Which cruise lines have the best food?

best cruise line food dining restaurants
Qsine puts a fun spin on dining. - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

Not sure if a cruise — a vacation known for buffets and mass-market appeal — is right for you and your discerning taste buds? Cruise food may not have the best reputation, but trust us when we say there’s a line that can satisfy everyone's culinary desires. Read on to see the best cruise lines for food (among mainstream lines), and how they rank against each other.

How We Determined the Scores: We used the average food and dining scores from over 15,000 verified user reviews written since the start of 2017. Luxury and river lines were not considered as they’re an entirely different price point, but we’ll tackle those in a later article.

1. Disney Cruise Line — 4.53 / 5

disney cruise remy french dining
Remy - Photo by Disney Cruise Line

Yes, kids can get chicken fingers and mac and cheese at just about every meal if they so choose. But there’s no denying the service on Disney is unforgettable, even for the smallest travelers. After the first night, everyone’s drinks are waiting on the table when you arrive at dinner, with kids’ drinks in plastic, lidded cups bearing their names. Waiters entertain small travelers with magic tricks and call all the little girls onboard “princess” at all times. Made-to-order requests for picky eaters are met with the kind of can-do attitude we wish all cruise lines had. And did we mention that the main dining room changes each night? Passengers rotate through three dining rooms throughout the cruise, and best of all, your waitstaff rotates with you.

Best Restaurants:

Palo – We consistently hear high praise for Palo, with passengers raving that it’s well-worth the $40 price tag. The northern Italian-inspired venue is named after the long poles that gondoliers use in Venice, and serves up authentic Italian cuisine in the evenings. Don’t miss Palo’s brunch either, which is arguably more popular than dinner there. In addition to a short menu, brunch includes a buffet with choices such as a wide variety of fresh seafood, a selection of international cheeses, and assorted meats and pastries.

“We had dinner here 2 nights. Embarkation night and the last night. Katia was the best server and the food was beyond amazing. It was worth the up charge for many reasons. Food, atmosphere, quite, exquisite service and romantic.” - JKristenRN

“Brunch is an absolutely must do. So many options, such a small stomach. You want to eat everything. The buffet is amazing with great choices. Breakfast pastries and breads, caramel cinnamon [rolls], shrimp, ceviche, prosciutto, cheeses, crackers, salmon, crab, etc. The ordering menu is also great. The dessert! Chocolate covered strawberries and [truffles] and tiramisu!” - sophiacorona

Remy – Afraid a “Ratatouille”-themed restaurant is going to be undeniably cheesy? Think again. This adult-only formal French restaurant (picture waiters bearing silver-domed plates and a lovely trolley-based cheese course) has just tiny, subtle, tasteful nods to the little mouse chef from the movie — we promise. And the food? Modern French at its best, and most innovative.

“Amazing French cuisine, fine wines, and superb service. Each night has two menus, and you can mix-and-match each course. Wine pairings are done with great care, and the $105 price is a very good value considering how many glasses and what sort of wines are poured. Talk to the [sommelier], as he will tailor his selections to match your taste. True, the bill for the two of us was nearly $500, but I don't know where I can find this quality of dining experience on land for less.” - bmetcalf

“Fantastic service and menu! Comparable to Victoria and Alberts at the Grand Floridian!” - ddsteuck

 

2. Celebrity Cruises — 4.43 / 5

celebrity cruises tuscan grille italian dining
Tuscan Grille - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

Second only to Disney in terms of dining quality according to our members, Celebrity knows how to please the palates of its passengers. Quality, fresh cuisine is often offered with a modern twist, making the dining experience unique for every passenger who steps onboard. 

Best Restaurants:

Tuscan Grille – This venue puts a contemporary spin on rustic Italian favorites such as carbonara, veal marsala, ricotta gnocchi, and grilled branzino. Pastas are handmade onboard, as is the venue’s own limoncello. An Italian wine menu includes regional Italian cocktails and beers, because what else should it have? Each ship’s Tuscan Grille has a slightly different ambiance, which makes it a unique experience for repeat Celebrity cruisers.

