U.K. Cruisers: Hungry for Quality, Will Pass on Dining with Strangers

March 16, 2009
When it comes to sharing tables with people they don't know, Brits would rather lose their lunches than be forced to share them with Jack and Jane Smith from Cabin B130 during a meal -- or so the respondents in a recent CruiseCritic.co.uk dining survey have indicated.

In February, we asked CruiseCritic.co.uk readers about their dining preferences. More than 45 percent of the survey's more than 300 participants said the worst thing about cruise dining is sitting with people they might not like. Only six percent found seasickness to be a less desirable fate.

Here's what else we learned:

When asked which cruise line is best for dining, just three percent chose Norwegian Cruise Line -- interesting results, considering readers' proven penchant for dining sans strangers. NCL is well known for its Freestyle Dining policy, which does not force passengers to eat with random fellow cruisers and has no set dining times, assigned seating or dress codes.

So which line did take top honours? Cunard was most popular, raking in nearly 21 percent of votes. P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises finished second, third and fourth and were followed by Celebrity Cruises, which garnered about 12 percent of votes -- impressive, considering it wasn't even on the list of choices (a fact that prompted participants to write it in).

When asked about the best dining attributes onboard, cruisers said that the quality and variety of food -- particularly during dinner, the favourite meal of the day for nearly three quarters of respondents -- are most important and believe that dining experiences vastly affect the overall ambience of each sailing. In fact, they feel so strongly about ship cuisine that 60 percent would definitely choose a cruise line based on its dining track record.

That seems fitting, since more than half of responding Brits said they tend to eat a lot more than usual while on holiday and often gain a bit of weight. But, that doesn't necessarily mean they splurge. When asked how often they attend alternative, for-fee restaurants onboard over the course of a weeklong cruise, nearly 37 percent of respondents said they would never eat at one, while another 53 percent said they'd only take advantage of alternative dining once or twice.

Other survey highlights show that U.K. cruisers favour celebrity chef James Martin, of the BBC's “Ready Steady Cook” and “Saturday Kitchen,” who develops menus for Ocean Village. They also listed “Hell's Kitchen” star Gordon Ramsey as the ideal host for a gourmet voyage.

-- by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor