“You’ll eat well” is something you often hear a veteran cruiser tell someone considering a first cruise. And, whether you’re a veteran cruiser or a newbie, there are ways to eat even better on a cruise ship. Check out these tips and points to ponder for your next cruise’s culinary adventure.

Which ship or cruise line is best for food? 

That’s a question with a moving target as an answer. Like any restaurant, the owner, manager, or chef can change and greatly affect the experience. And, like restaurants, usually, the more you pay, the better the experience. (Let’s face it, a $300 meal is typically better than a hot dog from a street vendor.) Smaller, upscale, and pricier boutique lines, such as Crystal, Pearl, Azamara, or Oceania, deliver phenomenal culinary trips, and you will pay for it. 

But, all cruises typically will have noteworthy dining experiences that will be the highlight of a vacation. Unless you are among the most die-hard dining critics, you are likely to be pleased. (If you read reviews to make choices, ensure they are from within the past year. The experience someone had back in 2016 may no longer exist in that venue.) 

Get the view. 

We always speak to the maître d’ the first day on board and request seating by an ocean-view window. It doesn’t add to the flavor, but sure can help with ambience. Often, your view will be scenic islands, or dolphins or whales breaching the surface. Sunsets can be spectacular.

Up-charge restaurants

Most cruise lines offer a five-star experience in a smaller, more intimate dining room with their top-tier staff and menu for a nominal additional fee. We’ve found that for $20 to $50 per person, you can get that Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous meal worth perhaps $500 to $750 per couple. We always do it once per cruise and never regret it. 

Reserve your spot early, as the prime days and times book up quickly. We like to make our reservation for a day at sea, so not to compromise our time in port and also to not miss the more upscale menu during formal night. The bigger the ship, the more dining options you will have.

Try wine-pairing meals

Like the up-charge restaurants, a minor surcharge is incurred and the venues may be varied. In addition to the pleasant experience, they also are quite educational. You always leave with valuable information that will create wiser future choices in food and wine pairings, including additions to your list of favorite wines.

Try something new, risk free

It’s funny — you can spend thousands on a vacation and yet be reluctant to fork out $16 to try escargot for the first time. On a cruise ship, it’s all free. If you don’t like it, try something else, at no extra cost. Curious about many items? Order all of them — it’s on the house. 

We especially love this concept for the kids. They are curious, which is good, but parents are often of the mindset, “If you want me to fork out an extra $18 for squid ink-infused calamari, you better eat every crumb of it.” Here, you can let them experiment free of any financial risk.

u Review the menu in advance of your cruise. 

Most cruise lines post the menus for cruises online. Some days will be more appealing than others. Book an upscale restaurant day or wine-pairing meal event on those nights when the menu is not as appealing. Another option is to stay in port late that night and hit the buffet or call in some 24-hour room service, which can be quite good, too.

Try freestyle dining

Many cruise lines offer a freestyle type of dining where you can be seated at any time you like, rather than being assigned a dining time. It’s great for people who like a less formal approach to dining and who prefer to have more of an unstructured vacation. 

Freestyle dining allows you to meet new people every night and gives you the ability to try out different dining rooms. Just be prepared to stand in line a little while if you end up going to the restaurant during the dinner-hour rush. 

Now that we’ve discussed eating better on a cruise, what about taking the worry out of weight gain? Sure, it can be pretty easy to put on the pound while on a cruise, but here are our tips to prevent this from happening:

-Only eat half of your serving of any meal/dessert.

-Take advantage of the lower-calorie “spa style” options offered. They are fresh and delicious.

-Hit the salad bar for lunch. They usually have so much variety that it is a great way to eat an enjoyable meal without the guilt.

-Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

-Make use of all of the exercise opportunities offered on board. Cruises offer a wide variety of workout options, including state-of-the-art gym facilities and free exercise classes. You also can swim laps in the ship’s pool or get lessons from a personal trainer.

-Promenade on the promenade deck — most ships post how many laps it takes around the ship to make a mile — and enjoy the refreshing sea air and unbeatable views.

-Dance the night away at the night club, or take dancing lessons. On many ships, you can learn the samba, the meringue, or hip-hop steps

-Take advantage of the sports deck and the fun games you can participate in, including volleyball, basketball, soccer, or an obstacle course.

-Get off the ship and go hiking, biking, kayaking, diving, snorkeling, or swimming, and return to the ship with a great feeling that you had fun while getting exercise. Exploring by just walking around the exotic location you are visiting is fun, too, and before you know it you have racked up thousands of steps.

Most cruises will be fantastic experiences, with destinations, onboard activities, and culinary delights all contributing to the fun. We hope this information helps make yours even better. 

Bon voyage and bon appetit!

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