“Beautiful setting and fantastic food. Best waiter we have ever had. Great evening and worth every cent.” - pbasile

“The food was excellent and the view...excellenter! Yep, we saw whales breach while we ate delicious Italian fare. This is the one additional cost restaurant that we would recommend.” - kevinmcphee

Qsine – Qsine is like fantasyland meets dinnertime, for grown-ups. Those open to playing with their food will want to have a seat beneath the lamps hanging from the ceiling, because things are about to get fun. Start your meal off with sushi lollipops, then indulge in the meatball trilogy or slider party. For dessert, try “Strawberry Fields,” which is a square of real grass topped with sticks of chocolate dipped strawberries. Some ships’ Qsine also includes the Le Petit Chef experience, which combines video animation projection on the table with the cuisine for an incredible 3D virtual and reality dining presentation.

“It was great. Quite the presentation, very far from traditional [dining]. Our waiter... was great. Very helpful in explaining "how the various dishes were eaten". I know that sounds weird, but if you've ever eaten there you know exactly what I mean. The food was VERY tasty and it was fun.” - CaptainKitten

“Awesome! If you like to be adventurous, don't shy away from Qsine. The dishes aren't just different to be different. They simply took great dishes and find a way to make them a bit different by putting some sort of spin on them to make them fun. Definitely give it a shot, especially if you can get a deal on it the first day on the ship. Walk around and you might find 30%-40% off of a specialty restaurant that evening.” - Basinski

 

3. Royal Caribbean — 4.26 / 5

royal caribbean chops grille dining steakhouse
Chops Grille steak - Photo by Royal Caribbean

Not only does Royal Caribbean offer the usual cruise ship suspects like steakhouses and Italian venues, but they also delve into the trendy, quirky, and even unusual when it comes to dining. The whimsical Alice-inspired Wonderland restaurant, the modern Mexican venue Sabor with guacamole prepared tableside, and Sugar Beach ice cream and candy shop all showcase Royal’s culinary adventurousness and desire to take onboard cuisine to the next level.

Best Restaurants:

Chops Grille – Chops Grille steakhouse is a mainstay on Royal Caribbean, and it’s not difficult to see why. The warm ambiance and prix fixe menu provides a stellar experience that could easily cost double on land. And don’t miss out on lunch at Chops, which is available on sea days only and gives you a taste of what the venue has to offer with a lesser price tag.

“Excellent! Food was great could cut my filet with a spoon. Waiter brought lots of sides that were served family style and unlimited portions. Food was cooked to perfection and served hot! Highly recommend this venue.” - tikipop

“Excellently prepared steaks and the sides we tried were all very enjoyable as well. The ambiance is nice and it just feels special to have a meal here.” - johnasti

150 Central Park – Royal Caribbean teamed up with Miami restaurateur Michael Schwartz to create the six-course menu at 150 Central Park, which was designed with the air of the finest New York City establishments in mind. Two menus per weeklong cruise rotate out seasonally, featuring dishes that are created with fresh ingredients from local Florida farms. 

“150 was the best experience that we could [have] asked for! The food was amazing. The service was incredible. Our waiter not only connect with us, he pampered us. This was the only restaurant that the manager came to our table to ensure our experience was no less than excellent.” - orlandocruz

“This dining is an actual experience. It is like no other, they taught you about your food before eating and the food itself if like no other! its incredible. They were also super accommodating for me (being a Vegetarian) they offered the choices they had on the menu or something they could whip up off the menu!” - KristinaLBR

 

4. Holland America — 4.22 / 5

holland america pinnacle grill dining
Pinnacle Grill - Photo by Holland America Line

Dining is a top priority on Holland America, and it shows in their Culinary Council of seven world-class celebrity chefs, all of whom have a hand in crafting the menus seen in the various restaurants across the fleet. The line also has a partnership with America’s Test Kitchen, which materializes in cooking demonstrations and hands-on workshops. 

