The Changing Face of Cruise Ship Dining
Written by: Kuki
During the last half decade the nature of cruise ship dining has changed. With the introduction of ship’s offering a variety of alternate dining venues the eating patterns of passengers has, not surprisingly changed.
Yet, within those changing patterns there are a few areas that are somewhat surprising to me.
The culinary experience used to be one of the mainstay attractions to many cruisers, at least in their expectations. At least a large part of the discussions on our message boards used to somehow be related to food… that harkens back to the days of the lavish midnight buffets that used to be held nightly on almost every ship.
Initially the alternate dining venues focused on an experience more upscale from that offered in the dining room, along with an extra cost to dine there. As ships grew larger, offering more spaces to experiment with, a movement began to change that. Norweigan Cruise Line expanded the alternate dining options, offering 10 or more different restaurants for guests to choose from; some requiring an extra cost, but also including about half the restaurants in the passenger’s basic cruise fare.
The same hot restaurant themes becomiing popular on land began finding their way on to cruise ships, and that pattern continues to grow. One part of that movement was the increased visibility and popularity of the “celebrity chef”. And today most every ship has one venue onboard designed and overseen by one “celebrity chef” or another.
But there was also a move to add more casual dining alternatives, and not just designed to attract passengers for breakfast or lunch, but also dinner. Fast food has become a mainstay, particularly in the North American foodplace market, and that too has been finding its way onto cruise ships. Lately one of the fastest growing trends on land has been the “gourment burger”. “Gourmet burger” outlets have been racing to open cities everywhere. And that trend too is now making its way to way, with Carnival Cruise Line’s latest introduction of Guy Fieri’s Gourment Burgers . In perhaps an unusual move (that I like) Guy’s burgers are being offered free of a surcharge.
Of late a growing trend onboard has been a move to more relaxed dress codes; a move to allow much more casual dress onboard than what passengers used to expect. Again, I believe it was a movement on land that cruise lines have been accepting as something their passengers prefer.
In my view there is a correlation between people dressing more casually, and their desire to dine more casually as well. Not nearly as many people are interested in dressing up, and spending two hours over their dinner meal, though lord knows why, since no one is pressed for time on a cruise. But it seems the fast paced lives people live at home, including fast meals, is a habit they are taking with them when they head to sea.
I am however surprised to see a growing trend of many people posting on our message boards, saying that the majority of their dinners onboard are eaten at the ship’s buffets. And even more surprising, is those people who do are more likely to praise the food quality than not.
It seems those of us who enjoy getting seated with strangers at dinner (which was to me an experience unique to cruising, and created interesting social interactions) are a bit of dying breed. While I think there are still plenty amongst us that are willing to invest in, and enjoy, the more upscale alternate restaurants onboard, where the dining experience can take up 3 hrs. , the real movement seems to be toward the quick and casual alternatives.
I’d be interested in your preferences. Which way do your preferences lines up… the full slow paced dining experience, or the casual in, eat and out alternatives?
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Posted: November 15th, 2011 under Kuki.