Chew on This: Is Cruise Food Getting Worse?

November 22, 2011 | By | 71 Comments

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After Charlie Palmer parted ways with Seabourn recently, I wondered: So what? Does it make a difference? Then we looked around at the other celeb chef/cruise line partnerships out there (Jacques Pepin and Oceania, etc.) and asked readers which one they could live without. The result: a collective shrug (the most popular response was to keep the alliances intact, but a low response rate signaled the issue isn’t on many radars). It seems that cruise lines, which more than a decade ago began embracing the concept of culinary partnerships with cooking heavyweights, are agreeing — and thinking that, no, they don’t mean much.

Seabourn’s not the only cruise line to ditch its top chef. Celebrity Cruises, which was a pioneer of the movement when it teamed with Michel Roux, a Frenchman-turned-gastronomic innovator in Britain, had a quiet divorce. So did Carnival, whose dining scenarios hugely improved after Georges Blanc, a celebrated French chef, came onboard. Windstar for a long time hyped the quality of its menus, designed by Joachim Splichal of L.A.’s Patina … but no more.
Even Cunard, which hired Boston celeb chef Todd English to helm his own place on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, opted to bring food ops for Verandah — Queen Elizabeth’s alternative restaurant — in-house.
Without these partnerships with critically acclaimed master chefs, will cruise food get worse? Have you noticed a difference lately in the quality of the food onboard lines with – or without – uber-hyped chefs?
Here’s an irony: Before embracing this particular culinary trend, you may recall that cruises were more an excuse for gluttony (remember the midnight buffet?) than for quality. There’s no question the chefs helped shift that particular tide. It’s important to note as well that on some lines the trend’s still going strong. (Crystal’s partnership with Nobu is a massive success, as is that of the U.K.’s P&O, which works with British super-chef Marco Pierre White.) And Oceania Cruises is clearly bucking the trend with its first-for-the-line in-house celebrity chef: Its new Marina has partnered a big way with Jacques Pepin.
So, no, I wouldn’t say this particular trend is on deathwatch. Where these ship-chef partnerships really flourish – for passengers, in particular – is when there’s a genuine commitment between the two, when it’s something more than a marketing ploy.
On Crystal Cruises, Nobu isn’t simply a name on the finest Asian restaurants at sea; the chefs there train in his restaurants and are his disciples. Same goes for Oceania’s Pepin. On a tour of the ship’s galleys a few months ago, it was clear to me that Pepin’s influence was felt not only at the table of his eponymous restaurant but also in the genuinely Gallic kitchen that serves the restaurant, complete with rotisserie and French-sourced flour, among many other touches.
And yet, has the departure of Michel Roux from Celebrity, which occurred a few years ago, hurt the line’s restaurants? If this year’s Cruise Critic Editors’ Picks awards, which name Celebrity as Best for Dining, are any indication, I’d say no.
Does the fact that a cruise line has a bold-named chef in charge of dining influence your choice of cruise?
Want a taste of the good life? Check out our guide to the 9 Best Alternative Restaurants at Sea.
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    Comments

    71 Responses to “Chew on This: Is Cruise Food Getting Worse?”

    1. Mrs O
      November 23rd, 2011 @ 9:24 am

      It’s a shame that the cruise lines are pushing passengers to specialty restaurants for better food choices. I love RCI but don’t love that the main dining room menu has been exactly the same on the last 5 cruises I’ve taken (4 different ships over 4 yrs).

    2. Constance Barkley
      November 23rd, 2011 @ 9:30 am

      We have been cruising since 1974. Cunard, Princess, Celebrity, and Royal Caribbean.. Majority have been Royal Caribbean. 30 cruises in total. The food has not changed that much.. More Variety and quality about the same..Quantity thankfully has cut down but then you can always ask for seconds. Don’t miss the midnight buffet one bit. It was a big waste of time and money on the ships part but do miss Tropical Night on the Caribbean cruises..that was always fun and we always looked forward to it.

    3. Jacqui
      November 24th, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

      We travel P&O Princess mostly but have done a few in America. All up over the years we have done around 30 cruises and due to take another one soon. We have found that its slowly getting worse no more omelets they are ready made and no more waffles :( The main dining room dose seem to have same menu all the time love the chicken wings and as for specialty restaurants yes we have done them but dont really think people should be pushed into it. Best ships we founf are NCL by far for service and value.

    4. Sean
      November 24th, 2011 @ 6:55 pm

      I don’t know how much the partnerships with celebrity chefs has to do with the diminishing quality of food on the ships but it is something that my wife and I have noticed recently. We have been cruising since 2005 and have been on six cruises with Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian. We are not people who write reviews about how horrible the food is on the ships because we typically enjoy the food and selections but over the last year or so we have taken two cruises and we noticed differences in quality and quantity in the main dining rooms. In the past I would order two meals on one or two nights to try a variety or if I couldn’t make up my mind. I never did it because I needed more food. On the last two cruises I had to order a second meal (typically the same as the first, when my plate came because there was such a small amount of food. Additionally, the selections are not as appealing as they used to be, there was one night on each cruise where I had an appetizer and a dessert in the main dining room and rushed to the buffet to get something else to eat. My guess as to the change is budget cuts and today’s economy, but I look forward to a time when I don’t need to go read the menu earlier in the day to see if I even want to go to the main dining room for dinner.

