Surviving the Cruise Ship Buffet
Food, glorious food — it’s one of the top reasons people go on cruises. In one week, the cruise ship the Queen Mary 2 serves 16,000 meals a day, including 50 tons of fruit and vegetables, eight tons of poultry, 13 tons of fish and seafood, two tons of cheese and dairy, two tons of sugar, 5,000 gallons of milk, 32,400 eggs, and more, using 610 miles of plastic wrap and 87,000 pieces of glassware and china.
Though many people love the experience of fine dining in the so-called dress-up dining room, the 24-hour buffet is a great quick, casual option — if you know how to navigate it. When it comes to cruise buffets, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do them. Here are some of my best buffet tips, culled from decades of cruising.
Get your scrambled eggs from the omelet station.
One of the most important things to know about eating at a cruise buffet is what to stay away from. At breakfast, it’s the static, chafing-dish scrambled eggs. It may seem quick and easy to just scoop some up — after all, they’re already prepared, and really, how bad could they be on a fancy cruise, right? Wrong. They’re made hours before they are put out and are still almost raw even when they hit the buffet. The eggs are scrambled lightly and then left to cook via the heat from the hot station. On the other hand, omelets are one of the things you’ll find made to order at the buffet, so ask the omelet cook to make you a quick scramble instead — he’s already got the eggs. That way you know you’re eating fresh, fully cooked eggs. (Incidentally, eggs Benedict is always done as you order and usually excellent.)
If you’re not an egg person, you can also get fresh pancakes and waffles — again, forget those nasty ones that are somehow simultaneously crusty and soggy from sitting in the serving dish. Butter won’t even melt on them. If you walk over to the cafeteria and nicely ask the cook to give you some pancakes off the griddle, you’ll be much happier with the result.
Don’t let them overly season your stir-fry with soy sauce.