The opportunity to try new dining experiences is one of the great pleasures of traveling. On the smaller, luxury ships, as you might expect, meals can be pure culinary art. But even some of the larger cruise lines, with all of the other diversions they offer, know how to make dining one of the highlights of a cruise. Based on the analysis of responses from members of Cruiseline.com, here are five mainstream cruise lines where the food gets high marks:
At mealtimes on Disney ships, everybody is happy, from youngsters who’d prefer that their options be limited to finger foods and fries, to grown-up foodies who want every meal to be a culinary adventure. Most kids love the well-executed American fare on offer throughout the ships, while foodies enjoy the unapologetically French, jackets-required, adult-only Remy restaurant on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.
Passengers whose tastes fall somewhere in between appreciate Disney’s modified version of traditional dining — which allows diners, along with their servers — to rotate among three main themed restaurants each night. The result: After the first night, you arrive at your table with your drinks already waiting for you.
Telling Quote: “The food was amazing! I have food allergies, and the crew did anything and everything to accommodate my wants.” — FanofDisney
Many things aboard Holland American ships are firmly entrenched in the traditional, but seating in the main dining room is not one of them, as the line offers both traditional dining — with fixed meal times and tables — and the more modern open seating.
On all Holland America ships, the alternative Pinnacle Grill features beef and seafood with a Pacific Northwest flair, and once a week, the restaurant is transformed into “An Evening at Le Cirque,” with the ambiance and menu of the legendary New York restaurant. A relatively new addition aboard Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam: the popular Asian restaurant, Tamarind.
Telling Quote: “The food is always excellent and probably what brings us to HAL year after year.” —Poireau
Dining has always been part of the fun of cruising, but Celebrity makes it even more so, perhaps because the line has had a string of James Beard nominee chefs behind its culinary efforts.
One of Celebrity’s specialty restaurants, Qsine (aboard much of the fleet) lets you order whimsical dishes, such as sushi lollipops, by iPad® devices. Another, the Lawn Club Grill (aboard Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection) lets you grill your own steak. Plus, Celebrity Millennium’s sophisticated Olympic Restaurant features authentic paneling from Titanic’s sister ship, RMS Olympic.
Telling Quote: “Not surprisingly, overall the food could not compare with Oceania or Silversea, but we had what I considered to be the best meal we have ever had at sea in the Murano restaurant. We had the lobster and the Mediterranean bass and my wife said that the chocolate dessert she had (I don’t know the name) was the best dessert that she had ever had at sea.” — Enjoythecruise
Dining options aboard Royal Caribbean ships seem almost endless. (Starbucks anyone? Johnny Rockets? A Brazilian steakhouse?) But the most innovative is 150 Central Park, where James Beard award-winning Chef Michael Schwartz offers a “farm-to-ship” sustainable six-course tasting menu aboard Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. Seasonally, Schwartz sources everything he can from small Florida farms.
Of course, sometimes what you really want is a hot dog or even a doughnut, and Royal Caribbean ships can satisfy that craving, too, at the Boardwalk Dog House and the Boardwalk Donut Shop.
Telling Quote: “The main dining room experience was superb. Our waiters were attentive and remembered our likes and dislikes from one meal to the next.” — Kentuckycrew
When it comes to dining, Princess has a flexibility that passengers appreciate. The line offers traditional dining, with seating times and companions that don’t vary, or anytime dining, which allows you to choose whom you want to eat with and when. Or there’s Ultimate Balcony Dining, a private four-course meal served by a dedicated wait staff. (You are required, of course, to have a balcony.)
Our advice: The Tuscan-inspired Sabatini’s (aboard all Princess ships except Sea Princess, Sun Princess, and Dawn Princess) garners the most accolades — and gets booked the quickest, so make your reservation early.
Telling Quote: “The food was great. I made a point to eat in both Sabatini's and Cafe Bayou. I was alone and really appreciated the chef spending some time talking with me.” — Dreamer