    5. A Wheel
      November 24th, 2011 @ 7:06 pm

      I agree that passengers are now being steered toward the specialty restaurants, particularly if they are looking for quality beef. I have eaten in several of the specialty restaurants and the difference is obvious. My husband and I have cruised 10 times in the last 15 years and, for us, it’s not the quantity – it’s the quality. As mentioned, I can always ask for seconds.

    6. Susan K
      November 24th, 2011 @ 7:08 pm

      I would absolutely say that since Celebrity ended its partnership with Michel Roux that the cuisine has gone downhill. Maybe they still win awards because the other lines have been cutting back, but we’re noticing many cheap substitutions and inferior ingredients to the point where we don’t enjoy the MDR experience nearly as much anymore and have to budget for specialty restaurants to enjoy what we used to have included.

    7. berta medrano
      November 24th, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

      yes they are getting worse……

    8. mimi
      November 25th, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

      I’ve noticed the diminishing of quality in the MDR, as well as the buffets. Even the alternative restaurants on RCI seemed to have lowered their standards. Less quantity is a good thing with my propensity for eating the rolls and butter, but I wish we could have more interesting menus and better cooked food.

    9. Stephanie
      November 25th, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

      I have been on HAL and enjoy the food whether it’s in the main dining room or their specialty restaurant. We took our grandchildren on Carnival last Spring break ( were we nuts?) The ding room food was excellent. The buffet restaurant was a bit crowded, but that food was good too…Maybe we are not that fussy, but the grand kids are and they loved it…

    10. Harriet
      November 26th, 2011 @ 9:48 am

      I agree with Susan K. about how bad the food has become on Celebrity. My husband and I were complaining about it to the Hotel Director of the Constellation in public, at his behest, and basically got kicked off the ship. We are foodies and also travel for the ports, not for game shows, card, and basketball, let alone rock climbing!!!!!!!!!! The ports on some ships like Holland America are still great and varied but the Celebritys and Royal C, are really for people that want to go to an all inclusive hotel on water. Imagine they even put grass on the Silouette!!!!!!!!! Only great food is in the speciallty pay restaurants! So sad for people who really love to “cruise”!!!!!

    11. James
      November 27th, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

      I think the food is going down hill. The quantity of the food has got bad over the years. The size has got smaller. The food does not look good the kids food looks better.

    12. Chuck
      November 27th, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

      I was on the Carnival Freedom earlier this month, and I found the food quality to be slipping considerably. On many occasions, entrees arrived at our table either cold, lukewarm, or just unimaginatively prepared. Carnival’s new menu, with the addition of such “comfort foods” as hamburgers and fried chicken, adds to what I consider a dumbing down of dinner in the main dining room.

    13. Beth
      November 27th, 2011 @ 7:06 pm

      Food has definitely become worse. Cheap alternatives that are not good tasting. You can save money and still have good food.

    14. Elizabeth Schaffer
      November 27th, 2011 @ 10:12 pm

      We cruised for the first time as a couple 23 years ago. We have been on several more through the last decade. I definitely think the food quality is worse. It is run-of-the-mill cafeteria food most of the time. We have avoided the speciality restaurants because we both think it is nuts to pay for food twice. The dining room service for all three meals of the day has gone downhill as well. It is sad. Dining experience used to fun on cruises. We have sailed Princess, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

    15. John
      November 27th, 2011 @ 10:49 pm

      Yup, it’s deteriorated slightly over the last few years.

      But I would challenge the direct correlation between the departure of a famous chef and the lowering of food quality. Perhaps the downgrades come from the corporate office spreadsheet gurus, which in turn, cause the celeb chefs to pull out from their endorsements, not wanting to hurt their own reputations. Chicken or egg situation.

      But since raw food costs per passenger, per day, are small compared to other things, I can’t understand the trend toward downgrading. Dining is a big draw in attracting and keeping the cabins filled.

    16. Carol R.
      November 27th, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

      Food quality has definitely declined over the years. On my first cruise, caviar was offered twice as an appetizer. That was 1990. Now the only place to get caviar is to order it at a specialty bar. It’s not like I eat this every day, but it just made a cruise even more special. I enjoy getting to try a variety of foods on a cruise, and it is frustrating that the menus on a cruise line stay the same year after year. Yes, Princess has added comfort foods, but that is a change in the opposite direction from what I like. And yes, I know that I’m only one opinion. Overall, I believe the quality of the MDR and the buffet continue to drop. I resent that they seem to be doing this so that we’re more likely to go to the pay restaurants.

    17. Linda Schultz
      November 28th, 2011 @ 12:26 am

      I have always cruised Carnival Cruise Lines and the food is always great, I can always count on a good meal and it helps to have pizza 24 hours.

    18. Carole Rosenthal
      November 28th, 2011 @ 8:21 am

      Food on cruise ships has gone steadily downhill. A recent (19th cruise) on RCL reflected a NCL-type attitude (18th cruise) towards making sure you used the pay-for venues. I used to look forward to having food I didn’t make at home-a special eating experience. The bottom line is now the $$$$. I agree that you pay for the food, so why pay extra. Cruise lines are adding more passengers, but now making venues large enough (including MDR’s)to accommodate the numbers. This is the first time an RCCL cruise did not have food (except for the Promenade & Central Park Cafe)I could “write home” about-Giovanni’s was incredible though)!!! I guess it’s the upscale lines for now on.

