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What You Should Never Eat (Or Drink) on a Cruise

What You Should Never Eat (Or Drink) on a Cruise
Jennifer Billock

Going on a cruise any time in the near future? You may want to be careful about what you’re loading your plate up with at the buffet — some foods can easily make you sick and ruin your entire trip, and a few things on the list may surprise you, like steak, cheese, and innocent condiments and sauces.

Cruising can be great. It’s a good way to see a lot of places in a short time and get to parts of the world you otherwise wouldn’t be able to visit with just a trip on a plane or car. But they can also be breeding grounds for disease and illness, like norovirus, which knocks out a lot of people on a single cruise because it spreads so quickly. And even if you don’t catch anything, you’ll want to be careful what you’re eating and drinking, according to AOL News. Check out this list of the six foods you should avoid while on a cruise, just in case.

Unpasteurized Foods

Think milk and cheese, which may have been sitting out for a while or could have been improperly stored. Back in May, Business Insider published this concerning report in which at least one cruise ship was caught storing trolleys of food–including milk, raw meat, and cheese–in employee cabins to avoid surprise inspections by the CDC. While the idea that any food, already dodgy enough to need to be hidden from inspectors, spending time where crew members sleep, shower and store their dirty clothes is offputting, it can be downright dangerous when it comes to unpasteurized items.

Tap Water

Cruise ships don’t always have the best sanitation systems for their tap water, so stick to bottled on and off the ship. If you’re not sure whether you want to spend the extra bucks on bottled water, there are quite a few horror stories about inspection of water lines on cruises. While most cruiselines’ water is safe, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t find black residue in the drinking water tanks. And, while you’re at it, you may want to avoid drinking tap water on planes as well (or washing your hands in the bathroom sink).


Unless you know it’s been stored and cooked properly, stay away. Steaks have to be stored at very specific temperatures to avoid pathogens. And, while it probably wasn’t stored in a crewmembers’ cabin, why take the chance? It’s better to enjoy your t-bone on dry land.

Condiments and Heavy Sauces

They’ve probably been out practically all day. Save yourself the potential illness and just avoid them. That goes double for condiments that are sitting out in a buffet setting or communal bottles of ketchup and mustard. Those open vats easily pick up germs, and the same goes for those ketchup bottles that were handled 100 times before you sat down. You may just be avoiding the common cold, but who wants to get sick on vacation? If you need sauce, opt for single-serve packets or bring along a little hand sanitizer to wipe your hands before they go near your mouth.


Seafood expires quickly and has strict requirements for cooking, which can easily be missed by cruise staff cooking in bulk.


Like steak, sushi has to be stored at very specific temperatures to avoid pathogens. And, while most cruises take food handling seriously, you don’t know how long that buffet sushi has been sitting out. If you do have to give in to your hankering for raw fish, only have it on cruises with a sushi bar, where you can see the food prepared right in front of you.


Have more questions on cruises? Check out FlyerTalk’s Cruise Forum thread to ask questions like Should I Book My Airfare Directly With My Cruise Line?,  or find out Which Cruises Give You the Best Onboard Credit.

[Featured Image: Flickr/ironypoisoning]

View Comments (10)


  1. kkua

    October 25, 2019 at 9:58 am

    You forgot to add raw vegetables and cut fruits on the list. When you do not know how well these were handled, best to only eat fruit that have a rind that you can peel yourself. And only eat cooked veggies that come piping hot.


    October 25, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    In other words, just don’t eat?

  3. KRSW

    October 27, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    Norovirus, which is what causes the major poo-paloozas we hear about in the news, isn’t spread by contaminated water or spoiled food.

  4. BigJC

    October 30, 2019 at 5:00 am

    So I need to bring all of my own food?

  5. RandyN

    November 1, 2019 at 7:50 am

    Is there anything about a cruise that isn’t gross, unhealthy and disgusting? It’s an awful way to travel and no one actually sees much of anything except other tourists.

  6. Tailgater

    November 4, 2019 at 9:07 am

    What a ridiculous story. Same hysteria applies to all restaurants, sea or land. Single serve packets? Really. Go to any restaurant and just all single packets of hot sauce, catsup, mustard, steak sauce, etc.? Really?

  7. N1120A

    November 11, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    Basically, don’t take a cruise.

  8. awone123

    November 13, 2019 at 10:09 am

    Basically you are saying not to eat……..

  9. Irpworks

    November 19, 2019 at 8:16 pm

    Beef steak, as long as cooked medium or better is among the safest foods you could eat. Go medium well to be safe if worried. I’ve friends who cruise several times a year and haven’t been ill. I dine out daily and catch something a few time per year in regular restaurants. It just happens.

  10. aquascoob

    December 17, 2019 at 8:37 am

    This was written by a paranoid alarmist. Use the same caution you would at any restaurant or buffet. Let’s be honest, the dirtiest things are the menus and the serving tongs at the buffet. Sanitize your hands after touching those items and you’ll likely be ok.

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