Buffet dining at sea – you either love it or hate it! Some passengers can’t understand why you’d retrieve your own food when there’s table service in the main dining room, whereas others can’t get enough of the huge choice and great flexibility offered in these more casual dining establishments. Despite this split in opinion, dining flexibility at sea is now really coming into its own, especially seeing how the cruise industry is going through some major changes. Today, we’re seeing more diversity in what customers are looking for from their cruise. Whilst many passengers still love the occasion of dressing up for an evening meal, many guests prefer leaving their formal clothes at home and opting for a more relaxed, laid back cruise holiday, and these travellers are beginning to see the many advantages to buffet dining. If you’re excited about trying new foods, then here are 5 of the best buffet choices on board your favourite cruise lines (it’s important to note that these are choices and not compulsory dining venues):
The Windjammer Cafe, Royal Caribbean
The Windjammer Cafe is almost as well known to cruisers as Royal Caribbean itself – it’s considered to be THE hangout spot for a casual bite on board all Royal Caribbean’s vessels, and is usually located on the Lido Deck with great views of the pool areas and of course out to sea. The Windjammer makes the list of the best buffet dining options at sea as the menu each night is remarkably similar to that of the main dining room, allowing travellers to enjoy the same foods but in a more relaxed setting which is ideal for families and for those who are looking for a casual evening on board.
P&O Cruises’ Buffet Restaurants
Each of P&O Cruises’ vessels has a differently named buffet restaurant, such as The Conservatory on Adonia, The Plaza on Oceana or The Horizon on the cruise line’s brand new ship, Britannia, so it can be a little confusing knowing what to look out for on board – fortunately, all restaurants are located on either the Sun Deck or the Lido Deck, so they’re not difficult to find. Some of the larger ships boast two different buffet areas, such as Ventura which has The Beach House and Waterside, and it’s this doubling up which really makes cruisers love the P&O buffet venues. Even if one of the buffet areas is closed, the seating remains open, which means you can choose your food from the open stations, then sit in the quiet surroundings of the closed section, allowing you to enjoy your breakfast, lunch, or dinner away from the hustle and bustle of the live cooking stations. P&O Cruises also showcase theme evenings in each buffet restaurant every night of the cruise. From Indian to Oriental, Mediterranean to Italian, there’s always something special going on in the evening as an alternative to the main dining rooms and speciality restaurants.
Horizon Court, Princess Cruises
Horizon Court is Princess Cruises’ signature buffet restaurant; although on some vessels you may find an additional buffet area known as the Caribe Cafe. There are two great advantages to the Horizon Court (and that’s not even including the quality of the cuisine!). Firstly, this buffet restaurant helps passengers to feel less guilty for skipping out on the main dining room for dinner in the evenings as the tables are set with tablecloths, cutlery, and wine glasses, providing a more luxurious setting for your meal yet retaining its casual allure. Secondly, Horizon Court is known for its themed nights including Mexican, Italian, and even German, where there’s a wide range of flavoured sausages and fruit-filled strudels for dessert.
Oceanview Cafe, Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises Oceanview Cafe deserves a mention in this Best Buffet Dining list for many reasons. Firstly, you’ll get to indulge in types of cuisine that are normally reserved for specialty dining restaurants on many other cruise lines, such as a full sushi bar for example which serves up fresh sushi and sashimi along with a rich and salty dipping sauce. Secondly, the Oceanview is ideal for passengers who want to stay fit and healthy during their sailing – not only is there a dedicated fruit bar, there’s also a cooked-to-order stir fry station that’s loaded with a massive choice of vegetables. Finally, the Oceanview stands out for its ‘late risers’ breakfast. Many cruise lines stop serving a cooked breakfast mid-morning, whereas Celebrity Cruises continue bringing out freshly cooked items right up until lunchtime, catering to those who enjoy a well-earned lie in whilst on holiday.
Cunard’s Buffet Restaurants
Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria boast the Lido Restaurants, where food is served up buffet-style, while the Queen Mary 2 offers the King’s Court – a similar casual buffet restaurant that’s great for taking a break from the more formal dining rooms. One thing you can guarantee is that you won’t find a buffet restaurant at sea that’s quite so big, especially on the QM2 which splits its buffet into 4 different sections – The Carvery for freshly sliced meats, Lotus for Asian-inspired cuisine, La Piazza for Italian fare, and the Chef’s Gallery which is a kid’s favourite with burgers, hotdogs, fries, and speciality sandwiches. Be sure to pop in at about 3pm each day for afternoon tea – finger sandwiches and scones with clotted cream and jam – even if you’re thousands of miles away, you can still enjoy a classic taste of home! Plus this is a welcomingly casual venue for afternoon tea rather than the glamour and glitz of the white gloved service in the Queens Room.