    19. David Starkey
      November 28th, 2011 @ 10:54 am

      Celebrity food quality has gone down so much that is just average at best now. This was our favorite line over the years but now we are sailing other lines more often.

    20. Monty Fisher
      November 28th, 2011 @ 11:12 am

      Yes, food is getting worse,no doubt ! Princess is cutting back where ever they can and pushing added fee specialty rest. I first started cruising in 2005, every year after that I have noticed the cutbacks in portions, quality, choices, and taste. The good ol days of value for cruise vacations are slipping away !

    21. Nina
      November 28th, 2011 @ 11:13 am

      Without a doubt cruise food (especially in MDR) has gone downhill. We just returned home from our 13th cruise on RC and I enjoyed the lunch buffet better than any other time of day.

      We have eaten a few times in specialty restaurants, but then, thought, why? we are paying for the food in our cruise price.

      The sad thing is the food that is now in the specialty restaurants is the food that used to be in the MDRs. :(

    22. makeda
      November 28th, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

      12 cruises and i still the find the food to be good value for my money and filling…last cruise several months ago, smaller portions are ok (ever see the waste?) and the “comfort food” was of higher quality than i would make at home (especially the mac and cheese)…consider myself a foodie, but not a snob…willl not use the speciality restaurants, i am okay with the mdr (only have lunch at the buffet) and i never have been served mediocre or cold food!

    23. robert sharkey
      November 29th, 2011 @ 11:53 am

      Let me share, it’s always been about the $$$, and also to allieviate crowd time swells, in the Main Dining Rooms.
      Important FACT, most all the Specialty Restaurants, (UNLESS COOKED IN FRONT OF YOU), ALL get the food for the Specialty Restaurants from the Main Dining Room Kitchen, by secretated Chefs and Staff. It all comes from the same place in most cases.
      For the Palate I would tout Costa, Holland America, Celebrity, and Norwegian, and Princess in that order, as your best value. Yes portions have been limited as well, so prepare for that.
      When RCC merged with Celebrity(CHANDRIS AMERICAN, Celebrity went south, unfortunately.
      When Carnival ate up Costa, they did manage to stay independant of the Carnaval Way, but unfortunatly for Holland America and the others that Carnaval bought out, over a good period of time went south as well, as did the service in most cases.

      The Upper Crust of the Industry, Crystal, Oceana etc. still do their best with all Food/Beverage as well as service.

      My best advice to all Do the research, email the Cruise Lines for recently served menus, in all Restaurants on Board, the destinations you are going to by Regions MED, CARIB,
      TRANSATLANTIC, etc.
      Try to dine in all the venues the first few days, then you should know where to enjoy the remainding evenings, breakfasts, and luncheon.

    24. Jan
      November 29th, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

      Having just returned from a Princess cruise, I can say without a doubt that the quality of food is declining. You are now encouraged to utilize the ‘specialty dining options’ for a better cruise dining experience. The menus in the dining room have been the same for quite some time. However, the food in Horizon Court is diving downward rapidly. It all tastes the same! The soups are the same broth with different meat, beans or veggies added to it. The salad dressings have no real flavor. I can’t decide if it’s because they’ve been diluted too much or they’re left bland on purpose. No matter what name they give to the rice dishes, they all taste the same as do the tomato-based pastas. It was a very disappointing experience in general. However, on the bright side, no weight was gained at all during this 2-week cruise!!

    25. Beth
      November 29th, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

      I do find the food less exciting than on our second cruise in 2003. I think the introduction of specialty restaurants was one factor in this. I wish that cruise lines would find another way to be more profitable. I like the idea of smaller portions since you can always ask for more.

    26. Katie
      November 29th, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

      Food on most major cruise lines has gone down, but some lines, ie Carnival and Royal Caribbean have gone down rapidly. Having “comfort foods” is just a way to serve cheap food and make one think it’s special. Serving filet with shoulder steak or something like that is another way of cheapening the food. Royal Caribbean’s food is just as bad. I used to love the foods on a cruise, but now there is nothing to look forward to.

    27. Nancy
      November 29th, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

      Thanks, Carol R. for reminding me of the caviar situation. We started cruising in 1984 and always had it at least once, but it’s been so long ago I’d completely forgotten. I am still satisfied with the food on most cruises (23 so far) and like the smaller servings. Best of all, I don’t have to cook it! Only use the specialty restaurant if it’s our anniversary or something like that and love it when we do.

