1. Home
  2. Planning
  3. Cruise Tips and Advice
  4. Who Does Free Cruise Dining Best?
Uptown Grill on Norwegian Breakaway (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Who Does Free Cruise Dining Best?

Cruise passengers have virtually everything at their fingertips onboard today's modern, super-sized cruise ships and that includes a wide variety of dining options. If you don't want to pay for lunch or dinner ashore -- you don't have to -- just stay onboard. Almost all of today's cruise lines include at least one main restaurant and buffet option in the cost of your cruise.

In recent years, the demand for additional onboard venues offering included food has increased and the cruise lines have listened. You can now find a wide variety of extra options that are free, including pizza and burger stations, small cafés with a full menu and waiter service, sandwich and light snack options and even ice cream parlours.

The addition of more inclusive eateries is great news for UK cruisers, but which line does it best?

Cruise Critic weighs up what's on offer from four UK or seasonally UK-based lines -- P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises -- to help you decide.

Market Cafe dessert on Britannia

Updated January 17, 2019

P&O Cruises

What's on Offer?

P&O Cruises doesn't offer quite as many included restaurants on its ships as other cruise lines do, but there are a few areas where the food doesn't come at an additional cost. As is standard on almost all cruise ships, P&O Cruises offers a main dining room and a buffet on each vessel, and if that's not enough, you'll be pleased to hear that a selection of other options is also widely available without an extra charge.

The additional venues vary per ship, but most of them are entirely separate from the buffet or main dining rooms. Café Jardin, situated at the top of Oceana's impressive atrium, is a great example of an alternative, included dining option for breakfast and lunch (the restaurant requires an additional charge in the evening), and you can order anything from a bowl of fresh soup to a warm Scotch egg or steak panini. Oriana's Italian themed Al Fresco is conveniently located on the Lido Deck and is a small venue, offering a selection of healthier and lighter options for breakfast and lunch.

An outdoor grill -- serving fish and chips and burgers and hot dogs -- can be found onboard Oceana, Britannia, Aurora, Ventura, Azura and Arcadia. In addition to this, Ventura, Azura and Britannia also offer a dedicated pizza station.

Grab & Go, which can be found onboard Britannia, is a station located mid-ship on the Lido Deck that offers guests sandwiches, salads, yoghurts and even Indian-style snacks with dips. As the name suggests, you grab and then you go.


The Beach House, which used to be a popular option with P&O Cruises guests was originally introduced aboard Ventura as a complimentary dining option (with less than half a dozen dishes on the vast menu requiring an additional cost) now, however, there is a standard cover charge of £5 per guest, plus additional costs for seafood and steak.

Regal Princess - Alfredo's

Princess Cruises

What's on Offer?

Princess Cruises offers a wide selection of included dining venues, alongside the standard main dining room and buffet, and some of them are certainly worth visiting.

What is available varies per ship, as it does with most cruise lines, but one thing you will find on every Princess ship is a pizzeria; where they serve up delicious face-sized slices; and a grill where you can enjoy delights such as hot dogs, burgers, Texas-style barbecue brisket and North Carolina pulled pork. The grill menus vary per ship.

The 24-hour International Café, located in the Piazza, is open around the clock and dishes up everything from grilled paninis to freshly baked peanut butter cookies. Royal Princess, Regal Princess, Golden Princess, Caribbean Princess and Coral Princess are just some of the ships within the fleet to offer this additional free venue.

Soft-serve ice cream is available daily on the open-deck onboard Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess. Sea Princess and Diamond Princess offer La Patisserie for coffee, croissants and cookies. Dawn Princess, Island Princess and Sea Princess feature Amuleto Café, which is very much like La Patisserie, but with the option to enjoy fresh sandwiches.


Although Princess Cruises features VINES as an included option, the food is in fact only free if you purchase a glass of wine.

Johnny Rockets on Navigator of the Seas

Royal Caribbean International

What's on Offer?

Onboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class and Quantum-class ships, you will find an abundance of included places to eat, aside from the main dining room and buffet, but not all the other ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet reflect this. Most of Royal Caribbean's ships offer at least one included food venue and some deliver up to three. These often incorporate one or more of the following: a pizza station; café or bistro serving sandwiches and burgers; and a deli-style venue offering a selection of fresh sandwiches and pastries.

Included dining venues available onboard Oasis-class and/or Quantum-class ships within the Royal Caribbean fleet include: Johnny Rockets (breakfast only on Oasis-class -- a cover charge applies on other Royal Caribbean ships), Boardwalk Dog House, SeaPlex Dog House, Café Promenade and Sorrento's pizzeria.

Coastal Kitchen offers cuisine that blends Mediterranean influences with tastes inspired by California's bountiful farmlands, and although it is another of Royal Caribbean's included dining options, it is only available to Pinnacle Members or Grande Suite guests and above. Coastal Kitchen is currently only available onboard Symphony, Harmony, Oasis, Anthem, Allure, Ovation and Quantum of the Seas.

