Everyone has that favourite food memory. Whether it’s a particular dish, a single aroma or a restaurant that instantly transports them back to a moment in time, wining and dining has a powerful effect on all of us.
Onboard a cruise ship, surrounded by vast waters, relaxed ambience and, more often than not, gorgeous sunshine, the flavours of food are enriched further, turning delicious fare into memories to last a lifetime.
From the serene simplicity of balcony dining to truly innovative gastronomic marvels, we’ve asked our favourite cruise bloggers to present their favourite onboard dining experiences. If you’ve never been on a cruise before, their stories are sure to open you up to previously unexplored world of culinary delights and wonders.
David Fiske, Reasons to Cruise
Royal Caribbean really lives up to its reputation for wowing guests with its Wonderland restaurant on their Harmony of the Seas ship. Originally launched on the cruise line’s Quantum Class ships, this quirky venue has been supersized for the world’s largest cruise ship. While the two-storey space lost some of its cosy charm in the process, it gained an incredible view along the ship’s Boardwalk neighbourhood, and the experience remains just as unforgettable.
Watch the Royal Caribbean Culinary team talk about Wonderland’s inspiration:
Starting with magically-appearing menus, nothing is quite what it seems in Wonderland. Play it safe and choose your own dishes, or be adventurous like me and let your waiter take you on a foodie adventure.
Mysterious sharing dishes arrive one after the other, fusing familiar tastes with unfamiliar presentation. While Wonderland’s signature sharing dish, baby vegetables in a garden of edible soil and pebbles, grabs the headlines, it is dishes like the reconstructed Caprese Salad with liquid olive balls and ricotta powder that really demonstrate the molecular and gastronomic talents of the chefs.
If you seek a first-class meal served in a bizarre yet fun setting, Wonderland is well worth checking out. Not your thing? Even die-hard Chops Grille fans will rave about dishes like the succulent terroir beef served here.
Emrys Thakkar, CruiseHive
As someone who isn’t just a cruise enthusiast, but also a former crew member, there is one dining experience which I always keep going back to the steakhouse onboard Carnival. It’s something special that every guest has to try while here.
As soon as you step inside the steakhouse, you’re met with a highly-rated service where the staff are on hand to guide you through the steaks of varying size and flavour – the chefs even cook in the open and those smells are just to die for!
I highly suggest booking your reservation at the steakhouse when the cruise starts to avoid disappointment.
Adam Coulter, Cruise Critic
Even the most fanatical foodies will be in their element on a cruise, thanks to an extensive variety of dining venues that often includes top celebrity chef restaurants.
I’ve enjoyed so many unforgettable meals at sea, that it’s difficult to call out just one. P&O Cruises – named the best cruise line for dining by Cruise Critic editors – has been a particular highlight for me. The line’s Sindhu is arguably the finest Indian restaurant at sea. Celebrity Cruises also serves exceptional food, and I particularly enjoyed Murano, while Holland America Line’s Tamarind is simply sublime.
With such an array of impressive restaurants and eateries, food-loving travellers should definitely factor in onboard dining options when selecting a ship.
Danielle Fear, CruiseMiss
I’ve had the pleasure of dining aboard many cruise ships and eating some delicious food, but there are a few experiences that stick out as being some of the best. Cagney’s Steakhouse aboard Norwegian Getaway served up a beef fillet with creamed corn and truffle fries that was irresistible. The meat melted in your mouth and the side orders finished the dish perfectly. It’s possibly the best steak I’ve ever eaten.
Although Norwegian Cruise Line was good, the top spot for food on my list is reserved for Saga Cruises. The food onboard is superb and the included specialty restaurant – East to West – is nothing short of exceptional. I’m yet to eat anything on land or at sea that is as good as the culinary offerings with Saga. A particular favourite dish of mine is the prawn (or lobster) satay – divine! Even the food in the standard restaurants on Saga ships is far better than many other offerings at sea and the deck BBQ’s are definitely something to experience, too.
Don Buculo, EatSleepCruise
We can’t help but venture down the rabbit hole at Wonderland, Royal Caribbean’s experimental specialty restaurant. Found on the Quantum Class ships and the line’s newest ships, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas, this one-of-a-kind restaurant is dinner and a show in one, where the food is also the entertainment. From the moment you enter the restaurant, your memorable evening begins as the menu comes to life with the stroke of a paintbrush.
After this, you’re off on a culinary journey through five different elements. Your waiter will customize the selections based on your preferences, but don’t be afraid to request additional items. The Buffalo Chicken Eggs that seemed to breathe smoke as they are presented to the table are definitely a must-try menu item. Seafood lovers will want to indulge in the Liquid Lobster topped with caviar, and those carnivores among should definitely want to try the Terroir Beef.
Don’t forget to save room for dessert, as these sweet creations are part of the show as well. If you must choose only one, The World is a chocolate and peanut butter combination that melts in your mouth and right in front of your eyes.
Jo Castro, Lifestyle Fifty
Although specialty dining onboard PrincessCruises is pretty special all round – and we loved our visits to the Sterling Steakhouse for succulent premium grade steaks on Sea Princess, and SHARE by Curtis Stone on Emerald Princess for tantalising taste plates – my favourite onboard dining experience has to be the oh-so-exclusive balcony dinners.
