Some people consider a cruise vacation to be one of the most decadent ways to travel. On many cruises, food is practically always available – and most of it is included in the fare. But just because food is everywhere (and served around the clock) doesn’t mean you have to eat it all.

Some of your favorite dishes won’t hold up well on the buffet if they sit under a heat lamp or at room temperature, even for a short period of time. Other mass-produced dishes may be made with substitute ingredients rather than the real deal, and food in port can be a culinary adventure or a gastrointestinal bug. And before we address all the empty calories that are so easy to get on vacation.

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To make sure you prefer the tastiest onboard meals to the unsatisfying versions of your favorite dishes, here are some things you shouldn’t eat on your next cruise.

Scrambled ‘eggs’ on a platter

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A giant pan of scrambled eggs that sits on the buffet for too long is probably one of the least delicious breakfast options you could ask for. Eggs can be dry or watery – neither of which make them pleasant to eat. Also, if you’re on a cruise ship that serves breakfast to thousands of people, the eggs probably come in a powdered or liquid form.

Your best bet to make sure you’re getting freshly prepared is to visit the buffet’s omelet station and watch the cooks open the shell and prepare your eggs to order. If you prefer a ham and cheese omelet, request real eggs over the mix on hand, as some omelets are also made with powdered or liquid formula.

Another option to make sure you’re getting “real” eggs is to go to the dining room and prepare the eggs in a way that you can see the yolk, such as poached or more medium.

Salads from the self-serve salad bar

Don’t you just love watching someone put the handle from one salad bar container into another and then pick through the vegetables, sure to touch everything in the process? No. not good

Serving yourself at a salad bar is worse than helping yourself to a portion of lasagna because you only need to touch the serving spoon once to scoop out the lasagna. At the salad bar, in addition to the lettuce bowls — there can be more than a dozen containers that hold all the veggies, shredded cheese, croutons and nuts to top your salad with. You will need to touch the handles of many of them.

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Even worse, a ladle for salad dressing may have touched the plate of someone who has gone back for seconds without getting a new dish.

For a truly healthy lunch or dinner of salad greens, treat yourself to a waiter-plated meal in the main dining room. Or, look for salad stations served by the crew at the buffet; Holland America’s ships, for example, are beautiful.

RELATED: Cruise Ship Buffet Taboos: 10 Things You Should Never Do At Mealtime

Bread basket items

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Crusty French bread, pretzel rolls, seeded multigrain buns, oh my! It’s hard to pass up fresh bread, whether it’s served warm with salted butter in a basket at your table or attractively displayed by the cheeses and charcuterie on the buffet line.

The problem is that it’s easy to fill up on carbs and then have no room for dinner. If you paid extra for that meal at a steakhouse, you don’t want to eat so much bread that you miss out on the loaded baked potato with your medium-rare steak or the glorious dessert at the end of the meal.

If you must eat freshly baked bread, skip the bread at lunch and have just one slice or roll at dinner. Or, enjoy your carbs with a light lunch and skip the bread at dinner.

A buffet dish in a creamy sauce

Certain dishes are not worth eating if they are sitting on a buffet because they are best when freshly prepared and do not go stale over time. This is especially true for dishes made with sauces that break down quickly.

Be especially selective if you’re hitting the buffet during off-hours. You may encounter mayonnaise-based salads such as coleslaw and potato salad that shrink in size as their main and individual egg-based desserts such as custards or puddings that shrink in size after sitting for an hour. If salads and egg desserts aren’t refrigerated at the right temperature, they won’t even be safe to eat.

Have you seen individual toasted English muffins topped with Canadian bacon, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce at the buffet? They’re a great idea in theory and easy to serve to a crowd, but they’re not so good at delivery. That’s because hollandaise sauce will spoil in a buttery mess. If you want to enjoy a breakfast of eggs benedict, make it to order in the dining room.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Cruise Ship Food and Dining

Even the tasty butter chicken at an Indian food station becomes less appealing after it sits for a while and the butter, curd and cream separates into the sauce. If you must indulge, time it right and wait for your serving to be taken from the freshly prepared pan.

The same principle applies to macaroni and cheese. It’s delicious when it’s hot, bubbly and fresh from the oven. Let it sit, and the cheese starts to curdle and the cream sauce starts to separate, making a gooey mess. If the serving tray has just been replaced, dig in; If not, take a pass.

Sliced ​​meat and delicate fish


Carved meat is great when fresh off the roasting pan or off the rotisserie, but it dries out over time, especially when kept warm under a heat lamp. Roast pork is a perfect example.

If fish is your protein of choice, know that it will become greasy and watery after sitting on the buffet for a while. Alternatively, you can find fish recipes that are overcooked and dry or fried fish without its crunch.

For a hearty meal, look to whole cuts of meat or stews that weather well under heat lamps. Alternatively, head to the grill on the pool deck or opt for room service, where you can grab fresh selections in the late afternoon hours.

Self-serve ice cream

Heading to the soft-serve ice cream machine at least once or twice is a rite of passage on cruise ships. It’s great to splurge on a frosty dessert after lunch or in the afternoon Onboard water park, and you can wander the ship while eating your treat.

But ask yourself, who has been there before you and touched the controls, cups and cones? High-touch machines can be rather sterile, especially since they are frequented by children who don’t always have the best hand-washing track record. Plus, you don’t know what’s actually in that whipped frozen stuff.

RELATED: 9 Best Cruise Ship Desserts To Tempt You At Sea

If you want a real creamy treat without all the possible germs we suggest ordering ice cream or gelato from a friendly server at a buffet restaurant. You will likely get more flavors and maybe even some toppings. Better yet, visit the ship’s ice cream, gelato or dessert shop and order an over-the-top extra-fee sundae for a true vacation splurge.

Bottom line

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While there are some foods you may want to avoid on a cruise, you can easily find great and tasty choices on your ship, including the morning buffet. You might consider going to a buffet restaurant that’s open for an amazing selection of freshly prepared items — and to beat the crowds. Or, try classic dining room favorites like shrimp cocktail, French onion soup, and grilled steak or salmon.

A cruise is also a great time to try new dishes and types of cuisine, so look for regional specialties on the ship’s main dining room menu, or make a reservation at one of the specialty restaurants on board.

Remember: Try as you might, you can’t eat everything on a cruise. Opt for banquet-style or buffet-style dishes, or pay extra for more intimate venues where meals are cooked to order. You will get the most culinary pleasure out of your trip.

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