Best Restaurants:

Pinnacle Grill – If you’re seeking a meal to celebrate a birthday or anniversary, look no further than the Pinnacle Grill. Indulge in Alaskan king crab, premium Pacific Northwest steaks, Colorado lamb chops, and even caviar at this romantic, regal venue. And just like Chop Grille, a lighter and simpler menu is also available at lunchtime for a smaller fee.

“This classic Holland America staple is always the best meal you will have on your cruise. The meats are perfectly cut and aged and the seafood is fresh. They also do an excellent job preparing your dinner and is cooked to perfection. I’ve never had a bad meal but I always leave way to full. If dinner is a little too expensive then check it out for lunch!” - njanders26

“The food and service in the Pinnacle Restaurant were absolutely wonderful! The menu was varied so that we were able to have different foods as we desired, and it was all so very well prepared and presented!” - dsjasinski

Rudi's Sel De Mer – Chef Rudi Sodamin’s French brasserie may only be on two of Holland America’s ships, but the dishes are so thoughtful and exquisite that it earns a spot as one of the fleet’s top restaurants. Try to seafood tower for an appetizer, and Rudi’s souffle for dessert. While we’d like to see Sel De Mer expand to the rest of the fleet, the good news is you can try the menu on some ships on select evenings in the Pinnacle Grill.

“Sel de Mer has an amazing fish selection and it’s like the chef caught the fish right before you ordered it! The preparation is gorgeous and the flavor is even better. There really is nothing bad I can say other than I wish I could enjoy it more often.” - njanders26

“My husband’s favorite was Rudi’s Sel de Mer. The seafood platter presentation alone is worth ordering it for, but he said it tasted great, too. The service in that restaurant was superior. I don’t know what the actual ratio was but it almost seemed like one server to every 3 people and the sommelier was outstanding.” - Faye1966

 

5. Carnival Cruise Line — 4.13 / 5

blue iguana taco carnival best food
BlueIguana Cantina - Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

If there was an award for the line with the largest variety of complimentary dining options, Carnival would win hands down. Not only do its ships boast multiple included sitdown and poolside eateries, but also a wide selection of specialty restaurants. 

Best Restaurants:

BlueIguana Cantina – Let everyone else run to Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint. Don’t get us wrong: They’re really good burgers. But the real star on the lido deck is the fried fish tacos at the Blue Iguana. As good as any we’ve had at street stands in Mexico, they’re worth waiting in line for if there is one.

“Both the daytime tacos and morning breakfast burritos were wonderful. Try the watermelon salsa at the salsa bar! There is so much food to eat on the ship, but try to eat here at least a few times during the cruise.” - CruiselineSarah

“I probably ate here the most! Loved the fish tacos!” - karenutley7184

Fahrenheit 555 – The only thing as shocking as those tacos? The truly sexy, modern steakhouse comes complete with dark walls that manage to give the space atmosphere and a testosterone-fueled look without feeling fussy or dated. The food is plated with drama and elegance, from the escargot tucked into tiny rounds of puff pastry to vertical platings of steak topped with roasted garlic, to the chocolate tastings in elegant little glasses.

“We always take advantage of this venue when we cruise and it never disappoints. It was our anniversary so we did the desert where the chef comes to ur table and makes this amazing creation right in front of u. I just cannot explain it....truly amazing.” - jenn2831

“Fahrenheit 555 was FABULOUS and $35 is a bargain. The food was very good and my steak was cooked exactly the way I love it. Definitely will book a reservation to the Steakhouse again.” - Martine1973

 

6. Princess Cruises — 4.10 / 5

princess cruises crown grill steakhouse dining
Crown Grill - Photo by Princess Cruises

Princess was an early trailblazer, offering cruisers a choice between fixed dining times and “Anytime Dining.” The line even purpose-built ships with multiple dining rooms to facilitate the concept, years before most other cruise lines joined the party.

