Cruise ship buffets -- you either love the smorgasbord of all-you-can-eat fare and the uber-casual setting, or you hate the crowds, queues and food that's sat out a bit too long. Whether you're a fan or not, you have to admit that some cruise lines have put more effort into their pool deck dining venues than others. Our favorite buffets stand out from the rest with countless cuisine options, pleasant dining areas, helpful staff and a navigable layout, often with separate self-service stations. Feast your eyes on the five best cruise ship buffets you'll find at sea.
1. Oceania Cruises' Terrace Cafe
Oceania's Terrace Cafe is likely the best cruise ship buffet we've seen at sea. This well-stocked and varied venue is arranged in stations to avoid the typical buffet congestion, and has food comparable to an upscale classy cafe. The service is great, too; the wait staff will load up your tray for you, and the chefs will cook food to order in full view of passengers. Even better, Oceania hosts different themed lunches and dinners every day, with fresh seafood, a carving station and an impressive salad island. Plus, who could resist the homemade ice cream that changes daily?
2. Princess Cruises' Horizon Court
Princess Cruises' Horizon Court offers a diverse selection of cuisines, meals and snacks, including the Horizon Bistro Pastry shop, which serves freshly baked waffles, pastries and sweets daily. Breakfast choices are standard with the buffet's "Grab & Go" station, and live stations during lunch and dinner offer a rotisserie, a Japanese hibachi grill and build-your-own tacos. There is also a special buffet area designated for kids, and nifty hand-washing stations located throughout the venue.
3. Celebrity Cruises' Oceanview Cafe
The Oceanview Cafe onboard Celebrity's Solstice- and Millennium-class ships, as well as Celebrity Edge, boasts some of the best international food at sea. This spacious buffet utilizes islands and active stations to serve a variety of cuisines, including stir-fry, sushi, pasta and pizza. It also has an exceptional salad bar, meat-carving station and dessert station. On some Celebrity ships with a high volume of Brits, there's even a British "comfort-food" area with different teas and fish and chips.
4. Carnival Cruise Line's Lido Marketplace
The Lido Marketplace is the primary dining option onboard Carnival Cruise Line's newest ships, including Carnival Vista and Horizon. The buffet, which offers both indoor and outdoor seating, is separated into food stations designed to help with the flow of diners, especially during peak periods. Stations include the Carvery, Continental, Deli, Comfort Kitchen, French, Pizzeria and Sweet Spot. The buffet offers up a wide selection of meat and vegetarian options at all meals. Specialty drinks, alcoholic beverages and soft drinks are available from the bar, and the pizzeria is open 24/7.
5. Azamara's Windows Cafe
Located on the pool deck, Azamara's Windows Cafe is the main casual eatery onboard the line's three ships. Apart from an impressive selection at the salad bar, the meat-carving stations and a dessert display, Windows Cafe is most notable for its themed dinners, which vary from night to night. Azamara dresses up the space with tablecloths, wines and live entertainment and serves a variety of international cuisines, such as Italian, Greek, Indian and Asian. While Windows Cafe is a self-service buffet, dining staff members are always around to help serve passengers and to fill drink orders of any kind.