active family travel,  Food,  Travel

Cruise Dining Packages Are They Worth It?

Cruise food can be amazing. The buffets and regular dining rooms are superb and as fancy as you wish to make them. But, if you want a richer experience then you can opt in to the specialty dining rooms, so long as you book and pay in advance.

Cruise food packages are an expense that people are always up in the air over. Is it worth the extra cost? Aren’t meals included, anyway? I just paid for an entire all-inclusive cruise, why would I pay even more for a cruise dining package? These are all the questions that people – including myself – ask themselves when they’re trying to decide if this added luxury is worth the cost.


Looking at Major Cruise Dining Packages

Since we’re all asking the question, I decided to answer it for myself and everyone else. I’ve looked at the packages of the top three cruise lines to get an idea of how much their packages run and if they’re worth the extra up front expense. As you’re reading, bear in mind that these are all subject to your personal taste as to whether the cost justifies what you get.

[tweetthis]Here’s a breakdown of three major cruise lines dining package options. #travel #cruising[/tweetthis]

Norwegian Cruise Line – Specialty Dining Package

The Specialty Dining Package from Norwegian Cruise Line allows you to purchase meals at the ship’s added cost restaurants. The package will run you anywhere from $69 a person for 3 specialty meals all the way to $199 a person for 14 meals. Norwegian’s French and Italian restaurants, Cagney’s Steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria, and Teppanyaki restaurants are included in the package, however dinner theater options and certain a la carte establishments are not.

Even though some dining establishments aren’t included, you can still save a lot of money by purchase the meals in advance, and the more you purchase, the cheaper it is. You’re basically buying extra dining options in bulk, which actually works out fairly well if you were going to spend the money on the extra restaurants anyway.

Royal Caribbean International

This specialty cruise dining package doesn’t offer a discount per se. Actually, it doesn’t offer a discount at all. It works more like a rebate program. These packages start at the cost of 3 added cost restaurants. It breaks down like this:

  • 20% in on board credit for 3 reservations
  • 25% in on board credit for 4 reservations
  • 30% in on board credit for 5 or more reservations

While you can only use the credit on the cruise ship, it’s a nice bonus for other little extras like wine with dinner and the like. And although it doesn’t offer a discount on the dining the “rebate” credits do allow you stretch your money a bit further.

Celebrity Cruises – Specialty Restaurant Packages

This cruise dining package is a mixed bag. On the one hand, you’ll save an average of 30% by purchasing the package, but you don’t get much choice. Let’s take a look at how it shakes out.

You’ll get 3 meals a person for between $99 to $119 or 5 meals a person for between $149 to $159. You’ll save money, but you’re limited in  your dining. The packages choose how many times you can eat at a particular establishment. You do not. In addition to that, alcoholic beverages aren’t included.


Cruise Dining Packages Can be Worth It

In general, cruise dining packages can save you money on those extra cost restaurants offered on the ship. You’ll either save outright, or as with one of the cruised dining packages listed above, you’ll get some form of on ship credit. All of that being said, it all boils down to if you want to put out the extra money on those extra cost restaurants to begin with.

If you’re perfectly fine with the dining options included in the price of your cruise, there’s really no need to get a cruise dining package. If, however, you love to try new things, and you’ll be dining in those restaurants anyway, cruise dining packages will absolutely save you money.

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.


  • Amanda Simkin

    This is such a great question because it is something we always seem to struggle with whenever planning a cruise. Thanks for your guidance, we will definitely be taking your advice the next time we plan a trip!

  • Marysa Nicholson

    This is definitely useful to know. I am not too familiar with cruises, other than the one I went on about 10 years ago. It would be good to plan ahead so that meals aren’t confusing and so that you know how much you are going to need to spend.

  • Ann Bacciaglia

    I would definitely get a dining package if I went on a cruise. I have always wanted to go on one. They look like so much fun and the food always looks so delicious.

  • Rebecca Swenor

    This is great information about if the cruise dining packages are worth paying the extra money. The Cruise dining packages can be worth it. I believe they are worth it only if you have a special occasion or are will to put out money for fine dining on your cruise. Thanks for sharing the information.

  • Kathy

    Lots of great information here. I have never been on a cruise before, so I didn’t know much about the food. Sounds a bit to pricey for me though.

  • christy Garrett

    We didn’t order the cruise dining packages when we went on our cruise. I don’t think that we missed out. There was so much food aboard to choose from that I didn’t need anything extra.

  • Shannon gurnee

    I did a Chef’s Kitchen Tour on the last cruise we went on and it was so awesome! I’d never done anything like that. Plus, we like to go to the steakhouse at least once when we go on cruises.

  • Lilac

    I’ve only taken one cruise and it was with Norweign. All the meals were included, but I didn’t realize there were meal packages available. That’s good to know.

  • Little Miss Kate

    The last cruise I sent on (in 2009) we did 1 special dinner at the steak house for an extra $30 a person. It was a lovely dinner with great atmosphere, It was worth it for a special occasion, not sure I would do it all the time though as the “regular” food on the ship was fantastic