    28. Dave Morris
      November 29th, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

      It’s interesting to read the posts and find what I’ve been missing out on. LOL. I’m not a vegetarian but enjoy the salads and veggies to the point of making almost complete meals out of them. I “have no beef” with cruise line beef since I’m fully content eating chicken and seafood. Maybe it’s “dumbing down” of the gastronomical experience to some people but I’ll take the Wokery offerings over a thick, juicy, cholesterol laden steak any day – and I don’t have to take as much Lipitor either. {*_*}

    29. Debra von Hofmann
      November 30th, 2011 @ 7:40 am

      I agree on food quality going downhill. I have traveled Princess for 14 years over 30 cruises. They changed the menus and now you get only cheaper cuts of steak – like skirt steak, things like meatloaf – very small lobster for lobster nite (i ask for 3 right away)-no more crab legs, you have to ask for the escargot (offered one nite). I also find it depends who is chef onboard as to how good the food is. i am so disappointed that i have switched to HAL as they have free alternative dining in their Asian restaurant, a great alternative restaurant with a $20 fee at nite with a superb chef – great cuts of meat and $10 for lunch, and their buffet far outweighs Princess. things are made fresh as you order them -and no long waits in a line to serve yourself.

    30. Betty Savino
      November 30th, 2011 @ 7:56 am

      I just returned from a 5 day cruise to Mexico on Jewel of the Seas. The food was terrible, the Thanksgiving dinner was awful. We sat with seasoned RC guests and they were also upset. This was our first RC cruise and our last. We
      cruised with Princess but have noticed the food going down hill also.

    31. Jeff Weise
      November 30th, 2011 @ 8:16 am

      During the past 16 years (18 cruise) on Crystal, Holland America Celebrity, Princess and Disney my wife and have noted the demise of the midnight buffet, demise of the chocolate buffet, substitution of 12 piece place settings for only the pieces you need at the moment, replacement of wine sommeliers with the wait staff, elimination of hot hors devours in the bars, more table assigned to each waiter, stress on the “specialty” (additional cost) restaurants, unchanging menus in the MDR; with bland, nondescript presentations and a general reduction in the quantity of food per serving – both in the number of courses offered and the quantity of each. Cruise eating aint what it used to be!!!!

    32. Carol Jackson
      November 30th, 2011 @ 8:46 am

      Just completed a Fall Transatlantic on RCI (our 34th cruise) on The Navigator and we were completely disappointed in the food in the Main Dining Room. The choices were awful as was the food. We were actually served a half of a very small lobster tail which was the size of a pencil!! That really slapped everyone in the face and the poor waiters were catching it from the people at their tables. We even spoke to our head waiter who was obviously embarrassed and had no answers for such an insult. Overall the food has taken a serious down-turn and the cruise prices have continued increase so it seems to be heading downhill for folks that love cruising.

    33. Lenore Chait
      November 30th, 2011 @ 9:01 am

      Just came home from, a Middle East Cruise, RC – Brilliance of the Seas – fabulous trip = forget about the food and the niceties – they are gone – charge a fortune for unacceptable tours – the food was really not good at all – I am a little person, food is the least important to me – however, the quality was so poor. It’s a shame – give less, serve two m,eals, cut back but give quality. We love cruising – at least 16 cruises – for at least 11 years. Nevertheless had a wonderful time – I eat to live, not live for food.

      Thanks for listening. Lenore

    34. Rusty
      November 30th, 2011 @ 9:14 am

      Just returned from cruise on RC, Majesty of the Seas. Dining experience-pretty sad! Used the MDR once, given 2 menus,”well tonite you can have this but…..If you’d like to order this, ther is a fee”!Was advised to try RC, said it was a “step-up”…….Not in our book, sorry. I can handle myself in a kitchen, sadly I make better at home. Vacations and getaways arent supposed to be like that IMHO

    35. leslie adams
      November 30th, 2011 @ 9:26 am

      No matter what cruise ship I have been on and there have been many… I have never been dissatisfied with the food. I could always find something good to eat without going to a specialty restaurant… (WHO needs a 5 pound baked potatoe?) I found the portions to be adequate but then again i’m not a 10 ton tessie in a scooter because of my weight who likes to load her plate. I told one fattie… are you afraid they are going to run out of food before you can get back up to the buffet again? I love the food on Holland America. They will go out of their way to help guests at least me. I didn’t want the dining room some nights and asked the buffet griller to make me 2 baby lambchops. They did. They accomodated my every request and I love their afternoon Tacos. I am sure if I wanted cavier they would have produced it. I love Costa too but their forced seat dining is not for me. I got old and older, deaf and deafer, and dumb and dumber…. Not my ideal dinner companions for a whole week. No thanks. On Holland they give me a table and walk people by it if I nod they are allowed to sit with me. I have never had to order a second plate. I’m there to have a good time on a ship not to gain 20 pounds although was on Holland for 28 days and did gain 6 . But lost 10 when I got back. I’m not a big eater and hardly eat but love the cruise ships and watching the Porkys Pig out is amazing… then they have the nerve to crab about it. If the food is no good why are they eating 2 tons of it?

    36. Mal Greenfield
      November 30th, 2011 @ 9:35 am

      MDR food has become quite BLAH! Add to that the noise level and having a pleasant meal while cruising is almost a rarity. We’ve taken 35 cruises and have simply switched to Celebrity Aqua Class and eat 2 meals a day in BLU, a venue that is what MDR used to be. Quantity is far less wasteful as portions have been reduced to “weight maintenance” down from “add to my grossly obese gut and butt.” Our worst experience was in a “French” restaurant aboard one line where the onion soup came directly from a Campbell’s can!