Best Restaurants:

Crown Grill – Crown Grill is everything you’d want in a traditional steakhouse, with a masculine atmosphere of dark wooden tones, stately chairs, and warm lighting. Foodies will take note of the Gourmet Salt Selections, which are custom-designed for Princess to complement the flavor of the steaks, seafood and chops. 

“In the past, we've been reluctant to spend extra money on specialty restaurants. But once we decided to try them, we've found them to significantly add to the cruise experience. Crown Grill on the Royal Princess was worth every additional penny--the 8 oz. filet mignon was tender and tasty, and the desserts were wonderful, particularly the four mini-dessert sampler. The service was excellent and attentive. In short, everything the main dining room is not.” - DeedeeG

“[Ate] there twice. The service and food was excellent. Definitely the place to eat for a steak dinner. Services was excellent and friendly.” - srbpilot55

Alfredo's Pizzeria – Alfredo’s is touted as having the best pizza at sea, and the majority of cruisers tend to agree. Fresh ingredients are transformed into hot and bubbling personal pan pizzas right in front of your eyes, but if you’re not in the mood for a pie there’s even more. Calzones, pastas, and even desserts are also on the menu at this complimentary venue. What other cruise line can say that about their pizza counter?

“So good. Pizzas were excellent, as was the calzone we had at lunch. Went back another evening for dinner and was very pleased again with appetizers, main courses as well as desserts.” - BarbaraBon

“Staff, food and environment [are] all amazing. The meals are to die for with high quality and fresh ingredients used, you can watch as your meal is made fresh before your eyes.” - PippiCruz 

 

7. Norwegian Cruise Line — 3.97 / 5

norwegian cruise teppanyaki hibachi dining food
Teppanyaki - Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

The number of dining choices on Norwegian Cruise Line are unmatched in the industry, with more than a dozen venues to choose from on their newest, largest ships. Freestyle Dining - no set meal times or assigned companions -  rules the day, but the real stars are the extra-charge speciality restaurants that require a reservation. Book early or you might be shut out.

Best Restaurants:

Cagney's Steakhouse – Norwegian’s signature American steakhouse Cagney’s is regarded among many cruisers to be the best steakhouse at sea, and in turn, one of the best specialty restaurants among all mainstream cruise lines. The warm, upscale ambiance and premium cuts of beef make it the perfect venue for a special occasion. On some ships, Cagney’s even has outdoor waterfront seating — perfect for catching the sunset.

“Wonderful!!! Cagney’s is definitely worth using the ultimate dining package for. Never had a bad meal there in 8 NCL cruises.” - frankie0303

“Cagney’s has to probably be my favorite restaurant in the NCL fleet. The steak is high quality and always cooked to perfection. I also never receive anything less than superb service and because I dine many times on each trip, I get to know the service staff and Maitre’d. Another thing I like is the atmosphere of the restaurant as it’s dark and has a warm feeling. On a couple occasions I’ve dined on the Waterfront and enjoyed the sounds of the waves as I was eating dinner. If you want an absolutely amazing meal then I would highly recommend Cagney’s.” - njanders26

Teppanyaki – This Japanese hibachi-style restaurant is a crowd favorite, and its popularity is proven by how quickly reservations tend to fill up at the beginning of the cruise. The tableside preparations are done by chefs who add comedy and guest interaction to the mix for a truly memorable dinnertime experience. 

“I loved this experience! Our chef Louie! Was phenomenal, he was funny, engaging and a wonderful chef everything here was cooked to order and there was so much food. He cooked the best fried rice that I have ever had and the fillet mignon and shrimp were also awesome!” - SandyBGranny 

“This restaurant is the best! The food is amazing and the atmosphere is so much fun!! The cooks will keep you laughing the whole time!! We went here multiple nights!” - McIntyrec



Join The Discussion

Which ship do you think serves the best food?

19 Comments

Posted by glomarrone

HAL and Carnival

Posted by Wenio

Disney

Posted by sludens

Some people have different tastes and views. I do not think thete is such a thing as a "good steak". Hundreds of others would disagree. To each their own.

Posted by kel400

agree i wouldn't say carnival or disney was that remarkable. i really like the grub on royal caribbean.

