Last year, the biggest spender on food was Royal Caribbean Cruises at $9.46 per day, for passengers and crew, according to Cruise Industry News estimates. Carnival Corporation spent $9.36 and Norwegian Cruise Line, $9.02.Serving up fine cuisines along with comfort food in their many dining venues and crew quarters, food spending per person, per day aboard cruise ships ran from $9.02 to 9.46 for the publicly traded companies in 2012, including lobster tails and filet mignon.

Last year, the biggest spender on food was Royal Caribbean Cruises at $9.46 per day, for passengers and crew, according to Cruise Industry News estimates. Carnival Corporation spent $9.36 and Norwegian Cruise Line, $9.02.

Only once over the past five years was the $10 ceiling broken, with Carnival spending $10.02 per person, per day in 2008.

The slightly higher spend by Carnival may be due to the company covering a broader range of products.

Despite rising food costs and more specialty restaurants serving finer and hence more expensive foods, the companies managed to keep their food expense in the $9 per day range.

Less waste, smaller portions, fewer courses, smarter purchasing and doing away with the midnight buffet are some of the ways the cruise lines have managed to keep their food spend under control.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which tracks food prices, reported a linear increase until 2011, with the price index dropping 7 percent in 2012.

For 2012 as whole, the sharpest declines, according to the FAO, were registered for sugar, dairy products and oils, but also for cereals and meat. The drop has partially been attributed to stagnant international economy.

So, the cruise lines may have caught a break – at least until the world economy rebounds and demand picks up again.

>> Also in this section: International Trends, Norwegian Breakaway Highlights, All You Can Drink, Food and Beverage News and More.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Spring 2013