Food glorious food, there is no getting away from it on a cruise.
I do not think a cruise is only about food but let’s be honest, it does play a significant part. Some of the most exquisite dishes are found at sea and several of the most famous Michelin chefs now call the sea their home.
Although the main dining room is still a key feature on many ships, it is the rise in specialty restaurants that attract us to open our intrigued taste buds that crave new flavours. Showcasing the best in Italian, Brazilian and French cuisine, a cruise will take you on a culinary journey like never before.
With specialty restaurants requiring an extra cover charge and most needing a reservation they change the dynamic of cruise ship dining dramatically. Allowing you to dine somewhere different every night or choose an exclusive restaurant for a special occasion, makes it hard to escape from these award-winning restaurants that temp you with their mouth-watering menus, intimate settings and excellent value for money.
I am lucky enough (although my waist line says different) to have tried many of the line’s specialty restaurants and thought it was about time I wrote my Top 10:
Giovanni’s Table – Royal Caribbean
I have met very few people that do not share a love for Italian food, so typically most cruise lines include an Italian Bistro among their dining options. However, from the al fresco style setting to the family style dining, Giovanni’s Table wins my vote. Featured on many Royal Caribbean ships including Oasis of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas, its enticing menu is only an teaser of how the food actually tastes.
With its apparent Mediterranean influence, Giovanni’s Table flaunts a true Italian atmosphere and intense aroma that one would expect from a restaurant in the heart of Venice.
Starters are brought out family style, enabling you to share everything on the menu if you wish. As expected there is lots of pasta, although it is more than just 'pasta'. From authentic sauces, fresh seasonings and unique cheeses these starters only leave you more intrigued for the main courses.
A traditional meat slicer used to slice fresh prosciutto ham combined with world-class steaks and fresh fish are just some of the meat dishes you can expect to indulge on.
Available on: Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas
Cover charge: $15 per person for dinner, $10 per person for lunch
My favourite dish: Gnocchi (I know, not the most extravagant but tastes divine!)
The White Room – P&O Cruises
The 'Godfather of modern cooking' Marco Pierre White was eager to get his culinary wonders to the high seas so was delighted when P&O Cruises gave him the opportunity to do just this. Owner of three elusive Michelin stars, Marco showcases his talents through The White Room with one of most desirable menus at sea.
The bold black and white decoration impresses from the moment you are invited in by the professional wait staff who line the entrance, just like you see them do in the movies. The interior boasts a sleek design giving the feeling of being inside a high-class city restaurant. Even the menus and table décor are made of thick black leather which again portray a lavish design.
Available on Ventura, it showcases two menus that alternate on various nights of the cruise. Including a selection of Marco’s famous fish dishes, unique meats and mouth-watering desserts, even the most experienced of taste buds will be blown away here.
Available on: Ventura
Cover charge: £25 per person
My favourite dish: Dill Pickle and Chive Crusted Pork Rack
Qsine – Celebrity Cruises
Where do I start with this restaurant? Like nothing else I have experienced on land let alone at sea, this unique dining journey starts from the moment you order your meal on an ipad. There can be no preconceptions about Qsine as it is a restaurant of the unexpected.
After you have used the interactive ipads to design your meal, sit back and wait to be tantalised by unexpected twists on familiar favourites. From the revolutionary sushi lollipops, popcorn fish and chips and lobster escargot it has an off-beat edge to give you an experience that you can only find on a Celebrity Cruise.
Qsine’s décor is fairly simple and boasts a more casual feel. Decked out in orange and yellows, its bright design portrays a happy atmosphere and great for a fun meal time with friends and family.
Available on: Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity Silhouette, Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Summit
Cover charge: $40 per person
Atmosphere: Casual and fun
My favourite dish: Sushi lollipops (of course!)
Kai Sushi – Princess Cruises
Every city, shopping mall and airport has the latest take on an Asian sushi restaurant, and it didn’t take long for cruise lines to jump on the bandwagon either. However, Kai Sushi onboard Princess Cruises stood out for me.
From the moment you step inside you are transformed into an Asian paradise. With deep brown décor combined with bamboo accessories, its large open cooking area showcases highly regarded chefs preparing authentic sushi creations and traditional Japanese seafood dishes.
Even for those who do not have a love for sushi can opt for lobster, octopus and other seafood dishes.
Available on: Diamond Princess, Sun Princess
Cover charge: Menu prices apply
My favourite dish: Kaisen Udon - Mixture of lobster, jumbo shrimp, scallops, snapper, calamari and noodles in a rich broth
Moderno Churrascaria – Norwegian Cruise Line
When Norwegian Cruise Line introduced Moderno Churrascaria on Norwegian Epic the positive reviews flew in and everyone was talking about it. Debuting a new dining experience to the cruise industry, this Brazilian Steakhouse was the first dining concept of its kind at sea.
Although the decor is not the most stand-out design, the food more than makes up for it. The extensive salad bar invites you to delve into its freshly prepared salads including tuna, fresh beans, European cured meats and Artisan cheeses. However, be careful as this is a meal in itself and you will not want to fill yourself up before the main course.
Meat lovers beware! Be prepared to feast on the largest selection of meats you have ever seen in one restaurant at the same time. From a range of different beef, chicken, pork, sausage, chorizo and lamb it is a pure haven for foodies.
With all of this delicious meat being sliced before your very eyes, it is a wonder they even thought about dessert but if you can handle it, you are in for a surprise. The signature dessert of crispy fried Portuguese sweet bread puffs with caramel and vanilla is the icing on the cake for your Moderno Churrascaria experience.
