Updated February 2018
Food glorious food, there is no getting away from it on a cruise.
While of course cruising is not simply about the food, it's no secret that 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 the cuisine of Italy, Brazil, Asia, and France to name a few, 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. Whether you simply want to dine somewhere different every night, or want to visit an exclusive restaurant for a special occasion, its hard to escape from these award-winning restaurants that tempt you with their mouth-watering menus, intimate settings, and excellent value for money.
Read on to discover our top 10 speciality restaurants at sea.
Giovanni’s Table – Royal Caribbean
With Italian food being among the most popular regional cuisines across the world, 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 our vote. Featured on many Royal Caribbean ships, its enticing menu is only a 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.
Enjoy fresh prosciutto ham that has been cut with a traditional meat slicer, world-class steaks, and the freshest local fish. These are just some of the delectable dishes you can expect to indulge on.
Available on: Independence of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas
Our favourite dish: Gnocchi
The Gala Menu – P&O Cruises
The 'Godfather of modern cooking,' Marco Pierre White was eager to get his culinary wonders to the high seas, and was delighted when P&O Cruises gave him the opportunity to do just this. Owner of three Michelin stars, Marco showcases his talents through The Gala Menu, which is on offer on P&O Cruises' black tie nights.
One of the most desired menus at sea, The Gala Menu is available to all guests on P&O's special occasion, formal evenings. It comprises a beautiful, five course meal, boasting some of Marco's favourite and most exquisite dishes. The superb food combined with faultless service will make for a wonderful, unforgettable evening.
Available on all ships, guests can expect such dishes as Peruvian ceviche, traditional Beef Wellington, and Hampshire trout, and for dessert, why not indulge in chocolate mousse cake, or Champagne sorbet? Created with the best and freshest local ingredients, even the most experienced of taste buds will be blown away here.
Available on: All P&O Ships
Our favourite dish: Goat's cheese souffle
Qsine – Celebrity Cruises
Where to start with this restaurant? Like nothing else you'll ever experience 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
Atmosphere: Casual and fun
Our 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 us.
From the moment you step inside, you are transported to 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.
Those who do not have a love for sushi can opt for lobster, octopus, and other seafood dishes which are equally delicious.
Available on: Diamond Princess, Sun Princess
Our favourite dish: Kaisen udon - a 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 selection including tuna, fresh beans, European cured meats, and Artisan cheeses. However, be careful as this is a meal in itself - and you will certainly not want to fill yourself up before the main course.
Calling all carnivores! 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's a pure haven for meat-eating foodies.
With all of this delicious meat being sliced before your very eyes, it's a wonder they even thought about dessert, but if you do have room, you are in for a brilliant 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, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Star, Norwegian Sun, Pride of America
Our favourite dish: Spanish chorizo with red wine and parmesan cheese
Remy – Disney Cruise Line
Remy is way up there on our list of favourite restaurants, and not only at sea. This intimate adult-only eatery is an enchanted retreat that serves the finest French cuisine. Remy manages to transport you to an authentic roof-top restaurant in the centre of Paris.
Soft lighting, gold décor, and timeless art work compliment the immaculately dressed 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 Walt Disney World Resort.
A complimentary 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, Disney Fantasy
Our 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. Created by award-winning Chef Michael Schwartz, he brings his distinct flavours alive in this intimate and charming restaurant.
Located in the centre of the onboard 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 an excellent touch.
Featuring two rotating multi-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 courses are fairly small, do not let this deceive, as every course compliments the others, ensuring 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 a world-class cheese trolley, a 0.65kg dry-aged rib eye steak, and the iconic 150 Central Park Candy Bar.
Available on: Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas
Our favourite dish: Pumpkin bread gnocchi
Sindhu– P&O Cruises
The restaurant of flavours, Sindhu 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, Sindhu 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 offer 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 that 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, Aurora, Azura, Britannia, Oriana
Our favourite dish: Lagusta Xec Xec (Goan style lobster in coconut sauce)
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 dry-aged steaks are bursting with juicy flavour and incredible tenderness. Or, for those who don't enjoy steak, opt for the salmon or seabass which are 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, Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Summit
Our favourite dish: Shortrib Pappardelle Ragu - braised shortrib with fresh herbs, tomato, mushroom, and truffle
Crown Grill – Princess Cruises
Everyone loves a steakhouse, so what sets one above the other? For us, Crown Grill is the ultimate in cruise line steakhouses.
Voted 'Best Cruise Ship Steakhouse' by USA Today, it’s no surprise why. With deep brown décor, grand dining tables, and a 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 or even 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
Our favourite dish: The 4oz Maine lobster tails, and for dessert definitely the Molten Dutch Chocolate Fudge Obsession!