    37. MAC
      November 30th, 2011 @ 9:59 am

      Short and sweet, the Dining room meals and getting to be terrible with very little varity. The room service menue is ver small. Not happy at all with the food on Royal.

    38. LJA
      November 30th, 2011 @ 10:10 am

      I have been cruising since the late 80′s when I was in my 20′s and I used to buy the menus from the gift shop to save for each cruise. When I look at them now you can certainly see the quality downfall of the main dining room. It makes me sad that the main dining room is no longer special and that they keep a lot of the same items everyday all week long just to drive people to the specialty restaurants. I would rather pay more for my cruise and have everything included the way it was before.

    39. jim fleming
      November 30th, 2011 @ 10:41 am

      If you do not think that the quality of food has gone down hill, you are kidding your self
      or are new to cruising, our first one in 1984, it was something special, not anymore,remember the free bottle of wine.to cruise now is NOTHING like it was. The food is just OK not the quality of the past. have been on all the lines MDR has declined to the point that we skip it most of the time its like going to DENNEYS, lots of cheap food, smaller portions are OK just ask for more. It is sad to see the class system comming back to cruising, Have you ever noticed that the cabins on the upper deck are nicer than the lower decks, was not that way years ago.as more and more people use the specialty resturants. it will get worse

    40. Bill Pape
      November 30th, 2011 @ 10:48 am

      Looks like everyone is in general agreement. Just did a TA with RCCL and had to continue to ask that the soup be hot or cold depending upon type. Everything was basically room temperature. General decline in quality of the MDR food and the waiter continued to try to make up for it with quanity, which most of us do not need.

    41. Jack F.
      November 30th, 2011 @ 11:27 am

      We have sailed with Celebrity for 21 years and as recently as last month. The change in the MDR food has significantly improved since they depart with Michel Roux. It was also getting very boring. The food now is tastier, has less sodium (think healthy), and the portions are reasonably sized. In addition, they always have alternatives every evening if your prefer none of the evenings menu selections.

      I have had the opportunity to eat in both 4 and 5 star restaurants in NYC and considering that Celebrity is feeding some 1000 or more guests at a seating, their food is on a par with the highly rated NYC restaurants.

      The specialty restaurants are a very nice dining experience, but for us they serve too much food.

      Our experience on RCI and Viking cruises clearly demonstrated to us of the superor quality of the food on Celebrity.

    42. Roger Brown
      November 30th, 2011 @ 11:32 am

      The buffet on the Celebrity Eclipse is sooooo spectaular it’s spoiled me for any other ship.

    43. mary wiercinski
      November 30th, 2011 @ 11:43 am

      Returned on 11/18 from the Celebrity Silhouette and totally agree with the food quality going downhill. I am not concerned about portion size since they are more then enough for us. Insulted by being offered lobster newburg for the farewell dinner instead of lobster tail. Everyone was “up in armns”. Waiter was quite disorganized but maybe he had too many people to serve. Refused to go to any specialty restaurant and pay around $40 a person (probably more then restaurant not on the ship).

    44. Gail Patterson
      November 30th, 2011 @ 11:47 am

      My husband and I just returned from a TA on Royal Caribbean’s the Navigator. Although we are not seasoned cruisers (but did experience 24 days on the Seabourn Spirit in 2010), we thoroughly enjoyed our journey …. food included! Only once did we send something back to the kitchen and made another choice. Yes, the lobster tail was small, but had we wanted another one I’m sure it would have arrived! There was always something delicious to choose from in the main dining room and of course, the buffet. That is, except for the diluted “orange juice”! Although we hesitate to spend extra on Specialty restaurants, this TA being so reasonable, we enjoyed Chops and the Portofino on two occasions.

    45. j miller
      November 30th, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

      We have cruised on Holland, Celebrity, and Princess over 15 years. Yes, the food is getting worse on all. We have filed complaints to the corporate offices of each line for the last 5 years as the food was poor, and the service greatly lacking. Hate to say this, but the cruise lines must not care as none of them answered our complaint. Going on another Holland cruise in January so we shall see if anything has changed. We could care less if the Chef is someone famous as their food seems to be the worst.

    46. RON RYAN
      November 30th, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

      We Just returned from RC TA, chose to do bkfst and lunch in the DR, at each seating seasoned travelers on RC and other lines made same comments: food quality declining, often precipitately. We have cruised 8 RC and several each on Princess and Celebrity, we agree completely. Shame, really.

    47. Jan Ross
      November 30th, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

      Cruised Norwegian Star in March 2010. My daughter and I booked with speciality restaurants as a treat but kept cancelling. We would view the main dining room menu and there was always a new dish or dishes that were tempting. Never disappointed. We eventually made it to Cagney`s the last night for lobster. Personally, cuisine is a very important aspect to cruising. Incidentally the staff throughout the Star were excellent.

    48. Karen
      November 30th, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

      This past Fall, we cruised the Star Clipper’s line on the Star Flyer. I will pay more if I read the reviews and the food is of 4 or 5 star quality. During the day, we do a lot of walking in the ports to take off the calories. Star Flyer had 5 star breakfast and lunch buffets, but the dinner was disappointing and was 3 star at the most. We were on for two weeks and the second week was a copy of the first week’s menu. It hadn’t improved in quality with the dinner choices being uneven. The Captain’s night the lobster (best thing on the menu) was rubbery in texture and uneatable. No fresh stuff from ports as in other small ships for dinner. Yes, you really have to check these boat companies out if you want good food. It isn’t the quantity that is the problem but the Quality.

