Cruise: This is how much cruises spend on passenger food – it may be less than you think

Cruise holidays are growing in popularity year on year according to the latest travel report by ABTA. Thanks to this, cruise lines are offering more amenities than ever before, with inclusive offerings growing. One of the biggest draws of a cruise is the inclusive food offering, ranging from abundant buffets to speciality restaurants and menus curated by Michelin Star chefs. With customers handing over thousands for the ultimate cruise experience, how much of this covers passenger food?


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Surprisingly, according to Cruise Market Watch, just six percent of the cost of a ticket actually covers the cost of food.

This figure seems surprising when the quality of food is taken into account.

In fact, cruise lines are upping their offering to match overall ticket costs, according to Kerry Spencer, Editor at Cruise Critic.

Speaking to, she said: “For many, one of the greatest joys of taking a cruise is the great all-inclusive dining options onboard.

“Almost all today’s cruise lines include at least one main restaurant and buffet option in the cost of your cruise.

“In recent years, however, the demand for additional onboard venues offering included food has increased and cruise lines have responded effectively.

“As a result, you can now find a wide variety of extra options that are free, including pizza and burger stations, small cafes with a full menu and waiter service, sandwich and light snack options and even ice cream parlours.”

So, how do cruise lines manage to spend such a small percentage of a passenger’s ticket cost on food?

To put it simply, cruise operators buy food in bulk since they are serving up so many meals a day.

In fact, Travel Insurance provider Admiral uncovered that a typical week-long Caribbean cruise carries over 100 tonnes of food and drink onboard every trip.

In one week this translates to 250,000 meals, ranging between 28,000 and 30,000 dishes per day.

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By buying in bulk, cruise lines can save money while still maintaining a high standard of meal preparation.

This is particularly important since 40 percent of cruisers say that food is a big part of their experience, and a further 77 percent of British holidaymakers say food is a big part of their overall experience.

To keep cruise passengers happy, cruise lines are developing all kinds of delicious eats, offering something an array of options.

However, some of these do come at an additional cost.


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“A holiday is often about extra indulgences though, and the demand for additional fee-paying fine dining options has also increased over the past few years,” explains Kerry.

“To provide passengers with superlative dining options equivalent to the best restaurants found on land, cruise lines have really upped the ante with speciality restaurants that feature international dishes, celebrity chefs, intimate venues, innovative menus and outstanding food and wine options.

“Partnerships have sprung up with notable chefs, such as Marco Pierre White, Jacques Pepin, Jamie Oliver, Thomas Keller and Nobu, which have all certainly raised the bar for food at sea.

“These dining options come at a price, but if you’re an avid foodie, a couple looking for a romantic splurge, or want to celebrate a special occasion in style, then the extra fees are often worth it.”

Luckily, many cruise liners are also boosting their general options at no additional charge too.

Kerry continued: “Princess Cruises includes an additional free venue on many of its ships, its 24-hour International Café, located in the Piazza, dishing up everything from grilled paninis to freshly baked peanut butter cookies.

“Marella Cruises has a selection of free-dining venues, including the new-for-2019 Nonna’s, where passengers can order homemade pasta and pizza dishes.

“On many P&O Cruises, you can find an outdoor grill, serving fish and chips, burgers and hot dogs, a dedicated Pizza station, and even a Grab & Go station, on Britannia, which provides sandwiches, salads, yoghurts and Indian-style snacks and dips.

“With many cruise lines embracing the gastropub movement, advanced cooking technologies and even molecular gastronomy (such as The Epicurean on P&O Cruises), a cruise these days is not just a great way to see a number of great destinations all in one trip, it is increasingly also a fantastic way to experience some of the best cuisine the world has to offer.”

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