Travel Tuesday – The menu’s changing for Cruise-ship dining

Say goodbye to one of the great cruise-ship experiences, folks – the serve-yourself buffet is almost certainly dead as a dodo.

Anyone who has ever been on a cruise knows the guilty pleasure that is the buffet bar.

Ships have fine dining options available for breakfast, lunch and dinner – but sometimes you just feel like slouching into the Windjammer, or Horizon Court, or Lido Cafe, or Marketplace.

Whatever name your cruise line gives it, the buffet on board a ship is full of comfort food and casual atmosphere.

But even before Covid-19, buffets were under fire as potential petri-dishes of infection.

It is quite disturbing how many people can be seen walking straight out of the bathrooms – often without washing their hands – and then bypassing the hand-sanitation stations and handling food and utensils.

That prompted different control methods on cruise ships.

For example, when we were on the Ovation of the Seas in 2017, it was impossible to enter the Windjammer Cafe without walking through a hand-wash station with its dozen or so sinks and staff to make sure everyone was “washy, washy, washy.”

Then there’s P&O, who introduced what it called ‘The Pantry,’ a buffet where passengers did NOT serve themselves – all food and utensils were handled by staff wearing gloves.

Now, in the wake of Covid-19, it appears that even more stringent rules will be in place.

Almost all cruise lines initially said when cruising resumed in earnest they would be abandoning the buffet – but if you can excuse the pun, that’s now something of a moveable feast.

Royal Caribbean, for example, initially said the Windjammer buffet ‘would not return’ and would be repurposed – perhaps as restaurants.

But within weeks it had ‘clarified’ that to say that the buffet would resume – just not in its serve-yourself form.

That seems to be the attitude being adopted by most cruise-lines. All food and utensils will be handled by staff – not passengers.

Something else that is likely? Strict limits will be placed on the number of passengers allowed into the casual dining areas.

That, of course, will place even more strain on the main dining rooms – but that’s an issue for another blog-post.

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