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7 secret Carnival cruise breakfast spots that let you skip the buffet crowds

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I don’t think I’m alone in despising cruise ship buffets as breakfast venues. Oh, the food’s usually alright if you stay away from the scrambled eggs sitting in a steam tray. However, the restaurant is always packed on port days, the omelet station lines are interminable and it’s impossible to find an empty table. It’s too much fuss when I’m hungry and uncaffeinated.

Carnival Cruise Line has worked hard to solve that problem, and Carnival Celebration may be the best example of this solution at work. Beyond the trifecta of well-known breakfast options — the buffet, the main dining room and room service — I found seven other breakfast spots on the ship during a first look at the vessel this week. They’re not technically secret, as they’re listed prominently in the Carnival Hub app and on digital signs around the ship. Still, I call them secret because many of them are pretty quiet in the morning, and I don’t think many cruisers are taking advantage.

Here, then are seven secret breakfast spots I enjoyed visiting for a yummy morning meal without the buffet hassle.

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Big Chicken

Big Chicken breakfast sandwich. on Carnival Celebration
Big Chicken breakfast sandwich. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Cost: Included in your fare.

Shaquille O’Neal’s friend chicken eatery debuted on a cruise ship (Carnival’s Mardi Gras) for the first time in 2021, and it’s making an appearance on Celebration, too, serving up chicken tenders and chicken sandwiches that make for a delicious fast-casual lunch by the pool. While the lines are long at lunch, there were only two people in line when I showed up for breakfast — despite the venue’s location just steps from the crowded buffet.

The breakfast menu is limited to chicken and a biscuit, an egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwich with or without sausage or bacon, and a three-cheese omelet. You can even enjoy a side of French fries, though the better choice is to grab the more flavorful breakfast potatoes off the buffet as you walk by.

BlueIguana Cantina

Breakfast of taco and arepa on cruise ship by window overlooking the ocean
Breakfast at BlueIguana Cantina. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Cost: Included in your fare.

BlueIguana makes a comeback on Carnival Celebration; the Mexican restaurant is a fleetwide favorite. While it’s best known for burritos and tacos served all afternoon, its breakfast options are a sleeper hit.

My husband ordered a breakfast burrito with eggs and chicken sausage, but I went for the taco and arepa because that had no line. Huevos rancheros are also on offer. And, yes, the salsa bar is open in the morning because take it from me — eggs are definitely better with some hot sauce or salsa on top.

Emeril’s Bistro 1397

Breakfast menu at Emeril's Bistro 1397.
Breakfast menu at Emeril’s Bistro 1397. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Cost: A la carte.

Breakfast by Emeril Lagasse is worth a splurge in my book, and you’re unlikely to find his southern Creole cuisine on many cruise ships. The menu is small but it has great variety. Each dish costs $6.

Vegetarians and cruisers who like their breakfast sweet (that’s me) can indulge in bananas foster crepes, and sweet potato waffles with pecans and whipped cream. The savory lovers can order up shrimp and grits, breakfast po-boys — featuring eggs, bacon and andouille pork sausage — or poached egg and fixins (the fixins being slow cooked beef) in a Creole hollandaise sauce. Beignets ($5) are on the regular menu, and I assume you can order those in the morning as well. My plan is to find out tomorrow before our day in Nassau!

Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse

Breakfast buffet at Guy's Pig & Anchor.
Breakfast buffet at Guy’s Pig & Anchor. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Cost: Included in your fare.

Make Flavortown a stop on the breakfast train if you want to avoid the buffet crowds, but don’t expect morning barbecue or donkey sauce. Carnival Celebration uses the Pig & Anchor space to set up a mini version of the upstairs breakfast buffet.

I didn’t stay and eat but I perused the offerings, which included bread, pastries, yogurt, cheeses, hot dishes (including shakshuka, salmon benedict, eggs, sausage and pancakes) and cereal, plus a drinks station. The area has so much seating, you’ll easily have your pick of tables. Alternatively, you can take your meal out by the Deck 8 aft Patio Pool, which would be my choice. The industrial vibe of the Pig & Anchor area suits the restaurant, but I find the space dark and uninviting.

JavaBlue Café

Breakfast options at JavaBlue Cafe
Breakfast options at JavaBlue Cafe. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Cost: Food included, coffee a la carte.

JaveBlue Café is neither secret nor uncrowded because it sells specialty coffees and teas to all the cruisers for whom boring buffet coffee won’t do. However, I don’t think most cruisers on Carnival Celebration realize that you can pick up premade hot breakfast sandwiches and breakfast pastries for free there — and the line to order those quickie breakfast bites is separate from and shorter than the coffee line.

Order up variations of eggs and ham or sausage on bread or English muffins, as well as croissants and Danishes. The barista (pastrista?) can throw it in the oven for you so the cheese gets melty. (It will get melty. I picked up a cheese empanada yesterday afternoon and nearly burned my tongue the cheese was that hot!)

Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast

Colorful table setting for Carnival's Dr. Seuss themed breakfast
Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast on Carnival Celebration. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Cost: $10 per adult, $8 per child 14 and under.

The kid-favorite Dr. Seuss breakfast is back after a pandemic-era hiatus, but I saw no advertising around the ship for Friday’s event. I knew it should be offered so went into my Hub app, tracked down the times (there are two seatings) and signed up. Another mom sitting at the pool overheard me talking with my daughter about it, and she asked me how she could sign up. Someone clearly let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, because breakfast was packed.

On Carnival Celebration, the event took place in the Carnivale dining room which was decorated in colorful red and blue whimsical decor; it also had an ice sculpture of The Cat in the Hat and table centerpieces of his iconic red-and-white hat. Kids’ music played over the speaker system and Things 1 and 2, Sam I am and the Cat himself posed for photos. Breakfast options include fruity cereal-crusted French toast, red-and-white stacked pancakes and – of course – green eggs and ham served Benedict-style. Know that the options lean toward the overly sweet; you might want to stick with the omelet unless you really like frosting-topped waffles.

Sea Day Brunch

Cost: Included, with a few a la carte options.

Sea Day Brunch on the first sea day of our cruise was packed, so clearly the secret is out. Or, perhaps cruisers came for a typical main dining room breakfast and found themselves facing a miles-long brunch menu. Our sailing is full of Platinum Carnival guests and other past passengers who know most of the tricks. If you’re not in on the secret, here it is: You should not miss Carnival’s Sea Day Brunch.

The menu has everything from 12-hour French toast to steak and eggs, a delicious yogurt parfait (heavy on the nutty granola, so good), eggs Benedict and burgers. You can pay extra for fresh-pressed juices, a crab and avocado sandwich, lobster Benedict or Emeril’s shrimp and grits. There’s even dessert and a kids menu with both breakfast and lunch options.

Bottom line

By all means, head to the Lido Marketplace on Carnival Celebration to grab hot or cold breakfast or get omelets made to order. I love the beachy vibes in the venues and the seating nooks along the sides. But if you’re tired of crowds, looking for a quiet meal or just want something different from the usual, try one of these seven secret breakfast spots.

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