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Is Food Free On A Cruise?

Many first-time cruiser planners often wonder “Is food free on a cruise?”. On all of the major cruise lines, your basic cruise fare will include sufficient food to cover all of your meals and snacks. If you happen to run across a cruise that does not include meals, you should keep looking!

That said, not all food on a cruise is included. You will find many delightful options that require an additional fee — sometimes modest; sometimes not. Keep reading to find out what you need to know as to what food is and is not included with your cruise.

So, Is Food Free On A Cruise Or Are There Additional Costs?

Your cruise fare, regardless of which cruise line you’re booking with, usually includes full dining (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Some cruise lines also have complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, like water, juices, coffees, and teas, available at selected food vendors, but not all. 

Cruise lines also offer additional dining and beverage packages you can purchase with your booking. These packages allow you to dine in paid restaurants at a reduced rate and enjoy complimentary alcoholic and/or premium non-alcoholic drinks. If you don’t have either, you can still eat at specialty restaurants and have a drink for a charge that will be added to your final on-board bill.  

Free Dining Options On Royal Caribbean Cruises

The dining options for Royal Caribbean cruises vary, depending on which ship you are on. These options include complimentary food venues and specialty restaurants, which you pay for. On some ships, there are venues that are reserved exclusively for suite guests.

Here are a few complimentary food vendors on the Royal Caribbean cruise to try:

  • Windjammer Café – perfect for a lunch or a casual meal
  • Mini Bites – good for a quick snack
  • El Loco Fresh® – suitable for when you’re craving fresh Mexican food
  • Dog House – delicious hotdogs with a twist
  • Splashaway Café – probably one of the most engaging venues to dine in for kids
  • Noodle Bar – offers live demonstrations and handmade noodles daily

Each venue has a short write-up online that will give you a better idea of the food they serve. It will also indicate what you’re expected to wear so that you can be prepared. The main dining room is also complimentary.

Access the Royal Caribbean website to learn more about the food and beverage packages that are available for purchase.

Free Dining Options On Carnival Cruise 

If you like your food, you’ll love the variety and quality of food vendors Carnival cruises offer – some of them are open 24 hours! 

You can eat for free on all Carnival cruise ships at the following places:

  • Main Dining Room & Dining Room Breakfast – offers a casual, yet elegant atmosphere with good service
  • Lido Marketplace – has a whole variety of cuisines on offer to suit everyone’s taste
  • Swirls – self-serve ice cream station; you won’t get the kids away from here!
  • Seaday Brunch – perfect for those who would like to sleep in on their holiday
  • Carnival Deli– the name says it all
  • BlueIguana Cantina – Mexican-themed venue that includes tacos, burritos and more
  • Other complimentary venues include Pizza Pirate, Lucky Bowl, Chibang, Street Eats, and more.

Also, unlike many cruise lines, Carnival offers complimentary access to some celebrity-themed eating venues. For example, on some Carnival cruise ships, like Celebration and Mardi Gras, you will find complimentary celebrity dining spots like Guy’s (Fiery) Burger Joint and Shaquille O’Neal’s Big Chicken. 

Chefs at many of these food venues will cater to special dietary requirements.

For those looking to save on drinks, you can purchase a ‘CHEERS! package’ when you book with any Carnival cruise ship. It is an all-inclusive beverage program that will allow you to pay a flat daily rate and enjoy as many alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages as possible.

Free Dining Options On Norwegian Cruises

You can indulge in complimentary meals in any of the Norwegian cruise’s three dining rooms or enjoy a complimentary buffet-style breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can even satisfy your cravings in the middle of the night with a food venue that is open 24 hours and serve delicious comfort food.

Norwegian cruises offer you ‘Freestyle Dining.’ You are not bound to a fixed dining time, nor are there pre-assigned seats in the main dining room.  

