One of the major attractions of cruising is the food. And let’s not deny this. There is a whole lot of food.
Whilst there are many dining choices on board, one place that has an almost magic like draw is the cruise ship buffet.
The place of endless food and so much choice you don’t know where to start.
Love a buffet or loathe them its always good to know how to avoid the most common cruise buffet etiquette mistakes.
If you really don’t want to be “that person” on your next cruise then here are our 10 tips for navigating the world of the cruise buffet.
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Keeping it Clean
It never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t do this.
Wash your hands.
Why aren’t you doing that?
Most cruise lines provide sinks just outside the buffet area – so please use them.
And don’t just briefly wave your hands under the water and think that is OK.
Use soap and warm water, and spend 20 seconds making sure that you are washing your hands properly!
If sinks aren’t provided then always use the hand sanitizer dispensers that will be at the start of the buffet.
When cruising started back up after the pandemic everyone was eager to follow the rules and lined up at the sinks. Now it seems many people only give them a cursory glance on their way to the food.
Please just don’t be that person.
Consider Other Options
I know, this is about how to behave at the buffet, but you really do want to make sure that you have considered the other options first.
Most cruise ships offer breakfast and lunch in the dining room.
This can be a much more relaxing and rewarding culinary experience than always heading to the buffet.
Eat This Not That
There are some food items that are more perfectly suited to the buffet table than others.
The most obvious one is scrambled eggs.
Buffet scrambled eggs really are in a league of their own for not being anything like their fresh equivalents.
Most cruise lines use powdered eggs for their buffet scramble.
A tray of congealed scrambled eggs is really not the most appealing thing on the line. Who really wants their eggs being made from a powder with a shelf life of a decade?
If you want a scrambled egg or omelet, many buffets have a cooked fresh to order station. While you might have to wait a little while for your custom dish, it is always worth that bit of extra time.
Another food I always avoid at buffets?
Cantaloupe. This fruit has one of the highest risks for harboring Salmonella. Surprising but true.
Rice should also be avoided due to the risk of food poisoning from contamination with Bacillus cereus. Rice in a buffet is particularly prone to this as it may be kept for a long time at varying temperatures.
Sushi is also something that is probably best avoided in the buffet.
Just use common sense and if in doubt, avoid it.
Don’t Mess with the Utensils
We have all seen someone do it. And it is gross.
Never, ever pick up food with your hands at the buffet station.
I know there are certain items that it might seem OK to do this with, but it never, ever is.
Use the tongs to pick up that bread roll. Please.
After the pandemic many cruise lines started having the crew serve the food. Mostly, this doesn’t happen anymore, so we are back to using our common sense.
Don’t mix and move the utensils. If the spoon is in the mac and cheese, it is meant to be in the mac and cheese not the mashed potato next to it.
Cross contamination can be a real issue.
If you have allergies this can be life threatening.
At the very least it is unpleasant. I don’t eat meat, and I have seen people use a spoon for the meat and then put it in the vegetables. That means those are now off limits.
Obviously the consequences for someone with allergies are much more serious. Leading us to our next point.
If You Have Allergies Tell Someone
All cruise lines are very aware that many people have dietary restrictions and allergies. And they are more than willing to help you with finding something in the buffet that is safe for you to eat.
You can have your dietary needs listed on your cruise booking. There is usually a place in your online account to do this, or if you are using a travel agent, ask them to note this for you.
When you arrive at the buffet explain that you have dietary requirements and ask for someone to help you. Often the chef will help you and point out the foods that are safe, or not, for you.
If you really don’t feel as though you have the confidence that the buffet is a good option for you, then always remember that there will be alternatives on the ship.
Usually at least one, and often many more, restaurants and other casual dining options are available, that might be better suited for what you need.
Never Double Dip
I am not just talking about double dipping your chips here.
Don’t go back to the buffet with a used plate. Or glass or mug.
Always use a clean plate when you are going back to the buffet line. And get another cup when you go back to the drinks dispenser.
This might seem like an obvious point, but sometimes people just don’t quite get it.
No matter how innovative the design of the buffet, there is always still an element of having to stand in line. And there always seems to be someone who isn’t willing to do this.
That person who just leans in ahead of you to reach the pancakes, the one who just doesn’t have a good idea of personal space, or the one who takes an age looking at all the food, picking up the spoon, holding it for a while and then putting it down.
As you can tell, I have spent way too much time in cruise buffets observing human behavior.
Most of it is great.
Some of it is awful.
Just be aware of other people and be kind.
Missing the Good Stuff
Fear of missing out is a definite thing at the buffet.
So the tendency can be to pile your plate high with things that you really don’t actually want.
One way to prevent over enthusiastic plate stuffing, is to make sure that you know what is available before you make your choices.
The preview technique.
This isn’t possible in all cruise buffets as it is a line, with a one way exit, but in most these days you can scan the food easily before you make your choices. This cuts down the potential for having one plate piled high with food and then realizing your favorite food in the world is just at the end of the line.
Pick your times at the buffet and you are likely to have a much better experience. If you go when it is crowded it can be, well, pretty stressful.
Wandering around for ages looking for a table, and then standing waiting for your favorite food to be replenished, doesn’t make for a happy experience.
If you can, try and eat earlier or later than the majority. I know this might be an obvious point, but avoiding peak times can make a real difference to your cruise buffet experience.
I left this one until last, because it is the most difficult one to deal with!
Buffets have a lot of very tempting food. And with that range of food available it can be difficult to muster up some self control.
However, there are definitely ways that you can curb your enthusiasm over all the multitude of food choices available.
We all know how very easy it is to gain weight on a cruise. Apparently the average is 1 lb per day. On a 7 day cruise, well you do the math.
The more complicated math is how long it will take you once you get on dry land to actually lose that weight that you gained from having way too much food in the buffet.
But there are ways to minimise the gain, whilst still enjoying some fabulous buffet food.
You can try a range of foods, but just keep portions small. Don’t overload your plate.
There are many healthy options on a cruise buffet. Just remember to actually include them!
Have a mindset that you will only have one dessert, or even that you will skip it as you know you will have one at dinner.
Or just make a lot of trips to the gym on board….
Alison Meacham is the founder of EverythingMouse Disney Blog. For over 15 years she has shared her love of Disney Parks, Disney Cruises and Universal Orlando. In over 30 years of Disney Travel she has spent countless months in Disney Parks and has sailed on over 45 cruises. A British native and now a United States resident she splits her time between California, Florida and the UK. And spends a serious amount of time sailing the seven seas. She helps over 200,000 people per month follow their Disney travel dreams.