Six Delicious Dining Tips from Veteran Cruisers

Inspiration Travel



Whether heading south to the Caribbean or north to Alaska, traveling by cruise ship offers a unique travel experience. Cruises are a world apart from everyday life, and for those new to cruising, it can sometimes feel like a new culture, with its own language and customs. This learning curve even applies to the onboard dining experience. 

Savvy cruisers have the know-how required to navigate these customs with ease and confidence, so we’ve turned to a few of them for advice. Here are their best tips to help you make the most of dining on the high seas.

1. Room service is part of the package, not a luxurious “extra” like it would be at a hotel. Because it’s offered for free on most cruises, don’t hesitate to use it. Order a late-afternoon snack to tide you over until a late dinner seating. Or plan for a quick room-service breakfast to be delivered before the next day’s early excursion.

A plate with a chocolate muffin, croissant, roll, and pastry
Flavorful breakfast being enjoyed from the comfort of your room


2. You can try everything on the menu in the main dining room. While several appetizer, entree and dessert options will be listed, you aren’t required to pick just one. Ask for a few different appetizer selections and take the opportunity to try something you’ve never had before. Can’t decide between the filet or sea bass? Order both. If you don’t want to be wasteful, request smaller portions.

3. Tea Time! While traveling, take the opportunity to experience the refined tradition of Afternoon Tea. The British, who tend to dine later in the evening, squeeze in a late afternoon mini-meal to tide them over. Holland America Line, known for its emphasis on heritage, provides an elegant tea spread on certain days, and munchies like tacos or nacho fixings for all to enjoy.

Closeup of chocolate dessert tiramisu pastries on tray display in bakery shop store
Delicious desserts and delicatessen


4. The specialty reservation-only restaurants can be difficult to book several days into your cruise, but most people won’t have discovered them the first night. Some even offer specials that first evening as the cruise embarks. While waiting for your cabin, scope out these restaurants, explore their menus and book your seating.

5. At the onboard coffee shop, most of the small food items (pastries, cookies, etc.) are treated just like food at the buffet—they’re included with your cabin. Specialty cappuccino or espresso may cost extra.

Coffee, French pastries and jam on a table
Coffee, French pastries and jam


6. Ice cream fans will have to pay for scoops and shakes from the specialty shops, but free soft-serve ice cream is available at other times elsewhere on the ship. On Holland America ships, ice cream is available on the Lido deck every afternoon until 4 pm, and during all meal times, including late-night buffets. 

If you’ve cruised before, what are your best dining-related tips or suggestions?