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Is It All About The Food?

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Next to emotions, our taste buds may be one of our most personal tools for judging our levels of satisfaction. Simply put, we all (individually) know what we think tastes good.

Yet, as admittedly subjective as everyone agrees the topic is, there’s rarely a “professional” or “user” review of a cruise ship written that doesn’t discuss the food.

While there’s some room for variances due to one’s personal style, good – or bad – service, especially in reference to the hospitality industry, can be subjectively defined much more easily. There are books and guides available which clearly explain the “rules” of “good service”. And though circumstance and expectations cause some variances, it’s generally easy for anyone to recognize quality service.

So, from my perspective, when reading people’s reviews or trip reports people post on our message boards, I am surprised at how important the topic of food is to so many cruisers.

Whether people found the food on their cruise to be excellent or sorely missing the mark seems to have a dramatic affect on their overall view of the their satisfaction with their cruise experience.

However, the very best culinary journalists or critics can tell me how “incredible” or “inedible” food items are, yet each and every one us might just as easily view the dishes being described in a totally different light.

I openly admit I am no gourmand. I am not one who can help with opinions drawn from a highly developed sophisticated pallet. In fact I’m easily slotted into the “boring, fussy, and meat and potatoes guy” category.

Particularly when writing offering opinions on menu and food quality, I think it’s important to categorize and try to define my limited pallet, so the reader can better understand if the judgements I’m going to provide on the quality of the food is at all similar, or completely out of the spectrum, of what their pallet’s would be looking  for.

When reading reviews or trip reports people post on our CruiseMates message boards I’m amazed how dramatic an affect their commentary on their judgement of their satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) of the food offerings, has on their overall satisfaction of their cruise experience.

In so many cases (I’d hazard to say the vast majority ) the judgements made in the category of food seems to carry a sizable weight in people’s overall satisfaction ratings.

It is somewhat understandable I suppose. For some passengers on board the most important part of the experience might be the travel; other cruisers might find the activities and entertainment on board the primary driver for even choosing a cruise. But, whatever any one’s purpose for taking a cruise, everyone on the ship eats many times while on the ship.

You may never see a show in the ship’s theatre during your cruise; you may never attend a class or lecture on board; but you’re certainly going to eat at least a couple of times every day of your cruise.

Traditionally cruise lines used to have “main” Dining Rooms where guests gathered for meals, and a Lido Deck where more casual buffets were available for breakfast and lunch time meals. In the past decade there has been an explosion in the growth of alternate dining venues on all the contemporary cruise lines. Some offerings are intended to be more upscale, and carry an extra charge for passengers to indulge, but there’s also exponential growth in offering alternate dining options that are still included in the cruise fare.

No doubt none of this happened by chance. I’m sure it’s the result of a combination of things; The cruise line’s own consultations with their passengers (via surveys); focus groups with both experienced cruisers and those who have never cruised; and an eye on what their competition is doing.

It may be they believe that if they give you more options, if you’re not satisfied with the food in or two of those options, you’ll find that satisfaction in one of the others.

So… this week’s question… is the food department on board the most important aspect of the cruise to you?  Can you estimate the percentage of the weight your judgement of the food quality is taken into consideration in your over-all evaluation of your cruise experience?

– A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising –

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Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time July 4, 2012 at 5:50 am

For me, my own personal taste and prefernce, and my partners, the food in its ever present form on a cruise ship is key to our satisfaction.

Granted, our backgrounds are not like most passengers, we were in the hospitality business, high end gourmet restaurant and inn, me being an executive chef as well as me, high school teacher.

We started out on the QE2, then SS FRANCE, Norwegian America Line and so forth, and have stayed with the luxury lines – once took a cruise on a major Miami based line, and well, that was once enough for the food for us.

I carefully read every word about the food, in brochure and on line, scrutinize every photo of the food, and look at menus, and believe it or not, look in the frozen food section at supermarkets to see what could be used on a ship, and I am surprised at what I find.

