Theme Park Food v. Cruise Ship Food: The BATTLE for Your Taste Buds

It’s time for a family getaway, and as the chief vacation planner for your crew, you’ve got a big decision to make: theme park or cruise? Considering both vacations offer plenty of fun and excitement, the choice really comes down to a few key things, and one of them is the food. Discover why a cruise tops a theme park vacation when it comes to good eats.

Cruise Dining Is Cost-Friendly

If you’ve ever been to a theme park, you know that feeding your family for the day can cost a fortune. Even a simple meal like hot dogs, fries and sodas can really take a bite out of your travel budget. On cruise ships, most meals are included at no extra cost, and you can enjoy access to a few family favorites like cheesy pizza and soft serve ice cream 24 hours a day.

pepperoni pizza from a carnival ship

Families Can’t Live on Fried Food Alone

When it comes to feeding visitors, many theme parks have a theme: deep fry everything. From hot dogs and dill pickles to big chunks of cheese, foods are dunked in batter and fried golden brown. And this cooking method isn’t just limited to savory ingredients. You can find all kinds of deep-fried sweet treats at theme parks, from chocolate cookies and sponge cakes to sugar-dusted churros and funnel cakes.

While deep-fried foods make delicious indulgences for a day or two, families on vacation can’t get by on fried food alone. Moms, dads and kids looking for a more well-rounded dining experience can find their happy place on a cruise. Fried foods are balanced with more nutritious options like the different varieties of fruits, vegetables, and salads families can find at the Lido Marketplace.

a rustic salad onboard a carnival ship

You Can Find Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner on a Cruise

Theme park foods like pizza, tacos, burgers and nachos make good choices for lunch, but cruises offers delicious options for all your family meals.

For a Fun and Healthy Breakfast

Who says breakfast can’t be tasty AND fun? With visits from the Cat in the Hat™ and Friends, the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast™ allows children to interact with their favorite storybook characters while munching on dishes like Horton’s Cereal-Crusted French Toast. Nothing tickles little taste buds like slices of golden-soft brioche, pan-fried and smothered in crushed cereal.

hortons cereal crusted french toast on the green eggs and ham breakfast

Have a Sustainable Lunch

For sustenance after a splish-splash morning at WaterWorks or a few rounds of miniature golf, head to Guy’s Burger Joint, for a big, juicy burger and hand-cut French fries. Enjoy your burger as is, or add tasty toppings like tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, cheese and crispy-spiced onion rings. Don’t forget a little donkey sauce, celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s secret weapon for an ultra-satisfying bite.

For more lunch options, stop into the BlueIguana Cantina to create your own taco creations or head to Mongolian Wok for noodles or veggie bowls featuring all sorts of Asian-inspired ingredients, from szechuan mussels to barbeque chicken.

a burrito from the blueiguana cantina

Enjoy a Classic Dinner Date

At dinnertime you can feed your children, drop them off at one of the kids clubs and enjoy a romantic supper with your sweetheart. Pay a little extra for dinner at Steakhouse—think grilled lamb chops, a spice-rubbed ribeye or honey-roasted chicken.

If you’ve got a craving for Italian food, stop in to Cucina del Capitano for a mouthwatering plate of pasta or chicken parmigiana. Ingredients like tender chicken breasts, two kinds of cheese, spicy tomato sauce, garlic and fresh basil make this a favorite date night dish.

couple dining at cucina del capitano

Cruise Desserts Truly Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Forget cotton candy and shaved ice drizzled with flavored sugar syrup. These theme park sweets are all flash and no substance. Onboard a cruise ship, find luscious desserts like marble chocolate cheesecake and lemon cream pie. For an extra-yummy surprise, head to Cherry on Top, your onboard candy store, for an ice cream cookie sandwich.

These frozen treats feature freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies, a scoop of ice cream and fancy trimmings like colorful chocolate candies and colored candy sprinkles.

a row of ice cream cookie sandwiches from cherry on top

On a Cruise, You Can Dine in Public or in Private

Although it’s fun to go out to eat on vacation, sometimes you just want to stay in. On a cruise, you can do both. In the morning, wake up to a private breakfast of fresh fruit, muffins, and coffee, or head to Seaday Brunch for custom-made omelets, hash-browned potatoes, sliced ham and gooey mac n’ cheese.

For family fun in the evening, grab sandwiches to go from Carnival Deli, find a few comfy lounge chairs, and enjoy dinner and a dive-in movie under the stars.

a breakfast grapefruit from the dining room

Cruises Top Theme Parks in Even More Ways

In addition to extra-delicious meals, there are even more reasons to choose a cruise over a theme park vacation:

  • You won’t spend time waiting in long lines to have fun on a cruise.
  • You can show off your star power in front of a live audience with activities like karaoke and Lip Sync Battle.
  • Kids and parents can have fun together and enjoy time apart.
  • On a cruise, families can visit exotic ports and take exciting excursions on shore.
  • Sports fans enjoy an array of fun activities, from basketball and soccer to ping pong.
  • Cruises offer live entertainment at no extra cost like the Punchliner Comedy Club and Playlist Productions.
  • Cruise ships help parents find their bliss at Cloud 9 Spa and Serenity Adult-Only Retreat.

a playlist productions show onboard a carnival ship

If you’re looking for a fun-filled family vacation with delicious dining from dawn till dusk, there’s really only one option: a cruise. When hunting for the perfect cruise ship for your family, consider your preferred destination, the length of your trip, your favorite onboard activities and any shore excursions you want to take.

Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.