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Cruise Food – How Much do Cruise Ships Spend Per Cruise and Per Person?

Have you ever wondered how much cruise lines spend on food and what percentage of guest’s cruise fares go towards food?

The majority of cruise ships hold multiple thousands of passengers, so a cruise ship’s food budget is quite considerable.

Salty Beach Pool side food Costa Smeralda

How Much Do Cruise Lines Spend on Food?

Royal Caribbean spends $1,000,000 per week on food on their cruise ship Symphony of the Seas.

Cruise Lines usually spend between $10-$15 on food per guest per night.

Cruise ship food spend is roughly 6% of the cruise fare paid by the passenger. Premium cruise lines will have a higher food spend on average than mainstream cruise lines.

Norwegian Cruise Line Included Food Buffet Cakes Norwegian Encore
Norwegian Cruise Line, Buffet Cakes

How Much do Cruise Lines Spend on Food for a Cruise?

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship “Symphony of the Seas” spends $1,000,000 per week on food to feed the passengers and crew.

Symphony of the Seas has just over 6,000 passengers and 2,200 crew which means that Royal Caribbean is spending roughly $122 per person per week. This works out at around $17 per day.

Although this figure is an approximation, many other sources confirm that cruise lines spend between $10-$15 per person per day on a typical cruise.

On Symphony of The Seas, over 30,000 meals are prepared by the onboard crew per day. They have over 200 chefs and 36 different galleys (kitchens.)

This figure includes all meals and snacks.

It is difficult to get a specific figure for how much cruise lines spend on food, as there are so many variables and cruise lines rarely publish this information.

I sailed for a week on Symphony of the Seas. To find out what I thought of the experience – including the food offered – watch the video below:

What Percentage of a Passenger’s Cruise Fare is Spent on Food?

Cruise lines spend approximately 6% of a passenger’s cruise fare on food. This average fare is a little over $100 per person per day on average.

Passengers who pay more for a premium cabin will usually have a smaller percentage of their cruise fare spent on food.

If you are paying £100 per night for a cruise – only 6% of this is being spent on food which doesn’t seem like a lot.

However, cruise lines are able to do a lot with this money.

how much do cruise lines spend on food?
Cruise Lines Spend £100/$130 Per Night (£6/$8 a Day on food)

Compared to other expenses such as fuel, the food spend is actually quite small.

Marketing, operational, and depreciation costs far outweigh the cost of food per person.

To learn more about what you’re paying for when you book a cruise, check out the video below:

What Does The Cruise Ship Food Spend Go Towards?

In a typical week, a cruise ship can go through hundreds of thousands of pounds of food. The food spend includes:

  • Meals in the Main Dining Room (Included in Cruise Fare)
  • Meals in Speciality Restaurants (Not Included in Cruise Fare)
  • Buffet/Fast Food (Usually Included in Cruise Fare)
  • Room Service (Occasionally Included in Cruise Fare)

Take a look at the chart below to get an idea about the differences a large cruise ship vs. a mid-sized cruise ship can go through with food. 

Norwegian Bliss 70,0006,840 kgs (15,079 lbs)7,707 kgs (16,991 lbs)
Symphony of the Seas 60,0009070 kgs (19,996 lbs)6,800 kgs (14,991 lbs)

Not all food options are included in the price of a cruise. Some restaurants onbard cost extra and these are known as “Speciality restaurants.”

Speciality restaurants are options for those who want something special.

Some speciality restaurants charge a fee per meal and some have an À la carte pricing structure.

For an example of food that I eat when cruising – including speciality meals, read this article next:

Everything I Ate on Norwegian Prima (Menus, Speciality and Included Dining) #ad

How do Cruise Lines Keep The Cost of Food Down?

It would be incredibly difficult to create meals of the same standard on land if given the cruise ships’ per-person food budget, but cruise lines benefit from economies of scale.

Cruise lines can keep costs down by bulk buying and by updating orders as they go.

Cruise ships are constantly monitoring how much they use and if the ship is running short on something, they are able to add this to their next order.

This means that very little food goes to waste.

Viking Sea Galley Tour Kitchen Salad Chefs
Viking Sea, Galley Tour

The menus onboard can be amended in order to take into account the freshness of ingredients.

Due to the fact that many cruise ships complete the same journey multiple times with similar passenger numbers, the cruise lines are able to predict the amount of food needed to a high degree of accuracy.

During a cruise, the ship will usually be docked for the majority of the day when in port which allows the cruise ship to re-stock.

Cruise ships don’t usually get food from every port. Instead, they have a couple of ports where they take delivery of the majority of their food.

Cruise lines try to source as many ingredients locally as possible.

There are limitations due to shelf life and storage requirements, so some things such as fruit and vegetables may need to be bought in various different stages of ripeness.

Before You Go

Find out more about what I ate onboard Costa Smeralda, a budget Italian Cruiseline. Costa has a bad reputation as far as food is concerned – but I only paid around £40/$50 per night – and I was pleasantly surprised by the food onboard:

Everything I Ate on my Costa Cruise (Photos and Menus) – Food Review

Compare that to the food served on the more luxury line, Azamara. The food quality was excellent, and they are one of the few cruise lines that have a completely separate Vegetarian and Vegan menu. Find out more about that here:

Everything I Ate on my Azamara Cruise (Photos and Menus) – Food Review

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.