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Wednesday,  May 22, 2024 3:15 AM 

Your Cruise Coach: the evolution of cruise dining

Your Cruise Coach: the evolution of cruise dining
Ming Tappin

Ming Tappin is a cruise industry expert and is the owner of Your Cruise Coach.

When leisure cruising first started, there were only three dining options onboard - the main dining room, the buffet or room service. Today, ships still offer endless amounts of food but now there are a lot more places to eat it.

As ships got bigger, multiple dining rooms started to appear, in order to accommodate diners on fixed and open seating. Some large ships now have up to 15 different dining venues. Buffets have also grown to be very popular, with many guests opting for dinner in shorts and flip flops instead of getting dressed for the dining room.

Room service menus used to be limited to burgers and sandwiches, but have now expanded to include steak, fish, chicken and even pizza. But on the flip side, some large ship lines have also started charging for room service, a sore point for some.

The midnight buffet used to be a nightly event as well - with an elaborate spread including fruit carvings and ice sculptures. These were more photo-ops than anything, and in the interest of reducing waste, they were slowly phased out, replaced by late-night small bites. But perhaps the biggest innovation is the rise of the specialty restaurant. Reservations are required, and there is a cover charge ranging from $20 to $95. When the concept was first introduced, many thought it wouldn't last. Why would anyone pay extra to eat at a specialty restaurant when food in the main dining room is free?

The answer lies in the superior quality of the dining experience. In addition to an exclusive menu not available in the dining room, food in specialty restaurants is cooked to order, and service is extremely attentive. Diners are doted on by a team of servers who are at their beck and call but never hovering. And specialty restaurants also offer themed cuisine – from steak to seafood, Asian, French, Italian and more. As well, many cruise lines have partnered with celebrity chefs to bring a mini version of their restaurants onboard. On land, dining at these restaurants will easily set you back $150-$200, but onboard you can enjoy it for a fraction of the price.

So is it worth paying extra for specialty restaurants? I think so; I have enjoyed all my experiences, but encourage your clients to try it once and decide for themselves. It’s also a memorable way to celebrate a special occasion.