big burgers

Vegetarians excepted, we're guessing even the healthiest cruisers sometimes crave the juicy beef and tasty toppings afforded by a great hamburger. That's why we've decided to call out cruise lines that boast the best burgers the industry has to offer. Some are free, and some require you to cough up a bit of extra dough, but all are superb.

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Ernesto Burger

1. Princess Cruises

The Burger: The Ernesto is a mouthwatering concoction found on the menu at the Salty Dog Gastropub, which shares space with the Wheelhouse Bar on select Princess ships, as well as the Salty Dog Grill on Caribbean Princess. Named for celebrity chef Ernesto Uchimura -- the creator of the gastropub's menu -- this swanky and savory burger encompasses a ground rib-eye and short rib patty, grilled pork belly, gruyere cheese, caramelized kimchi, beer-battered jalapenos, charred onion aioli, salt and pepper on a brioche bun.

The Cost: Dining at the gastropub will set you back $19 per person. The price includes a starter of breadsticks with cheese dipping sauce and three small plates. The plates are chosen from a list of a dozen items, including The Ernesto. A choice of truffle-parmesan or sweet potato fries accompanies all selections. At the Salty Dog Grill, while the venue itself is free, the Ernesto burger will cost you $5 or $8, if paid with a beer.

Viking Star's Viking Burger

2. Viking Ocean Cruises

The Burgers: At the Pool Grill on both of its ships, Viking Ocean Cruises offers four varieties of burgers (one veggie burger and three made with Black Angus beef) that will make you salivate. The Viking Burger features cheddar cheese, red onion marmalade, bacon and barbecue sauce; the Pancho Villa Burger comes with arugula, blue cheese, guacamole and spicy habanero mayo; the Pastrami King's burger is dressed with pastrami and double American cheese; and the Veggie Burger offers a selection of cheese, roasted red peppers, red onion marmalade, guacamole and alfalfa. Chili fries are also available.

The Cost: They're free.

Pinnacle Grill on the Eurodam

3. Holland America Line

The Burger: The Pinnacle Burger -- the sinful melding of a burger with bacon jam, garlic chipotle aioli, cheddar cheese, red onions and avocado -- is found on the lunch menu at the Pinnacle Grill aboard all Holland America ships. As do most spectacular burgers, this steakhouse specialty comes with fries.

The Cost: Lunch at Pinnacle Grill will cost you $10 per person.

Guy's Burger Joint on Carnival Triumph

4. Carnival Cruise Line

The Burgers: Guy's Burger Joint, a pool deck establishment, serves up patties in five set varieties: the Plain Jane, a basic cheeseburger; the Ringer, a cheeseburger with an onion ring; the Straight Up, which includes special sauce, lettuce and tomato; the Piggy Patty, featuring a beef burger and a second patty made entirely of bacon; and Chillius Maximus, a burger with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles and, of course, chili. Warning: They're as greasy and potentially heart attack-inducing as they sound. Those who don't like any of the menu options can order a plain burger and dress it themselves at a generously outfitted toppings bar. Unlimited fries are also available for the taking. (Guy's also has a delicious veggie burger; you just have to ask for it.)

The Cost: They're free.

 Johnny Rockets on Oasis of the Seas

5. Royal Caribbean

The Burgers: Years ago, Royal Caribbean shocked the cruising world when it brought a version of land-based 1950s-style diner Johnny Rockets to the high seas. On ships that house the venue, passengers can choose from a fairly extensive menu of items, including six to-die-for burgers: The Original, topped with lettuce, tomato, onions, relish, mustard and mayo; Smoke House, featuring bacon, onion rings, cheddar cheese and barbecue-ranch sauce; Route 66, which includes Swiss cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms, and mayo; Rocket Double, which is the same as The Original but twice the size and with cheese included; #12, a cheeseburger with lettuce, mayo, pickles, onions and chili ketchup; and The Streamliner, a veggie burger with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles and mustard. Sides of onion rings and fries are also favorites.

The Cost: You'll have access to everything on the menu for a flat fee of $6.95 per person, with the exception of ice cream, milkshakes, soda and alcohol, which all cost extra.  

Waves Grill

6. Oceania Cruises

The Burgers: Oceania, renowned for its phenomenal cuisine, offers five Black Angus burgers, two fish burgers and a veggie burger at Waves Grill, found on all ships in the fleet. The Classic simply comes with a choice of Swiss or American cheese; The Texan boasts cheddar cheese, grilled red onions, bacon and bourbon-barbecue sauce; The Swiss offers Swiss cheese and garlic-sauteed mushrooms; The Romano includes provolone cheese, roasted peppers and pesto on ciabatta bread; and The Kobe Burger consists of Wagyu beef, black truffle sauce and baby cress. Rounding out the menu are The Alaskan, a salmon burger with bearnaise tartar sauce and spicy slaw; The Maguro, which is soy- and ginger-marinated ahi tuna with wasabi-garlic mayo; and The Grilled Veggie Burger is self-explanatory, but it's covered in Caribbean mango salsa. All burgers are also topped with lettuce and tomato and come with fries.

The Cost: They're free.