Most cruise ships limit their Japanese food offerings to premade rolls languishing on the buffet. If you want fresh sushi, sashimi and miso soup prepared on the spot, you'll need to seek out a ship with a dedicated sushi venue.
When you do find them, cruise ship sushi restaurants range from casual spaces with simple "quick fix" menus to upscale venues that go beyond the limits of sushi and sashimi with lobster, steak and other fancy dishes. The majority of them are priced a la carte -- and one even offers free lunch. We've narrowed down the six best places to indulge on raw fish at sea. When the craving strikes, these sushi restaurants are bound to satisfy.
1. Crystal's Sushi Bar
Ships: Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity
Why We Love It: Master Chef Nobuyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa is the mastermind behind Crystal's Umi Uma & Sushi Bar. Revered for his Japanese cuisine with Peruvian flair, Matsuhisa personally trained the chefs onboard, and it's evident in the food quality. Reservations are now required for bar seating, and you can enjoy fresh rolls, sashimi and specials such as yellow tail or salmon tartar with caviar. Alternatively, you can order sushi and sashimi as a starter when ordering from the main Umi Uma menu. Each passenger is entitled to one complimentary reservation at the main Nobu restaurant per weeklong cruise.
2. Holland America's Tamarind
Ships: Nieuw Statendam, Koningsdam, Nieuw Amsterdam and Eurodam
Why We Love It: Serving dinner for $25, Tamarind offers affordable, high-quality sushi and Asian cuisine in an upscale setting, and includes rolls created exclusively by Holland America Line Culinary Council member Andy Matsuda. The menu -- which blends flavors from Southeast Asia, China and Japan -- includes an array of sushi and sashimi options and other regional dishes. Tamarind also serves up some of our favorite cocktails at sea such as the jalapeno martini.
3. Royal Caribbean's Izumi
Ships: Adventure of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas (beginning in March 2020), Harmony of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas (beginning in November 2020), Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Vision of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas.
Why We Love It: Izumi's menu is almost entirely sushi and sashimi -- all prepared in unique ways. Sushi is served by the roll, in assorted combos and bento box-style, which includes a starter and dessert. Sashimi is available as individual pieces, a carpaccio (thinly sliced raw fish on a plate of olive oil and other ingredients) and on hot rocks. The hot rocks are heated to 575 degrees Fahrenheit; perfect for those who prefer their meal cooked.
Edamame and miso soup are complimentary, while the rest of the menu is a la carte. (Roll prices range between $9 and $14.) The Izumi venues on Royal Caribbean's four Oasis-class ships, along with Independence of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas, also include hibachi.
4. Carnival's Bonsai Sushi
Ships: Carnival Breeze, Carnival Dream, Carnival Horizon, Carnival Legend, Carnival Pride, Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Sunrise and Carnival Vista
Why We Love It: Sushi, sake and impromptu dance parties... there's much to love about Carnival's full-service sushi restaurant. The casual, a la carte venue -- which is open for lunch and dinner as late as midnight -- allows you to create your own meal by checking off options from the menu. Dabble with a $1.50 sashimi piece or splurge on a $22 "ship for two" (miso soup, side salad and assorted rolls).
Intimidated by chopsticks? You're in luck. Each table setting comes with a chork (fork/chopstick combo).
5. Norwegian's Wasabi
Ships: Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Epic
Why We Love It: A lively sushi bar is the heart of Norwegian Cruise Line's Wasabi, a small space with a lot to offer. The menu is pretty basic at first glance, but its three appetizers and assorted sushi, Yakitori and sashimi options are only a starting point for adventurous eaters. If a menu item piques your interest, but you're not keen on one of the ingredients, speak up. The chefs have free rein of the kitchen. They're full of suggestions and eager to customize orders. Prices range from $7 for nigiri to $12 for a uramaki roll.
6. Seabourn's Sushi
Ships: Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation
Why We Love It: During the day, Seabourn's Sushi serves bento boxes, with delicious non-sushi options such as chicken teriyaki, miso salmon and ramen noodles. But at night, the restaurant transforms, and the sushi options are fabulous, with standard offerings like tuna or salmon rolls along with specialty rolls, like the dragon maguro or oyako salmon and asparagus roll. Passengers can order sashimi and nigiri, along with delicious small plates that offer items such as hamachi mizore yuzu. Make sure to try the salmon tataki salad, with a spicy creamy wasabi dressing.
Complement your meal with hot or cold sake, or try one of the Japanese beers on offer. The restaurant is free, and you can eat there as many times as you'd like during your cruise.