"Cruisine" for Kids

| October 9, 2006

Picky young eaters have plenty to choose from on family-friendly lines.

Do you dread going to nice restaurants at home because your child is a picky eater? If so, cruise ships are a good choice for your family because there are so many food options morning, noon and night for youngsters. From children's menus in the dining rooms to multiple fast food spots, there's always something for the picky eater in your family. And there's another benefit: Since the food is free, your child might be willing to try new cuisine since you can always order something else if they don't like it.

Children's Menus

Children's menus are generally available on family-friendly cruise lines during dinner. These lines include: Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International.

Some lines offer the same kid-favorites each night -- old standards like burgers, chicken fingers, hot dogs, and fries. Others, such as MSC Cruises, vary the children's menu; Carnival offers a "daily junior special" each night for variety. NCL, on the other hand, offers the same kids' food throughout the cruise, but has a different children's menu nightly with fun, theme activities for youngsters to do right on the menu. Disney Cruise Line has interactive, four-color kids' menus full of Disney characters, word searches, and mazes to keep little ones entertained during the meal. Costa Cruises' youth menu has an Italian slant to it, with gelato (ice cream), fusilla pasta and Milano steak (minute steak).

Make sure your kids also check out the adult menu nightly for dishes they might enjoy. On our recent Royal Caribbean cruise, my usually-picky eaters loved the nightly cold fruit soups from the adult menu, and my teenager even asked the waiter if we could have the recipe for one of them.

Fast Food Options

If your little one can't always sit through a four course meal in the dining room, there are plenty of other venues that might be more appropriate. Most ships have a grill (usually located near the pool) that flips burgers, hot dogs and fries all afternoon. Royal Caribbean is the only line to feature Johnny Rocket's, where burgers, fries and shakes are the specialties. The line's Voyager-class ships and also Freedom of the Seas all have a Johnny Rocket's outlet, which charges a $3.95 cover charge per person.

Another common feature on ships is pizzerias. These often stay open longer than the grills so you can have pizza for dinner too. On Carnival ships, pizzerias are open 24 hours. Some lines that have pizzerias fleet wide include: Carnival, Costa (on its Caribbean ships, the Costa Magica and Costa Mediterranea), Disney, Holland America and MSC Cruises. Three of Norwegian Cruise Line's ships -- Norwegian Wind, Dream and Majesty -- have separate pizzerias. Lines that don't offer pizzerias on all ships usually have slices of pizza available at buffets. On Crystal's ships, during the seasonal youth program, kids have the opportunity to make their own pizza.

Additionally, cruise lines' room service is usually available 24 hours and generally features a few kid-friendly items such as burgers and fries.

If your kids are like most, "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream" is their mantra. They can certainly get their fill of free soft-serve ice cream (and sometimes frozen yogurt) on most ships. Usually the ice cream machines are either by the buffet area or at poolside. Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean's mega-ships also have specialty ice cream shops selling premium brands such as Haagen Daas and Ben & Jerry's for a fee.

On the other hand, Crystal Cruises offers a huge array of complimentary frozen treats in its ice cream bars. During the course of a cruise, a whopping 30 different ice cream flavors (including low-carb), 24 homemade sherbets, and 20 non-fat yogurts are served. Ice cream is served in freshly-made waffle cones, and toppings range from sprinkles to fresh berries.

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