When most people think of cruising, they think of vast amounts of food. In my experience, this is certainly true. Though I had been on a cruise back when I was in middle school, I was more focused on the youth activities and such that I actually can’t remember the food on the ship. I don’t mean specifically what I ate, rather the set up of meals. This was one thing that I didn’t really research before the trip, after all I knew they would feed us in some form, so it was a nice surprise to see how nicely meals were done.
The options for dining were endless, from room service (free of charge, 24 hours a day!) to buffets to formal dining rooms to custom restaurants to poolside grills, the options were endless.
Our first day on the ship, we opted to have our breakfast brought to us by room service. We both planned to go to the gym, and our first port required tendering, so it seemed logical to eat while getting ready and packing stuff up for the beach. This breakfast was definitely no-frills, but enjoyable, and the view couldn’t be beat. The rest of the days we went up to the buffet after Luke discovered Muesli, which he then wanted every day. The variety at the buffet was incredible, with some staple foods like pancakes, fruit and yogurt, and a few specialty dishes from regions around the globe. They also serve breakfast in the dining rooms, however we never made it to one of them for breakfast.
Room service breakfast
For lunch, we either ate at one of the buffets or the pizza restaurant or grill out by the pool. Towards the end of the cruise I discovered that while 3 of the buffets served mostly the same foods, the 4th buffet had a different theme each day, done to perfection. The day I discovered this happened to be pasta day, and they had at least 25 different pasta dishes. I was in heaven. They also had Mexican and Asian-themed buffets that I enjoyed as well.
By far, the most exciting meals on the ship were the dinners. As I mentioned above, I didn’t quite know what to expect for variety in the dining room, perhaps a meat and vegetable option? Wrong. Each night they brought us a different 3 course menu, consisting for 12 staple dishes on the left side of the menu that were always available, and 12 customized dishes that were available for just that night. And then they brought the dessert menu, also with about 8 unique desserts to each night.
One of the staple dishes that I kept returning to was the cheese plate appetizer. I’m obsessed with cheese, and each night there were 3 new cheeses, walnuts, grapes and bread. My favorite entrees included shrimp in a safron sauce, fettuccine alfredo, lobster and prime rib. There were two soups that I didn’t care for, but I enjoyed everything else.
Friday night menu (I apologize for the poor quality of the picture)
Key lime pie and a cookie a la mode
Princess Love Boat Dream
Something important to consider in relation to dining is how you will enjoy the meals. A traditional meal on a cruise involves assigned tables of 8, where you sit for the entire duration of the cruise, and you eat at a certain time either early, usually about 6, or late, about 8:15. Obviously this is a great way to meet people, but sitting with the same strangers for a week sounded a bit tiring to Luke and me. So we opted for Princess’ Anytime Dining, where you not only can arrive at any time to eat, you can also choose the size of table you would like. Each night we chose a table for 2, so that we could discuss our day and plan for the next privately. Looking back it may have been fun to sit at a group table one night, but we had a lot of fun sitting alone.
It’s also worth noting that many cruise ships now have 2 or 3 specialized restaurants on board, which are not included in your fare. The Ruby Princess had the Crown Grill, steaks and seafood, Sabbatini’s, an Italian food restaurant, and Vines, a wine bar, sushi and tapas place. Though we opted to not visit one of these restaurants, we did hear from other passengers that the food was very good and the atmosphere a nice variation from the main dining room.
– Try all of the free dining options. The menus of the buffet and formal dining room will be very different, and it is fun to experience the various choices. If you have time and money to spare, try one of the cost additional restaurants.
– If you have an early morning in port, especially if you have a planned excursion, order room service so that you can eat while getting ready for the day.
– For small groups, always go to the maitre’d to ask about availability. The first night we were standing in a long line for the hostess starving and thinking we wouldn’t be able to eat for a while. Luckily I bypassed the line and asked about the wait time for two, and the maitre’d sat us right away, explaining that we were waiting in line behind two different large groups.