    49. peggy smith
      November 30th, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

      i have over 60 cruises under my belt (the belt is still the same size) and i can absolutely attest to the fact that the quality of the food has gone waaaaayy DOWN—ever since the lines started all this alternative food places (which i have never chosen to participate) food on all the lines used to be excellent, quality, quantitiy, and presentation and now, all lines have gone overboard (pardon the pun)on going way down on the quality in all areas except the places that charge to eat—i think it is absolutely deplorable—-fried chicken and meat loaf in carnival’s dining roon—PLEASE—that is ridiculous!!! but, since they are nickel and diming passengers to death, it is really no wonder———what really gets me is people actually pay their price and allow themselves to be nickel and dimed to death—if people would not partake, the lines would see that it is not working and change their ways—cannot understand why people do it—cruising used to be all inclusive except for alcohol and the spa and BELIEVE ME, IT WAS A MUCH BETTER BARGAIN–maybe i have been cruising for toooo long–a top shelf scotch was 50 cents a drink when i first started—– the drinks on ships these days are as much as if not more than a drink at the bars at home–i realize that they would be more today, but, considering they buy their liquor by the train cars full, and, pay no taxes, i think the price of drinks are waaay over the top——but, they sell the hell out of them—-cruise ships make their profit on liquor and the casinos—just like all corporations—IT IS CALLED GREED!!!

    50. Kendra McClain
      November 30th, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

      The food has definently gone down hill since my first cruise back in 1980. We usually cruise on Princess but due to the ports we cruised RCCL recently and found that their main dining room food was like a cafeteria. We asked when we would be having lobster during our 18 night cruise and with delight the head waiter said that because we cruised out of Europe we would not be having lobster at all because Europeans did not eat lobster. This was news tows and our friends from Europe. They had never heard of this. I just laughed and wondered how any intelligent person could really believe that. After over 40 cruises I am becoming tired of the push for specialty restaurants just to avoid bad food everywhere else. Pretty soon going on a cruise will lose a reason of inclusion that most people enjoy.

    51. J. Bradford Seabury
      November 30th, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

      I am frankly a bit puzzled by some of the comments here. I have taken at lest one cruise a year for the past dozen or more years, and I have always fond the MDR menus and quality more than adequate. I just came off the Celebrity’s Sostice (our second cruise in that wonderful ship), and I found the meals outstanding, with a left-side menu page that included things available every day (including shrimp cocktail, escargot, really good French onion soup, steaks, etc.) and a right-side page that listed the half-dozen choices of appetizers, soups & salads, and main entrees for that day. I had to tell our waiter that at least two of these were the best meals I had eaten on a cruise ship. I do acknowledge that the quantity seems to have gone down a bit (especially for fish meals), but there was always enough–or, more properly stated, that was as much as I should be eating. As for service, our waiter and assistant waiter were absolutely outstanding, and the assistant maitre’de in charge of our part of the dining room (the starboard balcony) was incredibly attentive. My only complaint would be that the price of wine has skyrocketed ridiculously, so we switched to cocktails.
      We also made use of the Deck 14 buffet for occasional lunches and a couple breakfasts, mostly just to enjoy the larger variety; I never saw a pre-made omelet, and the Belgin waffles were tasty. We have eaten in the specialty dining rooms on three or four occasions in the past several years, but it did not seem worth the extra price, other than for the experience, itself–a harpist, a less-harried waiter, and a more formal atmosphere.

    52. Nancy Stultz
      November 30th, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

      Well, I’ve just read all of these comments and must agree on some, but not all. My husband and I have cruised for 15 years now, mostly on RCI and Celebrity but also on Princess and Carnival. I will agree that the food has taken a jump downwards, but quite frankly so has the clientel. However we just also returned from a 14 day cruise on the Jewel of the Seas. The food was great, it was tasty, it was always hot or cold depending not the product. The wait staff did not need to appologize for any of the food. The lobster was excellent and it is the first time in years that a lobster has been done perfectly. I am a foodie, I do like to eat and I do like to try different things which I do on a cruise. I do not however order a second portion nor do I load up a plate an only eat a little bit (that is just rude). I will continue to cruise on both RCI and Celebrity as I will soon be a Diamond member. By the way, I didn’t hear anyone complaining about the food on this trip at all. So there!

    53. Susanne Morrissette
      November 30th, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

      Just returned 13 days Mediteranean Solstice. Food was great(left menu page for “classics” same evey day including Lobster bisque and escagots,other page for specials of day. food presentation great,amount perfect,if not you can order 2nd if necessary. Captains night buffet outstanding in MDR. Only bad is steak tenderness absent. Dessert fantastic. Service was perfect (David and Muroslav)we had breakfast either MDR or buffet, good. lunch aways at buffet, good choice and taste. For people who critic the most, I would be surprise to see what they eat at home probably a lot worse than on cruise!!!

