I ate at my first buffet in over a year on a Carnival cruise and it wasn't weird at all

·4 min read
The author in front of Carnival Vista's Lido Buffet.
Me at Carnival Vista's Lido Marketplace, the largest buffet on the Carnival Vista. Monica Humphries/Insider

In June, I booked a seven-night stay on Carnival Vista, which was Carnival Cruise Line's first ship to leave the US in over 16 months.

The Carnival Vista docked in Cozumel, Mexico.
The Carnival Vista docked in Cozumel, Mexico. Monica Humphries/Insider

After my inbox pinged with the confirmation email, I realized that the cruise would be more than just my first international trip in more than a year.

The author in Roatán, Honduras.
Me, in Roatán, Honduras. Monica Humphries/Insider

The cruise would be teeming with long-awaited firsts for the last year: My first time back in a gym, my first time dipping my toes in the ocean, and my first time dancing in public.

The cruise was one of the first in-person yoga classes I attended in over a year.
The cruise was one of the first in-person yoga classes I attended in over a year. Monica Humphries/Insider

It would also be my first time back at a buffet.

The line at a Carnival Cruise buffet.
The line at a Carnival Cruise buffet. Monica Humphries/Insider

I've always loved buffets. From salads to desserts, I get to grab heaping spoonfuls of whatever my stomach desires.

A person scoops food onto their plate.
A person scoops food onto their plate. subinpumsom/Getty Images

When I boarded the Carnival Vista, I was eager to see how the buffet experience had changed. I headed to deck 10, which is home to Lido Marketplace, the ship's largest buffet.

The entrance sign to the Lido Marketplace.
The entrance sign to the Lido Marketplace. Monica Humphries/Insider

Shockingly, there weren't many differences. The only thing that stood out to me was that crew members wore masks.

A line at the breakfast buffet.
A line at the breakfast buffet. Monica Humphries/Insider

Prior to 2020, the CDC required cruise lines to have sinks in buffet areas. So while handwashing stations and hand sanitizer weren't new on the Carnival Vista, I was more diligent about using them.

A sanitizer and hand-washing station on the cruise ship.
A sanitizer and handwashing station at the start of the ship's buffet. Monica Humphries/Insider

Source: CDC

If you chose to wash your hands - and hopefully you did - then you grabbed a plate and started loading up on food.

Utensils and plates were at the start of every buffet line.
Utensils and plates were at the start of every buffet line. Monica Humphries/Insider

I had expected Carnival crew members to dish out the servings. Instead, there were utensils for buffet customers to serve themselves.

Four different dishes at the Lido Buffet on the Carnival Vista cruise ship.
Four different dishes at the Lido Buffet on the Carnival Vista cruise ship. Monica Humphries/Insider

Salad dressing bottles were passed between people and the same spoon was used for the communal butter jug.

An image of salad dressing bottles and oatmeal toppings.
I was surprised that things like salad dressing and butter weren't portioned in single servings. Monica Humphries/Insider

As usual, there were a few stations where entrees could be made to order. The omelet station became my go-to morning stop.

A masked Carnival Cruise chef cooks an omelette.
A masked Carnival Cruise chef cooks an omelet. Monica Humphries/Insider

No one seemed to think twice about all the sharing that was involved. At all hours of the day, there were people scooping up food onto their plastic plates.

Early or late, the buffet almost always had a line.
Early or late, the buffet almost always had a line. Monica Humphries/Insider

I was thankful 95% of the passengers were vaccinated. Experts have told Today that the biggest risk buffets pose is proximity to other eaters - not the shared utensils.

The breakfast pastry section toward the end of the morning.
The breakfast pastry section toward the end of the morning. Monica Humphries/Insider

Source: Today

My biggest complaint? I thought there weren't enough labels for the food.

An image of a buffet without the food being labeled.
I could only see one thing labeled in this section, and it was labeled incorrectly. Monica Humphries/Insider

As a pescatarian, I found that I constantly had to ask what was in unlabeled dishes. And even after that, I accidentally ate meat twice.

An image of a pork spring roll on a plate.
Labeled "spring roll," a crew member told me it was filled with vegetables. It was pork. Monica Humphries/Insider

Yet, I kept coming back because of the convenience. When I craved a vegetable? I went to the buffet. When my sweet tooth kicked in? I found my answer at Lido.

Side-by-side images of a salad bar and ice cream cone.
From a salad bar to soft-serve machine, the buffet had it all. Monica Humphries/Insider

I missed having an overabundance of options, and my stomach and heart were full each time I left deck 10.

An image of the author eating pizza and an image of the breakfast buffet.
I never left the Carnival Vista's buffet hungry. Monica Humphries/Insider

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).

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