to.

There is usually a buffet available for all meals, and often a poolside restaurant for hamburgers and pizza.

Many cruise ships now also feature specialty restaurants, from sushi bars to upscale steak houses or French bistros. Many of these are not covered in the cost of your cruise ticket and you will pay either a la carte, or a fixed price. These restaurants tend to require a reservation.

When it comes to beverages, cruise lines offer all kinds of programs. You can buy into a soft-drink program, or bottled water program, where you can pay around $5 a day for as many as you can drink as you lounge by the pool.  Some cruise lines offer specialty coffee cards.  You can also buy a wine package that will provide you a selection of wines with dinner, at a cheaper price than ordering a bottle every night.

All cruise lines will also accommodate a special diet, including kosher or vegeterian meals, or food allergy concerns,  but make sure you inform them of your requirements when you’re booking your ticket.  It also doesn’t hurt to notify the waiter and the maitre’d when you board.  Menus will also identify healthy options, such as low fat or low salt.

Whether you’re looking for a light snack, a fine Italian pasta, or a satisfying surf and turf, you’re not going to go hungry on any cruise ship.  It is entirely possible to spend most of your day going from meal to meal, and if you do, it may indeed be wise to spend some time in the pool working off all those delicious extra calories.

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