Solarium Bistro is featured onboard Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas, and is the ideal place to enjoy a healthier, lighter food option with the emphasis on "spa" cuisine and organic foods. Breakfast and lunch are included, but dinner requires an additional charge.


Less than a third of Royal's Caribbean's fleet offer more than three additional inclusive dining options -- excluding the main restaurant and buffet. Although Johnny Rockets offers complimentary breakfast items aboard Royal's Oasis-class ships, this does not extend to Freedom-class vessels.

Blu on Celebrity Reflection

Celebrity Cruises

What's on Offer?

One of the biggest innovators in cruising, Celebrity Cruises offers a variety of complimentary dining options, but they're not all available to all guests. The main dining room (or rooms, in the case of new ship, Celebrity Edge) and buffet venues are complimentary for everyone on board, but AquaClass guests also get the opportunity to enjoy breakfast and dinner at BLU: a spa restaurant that specialises in healthy, light cuisine. BLU is available onboard the following ships: Celebrity Edge, Eclipse, Equinox, Silhouette, Solstice, Reflection, Constellation, Infinity, Millennium and Summit.

If you find yourself as a Suite-Class guest onboard Celebrity Edge, Eclipse, Equinox, Silhouette, Solstice, Reflection, Constellation, Infinity, Millennium or Summit, then you will have the pleasure of experiencing Luminae restaurant and its extra-special ambience. Luminae offers a menu filled with European and Asian influences, as aell as freshly-sourced ingredients, and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Oceanview Café, Mast Grill, Seaside Grill and the AquaSpa Café feature as additional included dining venues onboard most of Celebrity Cruises' ships. On Edge, Eden Cafe (Deck 5), off to the side of the Eden bar, is a great spot for grabbing a complimentary breakfast and lunch bite, including over-filled sandwiches and salads.


Although deemed 'exclusive' to AquaClass guests, BLU can be pre-booked by Suite Class guests (depending on availability) at a charge of $5 per person.

Popular on Cruise Critic

11 Best Luxury Cruise Ships
The moment you step aboard a luxury cruise ship, a hostess is at your arm proffering a glass of bubbly while a capable room steward offers to heft your carry-on as he escorts you to what will be your home-away-from-home for the next few days. You stow your things (likely in a walk-in closet) and then emerge from your suite to get the lay of the ship. As you walk the decks, friendly crew members greet you ... by name. How can that be? You just set foot onboard! First-class, personalised service is just one of the hallmarks of luxury cruise lines. You can also expect exotic itineraries, varying degrees of inclusivity in pricing, fine wines and gourmet cuisine as well as universally high crew-to-passenger ratios. That being the case, you might think any old luxury cruise ship will do, but that's not quite true. Like people, cruise ships have their own unique personalities -- and some will be more suited to your holiday style than others. Lines like SeaDream might not offer the most spacious suites, but their intimate yachts can stealthily visit ports that large ships can't manage. Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises are owned by the same parent company but Regent offers a completely inclusive holiday experience, while Oceania draws travellers with a more independent streak. Take a look at Cruise Critic's list of best luxury cruise lines and ships to see which one resonates with you.
How To Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin: What You Need to Know
Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Choosing a cruise ship cabin can be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion. Cabins fall into different types or "categories," and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it's helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel: Inside: the smallest-sized room, with no window to the outside Outside: a room with a window or porthole (a round window) with a view to the outside, often similarly sized to an inside cabin or a bit larger; also known as oceanview Balcony: a room featuring a verandah that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck Suite: a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks
Onboard Credit: How to Get It, Where to Spend It
Free. Money. Are there two more beautiful words in the English language? While money doesn't grow on trees, increasingly it can be found somewhere else -- on the high seas. Call it an incentive, call it a bonus; whatever you want to call it, onboard credit lets you spend more freely with less guilt. You've paid your cruise fare, and now you can splurge on those enticing extras -- Swedish massage, specialty restaurant, an excursion to swim with the dolphins -- without busting your budget. Not many need convincing as to why onboard credit -- money automatically deposited into your onboard account-- rocks, but finding out exactly how to get it and where you can spend it is a bit trickier. We found eight ways to hit the OBC jackpot (some more preferable than others) and offer even more suggestions on how to burn through it, although you probably have your own ideas already.
6 Cruise Ship Cabins to Avoid
You might expect loud noises, close quarters and crazy manoeuvres in the dance club onboard your cruise ship -- but not in your cabin. Even if you don't plan to spend much time there, it should be a restful and private place so you can maintain that much-needed holiday stamina. To help you do so, we've compiled a list of cabins you'll want to avoid booking if closet-like dimensions or scraping chair sounds overhead aren't appealing to you. Heed our advice, and you might be feeling a bit less claustrophobic and a tad more refreshed come disembarkation.