The top speciality restaurants found on cruise ships
Food is something we all have in common and something cruise holidays excel at. As a self-confessed foodie, I feel cruise ships are a haven of cuisine to suit all tastes, at all hours of the day. As part of the standard fare, cruise lines offer a multitude of food options, including usually a main dining experience, buffet and other casual options such as cafes, etc. These are great, and you could easily eat here happily for a whole holiday, but sometimes you want to experience something more.
Variety is after all the spice of life. On most cruise lines you will also find specialty restaurants. These are those which cost an additional fee, though on some lines these can also be included within the overall cruise fare.
Here’s a look at what I consider to be some of the best and fun specialty experiences at sea. Let’s start with lunch!
Lunch and afternoon treats
Most speciality restaurants will be open during the evening, but a few are also open for lunch (and a few are open for breakfast). Typically, these offer a much more casual setting, but with some you can potentially save quite a bit of money while still getting the experience.
Most lines offer some form of grill during lunch, with burgers, hot dogs and other fare, but some lines take this to the next level by offering speciality mouth-watering options. For me, the best of these has to be from The Salty Dog Gastropub and Grill on board Princess Cruises. A relatively new venue, expect signature burgers, hot dogs and a personal favourite, street tacos. It has also been awarded with best burger at sea by Cruise Critic.
If you’re looking for something a little more substantial some of the main speciality restaurants are open during lunch (though only on some days). Jamie’s Italian, found on Oasis and Quantum Class Royal Caribbean ships, is my particular highlight. My personal recommendation is the antipasti plank that’s piled high with cured meats, pickles and tempting cheeses. Or perhaps you’re looking for something a little lighter. Many of the lines offer sushi over lunchtime. Lines like Celebrity will offer Sushi at Sushi on Five on some days.
And it doesn’t stop with lunch. If high tea is your thing, keep an eye out on board as many lines offer high tea in some form, so indulge in sumptuous cakes and sandwiches, with tea and champagne. My absolute favourite has been on Viking Cruises. Set within the sumptuous scandi Wintergarden, sit down to a beautiful string quartet as tiered cakes and sandwiches are brought to you. Choose from a huge variety of teas, sit back, relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Many lines offer afternoon teas and I definitely recommend indulging in it if you get the chance.
As the sun sets cruise ships become a haven of delicious eateries and it is really hard to pick my favourites. But some do shine above others. Here are a selection of some of the best.
Chefs table, Viking Cruises
I’m a sucker for a tasting menu, and it’s something that you don’t all too often on cruise ships. So, when I come across one I have to experience it. Of all I’ve had to date on ships the best has to be the Chef’s Table experience on board Viking Cruises.
This is an alternative dining venue and is included within the cruise fare. You can opt to include wine pairing (which I really do recommend!). Better still, the menu changes throughout the voyage taking inspiration from cuisines from around the world. Perhaps you fancy a Norwegian inspired menu, or perhaps a fusion of Asian cuisines, or my absolute favourite, a journey through the various spices found throughout the world. So each time you can go back and enjoy a fresh experience.
Le Petit Chef at Qsine, Celebrity Cruises
I’ve always been a fan of Qsine found on board celebrity ships. This fun and interactive experience begins when you are handed you menu, an iPad. Expect inspiring twists on classic favourites, unusual flavour combinations, theatre and eclectic presentation. Expect the likes of Sushi Lollipops, as well as Disco Shrimp and Popcorn Fish ‘N’ Chips.
Qsine is now being taken to the next level. Using technology Celebrity Cruises now brings your table to life with Le Petit Chef. An animated character appears in 3D beside your plate and “prepares” each course before you’re served the dish.
Remy, Disney Cruise Line
I’ve not experienced Remy (yet!), but all the reviews and conversations I’ve had about it say it is really exceptional. It is considered to be one, if not the best, French-inspired restaurant at sea. It is also thought to be one of the best restaurants at sea. That says a lot to me.
A truly decadent affair, the menu for Remy has been crafted by Chef Arnaud Lallement of l’Assiette Champenoise—a Michelin 3-star restaurant just outside Reims, France—and Chef Scott Hunnel from award-winning Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World Resort. Dinner is comprised of multiple tasting courses (right up my alley!) celebrating “freshness”, the sea and the earth. It sounds divine!
Silk Road and The Sushi Bar, Crystal Cruises
If sushi is your thing, why not try Silk Road and its sushi bar on board Crystal Cruises. Partnering with chef Nobuyuki, these restaurants blend classically styled Japanese foods with distinct Peruvian and European influences. It’s a real winner in my books.
Food republic, Norwegian Cruise Line
Exclusive to Norwegian Cruise Line, Food Republic at sea features specially crafted menus that reflect the cultural and culinary diversity of the world around us. A fusion of foods and cultures, every sumptuous dish has been specially curated by The Pubbelly Restaurant Group, the culinary team who have reinvented the South Beach dining scene. It draws upon a number of cuisines combining a sushi bar, tapas bar, rice, noodles and a grill. It’s a great concept and the food is so tasty.
Pinnacle Grill, Holland America Line
Pinnacle Grille is the lines Pacific Northwest-inspired steakhouse. It has everything from caviar, to Alaskan king crab, fresh lobster and Pacific Northwest steak. Leave room for pudding, as some of the signature desserts are to die for. Like many of the restaurants in this list, people really rave about the experience and food at the Pinnacle Grille.
Sindhu, P&O Cruises
Sindhu is a firm favourite with P&O Cruises passengers. The brainchild of Michelin star holder Atul Kochhar, Sindhu showcases authentic Indian cuisine, using big and bold flavours and spices with quality quality British and European ingredients.
Sabatini’s, Princess Cruises
Sabatini’s has to be one of the best Italians at sea. Having won a number of awards, this signature restaurant offers freshly made pastas and Italian fare, paired with some truly delicious Italian wines. If you’re sailing on Princess, this is a must!
Wonderland, Royal Caribbean International
Wonderland is one of the most fun foodie experiences I’ve had at sea. Found on a number of ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet, it throws away the rule book for how a restaurant should work and takes you on a journey of culinary discovery.
Upon entering the restaurant, you find yourself immersed in a surreal and whimsical landscape where the food is categorised by element, rather than course. So, for instance, seafood can be found within the sea section. It is an adventure in molecular gastronomy, where the theatre matches the sheer quality of the food. Whilst I enjoy this sort of food, I have to say I’ve never experienced anything quite like Wonderland on land or at sea.
The Grill by Thomas Keller, Seabourn Cruise Line
The Grill focusses on updated versions of iconic American steakhouse classics. If that wasn’t enough, the complement this feast there is a delicious wine list of wines that have been curated for each dish, more than 90 selections from around the world!