Has cruise ship food gone downhill lately?

Now, I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert on cruise ships, I’ve been on four trips in the past 10 years, 3 on Princess and 1 on Royal Caribbean. I just got back from an RCI cruise to Alaska, and while I still had a great time on the cruise, one thing which I noticed was that the food in the Main Dining Room was really pretty average.

I don’t think that I’ve become one of those old curmudgeon types who thinks that everything was better back in the day, but seriously, I remember the food on cruise ships actually being pretty good. It’s the main reason many people go on cruises, right? RCI and Princess seem pretty comparable in many ways, so I don’t believe that the food on RCI is necessarily worse than what I got on Princess. I just remember the food on the dining room being really first rate before. My suspicion now is that the cruise lines are purposely serving average food in the MDR in an effort to get people to pay extra to eat in the “specialty restaurants.” There used to be only 1 or 2 specialty dining restaurants, now they have 4, with additional Starbucks and Ben and Jerrys kiosks. They now also have an “ala carte” section on the menu, which lists lobsters and steaks which you can get for an additional $24 or whatever.

It just strikes me as a bit of a scam that I am already paying for the food in the main dining room, and if I want to get good food, I have to pay additional fees. Anyways, I probably won’t go cruising as much in the future if I have to pay as much for the cruise as I would spend on a “land vacation” with better food. The convenience probably isn’t enough to justify it for me. Anyone feel the same?

I would have to (somewhat) disagree. I’m a long time cruiser, and have been on numerous Celebrity, Holland America, Princess, and Norwegian ships. I have never been on Carnival/Costa or Royal Caribbean, however, so I will say I can’t speak to those. While I have not noticed a drop in quality in the main dining room, I will say that I have noticed a drop in SEATING capacity with the appearance of all these specialty restaurants. Norwegian was the worst in this regard. When we were on the Norwegian Jade, IIRC, they had seven different specialty restaurants, some of which were almost always empty (most notably the Italian and Spanish/Mexican restaurants). As you might guess, many people felt the same way you did and went to the main dining room, only to be told there was a wait of 30-60 minutes at times. They had a nice stoplight chart throughout the ship that told you how crowded each restaurant was, but as you might guess, the upscale restaurants could almost always accommodate you right away. I tried the upscale Chinese restaurant and my wife tried the sushi place, both of which were great, and only marginally more (mine was $15 and hers $25, but both were very fresh and all-you-can-eat). When we got hit with a wait over 15 minutes, we generally went to the buffet upstairs, which had most of the same entree choices.

The only complaint I put on my survey at the end was that because the upscale restaurants were permanent, they permanently took away from other seating, which became a big problem at breakfast and lunch, when most people chose the buffet. The aforementioned Italian restaurant sat directly across from the buffet and obviously had zero customers at breakfast in particular. About half way into the cruise, they actually opened it up for additional buffet seating at breakfast because they could see the lack of available tables was causing people to get pissed off. They made no such accommodation at lunch when a huge restaurant otherwise often sat empty because one or two people might want a specialty pizza or pasta that wasn’t otherwise available free next door at the buffet. As I recall, EVERY cruise I have been on has at least one night where you can get lobster tail in the main dining room at no additional charge (and several of them if you are still hungry and are so inclined).

My last cruise on Carnival I Did notice a decline in the food quality, wrote them about it, haven’t heard back. I sent two entrees back and I’ve never had to do that before.

Definitely. My first cruise was in the mid-90’s to Alaska and the food was amazing. (My dad accidentally sat through a silverware lecture, too, and since then has been prone to lecturing on the subject - you also used to get a TON more silver.) Every cruise since then has been a little worse.

And I am never setting foot on a Carnival ship again.

I’ve only been on one cruise, and that was on Carnival 5 years ago. The food was seriously sub-par. My mother sent an entree back twice in one meal.

Princess has exceptional food, that’s one reason I like them.

While I enjoyed many aspects of my NCL cruise the food was a major disappointment…there was such an emphasis on quantity over quality that it was almost insulting.

So I’m going to say it’s a cruise line thing and you just lucked out on your first RCI cruise

I’ve only done one cruise. It was a Norwegian, about a year ago.

My Wife and I found the food to be mediocre at best. Didn’t really feel that the specialty restaurants where that good either. Had perhaps two or three meals in a week’s time that I would have called quite good. Everything else was meh.

I believe it has gone down. I’ve only been cruising for less than ten years and I already see the difference. On my first Holland America cruise I still remember notable dishes like pate and lamb shank (the marrow was delicious). HAL still serves pate, but the portion size is half of what it used to be.

I think cruise lines in general are cutting back to make more money and not just on dining.

Rhaegar, this is quite a coincidence. I recently took an Alaskan cruise on Royal Caribbean. I was on the Monarch of the Seas, sailing out of Seattle May 25 -June 1. Were you on that one? This was my third cruise- I did one in 2005 (Baja Mexico) and one in 2010 (the Bahamas), all on RC.

I did think the quality of the food had declined a bit from my first two cruises. However, I attributed it to the fact that we ate all our meals at the buffet in the Windjammer Cafe. The friend I went with preferred it that way, so we never went to the main dining room. I figured that since they were preparing mass quantities of food and setting it out, some of it would get a little dried out and not be as fresh as food cooked to order.