Posted by itstime

RCCL & Celebrity are the best for food. Carnival is the worst. Princess a bit better. A few weeks ago a cruise to Bermuda 8 days on the Carnival Conquest. Terrible at best. The ship was warm 69 degrees. Everyone had on jackets. Getting the food only warm on a super cold plate. By the time you started to eat it was cold. How about this one. Turkey leg carving for lunch the rest of the turkey carving for dinner. One seating had mashed potatoes. All the others old dried out baked potatoes. The up and coming Carnival Radiance will have Shaq Big Chicken it will be complimentary. That might help. A $200 million make over. Hope they make the food far better.

Posted by JennyTravels

Viking, HAL and Windstar

Posted by Julie1955

All cruise lines are cost cutting and this also includes the food and less choices on the menus

Posted by Lizziethedog

I am a world wide cruiser and have been on many ships including the six star cruise lines, so I can compare pretty well. As far as food is concerned, it is very hard to beat Princess.

Posted by uptowndude

Tell us about the regular dining rooms and buffets. Sure the specialty places are good but what about the regular chow? Who is best there?

Posted by HAListhebest

J'ai effectué de nombreuses croisières et ce, sous différentes bannières. Or, selon moi, HAL offre le meilleur choix ainsi que la plus grande variété de nourriture. Leur service est impeccable et attentionné !

Posted by Grumps01

Just got off Royal Caribbean and food has gone down hill from past. Why should you be forced to go to specialty dining at the cost of the cruises today. When you buy a cruise it was all inclusive now????

Posted by greenthumb

I have found Carnival food has gone downhill over the past 10 years, but apparently it has across the mass market cruise lines as well. While the food on Celebrity was better in the buffet and definitely room service menu, I didn't find it better in general than Carnival in the MDR. There is so much hype and belief based on marketing or assumption. I have had people tell me I would find the most much improved on Celebrity over Carnival. They had not sailed either line, but felt general scuttlebutt was sufficient to form an opinion on. The mass market cruise lines have far more in common than differences.

Posted by greenthumb

above post - wish I could edit or correct it. Meant to say I was told to expect much better food on celebrity than carnival. This from a person who had not sailed either line, nor any cruise for that matter.

Posted by PDT

Based on the cruise lines listed, I believe most of the ratings are from people who have not cruised on the ultra luxury lines and who do not have any idea about the quality of food as compared to the quantity of food. This is a typical American ideal. I would recommend that you sail on Crystal and Seabourn cruise lines. The quality of food far exceeds any of the mediocre foods on the cruise lines listed. You will then know the meaning of Michelin style of food.

Posted by kel400

i loved Chops on RC but my parents went a year later and said it was just ok. its hard to rate restaurants. all you need is bad service or an overcooked steak and you have a different experience from someone who hit all the marks.

Posted by celtgirl2001

I found Carnival's food to be very good. You have many choices which are not just "specialty restaurants". The "specialty" restaurants on the Norwegian Escape were pretty bad. I found the steakhouse to be terrible. They didn't have a rib eye steak, which is odd for a steakhouse and I ordered it medium-rare and it came well done! When I asked showed the waiter, he was not sure what to say or do. I just left it alone at that point. The Italian restaurant was really bad. Service awful and the food mediocre at best. The only decent fare on the Norwegian Escape were the main dining rooms. Food was decent and the staff very accommodating.

Posted by jimwas1

We were mostly disappointed in the food on our NCL cruise. However, Cagney's was by the best meal we had on the ship. Steaks were cooked perfectly, the sides were all good and the service flawless. Highly recommend.

Posted by DRital

This list is bogus because it discusses the specialty restaurants with an extra charge. I want to see an evaluation of the included dining venues. In recent years I have traveled with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and NCL. I rate them in that order. Celebrity is considered gourmet. RCL was excellent. NCL was terrible.

Posted by piethein

I did not like Rury's rest. at all at the HAL the oysters were hot and the lobster undercooked.

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