I spent eight days on Carnival Vista, Carnival Cruise Line's first ship to leave the US in 16 months.
One of my first stops was the ship's buffet, where I noticed few changes compared to pre-pandemic buffets.
While I missed eating at buffets, I thought Carnival Cruise Lines could do a better job at labeling the food.
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.
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 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.
It would also be my first time back at a buffet.
I've always loved buffets. From salads to desserts, I get to grab heaping spoonfuls of whatever my stomach desires.
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.
Shockingly, there weren't many differences. The only thing that stood out to me was that crew members wore masks.
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.
If you chose to wash your hands - and hopefully you did - then you grabbed a plate and started loading up on food.
I had expected Carnival crew members to dish out the servings. Instead, there were utensils for buffet customers to serve themselves.
Salad dressing bottles were passed between people and the same spoon was used for the communal butter jug.
As usual, there were a few stations where entrees could be made to order. The omelet station became my go-to morning stop.
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.
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.
My biggest complaint? I thought there weren't enough labels for the food.
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.
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.
I missed having an overabundance of options, and my stomach and heart were full each time I left deck 10.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).
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