Cruise Ships With the Best Food
From buffets stuffed with delicious morsels to munch on to specialty restaurants touting Michelin-starred food, cruise ships are an epicurean dream. It used to be that the hallmark of cruise dining was sauce-heavy foods and calorie-busting desserts (think hollandaise-drenched veggies and baked Alaska). No more.
These days, many cruise lines are partnering with respected chefs to develop diverse dining experiences at sea to rival those on land. As cruise ships get larger, less expensive, and more popular, cruise lines are having to contend with a rising expectation for gourmet cuisine - not just buffet-style pig-outs.
Some cruise ships are truly rising to the occasion - others, not so much. Here we break down the best cruise food available - from 5-star fine dining to budget dining options. Plus, we’ll help you follow your craving to find the best cruise lines by food.
Best Cruise Ships for 5-Star Dining
While you’re sure to get delicious fare in almost any specialty restaurant at sea, luxury cruise lines offer the créme de la créme of ocean dining. Gourmands will love these cruise ships for their ultra-upscale menus, local delicacies, fusion food, and top-tier service. The best part? Most luxury cruise lines offer all-inclusive cruise fares, meaning these decadent dinner experiences are included in the price of the cruise. For foodies definitely one of the main reasons for luxury cruises.
Crystal Serenity by Crystal Cruises
Crystal Cruises ranks consistently high on foodie cruise charts, and Crystal Serenity is no exception. Nobu-trained chefs wield the blades behind Silk Road’s sushi bar. Piero Selvaggio’s Vegas-inspired Italian cuisine is a hallmark of onboard trattoria Prego. And the bottles uncorked in the Vintage Room are enough to tempt any wine connoisseur. Plus, even more casual eateries offer fare that tastes authentic, from cafe croissants to duck quesadillas and juicy burgers. Even the main dining room, Crystal Dining Room, offers a varied and painstakingly prepared nightly menu.
Crystal Serenity also wows with epicurean shore excursions through the world’s best vineyards, kitchens, and markets. Check with your travel agent or with Crystal themselves to see which tours are available on your sailing.
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Silver Spirit by Silversea Cruises
Boasting an industry-leading six fine dining restaurants onboard the 540-passenger Silver Spirit, Silversea Cruises is one of the best cruise lines for foodie cruising. Passengers won’t want for variety either, as each restaurant caters to different themes and tastes.
Try Le Champagne for stunning six-course menus, expert wine pairings, and a sophisticated ambience. Carnivores won’t want to miss the Grill, an al fresco dining experience focused on pork chops, choice ribeye, and getting in on the cooking process. Head to Stars for Gatsby-esque refinement, small plates, and refined conversation. Seishin sports Asian dishes and an intimate environment. La Terrazza offers a Slow Food dining experience.
Of course, you could also opt for Silversea’s elegant take on room service, featuring butler-serviced course-by-course in-suite meals.
Seabourn Odyssey by Seabourn
Caviar and Champagne feature heavily in the luxurious culinary creations on Seabourn Odyssey, as does prime beef and chocolate. The Restaurant and Restaurant 2 offer modern American cuisine refined by French techniques, including chocolate covered ice cream balls on sticks reminiscent of popsicles. Decadent pastries and luxuriously foamy coffees are available from the Coffee Bar, and the clean, dreamy decor on this Seabourn ship make it all the more idyllic.
Marina by Oceania Cruises
For the gourmet looking to get their hands dirty, Marina by Oceania Cruises is ideal. Guests are encouraged to participate in cooking classes at the Bon Appetit Culinary Center. Featuring 24 well-stocked stations, this state of the art enrichment area offers lessons in everything from handmade pasta to ganache-filled desserts. Guests can also channel their inner enologist at La Reserve, which offers wine tastings and impeccable wine-paired seven-course meals.
