Cruise ship menus are delightful for many passengers, but novice travelers can be intimidated by the gourmet fare. Fortunately, there is enough variety in most menus to offer a delicious meal for everyone.
Sample Cruise Dining Menus
Cruise dining is the pinnacle of elegant eating with selections prepared in the finest ways by world class chefs. From the main dining rooms to snack bars to alternative dining arrangements, there is always something to enjoy.
Most cruise lines offer both dining room and buffet style breakfasts. A continental breakfast is usually available for early risers and passengers interested in hitting the gym: coffee, fruit, pastries, and toast are standard fare. The full breakfast menu and buffets may include:
- Eggs cooked to order, including omelettes
- French toast, pancakes, or waffles
- Fresh fruit
- Bacon, sausage, or ham
- Cold cereal
- Oatmeal or grits
- Fresh juices such as pineapple, tomato, apple, and orange
- Toast, bagels, and pastries
- Hash browns or breakfast potatoes
Lunch menus vary in their formality, but they generally offer a range of selections for different tastes. The dining room luncheon menu may include:
- A simple pasta dish, such as fettuccini or spaghetti
- Grilled chicken
- Customizable burgers
- Barbequed meats
- Simple salads, soups, and other appetizers
Most cruise passengers prefer casual lunch options, and the ships' casual restaurants may offer:
- Themed buffets
- Carving stations
- Deli sandwiches
- Dessert bars
Dinner is the most elaborate meal on cruise ships and the menus are equally stunning with a wide range of culinary delights.
- Appetizers: Also called starters, this may include a fresh fruit medley, grilled mushrooms, hot and cold soups, or specialty dishes. Popular appetizers include escargot, chilled strawberry bisque soup, salmon medallions, sushi, vegetarian gumbo, and grilled tomatoes.
- Salads: The salad course often features two or three selections, including classic garden salads and Caesar salads. Spinach salads or other blends may be available.
- Entrees: The entrees featured on cruise ship menus are decadent and delicious. The variety on a single night typically includes a pasta, fish, fowl, and beef option to appeal to all tastes. Popular dishes include duck a l'orange, grilled lobster tail, beef wellington, seafood penne, roast turkey, filet mignon, quail with berry sauce, and veal parmigiana.
- Desserts: The crowning glory of a cruise meal is the dessert. Sweet treats can include cakes, ice creams, sorbets, fruits, pies, and cheeses. Chocolate mousse, classic apple pie, mocha crème brulee, raspberry cheesecake, and molten chocolate cake are all popular favorites.
In addition to the menu selections, dinner service is accompanied by a selection of breads and bar service if desired. Many ships also offer a stable menu of classic dishes, such as pasta, chicken, and steak options that are available nightly if nothing on the day's menu is appealing.
If the dining room menus are not appealing, cruise ships offer a range of alternative selections for hungry passengers to try.
- Specialty Restaurants: These bistro-style restaurants often have a specific theme, such as Italian, Asian fusion, or steakhouse menus. Reservations are usually required and can fill up quickly, and many specialty restaurants have an additional charge, whereas the main dining rooms and casual dining are included in the cruise fare.
- Lido Restaurants: The casual restaurant on most ships is located near the aft of the vessel and offers changing menus, grill selections, and other fare.
- Pizzerias: Always-open pizzerias are popular features on Carnival cruise ships and other mainstream cruise lines. Salads, pizzas, and garlic bread are usually available.
- Room Service: The quality and variety of the room service menu varies on different ships and different cruise lines. Most room service menus offer deli sandwiches, continental breakfast items, and snacks, and some will permit guests to order from the main dining menu during scheduled mealtimes.
- Snacks: In addition to the 24-hour pizzerias, many cruise ships offer ice cream or frozen yogurt as well as snack cafes that serve cookies, smoothies, and other treats. Some ships also have free sushi bars or feature afternoon snacks and teatime treats.
Guests with special dining needs don't need to fear cruise ship menus. Vegetarian and health-conscious selections are always available, and family-friendly lines such as Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Disney Cruise Line offer children's menus. Passengers who require special dietary accommodations can make arrangements through their cruise travel agent as well as their maitre d' to ensure they can enjoy a suitable feast on board.
Finding Cruise Ship Menus
Many cruise lines offer sample menus on their official websites, and cruise reviews may also feature ratings of the on board dining options. Websites such as Cruise Clues and Guide to Caribbean Vacations have a collection of sample menus from different lines for prospective passengers to browse.
Once on board the ship, the day's menu is typically posted near the main dining room entrance for passengers to preview. The ship's daily newsletter may also mention the menu theme or alternative dining options for that day.
More Menu Tips
To make the most of your cruise dining:
- Don't be afraid to ask about a particular dish. The wait staff is well informed about the different dishes and is always willing to offer recommendations.
- Experiment with different options. Since all the dining room dishes are included with the cruise fare, feel free to try a new and exotic dish.
- Take care not to overeat. With so many options available, it can be easy to overindulge. Watch your eating habits carefully to avoid too much of a good thing.
- Seasonal selections and port-themed menus are popular on cruises. Don't miss the opportunity to try these delicious cultural dishes.
Cruise ship menus are lavish and luxurious, making dining one of the most popular cruise activities. From a hearty breakfast to a gourmet dinner, you'll never go hungry on a cruise.