Skip to Content

Cruise Ship Buffets Still Exist (Real Photos) – Here’s What They are Like

If you are taking a cruise you may be wondering if cruise ship buffets still exist. When the Coronavirus outbreak of 2020 started there were multiple sources, cruise lines included, which said that buffets on cruise ships were a thing of the past.

I’ve been on multiple cruises and can be frequently found in the buffet.

Do Cruise Ships Still Have Buffets?

Cruise ships do still have buffets. The function of buffets on cruise ships is the same as before the Coronavirus pandemic but the way that guests eat in the buffet has changed slightly. Food in cruise ship buffets is no longer self serve and will be served to guests by crew members.

Buffets may also have a reduced capacity and social distancing measures will be in place.

Guests may find that that there is greater space between the tables and that there are markings on the floor to indicate how far back from the buffet stations guests should stand.

Where Will The Buffets be?

The buffet spaces that cruise lines currently have will still be used as buffets. There were numerous messages at the start of the pandemic stating that the buffets would be closed completely but thankfully this is not the case.

The buffet is often one of the largest public spaces on a cruise ship and no cruise line would want to lose this space. It allows the cruise line to feed a lot of passengers in a short period of time and without the buffet cruise lines would struggle to feed all guests, even sailing at reduced capacity.

Other smaller buffet areas around the ship may be closed if it isn’t possible to find crew members to operate them, for example, a small cafe or grab-and-go section. The main large buffet found on almost all cruise ships will be open as normal.

If a cruise line has a self serve grill or any outdoor buffet area this will operate the same way as the main buffet with social distancing measures in place.

cruise ship buffet after coronavirus

Buffets Within Main Dining Rooms

On some cruise lines, you’ll find that there is also a buffet of sorts in the main dining room at breakfast, this may be removed or kept depending on how easy it is to convert the buffet area to being crew-served.

Royal Caribbean often have buffets in their main dining rooms for breakfast. They serve doughnuts, mmmm!

In the future, a situation like the below wouldn’t be accessible to guests. The tongs would be with the crew members stood behind the table and it’s likely a protective plastic screen would be between the passengers and the food.

independence of the seas royal caribbean buffet breakfast formal dining room main MDR

Will The Buffet Contents Change?

The contents of the buffet will be the same as before the coronavirus outbreak. The only real difference is how the food will be served to guests.

Guests are still able to have as much as they want and to create those strange buffet combinations that we all do. One of my favourite things about a cruise ship buffet is being able to pile a Yorkshire pudding on top of a dish that contains noodles and bread, anything goes in a cruise ship buffet!

I’m personally hoping that food waste will be reduced by guests having to ask for food rather than just taking how much they think they can eat. (It is of course always okay to ask for more or go back for seconds or thirds or fourths)!

How do Cruise Ship Buffets Work Post Coronavirus Outbreak?

Upon entering the buffet guests will be asked to wash their hands. There will be crew members at the entrance/exits to the buffets to make sure that this does happen.

The crew members will also make sure that the number of guests in the buffet doesn’t exceed a certain number.

To eat in the buffet guests, will need to walk to the buffet stations and wander around the same way that they usually would. This means that guests can still see what they would like before ordering it, which is one of the main benefits of buffets.

Guests will select their food and then ask for a serving from the crew members who will plate the food for the passenger. Passengers can say if they would like more of a dish, there is no limit thankfully!

cruise ship buffet after coronavirus

Some cruise lines provide the food directly on the plate which is given to the guest whereas some others will plate the food onto what looks like a room service plate with a plastic lid.

The above photo was taken onboard Tui’s Mein Schiff 2 and the plastic lids for the plates can be seen in the bottom right.

Crew Served or Waiter Service
Royal CaribbeanCrew Served
CarnivalTo Be Confirmed
Norwegian Cruise LineCrew Served
CostaWaiter Service
AIDAWaiter Service
PrincessCrew Served
CelebrityCrew Served
MSCCrew Served

Other areas in the buffet such as the drinks will work in a similar way. Instead of guests getting their own drink they will simply ask the crew member who will provide it to them.

buffet on a cruise ship after coronavirus

Ordering Through Apps

In the main dining room on many cruises, guests will be able to look at menus and order on their phones. Being able to look at the menu on a phone isn’t a new thing for the majority of cruise lines but being able to order through the app usually is.

Guests ordering on phones aren’t likely in the buffet in regards to food. We may see something similar with guests being able to order drinks from their phones but still having to physically go to collect

Will Guests Have to Wear Masks in Cruise Ship Buffets?

Guests will have to wear masks in cruise ship buffets when walking around the buffet or at the food stations. Guests do not have to be wearing masks when they are seated in the buffet eating their meal.

All crew members working in the buffet will also be wearing masks.

The following video shows the buffet on a cruise taken in the summer of 2020:

In Summary:

Cruise ship buffets will still be available on cruise ships after the coronavirus outbreak. Guests will be served food by crew members and social distancing measures will be in place. Passengers will still be able to enjoy the same quality and quantity of food.

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.