Available on: Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Getaway
Cover charge: $20 per person
My favourite dish: Spanish chorizo with red wine and parmesan cheese
Remy – Disney Cruise Line
Remy is way up there on my list of favourite restaurants I have dined at, not only at sea. This intimate adults-only eatery is an enchanted retreat that serves the finest French cuisine. Remy truly takes you to an authentic roof-top restaurant in the centre of Paris.
Soft lighting, gold décor and timeless art work compliment the immaculate displayed tables. Like the rest of the ship, Disney have sprinkled their magic on this restaurant to ensure everyone has a five-star dining experience.
The French-inspired menu was created by Chef Arnaud Lallement who has worked at numerous Michelin star restaurants and Chef Scott Hunnell from the award-winning Victoria & Albert’s at Walk Disney World Resort.
A chilled champagne cocktail is prepared at your table before you place your orders from the enticing menu. Some of the tasty dishes you can expect to choose from include Halibut, King Salmon, Kobe Beef and Niman Ranch Lamb.
Available on: Disney Dream
Cover charge: $75 per person
My favourite dish: Duck Pomegranate with pistachios and hearts of palm
150 Central Park– Royal Caribbean
One for those who like the finer things in life, 150 Central Park is the premium specialty restaurant onboard Oasis and Allure of the Seas. I have not come across a concept quite like this on any other ship and it left an impressive impact on me. Created by award-winning Chef James Beard, he brings his distinct flavours alive in this intimate and charming restaurant.
Located in the centre of the Central Park, its boutique style exterior is set deep within the lush greenery. Once the door has been opened by one of the immaculately dressed hosts, you are guided to a table that looks like it has been prepared for the Queen. The grand domed chairs are my favourite touch.
Featuring two rotating six-course menus per cruise, each set course is accompanied with the perfect wine to enhance each dish into an explosion of deliciousness. Although each of the six dishes are fairly small, do not let this deceive, as every course compliments each other and ensures you are more than satisfied by the end.
A signature Cucumber Martini (only available here) at the beginning is then followed by a selection of breads. The waiter will then explain the salts that are available to have with your bread, a really interesting concept. From here expect to experience Citrus-Chipotle Crab Salad, Sablefish and the iconic 150 central Park Candy Bar.
Available on: Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas
Cover charge: $75 per person
My favourite dish: Pumpkin Bread Gnocchi
East – P&O Cruises
The restaurant of flavours, East was created by Michelin star chef Atul Kochhar who has brought his much-loved Indian style to the cruise world. Showcasing his modern Indian cuisine with a British twist, East sets all the senses alive and gives you the ultimate dining experience.
Kochhar has explored flavours from across the Far East and infuses them in all of the dishes available at East. There are two inspiring menus available onboard that showcase his most exotic dishes.
The interior design boasts deep red and gold décor that illuminates a charming atmosphere throughout. It is not only the food that allows you to have a special evening here, but the atmosphere and regular presence of chefs make it a memorable dining experience.
With an extensive menu it is hard to choose but rest assured whatever choice you make you will not be disappointed. From spiced meats, fish dishes and an array of vegetarian options, it is Indian cuisine as you’ve never seen it.
Available on: Ventura, Arcadia
Cover charge: £15 per person
My favourite dish: Malaysian Vegetable Parcel
Tuscan Grille – Celebrity Cruises
A steak house with an Italian bistro is a couple rarely seen together at sea, until the launch of Tuscan Grille. Celebrity Cruises wanted a restaurant that was elegant yet edgy to showcase an array of distinct dishes.
Tuscan Grille has an exciting character that creates an infectious sense of smiles and enjoyment within every visitor. With its casual style, it allows guests to enjoy elegant food in a more contemporary setting.
It's bright lighted entrance entices you to go further as you walk through a small tunnel-like walk way before leading to the bright, open restaurant that boasts floor to ceiling windows overlooking the ocean.
Steak is the highlight at Tuscan Grille. Celebrity’s corn-fed USDA steaks are bursting with juicy flavour and incredible tenderness. For the none-steak lovers you can choose the salmon and seabass that is sent to your table sizzling from the grill. A range of salads and pasta dishes are also popular choices.
Available on: Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Silhouette, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Reflection
Cover charge: $35 per person
My favourite dish: Ravioli de carne di Manzo Brasata - Homemade braised beef ravioli with wild forest mushroom truffle sauce
Crown Grill – Princess Cruises
Everyone loves a Steakhouse, so what sets one above the other? For me, Crown Grill is the ultimate in cruise line steakhouses.
Recently voted 'Best Cruise Ship Steakhouse' by USA Today, it’s no surprise why. From its deep brown décor, grand dining tables and menu to-die-for, no other steakhouse will compare. Crown Grill is a large sized restaurant and can accommodate a fair amount of guests which is great as it appears to be one of the most popular restaurants onboard with a number of guests going back a second and third time.
A stand-out feature is the open theatre-style kitchen that displays the chefs cooking up their surprises. The large fire oven oozes tantalising aromas that leave you eager for the waiters to present you with your chosen dishes.
The chefs prepare custom made dishes including steamed lobster, prime steaks and the classic Filet Mignon. Other dishes featured on this extensive menu include a white wine muscle pot, Chilean sea bass and grilled tiger prawns.
Available on: Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, Ruby Princess
Cover charge: $25 per person
My favourite dish: Porterhouse - The best of the filet and sirloin grilled on the bone. I also have to mention the Molten Dutch Chocolate Fudge Obsession dessert!