Handling the Buffet

by Female Abroad

Being on a floating city with thousands of other people and not wanting to get sick is quite the impossible task or at least that is what I though prior to boarding. As someone that has had Norwalk I was not a person who wanted to get it again so I looked into how I could avoid it. I also stocked up on Purell.

Little did I know that I wouldn't need a bottle of Purell with me at all times. Any of the major feasting points all had purell dispensing stations for your use and if it was during high traffic periods then there were people there dispensing it. Even when you get back on the ship from port, they were giving it out.

Speaking of feasting, when it did come to eating in the buffet everyone was touching everything from the ladles to the food directly. I had been told to use a napkin when handling the ladles so you don't touch any germs. If you are that worried then you will have to bring your own as the only napkins you get are what is wrapped around the cutlery. There was no way to prevent people from touching the food but I did find myself picking the items at the back of the tray or ones that were underneath the top layer.

When it comes to actually eating the food, there were certain things that I did not eat at the buffet.

The first thing; salad. Why? Well the very first time I was at the buffet, I headed over for a helping of the green stuff when two large flies came right at me. Nope. Not doing that especially when I didn't have the bean or Greek salad because of the flies on them. The next time I went for it (fly free) most of the lettuce was brown and wilted. That's when I decided that no salad at the buffet was the way to go. The CDC also recommends that you don't eat it as this is one of the top items that can be cross contaminated and due to how it is prepared, there are lots of places for germs to grow if it is not washed properly either. Don't think that you are safe with potato salad. This is also another source that is easily cross contaminated and don't forget, it's usually covered in mayo which grows germs quickly in a warm environment.

The next thing? Eggs. The omelet and poached stations are not a problem nor is the scrambled eggs. The issue is the hard / soft boiled eggs. I found that a lot of the times these were very undercooked to the point that the white part was pretty much the same as if I had cracked an uncooked egg. Due to the chance of salmonella, I quickly stopped eating these (ordering hard boiled from room service was fine but not the soft boiled unless you let them sit until they are cooled).

Cold food that should be hot or warm food that should be cold is another no go. Normally the cruise ship will keep an eye on these things but when it starts to get to the end of service and they just want it gone, you might find the remaining scrapings that they don't want to chuck but are hoping someone will take.

Seafood is another to be careful with. Even though you are on the ocean it's not exactly fresh caught. A lot of ships are implementing sushi bars with sashimi, shrimp buffet day is always really busy, and freshly chucked oysters are delicious. The only downside is that the ship doesn't have the same capabilities to store this food as we do on land which in turn increases your risks of getting sick. If you don't want to risk being stuck in the bathroom all trip (or worse!) skip uncooked seafood all together.

Hopefully I haven't put you off too much by just talking about these few items. Truth is, the food on cruises is getting better and on some cruises it is absolutely amazing. The risk of you getting sick is rare and as technology as well as our understanding of germs increases the chance will start to decrease. It is best that you know the information going into the environment so you can make educated choices for yourself instead of trying to figure out what made you sick after the fact. Now with that in mind, get out there and enjoy yourself!