Cruise vacations are all about food-food-food for many travelers. But what to do with the dirty plates after so many delicious meals?

The answer is obvious in restaurants and dining rooms, but buffet etiquette can sometimes be confusing. In response to a guest inquiry, Carnival Cruise Line has addressed the issue of what to do with one’s dirty plates in the Lido Marketplace buffet restaurant.

Carnival Cruise Line’s Lido Marketplace is a popular free dining venue on every ship, located on the aft (back) of the Lido deck. It is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, and features familiar foods as well as more exotic fare, from breads and a salad bar to soups, entrees, carving stations, sides, and desserts.

Carnival Cruise Line Lido Marketplace Buffet (Photo Credit: Emrys Thakkar)

Guests serve themselves at the Lido Marketplace, choosing how much they want of each dish. The buffet is all-you-can-eat, though guests are asked to use a clean plate or glass with every trip to the serving stations, as is standard even with land-based buffet restaurants.

So, what should guests do with their dirty dishes? This question was recently brought to John Heald, Carnival Cruise Line’s Brand Ambassador.

“What is the proper etiquette in the buffet area with your plates. Do you leave them at your table and wait for staff to clear it off? Or do you remove your plates? Same goes for when you are at the pool area?” the unidentified guest asked Heald.

The Lido Marketplace is adjacent to the Lido main pools, and many guests will grab a plate of food to enjoy poolside, rather than remaining in the restaurant seating area. This is perfectly acceptable, but again, what to do with the dirty dishes?

“Well, I think it’s safe to say that most people just leave them on the tables or on the Lido or open decks probably on the sun lounges or under them,” Heald answered. “Either way, I don’t think we have a specific request.”

There are hardworking servers in the Lido Marketplace, clearing away used dishes and wiping down tables so they are ready for additional guests to use. At very busy times, however, tables may not be cleared as quickly as possible, and dirty tables can be unsightly and take up space that other guests may need.

Heald opened the discussion to Carnival fans about what they choose to do with their dirty dishes, with more than 1,150 responses. In general, if guests are in the restaurant seating area, most leave their dishes on the tables, but perhaps stack them up or otherwise make them easier for servers to remove.

“We do leave them on the tables, but we try to organize our dishes so they are easier to pick up, and if there’s some food on the table we’ll get it onto a plate. They’re very busy so we basically try not to make the job more difficult by leaving a big mess. If there was a designated place to leave dirty dishes we would be glad to put the dishes there.”

“We push them to the side if possible so the staff knows we are done with them. There really isn’t much of a central area to place dirty dishes. Occasionally, I have handed the dishes to the staff if they are near me and working, but I realize that handing them the dishes may throw off their routine.”

“If there is a table nearby with dirty plates I try to put them with those if not I will neatly stack ours and put a napkin over them. Usually the wonderful crew are right there to take them anyway.”

Eating out by the pool can be a great way to relax on a cruise vacation, whether it’s grabbing a dish from the Lido Marketplace, a Guy’s Burger, a Blue Iguana taco, or a slice of pizza.

Tables are even more scarce near the pool, however, and some guests enjoy a snack on one of the coveted poolside loungers rather than wait for a table.

Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive

In the pool area, guests often take their dishes to clean up stations that servers use as they clear tables, therefore removing the dirty dishes so others can use the space more easily. Some guests will even take their empty plates back into the restaurant seating area to put on a table or place with other dirty dishes for easier cleanup.

Read Also: How Not to Overeat on a Cruise – And Why It Matters

“In the buffet, I let them clean off the table. If I am outside, where my food bits and napkin are subjected to the prevailing winds, I clean off the table.”

Many guests do note that most of the time, crew members are fast and efficient at clearing away dirty dishes, both in the restaurant as well as by the pool.

What do you do with your dirty buffet dishes? Share your thoughts on the Cruise Hive boards!

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