Food Choices for Crew Members Aboard Cruise Ships

Nov 24, 2023

Cruise lines make significant efforts to accommodate various cultural tastes. The food may not be as fancy as the passenger meals, but it's satisfactory. Having worked for several cruise companies, I experienced varying levels of food quality on different ships. The top company for crew members in terms of food is Carnival Cruise Lines. I recall that, at times, they prepared delicious, tender, and beautiful steaks for the crew members (once a week). Salmon was a regular feature on the midnight buffet, offering a wide selection, including high-quality cheese and occasionally even Italian Prosciutto. On CCL, I enjoyed even better food than what I had at home. It was fantastic contract that I truly appreciated.

On the flip side, undoubtedly the worst ship in the world concerning food is the Margaritaville at Sea Paradise ship. Hopefully, you'll never find it yourself there, but if you do, expect the same cold dishes every day without any daily, weekly, or monthly changes. I remember one night finishing work at 22:30 and rushing to the crew mess to find something to eat since I was starving, only to discover that the crew mess was closed, and there was literally no food left. They don't have a late-night buffet, so good luck if you work the late shift. The hygiene levels in the crew mess buffet are terrible; sometimes, they end up mixing two dishes to create something new. Just horrible. It's unquestionably the worst ship in the cruise industry regarding food.

Rankings on the cruise ship determine food quality. Rank plays a significant role in determining where one can eat onboard, and even though there are multiple crew dining areas on every cruise ship, not every crew member can eat in each.

In general, the food on the cruise ship is excellent, but only if you are unlucky enough to end up on a small number of cruise ships where the food is below acceptable standards. Most cruise lines nowadays pay attention to food quality, and understanding the importance of food culture for the hard-working crew members on board.

Food is a crucial part of the cruise ship culture, and it's something many guests look forward to the most before sailing. But how does the food rank for the crew?

Food Places:

There are a few places to eat onboard, depending on your rank. Basically, you get separated into three groups: officers, staff, and crew. You have separate dining rooms with the same food to avoid congestion and overcrowding.

Officers can eat in any dining room. Staff can only eat in staff or crew mess, and crew in crew mess. They are not strict about the crew and staff eating in either mess.

Officers can eat in other restaurants with guests, but this must be approved as guests come first. If the restaurant is busy, then they may be denied. There is only one restaurant onboard where all crew can book dinner only. This still depends on how busy the restaurant is that day.

Food Options:

Crew members receive their food buffet-style, in line. Usually, there are many food choices from different nationalities to accommodate all crew. You typically have three types of meat with your choice of pasta, rice, potatoes, and so on.

There is a salad bar and dessert line. If you are vegan, vegetarian, or have other special dietary requirements, you have only a few choices. However, the chefs are always willing to help where possible.

The officers' mess offers food restaurant-style. There is a daily menu for every meal, and you can choose whatever you like, usually with four to five options given.

To dine in restaurants onboard, like the specialized dining rooms, you will need guest area privileges, which most staff and all officers have.

For example, you can then book and pay to go to a steakhouse or Italian restaurant. There is no discount for the crew in guest restaurants. Access to guest restaurants may change for now until things return to normal. If you are a crew without guest privileges, you will need special permission for access.