It's no secret that I love to eat. In fact, it is often one of the highlights of my vacation (which is probably part of my problem, but let's not go there!) And one of the "advantages" of taking a cruise is that it is "all-inclusive" and your meals are already factored into the price of your ticket. Not just three meals a day, but pretty much all you can eat. There are a few exceptions that are optional, but if you want, you never have to pay for anything to eat or drink, and you generally will not be left wanting!
The first (and most obvious) of these exceptions is alcohol. Obviously, this is not a necessity. If you want it, it is there. And you don't have to carry cash because everything goes on your onboard account. This is very handy when you're out by the pool and someone has a large tray of fruity concoctions and all it requires is a signature. But they do add up quickly. There are some opportunities for free drinks, such as the Captain's Cocktail Party or the previous cruisers' reception. And you are allowed to bring 1 bottle of wine per person in your carry on. I haven't ever brought wine with me, but I'm thinking I will this time. Technically you aren't allowed to bring hard liquor on with you. If you buy any, it is supposed to be held until the end of the cruise. Of course, I have noticed that everyone seems to need their Costco-sized bottles of Listerine when they cruise. Also, the bottle of peroxide and rubbing alcohol. Hmm...
Another expense that seems rather unfortunate to me is that of sodas! You can get tea or some juices or water, but not sodas. Not even one! And on some level that seems unfortunate for kids, because the adults who want it can get at least a little bit of free booze, but there are no free sodas at all for kids. Now, if you really need a carbonated beverage fix there are a few options. First, you can bring a few of your own. That to me is the least convenient option because it takes up space in your bag. Or you can wait until you get off the boat in a port and get something there. This is usually not any better than your third option, which is buying them on the boat. Now there are two ways to do this. You can either buy them as you order them. Or you can shell out for an unlimited soda card. I have read where it is no longer a separate card they give you, but a sticker for your sail and sign card. Either way, this entitles you to as many sodas as your little self can drink. Technically it's only supposed to be for the one person whose name is on it, but I know that sharing does take place. Even if I didn't want to share with my loving husband, he has a bad habit of not ordering a soda if he wants one, then waiting until I set mine down and promptly downing half of it! I figured it up, and given the average price of a soda on the ship, if you drink at least 3 a day, you do slightly better than break even. Any more than that, and you're ahead. They aren't huge, so I can pretty easily go through three in all the time hanging out between about 5:30 pm and bedtime. This doesn't count any down time in the afternoons (or the fact that I drink them instead of coffee in the mornings!), so to me it's a very worthwhile investment.
One new-ish thing on some of the larger ships is the steakhouse. Some people swear it's great and some don't think it's worth it. I'm planning to try it for myself, so I will make up my mind after that. There is an extra charge of $30 per person, and unlike the main dining room, you can't get as many of whatever that you want. The food is supposed to be better. For me, I think the atmosphere would be worth it. You can get a table for two (a very rare thing in a main dining room!) and I'm assuming the waiter's don't sing and dance and it's a much more formal atmosphere. Maybe I'm old fashioned and a stick in the mud, but a conga line at dinner is simply not appropriate! It's the one thing about the cruises that I really dislike! I'll reflect more on my past experiences as time goes on, and also do a full review after the cruise is over.
For those with more exotic tastes, there are things like the Sushi Bar. Some of the larger boats have more "specialized" restaurant offerings as well. All have the 24 hour pizza place, as well as ice cream and some other goodies. There are also the late-night buffets which can be a lot of fun. To me, half the fun of these is looking at them! There is some serious artistry that goes into these things and it's really interesting to see what some very talented people can do!
Then of course there is room service. The room service menu is pretty limited, but it is an option, and it isn't bad. That is the one "tip" that isn't included, and one of the few reasons you would need/want cash on the boat! There is no charge, but you are asked to tip the person that delivers the room service. To me, it's just as easy to go up to the Lido deck and grab something, but there are times of day when the only thing available is pizza or nothing sounds good and the room service is a nice option to have.
As far as this cruise goes, there isn't anything food-wise that I am just yearning for. If you have any favorites, let me know!