    54. Rosey
      November 30th, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

      Without a doubt the food quality has gone down. I went on two different Princess cruise ships and felt they both served poor quality meat(MDR). I didn’t pay any attention to the serving size. I will never go on Princess again. I have also noticed that HAL(MDR)meat quality is not as good as before.

      Now, that I have expressed my displeasure, I want to point out something. The price of cruising has not gone up that significantly since my first cruise in 1990. So, I would guess that the cruise lines are making up the difference with the extra charge restaurants and any other extra charges they can get.

    55. Stanley( Flamingo)
      November 30th, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

      Having read all the comments above-I must confess that I am not a high brow. We will be taking our 46th cruise on 12/12/11 aboard HAL (our favorite line) and have two more scheduled for 2012. We first started in 1963. No one mentions the elimination of card rooms and free cards ( you buy the cards now on some lines). The former card rooms are now computer rooms. The news paper releases are now eliminated too and CNN when available is the only source of the world news. However with all the mentioned shortcomings-we are appreciative of the attention paid to seniors using canes/scooters an wheelchairs.

    56. Benno
      November 30th, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

      We are commited RCI cruisers and yes the dining room food is just ok but we often choose the Vitality menu. RCI serve juicy chicken breast and tender grain fed Angus beef steaks. No complaints here as we can’t go past a great steak. RCI will also do a sauce for us and sometimes we order a second if the first one was small. These are healthy options and far better than the sugar filled goods that Carnival offer here in Australia.

    57. EZ
      November 30th, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

      Just returned on the TA RCCL 14 nite Grandeur.
      We never had lobster-waiter said they are cutting back(not because we sailed from Spain)
      It was sad that the late seating dining room had many half empty tables!
      Our table for 8 only had 4 the whole 2 weeks.
      But one nite we went to the buffet and it was very nice, and better selection and quality of food. Lots of people eating in there!
      One nite they had mongolian barbequethe way you want it, another make your own crepe, and later make your own pizza.
      But we like the service of the same wait staff each nite,in the main dining room , and found things to eat-some nites good and others fair.
      When it started around 6:30pm, the buffet waiters would line up and sing welcome and clap for each who walked into the buffet.
      Now I realize many had gone to the buffet instead of the main dining room, and found the food better, and earlier than late 8:30 seating.
      I guess than they dont tip the wait staff that they were supposed to have in the main dining room? But that is another issue.
      Luved the buffet breakfast, but not the lunches there.

    58. Tom
      November 30th, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

      We have taken 8 cruises since 04 & even in that short time & number of cruises,the food quality has declined!

      On RCI it has declined substantially.(I didn’t think it was outstanding to begin with)
      Read my review on the Enchantment of the Sea.

      Princess is OK, not great. The best food overall, so far, has been, believe it or not, Carnival.

      This is to include the “Chef’s” catered dinner, specialty & main dining room. All the buffets are “buffets”.

    59. Pat
      November 30th, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

      Just off the NCL Pearl. Food was horrible even in the speciality restaurant– $30 for lobster. Sent it back twice, then finally gave up. MDR was bland and the same every night

    60. Mary
      November 30th, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

      Well, let me be a dissenter here! Just off the Voyager out of New Orleans, my seventh cruise with RCL and my 10th overall. This was the best food we’ve had yet! Loved the focus on availability of healthy options in the MDR (and not just on the Vitality menu) – also pleased about the slightly smaller portions – both these factors meant that every night, I could order an appetizer, salad, soup, entree and dessert, and at the end of the cruise had gained only 1 pound. Food was very flavorful and the menu selections were excellent. I had planned to order the Chops Steak one night (for the $15 upcharge), but never found a night where there weren’t at least 2 regular entrees that were very enticing.

      The Windjammer also had an excellent selection; with waffles, made-to-order omelets, plus plenty of ready to go selections.

      RCL, keep up the good work!!

    61. TheSuiteLife
      November 30th, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

      We have cruised for 25 years! Indeed, the quality of food service has certainly declined.
      On a Celebrity megaship recently, the main dining room’s recommended entree was MEAT BALLS. On another evening, the recommended entree was SHORT RIBS.
      Certainly, cruise lines have observed the billions of dollars harvested by AIRLINE EXTRA FEES. Thus, ALTERNATIVE restaurants.
      One of the selling points of cruiselines used to be the value of meals, lodging, and a variety of ports were all included in the price. Not so anymore – mandated tipping to pay for THEIR staff; extra cost alternative restaurants to boost profits; prohibiting bring liquor aboard, because they might lose a sale.
      IF the food is so good on cruiseships, why can’t you find any dining room menus on their web sites? Even the luxury cruiselines don’t post a sample week of actual menus.
      If you think the dining room food is declining, how about the cold room service breakfasts? Or charging for a simple ice cream cone (which once upon a time) was free!
      Did someone mention a midnight buffet? Do these actaully still exist?

    62. Elliot
      November 30th, 2011 @ 5:50 pm

      I’ve been cruising on about 40 cruises since 1973. Back then cruise line food seemed impressive because of the selection, quantity, and service. However, the food has never been great-sometimes good, sometimes fair (and I’ve been on several of the pricier cruise lines and eaten at the specialty restaurants). I’ve never had a cruise meal where it was any better than a good local restaurant. But–I’m never disappointed and sometimes pleasantly surprised. I just don’t have great expectations. With everyone wanting everything cheaper, cheaper, cheaper what do you expect?