Overall the food was good, but some of the entrees did seem dry and less flavorful. On my first two cruises I thought everything was very good. I think RC is cutting corners wherever they can to keep prices reasonable, and I know they want people to go to the specialty restaurants.

I did have a wonderful time and would encourage anyone who is considering it to go on an Alaskan cruise!

Missed the edit window- I was on the Rhapsody of the Seas for the Alaska cruise, not the Monarch!

I took my first cruise on Royal Caribbean this past January - 12 days - and I enjoyed all 10 of the dinners we had in the dining room - we did the buffet one night, and the specialty restaurant one night (it was my birthday and I figured my sister would have singing waiters or something come to our table, so I refused to even be there.) The first night, I was thinking that the portions seemed awfully small, but it turned out that it was precisely the right amount for me. Spacing out the courses seemed to be the key.

I was impressed with the choices available every night and I got to try some things I’d never had before. On lobster night, I got 2 tails and could have had a third if I’d wanted it. The breads and rolls were very good, too, and when we got home, I found I missed having someone come to the table and scrape the crumbs off the tablecloth for me! :smiley:

I thought the buffet was pretty good, too - lots of variety whether you’re a picky eater or adventurous. My biggest complaint was the seating, but that was mostly when we were in northern waters - no one was carrying their plates out on deck! It was also a bit irritating when a party of 3 would monopolize a table for 6, forcing larger groups to split up, but what can you do? Overall, I had no complaints about the food at all. But like I said, it was my first cruise, so I had nothing for comparison.

I will say I was disappointed that they no longer put a chocolate on your pillow at night. My mom, a frequent cruiser, said they used to do that.

The chocolates were nice, but I never ate them all. I think all those chocolates were a bit of a waste. I’d rather they have chocolates at the buffet or coffee bar or something like that then those who want it can eat it.

I doubt many people go on holidays for the food numerically speaking, although perhaps if you measured the proportion by mass your theory may have more merit :wink:

I was actually on the Rhapsody of the Seas departing Seattle June 1st, so I just missed you. Heard the weather sucked the week you were there, so my condolences. I actually thought that the food in the Windjammer was better than the main dining room to be honest, hehe.

Yeah, the weather wasn’t the best- cloudy and cool all week with occasional light rain. We didn’t see much sunshine but I thought “Well, this is Alaska.” The rain didn’t interfere with any of our plans or excursions. We took some of those cheap plastic ponchos and never had to use them. We did use the extra layers of clothing we brought though!

Now I’m glad we didn’t bother eating in the MDR! We saved a bit on the gratuities that way too.

I did the Norweigan Epic for New Years, and found the specialty restaurants to be very good for the most part - although Cageny’s, their traditional American Steakhouse was just OK. The Brazilian steakhouse was great, and the french restaurant was exceptional. I consider myself to be a bit of a food snob as well, having dined at some nice places, including Michelin star restaurants.

The main dining room was kind of hit or miss - I had one good meal there, the rest was good, but nothing special. The buffet was fine, certainly nothing to write home about, but not necessarily bad given all of the options.

My previous cruise was about 7 years ago on Royal Carribean’s Grandeur of the Seas. I found the main dining room to be very, very good that time around (never ate at the specialty restaurants). I would say that it was much better than the main room on the Epic, and close to the quality of the specialty restaurants on some nights, but not quite equal. The buffet was about the same quality on both as I recall.

I read a little while ago that the general consensus amongst cruise critics was that food quality has gone down on average in last few years since the recession as cruise lines have had to lower prices in order to account for people’s smaller budgets, but oil prices have been rising, forcing them to squeeze savings where they can. I believe that the article was on www.cruisecritic.com (a great site in general), but I can’t locate it at the moment.

My wife and I just returned from a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. To answer the OP, yes, there has definitely been a decline in the quality of the food in the main dining room. Everything, and I mean everything, tasted bland. Food that should have been hot was lukewarm. Cuts of meat were very poor quality and fatty. Deserts were virtually tasteless. By the end of the third night, we gave up, gave in, and for the next 4 nights went to the specialty restaurants they really want everyone to use anyway. What a racket.

I see Carnival offering cruises starting at under 100 dollars per day. I wouldn’t be surprised if they cut corners with all consumables. 3 meals and a clean room for under 100 bucks a day is really inexpensive.

I was on Carnival Sensation in 1996 and Carnival Liberty in 2009. Here’s what I noticed: on both cruises the food at the buffets, burger windows, nay all food stops except the main dining hall was indescribably awesome. On the 1996 cruise the food in the main dining hall was indescribably awesome; while on the 2009 cruise it was comparatively mediocre.

On a somewhat-related note: on the 2009 cruise we stopped at Carnival’s private island, Half Moon Cay, and ate at the main dining complex there. There was some dish I ate there - couscous, I think, with fresh vegetables - that was quite possibly the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten in my life, full-stop. I’d consider going on a ship that visits Half Moon Cay again just for another plate of it.

I think the ships’ fares are almost a loss leader for the cruise industry. They make up for it in casinos, gift shops, alcohol sales, portrait sales, kickbacks from merchants for recommendations, etc. etc. etc.