They also have multiple dining and beverage packages to choose from. For example, if you purchase the ‘Free At Sea Plus,’ you get all beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) for free, except the premium champagne, which you can snatch up for 40% less (but note that “free” on Norwegian does not always mean without cost).

If you’re OK with spending a bit of cash on food, check out Norwegian Cruises’ range of specialty restaurants.

Is Food Free On A Cruise

Free Dining Options On MSC Cruises

You can have complimentary breakfast, lunch, or dinner in MSC Cruises’ main dining room daily since the cost is included in the cruise fare. These meals can also be made to accommodate passengers with dietary restrictions. You can thus get gluten-free, kosher, vegetarian, or halal meals upon request. 

MSC also offers you the flexibility to dine whenever you want unless you want to book to ensure a spot for a fixed sitting.

Various MSC dining packages can be purchased according to the number of specialty restaurant meals you wish to indulge in. This allows you and your family to treat yourself to anything from steak to sushi without paying premium prices.  

MSC’s beverage packages are also worth considering if you want to enjoy your drinks at a reduced rate. 

Free Dining Options On Disney Cruises

Almost every dining option available onboard is included in the Disney cruise fare. You can thus rest assured that the whole family is taken care of, regardless of where you decide to eat. Complimentary soft drinks are served at meals and the ship’s multiple beverage stations.

The only exception for which you will have to pay is bar drinks, alcoholic beverages, and bottled water.

Depending on the Disney ship, here are a few complimentary food venues for you and your family to enjoy:

  • Animator’s Palate – perfect for dinner and a Disney show
  • Royal Court Royal Tea – a fantastic, real-life tea party experience
  • Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure – for young and old who enjoyed the movie, Frozen
  • Duck-in Diner – great for quick bites like shawarma, hamburgers, or hot dogs
  • Preludes – this snack bar outside the Walt Disney theatre allows you to indulge freely in anything from cookies to popcorn.

Free Dining Options On Celebrity Cruises

Each Celebrity Cruise ship has different complimentary dining options on offer. Still, most ships have four main dining restaurants and four casual dining venues that are free, including:

  • Eden’s Café
  • Mast Grill
  • Oceanview Café
  • Spa Café 

The Celebrity Cruises website has more information on specialty dining and beverage packages, like the Classic-, Premium, or Non-alcoholic packages. 

Free Dining Options On Holland America Cruises

Holland America Cruises have both fine dining and casual dining that is included in the cruise fare. To make the most of these complimentary meals, head over to the following venues:

  • Dining Room – for a sophisticated breakfast, lunch, or multicourse dinner
  • Lido Market – great variety of different cuisines and flavors
  • Dive In – for casual, poolside dining that includes tasty hamburgers and hot dogs
  • New York Pizza – pizza is always a family favorite!

You can purchase separate dining and drinks packages or make your Holland America booking on the ‘Have It All’ cruise fare. This fare includes

  • Shore Excursions
  • Signature Beverage Package
  • Specialty Dining
  • Wi-Fi 

Free Dining Options On Princess Cruises

You and your family will be well looked after on Princess cruises with an array of dining options that are complimentary, including vendors that offer:

  • A marketplace for fresh, regional specialties
  • A variety of delicious pastries
  • Pizza that has been praised by USA TODAY (e.g., Alfredo’s Pizzeria)
  • Grilled burgers and hot dogs
  • Ice cream on the deck
  • Other munchies (e.g., Milk & Cookies)
  • Cafés (e.g., 24-hour International Café)

Princess cruises also allow you to treat yourself to specialty dining onboard. For a less expensive experience, buy a beverage package in advance.

Closing Thoughts

To recap, if you are still wondering “Is food free on a cruise?” the answer is that some food is indeed free. Depending on the cruise line, you may have a wide range of complimentary options. Most ships also offer paid dining options at a few specialty restaurants if you want to switch things up or splurge on a unique dining experience.

Tyler Bowman


Tyler has sailed dozens of cruises, always with a keen eye for value. She loves getting the most fun out of the fewest dollars.

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