Cruise lines have gradually been raising the bar when it comes to speciality restaurants onboard ships. You'll find international dishes, celebrity chefs, intimate venues, innovative menus and even animated dining.
Partnerships with such chefs as Marco Pierre White, Michel Roux, Jamie Oliver and Eric Lanlard have taken onboard dining to new heights, but even in-house culinary teams are turning out novel cruise ship fare. Look for onboard venues embracing the gastropub movement, advanced cooking technologies and even molecular gastronomy.
Many, but not all, of these dining venues come at a price, but the extra fees are often worth it. If you're an avid foodie, a couple looking for a romantic splurge or to celebrate a special occasion, or anyone wishing to cap a holiday with an especially memorable dinner, you will relish this list of our favourite cruise ship restaurants.
The Verandah Grills on the former Atlantic "Queens" are recreated aboard Cunard's Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. Situated on Deck Two, adjacent to the Grand Lobby, these prepossessing rooms offer a tasteful evocation of this legendary cruise line's peerless traditions.
Open for lunch and dinner, the menus boast numerous individually-priced a la carte choices; there's also a degustation menu and an exclusive wine-pairing menu. The French influenced cuisine is created by Cunard's Global Culinary Ambassador, Michelin-starred Jean-Marie Zimmermann, and amounts to culinary perfection.
Specialities include Torchon de Foie Gras de Canard Mi-Cuit a la Poire, Nougat Brulee; Grenadin de Boeuf Poele aux Morilles, Legumes Primeurs a la Truffe, Pomme Soufflees, Jus Reduit au Madere; and Hot Vanilla Souffle Infused with Edmond Briottet Peach Liquer (and if you are confused about what that all means -- ask the waiters, they will explain!)
Sindhu offers a fusion of modern British and Indian cuisine, and is so popular that it has been rolled out across the entire P&O Cruises' fleet.
Sindhu's aim has been to debunk the myth that Indian cuisine is endless variations of chicken tikka masala; and the philosophy behind the restaurant (which was overseen by Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar) is to infuse familiar ingredients with Indian spices and incorporate different textures and flavours.
Diners can enjoy refined Indian cuisine, with dishes such as 'Hariyali Jhinga,' ginger and mint Tiger prawns, pineapple chutney; 'Karara Kekda,' crisp soft shell crab, celeriac and apple slaw, passion fruit chutney and 'Lasooni Machhi,' pan-roasted salmon, spiced wilted spinach, tomato and tamarind sauce.
All dining is included on Virgin Voyages, however, we felt compelled to include Test Kitchen (which debuted on Scarlet Lady, due to its sheer quality and inventiveness, which leaves many for-fee restaurants on ships behind and will re-appear on Valiant Lady this spring.
The restaurant is designed to encourage diners to think about their food from a new perspective, using a set of ingredients in which to build the meal. The six course set menus are presented as an ingredient list which the chef combines throughout the course of the meal
The food is exquisitely prepared and presented and carefully explained, and the whole meal lasts around two and a half hours. On land, this would cost you at least $150, perhaps more, and would carry a significant upcharge on other ships.
This venue also hosts a number of different experiences throughout the voyage from cooking classes, to mixology school and even coffee labs.
This American-style steakhouse debuted on MSC Meraviglia in 2017 and has appeared on each subsequent MSC ship. Butcher's Cut regularly gets our vote for best steak house at sea, with a wide range of excellent cuts of meat including the Tomahawk, which takes up most of the plate. There are also some great sides including mac n' cheese and outstanding desserts including lava cake and New York Cheesecake.
The open kitchen and prime cust of steak, as well as the red booths, black and white prints on the walls and giant menus add to the authenticity. There's a great wine list, with some full-bodied reds as a perfect accompaniment.
Princess Cruises' Crown Princess, based in Southampton, and Pacific Princess, based in Dover, both feature this much-loved Tuscan-inspired specialty restaurant, where diners go for a taste of la dolce vita.
This elegant room has a centrepiece wine tower displaying vintages that would delight the most discerning oenologist. During afternoons at sea wine connoisseurs can revel in "Super Tuscan Tastings" of the acclaimed vintages Sassicaia, Tignanello and Masseto.
Featuring northern Italian and Mediterranean specialities, many of them lighter than traditional dishes from the area, Sabatini's menu is like a horn of plenty. Over a complimentary glass of Prosecco, diners on cruises from Southampton can choose favourites such as Burrata alla Panna con Carpaccio di Pomodori, Spaghetti allo Scoglio, Branzino al Forno con Zucchini and Semi-Fredo al Cioccolato Bianco Soffice e Limoncello.
Chops Grille is renowned for its club-like ambiance and is one of the most popular restaurants across the Royal Caribbean International fleet. This signature eatery is available on U.K. based ship Anthem of the Seas.
With earth-toned leather-backed chairs, curtains in hues of crimson, claret and gold and light wood furnishings, this classic American steakhouse is as sophisticated as it is snug.
Grade-A premium cuts of steak and fresh seafood are well to the fore on the unpretentious menus. Popular choices include Dungeness crab and shrimp cake with remoulade sauce, 12oz New York strip steak served with a variety of sauces and sides such as rock salt baked Idaho potato or crimini mushrooms and leeks. The most indulgent and calorie-laden dessert is chocolate mud pie.
P&O Cruises' flagship -- Britannia -- introduced this restaurant when the ship launched in 2015 and you will also find it on the line's newest ship, Iona. But despite being the main speciality restaurant onboard, it does not have any celebrity chef name attached to it -- it is all the concept of the line's executive chefs.
The concept behind the restaurant is serving up classic British dishes and re-interpreting them for today's modern palates. Dishes include: Double Gloucester Old Spot pork fillet, loin of wild boar, butter-poached lobster tail and a duo of duck specialities.
The experience is similar to that of a top London restaurant with a name chef attached -- that is except for the price tag.
Qsine in its original form is no more and has been replaced by an animated dinner called "Le Petit Chef", which debuted on Celebrity Edge. The premise is simple and fun -- four little chefs -- one from Italy, one from France, one from Spain and one from Japan -- "compete" to produce your favuorite dish.
It's incredibly detailed, with the chefs rolling pasta, chasing after pigs and chopping up ingredients, climbing up on your plate and being squashed by food.
The food is not the best you'll find onboard, but the concept makes this a winner -- especially for families with young children who they find hard to keep still at meal time!
Updated December 10, 2018