Oceania also partnered with chef Jacques Pepin to create the eponymous onboard French restaurant, which also displays art pieces from his collection. Veal and duck are favorites, served with olive tapenade. However, the pinnacle of fine dining is undoubtedly the custom dinners at Privée, served in private for up to eight guests in an all-white marble and crocodile-skin room. Dinners here start at $1,000 and are truly unforgettable. For more details about the high quality food selection you can read this article about dining on Oceania cruises.
Seven Seas Mariner by Regent Seven Seas
Seven Seas Mariner thrills gourmands with its partnership to culinary legend Le Cordon Bleu. Chefs onboard this Regent Seven Seas vessel train extensively in the Parisian techniques perfected there, and their hard work is evident at Signatures. From the decor to the dishes (peux-tu dire Camembert?), this eatery is a fan favorite.
Other restaurants include Prime 7, where you can order a 36-ounce porterhouse wheeled to your table on a sizzling marble platter; Compass Rose, the main dining room, which offers lighter fare from the Canyon Ranch spa menu. Classic cruise venues like the buffet and poolside pub are upgraded on Seven Seas Mariner to La Veranda, a gourmet buffet featuring local specialties, and the Pool Grill, where extra-large burgers and housemade ice cream are the norm.
Best Cruise Ships for Foodies On a Budget
It can be easy to go overboard on a cruise, especially with specialty restaurants tempting you at every turn. And while many of us would love to indulge in the fancy fare of a 5-star cruise, it simply might not be possible. However, that doesn’t need to stop the foodies among us. Eating on a cruise ship can be a great opportunity to expand your horizons, tempt your palate, and sample savory specialties. Finding cheap food on a cruise is easy - and these cruise ships also make it easy to find excellent eats. Using the free dining options is definitely an effective money saving tip on a cruise.
Koningsdam by Holland America Line
Koningsdam wows foodies with its superb Culinary Arts Center, including show kitchen and individual cooking stations. Classes are available for all ages, and include taste tests and demos. Plus, Holland America Line also partners with hit TV show “MasterChef” and “MasterChef Junior” on some sailings. Take advantage of celebrity chef-taught classes and intimate meet-and-greets with the stars of the show on these cruises.
Quantum of the Seas by Royal Caribbean
Gourmets will love the sheer abundance of dining options on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. In fact, both Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas feature a similar restaurant lineup. The best part for budget-conscious cruisers is that many of the delicious restaurants onboard are complimentary. Included restaurants serve everything from American comfort food (American Icon Grill) to Asian fusion cuisine (Silk), as well as some with an upscale twist, like Coastal Kitchen and Chic, which serve more contemporary favorites.
Royal Caribbean has also partnered with celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Michael Schwartz to create two excellent specialty restaurants: Jamie’s Italian and Michael’s Genuine Pub. No matter what your style or tastes, Royal Caribbean caters to you.
Carnival Vista by Carnival Cruise Line
While Carnival Cruise Line is better known for fun than food, this budget-friendly line offers an excellent chef’s table experience on Carnival Vista. It costs a little extra, but it’s worth it for foodies who love to cook. Take a chef-guided tour of the galley, Champagne in hand, before settling down in a dedicated dining area overlooking the galley for a multi-course meal accompanied by sommelier-picked wines. In keeping with its brand, Carnival keeps this tour open to kids 12 and up, making it a great option for foodie families.
Nieuw Amsterdam by Holland America Line
HAL really rolls out the red carpet for gourmets, and its Chef’s Table on Nieuw Amsterdam is a little piece of luxury that won’t break the bank. You’ll be treated to a seven-course meal designed by Master Chef Rudi Sodamin built from decadent ingredients like lobster and truffles. High-quality bottles of wine accompany this epicurean dream, and it’s all served on the ship’s best china. This is a great option for food and wine lovers who aren’t on a cruise to lose weight, as seven courses of rich food will probably leave you sated but a couple pounds heavier.
Norwegian Getaway by Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Miami-based Norwegian Getaway earns high marks for its variety of dining options, as well as its for-fee restaurant Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian. Ocean Blue features a carefully curated menu of locally-sourced cuisine, including Florida grouper and lobster risotto. Miami flavors are a major influence in this Getaway-specific restaurant, which is definitely worth a splurge.
