2013 in Review: Best Cruise Dining Experiences

December 23, 2013 | By | 10 Comments

Another year is winding down, and we here at Cruise Critic are taking stock of the hits, misses and outright surprises that made up our cruising year (and we invite you to share your own!) Today: Best Cruise Dining Experience:
I just can’t get Ocean Blue’s scallops and pork belly out of my head. The entree at celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s restaurant aboard Norwegian Breakaway was perfect: sweet scallops and decadently fatty pork belly that worked so harmoniously, I wondered why I’d never tried the combination before. My husband’s expertly seasoned and cooked Delmonico was also amazing; I was lucky he let me have even one bite. — Colleen McDaniel, Managing Editor
Ji-Ji on Carnival Sunshine. An outstanding addition to the ship and wildly underpriced at $12 per head, considering the quality of the food. The food is Pan-Asian and includes everything from slow-braised Wagyu beef to pork belly and shrimp. Throw in exceptional service, and you’d be hard-pressed to beat this as a dining experience — whether on sea or land. — Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor
Dining at Qsine on Celebrity Infinity topped my onboard meal list this year. The food itself was hit or miss — some tasty treats combined with ho-hum dishes. It was really the people and the ambience that made the dinner memorable. We teamed up with 12 or so other Cruise Critic members and new friends, so we could order lots of dishes and share, so the meal was something of a party. We were egged on in our boisterous evening by the restaurant’s maître d’ who joked with us…and made sure we got to try every dessert on the menu. — Erica Silverstein, Features Editor
Most of my 2013 cruises were on smaller river and expedition ships, which have nowhere near the choice that you find on mainstream lines. That being said, almost every meal dished up by the chef on Baranof Dream, a 49-passenger vessel run by Alaskan Dream Cruises, was among the most delicious I have been served aboard. Every meal, including breakfast, was made to order and people got up early to squirrel away baked goods created by the onboard pastry chef. Bonus: The ship’s tiny bar was stocked with local beers, including spruce-tipped ale. With food this good, there’s no need for a specialty restaurant. — Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor
Silk Road on Crystal Symphony. I had previously been to a Nobu in Cape Town and was bowled over by the black cod. Getting a second chance to experience Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s signature dish again was amazing. — Dori Saltzman, News Editor
Pinnacle Grill steakhouse on Holland America’s Volendam. I’m not the biggest fan of red meat and usually request my steak to be so well-done it’s charred. However, after one bite of my travel companion’s medium-rare chateaubriand at Le Cirque the night before, I ordered filet mignon the next night at Pinnacle Grill. It was, by far, the best steak I’ve ever had. I was equally wowed by the wasabi mashed potatoes in Volendam’s Rotterdam dining room. — Ashley Kosciolek, Associate Editor
I like to think of myself as a “relaxed” yet daring foodie — one who’s picky but also willing to try anything and doesn’t have to spend top dollar to indulge. I had a few memorable cruise meals in 2013, including lunch at Oceania Marina’s Toscana and dinner at Royal Caribbean’s Giovanni’s Table, while onboard Vision of the Seas. But I can only choose one favorite, and the prize goes to Carnival. While visiting Glory in New York City for a day, Guy’s Burger Joint temped me with “The Ringer,” a big ol’ meat patty smothered in bourbon and brown sugar barbecue sauce. It was hot and humid outside, so the burger, ice-cold lemonade and island tunes made for a great mid-week escape. — Gina Kramer, Associate Editor
While the food was consistently fabulous onboard my recent Viking river cruise, the most special gastronomic experience was on the last night, in the port of Budapest when I dined at Gundel, recognized as one of the most famous (and expensive) restaurants in Hungary. Known for its unique take on Hungarian cuisine with French service, Gundel lived up to its reputation. Portraits of the pope and the queen (who have eaten here) hung by the coat check; a live classical ensemble played as we entered the dining room (the violinist serenaded us tableside); and the wine pairing especially enhanced the goose liver, which I’m told is their signature dish (and is easier to eat than you would expect!) Food served on a real silver platter is as close to culinary royalty as one might get. — Brittany Chrusciel, Editorial Assistant
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    10 Responses to “2013 in Review: Best Cruise Dining Experiences”

    1. michelle gray
      December 23rd, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

      When I saw the headline, the first thing I thought of was the scallops and pork belly at Ocean Blue, I was just talking about that yesterday.

    2. Wes
      December 23rd, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

      You can have your burger. I’ll take Toscana or any of the superb Oceania restaurants – and, no annoying extra charges for the best food at sea.

    3. Derek Winter
      December 23rd, 2013 @ 5:28 pm

      I agree with Wes, the food aboard Oceania’s ships is wonderful. Fifty four days on Marina featured excellent variety and consistant highest quality and superb service.

    4. Paula Senn
      December 23rd, 2013 @ 6:18 pm

      The grounded, sirloin burger served in the dining room during lunch on Princess Cruises. It is done to perfection with homemade bun and crispy fries.

    5. Rod
      December 23rd, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

      I agree WES ! Even the Terrace Cafe for Breakfast and Lunch on the Riviera! A Whole Roast Pig on the Buffet line ! And the Grill was fabulous .. (Riviera Venice -Istanbul July 13 Sailing)

    6. Karen Horne Clark
      December 23rd, 2013 @ 7:16 pm

      Just off the NCL Sun : Creamed Cod : Haven’t eaten it in years: Sure did bring back old family memories: Yummy!

    7. john
      December 24th, 2013 @ 12:14 am

      The Verandah Grill on the Queen Elizabeth,the food was superb and service was impeccable. The bar that adjoins the restaurant provides so many canapes you don’t want dinner. The only downside was the pidgin.

    8. Lillian Fiedel
      December 24th, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

      Dinner with Capt, Patrick Dahlgren . Surf and Turf and amazing dessert !on board Oasis of the Seas

    9. tirun
      December 26th, 2013 @ 2:30 am

      really amazing food on cruise.make the voyage memorable.

    10. keithm
      December 26th, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

      I always loved the food in the Queens Grill.(on the QM2)You can venture off menu & make a special request.Its always best to give a day’s notice for really unualal items.

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    The Lido Deck is written by Cruise Critic's editorial staff, reporting from ships and ports around the world. The daily blog covers cruise news, reviews, advice, and hot topics from the Cruise Critic message boards. Please note: When commenting, Cruise Critic's community guidelines apply.

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