Lobster Pad Thai at Red Ginger on Oceania Cruise line

Attention Foodies! Cruise Buffets Are Out… & Dining Choices Are In!

Cruise Dining alternatives

Cruise guests want smaller, more intimate Dining venues but they also want more varied cuisines too….

…which is why Cruise lines are making special efforts by bringing in Top Chefs from around the world to create new gourmet menus & restaurants onboard and Cruise lines are also accommodating all types of dietary needs too.

There is no shortage of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, salt-free, sugar-free, low-cholesterol, diabetic & kosher meals. Fashionable fads are also embraced like smoothies & clean eating options.

Thinking back over our 36 cruises to date (37 in 4 days time- but who’s counting:-)) the list is long, but 6 memorable “foodie experiences” we remember are:

  • During a Uniworld River Cruise we took a “Pasta Making” & tasting tour (all included in the price of the cruise) where we got to watch a demonstration while a local chef made fresh dough in a well known restaurant in Italy. And that wasn’t all. She give us her recipe, showed us how to make various types of pasta from scratch (see picture below) and made us a delicious dinner. It was an event to remember!

Cruise themed dining

Lobster Pad Thai at Red Ginger on Oceania Cruise line

  • On our Vietnam & Cambodia River Cruise in 2013 we attended a fruit lecture onboard and sampled local fruit from the market, some we had never heard of before so it was fascinating & delicious.
  • On the award winning Crystal Cruse lines, their restaurant “Silk Road” by world famous chef Nobu Matsuhisa (seen with us below)- his “Black Cod with Miso” dish is out of this world. Another to put on your wish list of food to try, if you like seafood that is. Check out our Black Sea Crystal Cruise itinerary here.
Famous Chef's Nobu on Crystal Cruises
Once in a while Nobu takes a Crystal Cruise himself and does some cooking demos, etc. And luckily, he was on our sailing… there we are saying hi after enjoying a great dinner in Silk Road. Nobu has over 30 restaurants & even a hotel in Vegas at Caesar’s Palace… not bad! 🙂
  • On our Yangtze River Cruise in China with Viking we watched as a small fishing boat pulled up to our River Boat as our chef hand picked & bought freshly caught shrimp from a local fishermen- and then served it up onboard… scrumptious!



Until recently if you wanted to eat outside on ocean liners, similar to buffet style, you took your plate to an outdoor table or grabbed a burger at the poolside grill. Today there are more choices. Seabourn and Silversea serve dinner on the pool deck, and NCL (Norwegian Cruise Lines) introduced “The Waterfront”, an open-air boardwalk with eight eateries, on its newest ships… check out our pictures & videos onboard The NCL Breakaway.

NCL Breakaway Celebrity Chef restaurants
Speaking of The NCL Breakaway, here is Nancy talking with “Iron Chef” Geoffrey Zakarian, who has restaurants onboard “Ocean Blue” & “The Raw Bar” and “Ocean Blue on the Waterfront”.


Even though River Cruises are small & carry less than 200 passengers, their vessels have also introduced additional eating areas, free of charge. We remember floating through Venice one particular time, enjoying the scenery & eating pizza and freshly sliced Prosciutto that was served to us from the indoor/outdoor cafe on the top deck. See picture below.

Dining on Uniworld's Venice & The Po River Cruise Itinerary


Instead of “just” dining in the main dining room, the majority of Cruise lines offer many smaller more intimate dining alternatives (Mexican, Italian, French, Brazilian, Asian, etc, etc) giving passengers more choice! For an extra $10-$45 or more a person, you can splurge and have more premium food choices in these restaurants… FYI, when cruising on Upper Premium lines like Oceania and Luxury lines like Regent & Crystal you won’t pay extra at these venues.

The most expensive specialty restaurant is surprisingly on Disney Cruise line’s Fantasy called “Remy”… it’s $75 a person but we’ve heard it’s really good! 🙂


Before our very first cruise, we automatically thought that buffets and beer bellies were the normal for passengers on Cruise lines, but that is not so. Cruise lines are attracting more healthy conscious types with their low-fat, vegetarian & low-calorie options. Some ships devote entire restaurants to light meals, such as Celebrity Cruise’s “spa-inspired” Blu.


Expedition cruises combine food and adventure by offering opportunities to go fishing and, if it’s edible, have your “catch of the day” cooked by the chef. As an example, passengers can catch barramundi on a Kimberley cruise (True North or Great Escape), piranha in the Amazon (Delfin or Aqua Expeditions), and Spanish mackerel off the back of the boat in Fiji (Captain Cook Cruises or Blue Lagoon Cruises).


1. Go the extra mile and enjoy the specialty restaurants onboard that charge a fee. It will cost you a minimum of $100 LESS then going to a similar fine dining restaurant at home PLUS you can order as many dishes as you like.

2. Specialty restaurants are often less busy on the first night, which is why we will take full advantage of being waited on hand a foot by lots of staff looking for something to do. And as a bonus, we get to enjoy a quiet atmosphere. Try it! 🙂

3. Room service is typically free onboard. Use it! Turn it into a romantic breakfast in bed or dine under the stars on the comforts of your balcony. It’s very relaxing and worth it.

4. Some Cruise lines allow you to bring wine on embarkation day (if you just can’t go without your favorite special bottle). Just beware, there may be a corkage fee of $10-$20 or more if you consume it in the dining room.

5. If you want to be social and make new friends easily while dining on a Cruise, choose a River Cruise to get that experience. Because the ship is smaller, expect to get to know other guests and dine with others frequently (if that’s what you choose).

Have you had any dining experiences onboard that were memorable? Yes! Great, well share them below in our comments section and tell our readers which Cruise line it was with and which itinerary… they may just want to do it too!

And when you’re ready to start planning your next “Foodie Cruise” contact Shawn as he’ll be Happy to share more of our experiences with you and help you get that perfect Cruise Vacation planned & booked.

We appreciate you!

Nancy & Shawn
Your Trusted Cruise Experts!

Get The Latest Updates!

Sign up here to receive reviews from Shawn’s Personal Cruise & Land Tour Vacations as well as his “Cruise News” & “Top Cruise Deals”, all delivered right to your email inbox. (On average you’ll get 1 email per month)

Plan Your Next Adventure

Interested in taking a River Cruise, Ocean Cruise or Tauck Land Tour? Contact Shawn and he can help you with your planning & booking of your next great Vacation!