Conversely, the trend to have chain resturants selling frozen menu item in these stores is appalling. If you read the package ingredients list, take a gander at all of the artificial preservatives on the labels.

Major chains, as well as cruise ships and hotels, employ microweaves and boil-in bags and pass it off as haute cuisine. Shame on them.On a recent cruise that bills itself as “premium” their hallmark lobster mac and cheese was served to me at the additional pay for restautrant, still FROZEN in the middle .Double APPALLING.

Do ask what is made on board, if your server won’t tell you get the table captain. House dressings, made on the ship, breads, made on the ship, meats and so forth, prepped and cooked on the ship. Ever seen bread at the lido buffet from a bag, or bagels from a bag, not from the ships bakery/ Ice cream same as yopu get frozen at the supermarket, not made on the ship. You’re beeing dupped, folks.

Enough on the food and cheap chain quality “SOME” cruise lines push off on the passengers. Most would not know gourmet if they had to spell it.

A wine stewrard, well, most of them merely take an order for the wine, they know zip about wine, yet they wear the outfit, and can open a bottle. A true wine steward is a sommelier, steeped in wine education, and knows his/hers stuff.

When we dine out on land we do not eat at the chains, we seek out individually owned restaurants which often have unique menus and more than enough atmosphere, regardless of menu price.Like the MDR on a ship, you can count on meeting the fav waiter and in a restaurant, meet the owners, and can count on seeing these same people often for years, same on a cruise ship with a happy crew.

Comment from Marc
Time July 7, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Food is extremely important to me. Good food, good service, good wine; all go together. On sea days, I figure that I spend six hours in restaurants and at least two or three more in lounges so it has to be enjoyable. I am not a truly adventurous eater but I will experiment. If I find something I like, I might order it on repeated occassions. On a cruise last year, I has a standing order for seared foie gras for a week straight as an appetizer. I like steak tartare; on a few occassions we have arranged for a steak tartare lunch in the main restaurant for 8 – 12 folks.. For a birthday, we have ordered special appetizers and desserts for a large table. All of these options lead to a wonderful cruise experience. I can certainly give up on space in a cabin for a better dining and drinking experience.

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time July 8, 2012 at 4:19 am


I agree with you totaly, placing special orders is the thing to do if you enjoy nice and often special items.

Special ordering however is not available on the majority of cruise ships or cruise lines, however. Obviously I avoid those, have and been for decades.

Once on a cruise I was in the water wading around, and two oberse ladies sloshed up to me and asked what ship I was on, I told them, and they told what ship they were on. I asked about the food, the answer “who cares about the food as long as we can stuff ourselves. Foods food.” I walked away.

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time July 14, 2012 at 4:38 am

Now I thought I had seen – in this acse, heard – everything, but this takes the cake.

Royal Carbbean will place Coca Cola vending machines in their ships, activated by your ships card for paying, and the machines will have 100 cartridges of flavors with which to choose.

What next? Premade cocktails sold in neopreen bags, like Walmart, where the liquor is malt beverage, not real spirits? Maybe Little Debby will creep up and you self serve your own dessert.


Already there are Starbucks on some RCI ships.

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time July 14, 2012 at 7:05 am

AHHHHHHHHH How ’bout microwave ovens in the cabins (they are already in the ships galleys) whereupon the passenger can buy frozen pizza and other wonders, as well as Lean Cuisine for the dieter, and just have all meals in the cabin.

Comment from longbeach1
Time August 7, 2012 at 11:01 pm

I guess I am at the other end of spectrum – don’t hate me – but I don’t care much about the food as long as it is not awful.

Comment from longbeach1
Time August 7, 2012 at 11:07 pm

I’d say the food is maybe 10%? 5% of the value of the trip for me? I say this in terms of vacations in general, as next year I will be a first time cruiser. What I’m doing, seeing, and hearing is more important to me.

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