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  • Writer's pictureConnie George

Navigating Cruise Ship Buffets: 20 Must-Know Tips for Your Next Cruise

Updated: Jun 28

black background, lemon slices, text says A buffet is a celebration of choices, a symphony of flavors.


I recently shared an article featuring my Top Six Must-Try Ocean and River Cruise Ship Buffets. Following that, one of my clients asked me if I had any tips for how to get the most out of their shipboard buffet experiences.

It was a fair question, prompting me to offer insights I’ve gained and shared with clients for 40 years.

Instead of delving deeply into buffet etiquette, I opted to focus on practical tips. While I'll touch on etiquette briefly, this article is primarily about providing helpful advice to enhance buffet experiences.

blue background, white hands holding miniature globe. text says In a cruise line's buffet, diversity isn't just on the menu; it's a celebration fo the rich tapestry of tastes that make up our world


Here are your 20 tips to help you take full advantage of a great buffet experience on your cruise!

Blurry green background, white hand holding open book. text says Buffets are the ultimate adventure, where every bite tells a different story.
  • If it's a busy time period, grab a table before getting your food. Leave someone or a non-valuable item to hold your spot.

  • Don’t leave valuables unattended at your table if you have to get up.

  • Be a good neighbor. Share your table if you see individuals or couples struggling to find seating.

  • Tipping buffet staff is optional but appreciated for good service.

man pulling suitcase outside at sunset. text says Buffets are the ultimate culinary adenture, where every bite is a journey into flavor.
  • Most larger ship’s buffets now have handwashing stations. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before getting your food.

  • Especially for the larger ship buffets (e.g., Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean), do some “window shopping” to note what’s available before you start so you can prioritize what you most want.

blue background wiht streamers. text says buffets are ike a food lover's dreamland, where every craving finds its match.

  • At the buffet, fill your sports bottle with iced tea, water, and ice. For sanitary reasons, some ships may require that you fill glasses to pour into your bottle.  

  • You can usually order beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, from the staff. Maybe you’d like a Bloody Mary with breakfast, cold beer with lunch, or a glass of wine with dinner, or your favorite soda pop.

pink background, 3 colorful taffies, text says In a world full of options, buffets are the ultimate playground for the indecisive.

  • Cruise lines allow you to take food out of the restaurant. Take advantage of enjoying your meal outside or even back to your cabin. Those who like or need a little something to nibble on at night can grab fruit or another snack to take out.

  • Would you prefer not to get dressed up for dinner on a formal night? Dress codes are more relaxed in the buffet for dinner on larger ships.

Gold-rimmed white plate, text says Buffets are like a cnvas and your plate is the masterpiece waiting to be created.

  • Many ports don’t allow guests to bring fruit and other non-packaged foods off the ship. Check with Guest Services on the ship before you grab that apple or sandwich to take off the ship.

  • Proper attire is required. Buffets require shoes, cover-ups over bathing suits, and shirts for men. Though still typically casual, attire may be more “country club casual” in the buffets of luxury lines and riverboats in the evenings.

bright yellow background. text says Buffets: Where the pursuit of flavor meets the thrill of endless possibilities

  • Take advantage of this great opportunity to try new foods.

  • Minimize food waste by only taking what you feel you’ll eat and take advantage of going back up for seconds (or thirds!) Of course, I’m not advocating that you eat something you’ve found you don’t like.

  • Be patient and be aware you’re sharing space with others.

black background, white and blue and red fireworks. text says Buffets are the ultimate expression of culinary freedom where every dish is a declaration of taste
  • Use the serving utensils provided and avoid touching food with your hands.

  • Feel free to relax at your table if the restaurant isn’t busy, but be mindful that others may need your spot during peak times.

  • Voice your dietary issues with staff. If a server doesn’t know the answer, they will often find a supervisor or the chef who can best answer your questions and address your dietary questions.

blue background, white text says Buffets are the great equalizer of taste, where kings and commoners feast side by side.

  • Try fresh made-to-order foods such as omelets and pasta. And enjoy freshly carved meats.

  • Cutlery is often wrapped in napkins. Take advantage of your pocket if you have one to tuck your napkin and cutlery into so you can more easily navigate the buffet.



Now that you’re all set on the do’s and don’ts for a great buffet experience, let’s get talking to plan the ship (and buffet) that best fits your vacation and lifestyle!

Happy Traveling!



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