It wouldn’t be a cruise without a buffet – and now it won’t have to be

It just wouldn’t be a cruise without a buffet.  And now all signs are pointing towards the gut-busting dining sensation being back.

The buffet has had a chequered career on cruise ships, with a fade out in the last decade after research showed women associated those tempting rows of cakes and cooked meats with weight gain.

COVID looked as if was about to drive the final nail in the coffin of this style, of cuisine.  A month ago, the US Centre for Disease Control CDC essentially wiped out any possibility of buffets returning, by requiring cruise ships to eliminate any self-service food or drink options, making buffets, salad bars and drink stations obsolete.

Now, the buffet looks as if it might make a comeback with an unlikely ally: the CDC has now changed the rules again to allow fully vaccinated passengers to heap their plate until their heart s – and stomachs –  are content.

While the buffet no longer being banned doesn’t necessarily mean cruise lines are going to rush to bring it back, all signs are looking up. Royal Caribbean Global Vice President Culinary, Dining & Beverage, Linken D’Souza confirmed the buffet would be returning on Royal Caribbean Cruises.

“Windjammer [Royal Caribbean’s buffet] is one of my favourite spots, and we will continue to have a buffet at Royal Caribbean. We have worked through a variety of different scenarios, from employee service to individual portions to individual tongs for self-service, to finger koozies that you can pick up hot dishes with that can be washed and sanitized. So, we continue to work through a lot of the details.

“But rest assured, the buffet will exist. There may be some small modifications that allow us to ensure that we have a really great, healthy return to service. But your favourites and what you’re used to at the Windjammer will still be there.”

Norwegian Cruise Line have also indicated that the buffet will be returning on their ships and Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has announced that their buffet won’t be self-service, but will be served by crew members.

David Monk, a writer for the Mirror was on the first UK cruise since 2020, when the MSC Virtuosa set sail on May 20 and keenly reported his experience.

“I was guided to basins to wash my hands and the food was served by staff, you can’t help yourself. All this might sound far from the normal, relaxed vibe on a cruise but became second nature.”

Other guests also reported no discomfort with the buffet not being self-serve, even commenting that it actually stopped them over piling their plate and wasting food.

Elsewhere in the ever-changing buffet world, Disney has had its own take on how to reimagine the buffet for some of its resorts.

At the Ka Wa’A luau Disney resort in Hawaii, Disney has slightly shape-shifted its buffet in an innovative new way. They now serve guests a bento box for each course, as well as dessert samplers. This allows guests to still try and indulge in as many dishes as they please without having to self-serve.

While no statements have been made, it’s possible something like this could be the practice when Disney’s Cruise Line resumes sailing.