    63. P.A.L.
      November 30th, 2011 @ 10:32 pm

      Just cruised on the Sea Princess for 29 days. Not an experienced cruiser; I found nothing to complain about. Great food in the buffet and the dining room. I felt the staff was really trying all the time to give us a good experience. I was pleasantly surprised to see small portions in the main dining room; you can always order extra. It pains me to see the waste in American restaurants with the mega-portions, which have expanded over the years. No one should complain about quantity because you can always order more. One lady I saw requested extra on her plate, but then left it. Terrible. Food for me tends to be good or better, there was a huge variety, and I wasn’t complaining. How could our food have been better on this cruise? It stumps me.

    64. gymnastss
      November 30th, 2011 @ 11:33 pm

      My wife and I travel exclusively on Carnival (over 15 cruises). We always eat in the MDR every night. We have definitely noticed the decline in food quality, selection and smaller portions. This started about 2 to 3 years ago, probably about the time Carnival fired their head chef, Georges Blanc. Most of their entrees have the same sauces (mainly tomato) every night. Their Premium restaurant at a cost of $30 each did not fare better. My sea bass was full of bones, although my wife enjoyed her steak.
      Carnival, PLEASE bring up the food quality or eventually you will lose us as faithful customers.

    65. Loved Cruising
      December 1st, 2011 @ 8:54 am

      I started cruising in 1991 on Carnival Fantasy and found the food to be outstanding. I fell in love with cruising so much I purchase a cruise franchise to do part time. By doing so I was lucky enough at training to sample a lot of different cruise line foods and found the food something to stress to my future clients. But years later and many cruise that I paid full fares like everyone else I just thought I was getting use to the food but after my last cruise on Celebrity (which I thought in 1992 had the best food afloat on a ship I could afford to travel on) it seemed the quality was same as any restaurant in the states. I thought it was me and after reading these reviews I see I was wrong it the cruise line. I agree with everyone that says we pay enough for the cruise so why should we have to pay more for food we should already have. So going against everything I was taught in CLIA training I am now looking at an all inclusive. I do not drink enough to justify the cost but I am looking for what the cruise lines have left me down. Cruising was such a great bargain.

    66. Justin Drew Bieber
      December 2nd, 2011 @ 12:58 am

      Yeah, I gotta say them cruises kinda suck. I mean, the food is always the same and there isn’t enough places to go. It’s all the same everyday.

    67. Adrian Waterhouse
      December 2nd, 2011 @ 3:12 am

      Iwas on the same cruise as Lenore Chait and agree with what she said Lobster i was informed was not available as the area we were sailing there was none available Shore excurson charges were far to high

    68. margaret
      December 2nd, 2011 @ 8:01 am

      Cruise lines make enough extra money, now that i’ve learnt they actually OWN those jewellery stores they direct you to in port. Not just a commission!!

    69. Don Murray
      December 5th, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

      We have just returned from a Princess Golden trip to Hawawi and to say it was disaster is being kind! An outbreak of a virus broke out on the previous cruise and although promiced that the \entire ship was now safe\ I got very sick on the fifth day out missing the most beautiful island and being charged for all medication. As though this was somehow my fault?? The food in the dining room was below average compared to the last 9 cruise experiences that we had. The ship itself was not that great and I would reccomend folks to spend thare money elseware. Thanks for reading my rant.

    70. mary wilson
      December 5th, 2011 @ 11:32 pm

      Comparisons are odious I was taught, but having cruised on Sun Princess in April, and just off Rhapsody of the Seas today – I have to say that the CruiseCritic award for best dining on Sun Princess was well deserved. Loved every meal each evening and looked forward to it on an l8 day cruise. I love Rhapsody but I must say that I was disappointed in the dining room food as compared with Sun Princess, or compared with the food on her Hawaii/Sydney trip last year.

    71. talfonso
      July 22nd, 2013 @ 12:17 am

      I sailed on the Carnival Tropicale (now Ocean Dream for another company, Pullmantur) as my very first cruise in fall 1995. (I was 6 back then!) I found the food the most appetizing of all the cruises I have been to. Ditto for Carnival Fantasy in February 1996, a close second in food.

      My first DCL cruise on the Magic half a month after her maiden voyage in 1998 was pretty much mediocre (third worst to the Celebrity Century in May 2010 and RCCL’s Monarch of the Seas in 2011) foodwise.

      I first noticed the Carnie’s food going downhill in quality when I took my cruise (on the Inspiration) in 2007. The food was good – not as stellar as on the Fantasy and the Tropicale, but good.

      On the contrary, mine on the Disney Wonder in 2008 was an TREMENDOUS improvement from the Magic. The fruit was sweeter in particular. (Oh, and I dined at Palo, where the food was the best – a great way to top off a 3-night cruise!) Needless to say, the escargot beat Celebrity Century’s and RCCL’s Monarch of the Seas’ to a T!

      Am sailing on the Disney Dream this Sept. Hopefully the food would be on par with prior experience on the Wonder. In general cruise lines REALLY need to up their game on food quality.

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