Cruise ships have often been famously referred to as floating buffets at sea – and for good reason. With all-you-can-eat pizza, cake, steak, and lobster, the options truly are endless.

But we often see the same mistakes made when it comes to dining on a cruise ship.  A little cruise buffet etiquette can go a long way to ensure everyone on the ship has a pleasant vacation.

Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

Almost all major cruise ships have at least one buffet on board, which is included in your cruise fare. What’s also included is the 10 pounds you’re sure to gain from sampling all these culinary delights.

Although cruise dining has an overall laid back vibe, there are some unwritten rules you should know before you belly up to the bar – or the buffet that is. Read on to learn about these 10 golden rules every cruiser should follow.

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1. Don’t Cut the Unofficial Line (You Know It’s There)

While the buffets on cruise ships are known for being more fun and easy-going compared to its counterparts (looking at you, Main Dining Room), it goes without saying that there is some form of structure and order. A prime example of this would be the lines of hungry people snaked throughout the room.

Cutting people off at the store wouldn’t fly on land, and it isn’t permissible (nor polite) onboard. Instead, exercising your patience and waiting your turn is not only encouraged, but required here.

In the instance you approach a selection of food you’d rather skip all together, you can either wait patiently, or ask the passenger ahead of you in line if you may kindly pass them by. The key here is to ask, as they did arrive before you.

Read more: 12 biggest cruise dining mistakes to avoid

2. Always Wash Your Hands First

The saying may go that your eyes eat before your stomach, but your hands get washed before you do any anything else.

Cruise ships have an overabundance of restrooms, hand-washing stations, and now, hand sanitizer pumps dispersed throughout the vessel. These sanitizer pumps are typically stationed at the entrance of all dining rooms to encourage all guests to wash up before eating.

Even though you will not be touching the food directly (right?), you will be handling those serving utensils that everyone else also touched. You wouldn’t want the person in line ahead of you to have dirty hands, so wash yours too.

Hand washing station on Celebrity Ascent. Photo credit: Cruise Fever

3. Use the Tongs (Not Your Hands)

This one isn’t just for the kids (though they are the biggest offenders) – adults are just as guilty.

While it can be tempting to grab that last slice of cheese, sitting all alone with your fingers, just don’t do it. There are food handling utensils for a good reason, and the cruise line expects that everyone uses them.

Related: 10 reasons to eat dinner at the buffet on a cruise

4. Watch Your Children

Speaking of children – watch and accompany your children at all times in the buffet and seating area. Period.

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The buffet area commonly stores hot plates, foods, glassware and other items that can pose harm to children and others if not handled properly. As a parent, it is your responsibility to watch, and escort them to and throughout the buffet.

Children also need gentle reminders on buffet etiquette such as not cutting others in line, not grabbing food with tiny fingers, or running around in inappropriate areas.

5. Always Use a New Plate

One of the unwritten golden rules of buffet dining is that there will be more than one plate of food consumed per person. It goes without saying.

With that in mind, it should be noted that when you go back for seconds (or thirds, nobody is judging on a cruise), leave your used plate on your table and grab a new, clean one.

Buffet dining halls have plenty of staff members rounding the tables to take away dirty plates, silver wear, cups and napkins. This is to avoid the serving spoons and tongs coming into contact with your personal dishes, so please be respectful.

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Photo 26281465 Cruise © Pavel Losevsky

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