On cruise ships with multiple dining venues, they often fall into two broad categories: free and specialty. Let’s take a closer look at each, which may help you navigate the dining scene on your next cruise.
In free onboard restaurants, everything on the menu is included in your fare (although a very high-end entrée, such as surf and turf, may have a small upcharge). This category usually includes the main dining room, the buffet, and a few other options.
Main dining rooms are usually big, elegant spaces with attentive service. Some ships assign passengers to specific seating times and tables, while others let you choose when and with whom to dine. Dinner menus usually offer at least three courses with a nice variety of dishes, all beautifully prepared.
The buffet is often located near the pool and is open most of the day, with a variety of salads, sandwiches, side dishes, pasta, main courses, and desserts. Everything is ready when you arrive, so the buffet is a smart choice when you’re ravenously hungry or looking for a quick snack.
Some ships also have pizza parlors, poolside grills that serve hot dogs and hamburgers, coffee houses, and other casual spots. Room service is also included in the fare on many ships, though there may be a small delivery fee. And it’s often available 24 hours a day, with a limited but tempting menu.
In onboard specialty restaurants, truly special dining experiences are yours for an extra fee, but the fee is usually much less than you would pay in a comparable restaurant on land. Many specialty restaurants are intimate spaces, beautifully decorated and designed to put you at ease so you can enjoy a memorable dinner. They are popular choices for special event celebrations and onboard date nights.
Some specialty restaurants highlight certain ingredients, like steak or seafood, while others serve a specific cuisine. With high-quality ingredients and expert preparation, you may feel like you’re actually dining in a Northern Italian trattoria, a Parisian bistro or a sushi bar in the heart of Tokyo.
Be sure to ask Anita, your professional travel advisor, about any specialty restaurants on your next cruise; many require reservations, and these can fill quickly. Some ships offer specialty dining packages that ensure reservations and provide discounts on fees. Whatever combination of free and specialty restaurants you choose on your next sailing, you can expect to enjoy the experience.
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