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Porthole Cruise Magazine - July 8, 2020

Choice Dining. Are you Getting the Best from your Buffet?

Monday Mantra

Yay for the buffet! … Yay for the buffet! … Yay for the buffet!

Choice Dining

Are you getting the best from your buffet?

I slapped my head like one of those “I could’ve had a V-8” commercials. Is it possible? Could I have missed it? I’ve been doing these Monday Mantra things for over two years now … have I not yet sung the praises of the iconic cruise-ship buffet??

Let’s do something about that right now.

For fans of sheer excess and abundant choice, nothing can match a cruise ship buffet, a city-block-long display of hot dishes, cold dishes, soups, ethnic specialties, pizzas, sushi, salads, breads, cheeses, and desserts, often supplemented by a carving station and a grill. Enter the buffet and you suddenly develop food cravings like a pregnant woman, selecting a meal comprised of cream-of-mushroom soup, beef Stroganoff, lo mein, coleslaw, a taco, Brussels sprouts, fried shrimp, a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a staggeringly high pile of pepperoncini. Dessert might be a cream puff in the shape of a swan, a piece of watermelon, a banana-nut ice cream cone, a dish of kiwi fruit, bread pudding, and one cookie. (But you’ll grab a second cookie when you pass the display again on your way out.)

Everybody loves the buffet and that, my dear, is the problem. Chaos can rule, with table after table occupied while you balance your overladen tray of delicacies and amble around a slalom course of people whose attention is focused on the pizza or the roast steamship of beef and not where the heck they’re walking. Even a slight collision and your artfully dressed taco might end up on the floor.

That’s why, for me, the first rule of buffet dining is to grab a table before I grab my tray and peruse the offerings. Always walk toward the back of the area because it is likely that 3,800 of your ship’s 4,000 guests will all be hell-bent on getting tables in the front while tons of seating remains untouched further back.

Next stop: the buffet’s beverage station. After years of waiting in line behind someone filling multiple glasses or a giant sports bottle with water, it suddenly dawned on me that, hey, wine goes great with lunch, too! So now, I skip the beverage station entirely and order a glass of wine from one of the buffet’s roving bar waiters.

I just never know whether a red wine or a white would best complement a lunch comprised of cream-of-mushroom soup, beef Stroganoff, lo mein, coleslaw, a taco, Brussels sprouts, fried shrimp, a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a staggeringly high pile of pepperoncini.

— Judi Cuervo

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