Cruisers with a tighter budget needn’t miss out, though. Norwegian Getaway also houses an all-star array of complimentary eateries ranging from typical cruise buffet fare to Irish pubs and Asian fusion. If you’re looking for dinner and a show, opt for the Getaway-only Illusionarium, which offers sublime specialties with a side of live magic performances.
Allure of the Seas by Royal Caribbean
The largest of its Oasis-class ships, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas is a great foodie pick both for its superb specialty restaurant 150 Central Park, and for its more casual dining spots. 150 Central Park offers prime seafood specialties, including lobster salads and crab cakes. You’ll need to reserve a table and pay a little extra, but the exceptional menu is crafted by celeb chef Michael Schwartz, and definitely warrants a taste test.
If you’re craving some simpler sustenance, head to the Boardwalk Dog House, Allure’s open-air hot dog stand. If you’re feeling particularly peckish, you can sample a sausage from seven different styles, from German bratwurst to Sicilian sausage to Coney Island dog.
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Best Cruise Ship by Food
When it comes to cruise ship cuisine, there are some mainstays you can always count on - soft serve ice cream, cheeseburgers, and pizza among them. Cruise ships will always offer bountiful cornucopias of healthy eating options like fresh fruit and vegetables. And while we’ll always encourage you to branch out and try new delicious dishes, we also understand the desire to find the best of the best. It’s always amazing to spontaneously encounter the best burger, pizza, sushi, steak, or dessert you’ve ever had. While we get the thrill of the chase, we’re here to offer a bit of a roadmap to guide you to the right cruise ship for your culinary quest.
It’s possible you won’t share our opinions - if so, leave a comment for us about where you found the best burger, pub grub, seafood, or steak. We can certainly be persuaded!
Best burger: Carnival Breeze
We’ll be the first to admit: Carnival’s cruise food hasn’t always been the main draw of the line. But we also have to admit that Guy’s Burger Joint on Carnival Breeze (and 19 other Carnival ships) is an amazing exception. The menu is built from five official burgers with a smattering of different toppings ranging from the traditional (cheese, lettuce, tomato) to the intense (roasted green chili salsa, mushrooms, “donkey sauce”). However, you can also make your own custom burger at the toppings bar, and feel free to slather the included side of fries with whatever you like as well.
This super-casual eatery can usually be found by the pool, and we have it on good authority that the fries are best enjoyed al fresco. An added bonus for this spot (as if it needed one) is that Guy’s Burger Joint is totally free for all passengers.
Best pizza: Grand, Royal, Regal, & Sapphire Princess
Princess Cruises serves up pure Neapolitan pizzas at the complimentary Alfredo’s Pizzeria, onboard Grand Princess, Royal Princess, Regal Princess, and Sapphire Princess. While the crust might be extra thin, each hand-tossed pizza is piled high with tons of toppings, from typical mozzarella and tomatoes to avocado and squash. These pies are a far cry from the buffet slices that can be disappointing for true foodies, and Alfredo’s Pizzeria is definitely worth a visit.
Best international cuisine: Celebrity Reflection
We couldn’t overlook Celebrity Cruises, as their whimsical Qsine tops many a food-lover’s bucket list. With quizzical decor and unconventional plating, Qsine really brings the fun and playfulness of an adventurous palate to life. Sushi is served like cake pops (on popsicle sticks), spring rolls are served in literal springs, and a smorgasbord of international options awaits.
Celebrity Reflection also offers an expansive Lawn Club, where guests can sear their own steaks on a perfectly manicured open-air green. An impressive array of complimentary restaurants can also be found on this cruise ship, which is the largest in the fleet.
Hungry for More?
If you still have questions, like “Is food included in a cruise?” or “How can I stick to my diet plan while on a cruise?” check out these other helpful articles from everything you need to know about cruise ship dining to the 13 best foodie cruises to help you make the most out of your cruise vacation.