Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hip Getaways: Cruising 101 - Food & Dining

If you're thinking of cruising away on your next vacay make sure you tune in to Katie Schmeer's Cruising 101 series for The Hip & Urban Girl's Guide. Here's her second post on Cruise Ship Dining.

Cruises are often described as an all-inclusive resort on a ship. This is partially true because meals are included in the cost. Alcohol and soft drinks are not included however; water juice, tea and coffee are included. Options to buy add-ons that include unlimited soft drinks can be purchased once on-board, or you can pay for soft drinks individually. Alcohol is, of course, sold at a premium. What cruises lack in cheap drinks, they make up for with quality food. Cruises often boast about food being served around the clock at the buffet, with additions like midnight chocolate buffets. 

The buffet will be open at regular hours throughout the day, with times for meal switch-overs to take place intermediately. There is often a grill or pizza oven which serves hotdogs, hamburgers, fries and pizza all the time. Certain ships may have extras, such as a sushi bar, which will be open during specific hours.

When you book a cruise, you are often asked to choose a meal time, either an early meal (usually around 6pm) or a later meal (usually around 8:30pm). This is for your dining room dinner. Your table will be assigned to you and depending on how large your group is, you may be seated with individuals you do not know. Don’t let this scare you away, but use it as an opportunity to meet some new people and get some new discussions going. 

Having been to a few five star, all-inclusive resorts - I can say hands down, that the best food at a five star resort, does not compare to the worst food I’ve had on a cruise. Cruise food is notoriously excellent. Menus usually change each day, with a few “staples” left the same to fall back on. The wait-staff will take your order for your appetizer, main-course and dessert, but if you want to sample more than one appetizer, or heck! more than one main course, you can order as much as you like. 
Whereas with the buffet, shorts and t-shirts are considered fine, business casual clothing is preferred during dining room dinners. Formal nights are set in advance and during those days, swanky wear is required. I have seen this range from nice sundresses, to full-length ball gowns, collared shirts to full-on tuxedos. Essentially, if there is a dress you have had one opportunity to wear and love, now is your chance to wear it again.
Once again, like with attendants who clean your room, wait-staff are reliant on your tips as part of their livelihood. We have seen many cases where, on the last night of the cruise, people who have been eating every night in the dining room conveniently forget to show up, to avoid giving a tip on the last day. ---Katie Schmeer

Check back with us next week for more from our Cruising 101 series!  Read more from the series here.

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