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Here's what you should do with your dirty buffet plates, according to Carnival Cruise Line


The buffet is a staple of the cruise experience, promising guests an all-you-can-eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Unlike the Main Dining Room, however, you don't have servers taking your order or bringing food to your table. You don't have to worry about clearing the table because the dedicated wait staff will remove and refresh the dishes for the next guests after you've finished. In the free-for-all buffet, however, many passengers wonder what to do with their dirty dishes. 

Known as the Lido Marketplace on Carnival ships, the buffet is a complimentary dining venue available fleetwide. Whether you want a quick breakfast, hearty lunch, or post-dinner sweet treat, you'll find a variety of options available to appease a wide array of taste buds and preferences.

Read more: 10 things you should never do at a cruise ship buffet


One curious cruiser reached out to John Heald, Carnival Cruise Line's Brand Ambassador, for clarification. "What is the proper etiquette in the buffet area with your plates[?] Do you leave them at your table and wait for staff to clear [them] off? Or do you remove your plates? Same goes for when you are at the pool area?" asked the unidentified passenger. 

"Well, I think it’s safe to say that most people just leave them on the tables or on the Lido or open decks probably on the sun lounges or under them," Heald responded, "Either way, I don’t think we have a specific request..."

Read more: Your really dumb cruise ship dining questions answered

Heald invites users to share what they do with their dirty dishes


Since sharing his thoughts on Facebook, Heald's post has received over 1,300 comments, with many praising the hard work of the crew members. 

"We do leave them on the tables, but we try to organize our dishes so they are easier to pick up, and if there's some food on the table we'll get it onto a plate. They're very busy so we basically try not to make the job more difficult by leaving a big mess," explains Sharon Elaine

"If there was a designated place to leave dirty dishes we would be glad to put the dishes there. And as someone else mentioned more times than not they stop at the table before we leave to remove any dishes we are no longer using. They are an amazing hardworking crew!"

Lido Marketplace

"We leave them on the table if they haven’t already been picked up and usually organize them a bit. Especially if there are any food items left - I know those are disposed of correctly by the servers," explains Laurie Hulse Johnson.

"Plates we bring to the pool area, we either leave them on a table by the pool or take into the buffet area. Though I can’t remember the last time we had to because someone was always there to clear it. The servers work very hard!"

"The crew does a fantastic job of clearing plates and wiping down tables. I never get a chance to clear the dishes, but I always thank them and chat with them!" writes Craig Laird.

Read more: Why you should eat dinner in the cruise ship buffet 

It's not uncommon for guests to eat by the pool


Between the smell of juicy burgers from Guy's Burger Joint and fresh tacos from BlueIguana Cantina, I typically crave an afternoon snack when lounging on Carnival's Lido Deck, especially if I've spent a long day ashore. 

I'm not alone, either, as the lines for both venues can get pretty long! Guests grabbing food from the Lido Marketplace may bring their plates outside, too, rather than wait for an available table inside. Plus, nothing beats eating outdoors on a beautiful sea day

Even if you aren't sailing on a Carnival ship, you can take food from the buffet to-go or enjoy one of the other poolside options. El Loco Fresh, for instance, is found on select Royal Caribbean ships, including Freedom of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, and Odyssey of the Seas. 

Carnival Mardi Gras

Tables, however, tend to be scarce. Instead, many passengers end up eating on a pool chair. Rather than leaving dirty plates scattered on loungers or stashed underneath them, many users expressed how they take them to one of the crew's bins or back to one of the restaurants. 

"If I’m on a lounge chair I will take my plate to one of the stations the staff use. I just can’t leave the plate on the floor or chair," writes Leesa Alexander

Similarly, Flo Hill says, "If I eat out on deck, I take my dishes into the buffet area to either a table that is still uncleared, or to one of the [countertops] where the crew stands with the bins of used dishes."

Read more: Top 10 Cruise Dining Mistakes

Should you leave dishes in the hallway?

Dirty Dishes

Let's say you grab a slice of pizza to take to your cabin for a midnight snack, or perhaps you ran out to grab a cup of coffee to sip on while you're getting ready. Is it appropriate to place dirty dishes in the hallway once you've finished eating and/or drinking? 

It's a divisive issue, as some cruisers don't want to leave dishes in their cabin, while others say it's bad practice to dirty up the hallway with them. Plus, some consider it a safety issue. If there was an emergency, the last thing you want to worry about is navigating plates and cups in the dimly lit hallway. 

While they will always be removed by the ship's crew, passengers could speed up the process and make the hallways look cleaner by taking them to a public area onboard. 


We took to Facebook to ask whether guests should leave dirty dishes in the hallways. Less than 24 hours after posting the query, we had received nearly 100 comments. 

As expected, they ranged from being strongly opposed to the idea to supporting the convenience of leaving them outside to reduce the clutter inside the stateroom. Some even claim they've been told by cabin stewards to place them by the door! 

"The Cabin Attendants have told us to put them in the hall. At least cover them with a napkin. They have said that Room Service comes by to collect them during the day and evening. We have been told that on two cruise lines," says Sherrie Clarkson.


"I leave the plates and glasses outside my room door and don’t care what anyone else thinks," shares Edmond Nolan

Kristin Stratos writes, "I usually leave mine in the room for them to pick up the next day. Don't like seeing...them in the halls"

"White We stack ours in the room. It is disgusting to see a bunch of dirty dishes in the hall," explains Becky Murray

Elaine Crist suggests that if you decide to place them outside, you should cover them with a clean napkin. 

Read more: 8 reasons to avoid the main dining room on a cruise ship

What do you think passengers should do with their dirty dishes? Let us know in the comments!

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