Whether you're being served at a table or you serve yourself, the rules of courteous behavior still apply. Here are 10 basic rules to follow when you're on a cruise and faced with serving yourself at a buffet.
1. Thou shall be patient in line. Buffet lines can be long, but since there is enough food for a small country on every ship, you can rest assured that there will be plenty left for you when you get to the table. And it's okay to peer at the selections; just make clear that you're just looking in case someone gives you one of those "She's going to cut the line" looks!
2. Thou shall not cut the line. Would you do it at a grocery market or a retail establishment? Even when a diner is lollygagging, don't go around them. Wait patiently. The only time it's okay to cut is when, say, you've forgotten one item. But be up front about it so the entire line is not annoyed with you.
3. Thou shall not overload your plate. Never take more food than you can eat. There may be no check at the end of the meal, but you've paid for it, so you can always have seconds. And if you do go back for seconds, leave your dirty plate and get a fresh one.
4. Thou shall escort your children to the buffet. They may be cute, but the young ones need help in not using their fingers and not crowding adults, so parents, control your kids!
5. Thou shall remember that buffet sneeze guards are there for a reason. If you must sneeze, keep your head above the sneeze line and block the sneeze with your inner elbow.
6. Thou shall not switch food tongs from different platters. This is like mixing chocolate and mashed potatoes. Plus, many people have food allergies!
7. Thou shall not go counter-clockwise in the buffet. One direction only, please.
8. Thou shall resist the urge to use your fingers. Buffets have tempting finger foods (crudités, nuts, etc.) Just think of the diseases that abound on ships, and you won't hesitate to mind your manners.
9. Thou shall avoid eating in the buffet line. Wait until you are seated. This is not fast food, just fast service.
10. No doggie bags. No exceptions.
Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (www.lisagrotts.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on www.Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and www.Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.