There’s an extra charge for them but we could choose whether to have breakfast, lunch or dinner in the privacy of our Stateroom on the balcony when we wanted to be alone, in true Greta Garbo style!
On Sea Princess, we had a fantastic, romantic in-cabin evening just for the two of us complete with cocktails, lobster and the finest food imaginable. A table was set up on our balcony with a floral centrepiece, pristine table linen and an overall elaborate dining setting.
Once everything was prepared and we were seated, our waiter served us a cocktail followed by champagne to accompany a multi-course dinner which was brought fresh from the kitchen, course by course.
Endless ocean views, a beautiful sunset and a meal to die for – we couldn’t have asked for more.
Gretta Schifano, Mums Do Travel
My favourite dining experience onboard a cruise ship is eating breakfast with my daughter in our cabin. We were on a Mediterranean cruise on the MSC Preziosa and we could choose to have breakfast either in one of the restaurants or in our cabin.
We ordered the evening before and our breakfast arrived on a tray, beautifully presented: coffee, juice, yoghurt, fruit, cornflakes, bread, butter and honey. We ate sitting on the sofa by the open sliding doors, looking out at the early morning colours of the sea and sky, the tray on the low table in front of us.
Carrie Finley-Bajak, CruiseBuzz
If it’s mouth-watering and scrumptious you’re after, then book a reservation in the evening at The Grill on Silversea Cruises. The ultra-luxury cruise line converts their poolside grill into a unique outdoor dining venue that invites guests to cook their own food on top of a hot lava stone. The Grill is a great place to savour grilled vegetables, seafood, and a variety of meat expertly cooked by you!
While the concept of cooking one’s own meal might be a little counterintuitive while on vacation, especially when there are many other gourmet food options to choose from onboard, but it’s worth a try. Not only is the food delish, there is something to be said for dining under the stars amidst the sights and sounds of the sea.
On one Silversea voyage, I actually choose to dine at Hot Rocks dining at The Grill three times, it’s that good (and fun). I love the laid-back vibe, attentive service, and the interactive experience.
If you choose to dine at The Grill, make a reservation early on in the cruise before others discover this hidden gem. As the sights, sounds, and smells of the poolside grill fill the evening air, adventurous guests tend to make bookings, which leaves little space for those more cautious guests not sure if hot rocks dining is his or her thing.
Besides your choice of meats, fish, or vegetables to grill, diners can enjoy a salad and each plate comes with a skewer of vegetables and baked potato. To round out the meal, there are delicious desserts, and as always, complimentary wines or cocktails that are part of the Silversea Cruises all-inclusive cruise fare.
Gary Bembridge, Tips for Travellers
Silversea’s signature “Hot Rocks” is definitely my favourite dining experience on a ship. Seated outside around the pool deck in the evening, a platter with a sizzling hot lava rock that has spent 14 hours in a special oven is set before you.
A big slab of raw steak, jacket potato and a vegetable skewer are delivered and you pop the meat on and cook it to your taste. I have experienced this bundled up against the cold on Silversea Explorer deep in the Arctic, sailing out of scenic St Petersburg on the Silver Whisper and in the sunny Med on the Silver Muse. It’s unique, fun and very tasty!
Doug Parker, Cruise Radio
When you spend as much time as I do on cruise ships, picking a favourite specialty restaurant is like asking a proud parent to pick a favourite child. Plus, it can change after a particularly good — or bad — experience. But at the moment, I’d have to go with Teppanyaki, which can be found on over a dozen of Norwegian Cruise Line’s ships.
Not only does this Japanese hibachi-style restaurant offer an incredible array of fresh, beautiful dishes, but the chefs put on a pretty amazing show involving flames, flying food and a lot of laughs. The seating arrangement, which finds guests placed in a semi-circle around the chef, makes it a great option for families or groups, too. The atmosphere is casual, as is the dress code, and the menu is simple and delicious.
It’s a three-course meal with a soup-and-(seaweed) salad starter, after which the real fun begins. Each diner decides whether to go with a chicken, seafood, beef or vegetarian main, and then the chef’s knives begin flying, his grill starts sizzling and the food gets airborne. Be warned: diners are definitely a part of the show! You haven’t lived until a chef tosses a bit of food through the air, challenging you to catch it like a trained seal! Dessert — a green tea cake or a piece of fresh fruit — is more a palate cleanser than anything else. But never fear, you’ll walk away stuffed and entertained!
Lauren Yakiwchuk, JustinPlusLauren
I follow a vegan diet and I’ve enjoyed many delicious meals on board several Princess Cruises’ ships. While there might not be many vegan dishes on the regular menu, Princess is happy to accommodate any dietary preferences. It’s as easy as taking a look at the next day’s menu and those in the kitchen can make the necessary adjustments to eliminate or replace any animal products.
I’ve enjoyed many memorable meals, especially on board the Emerald Princess. Some of my favourite dishes include Pad Thai, vegan sushi, veggie burritos, and pesto pasta. For dessert, there are rotating flavours of sorbet, and even a bananas Foster creation.
Even when you’re not eating in the dining room, there are tons of dishes at the buffet that are always vegan. There’s always a friendly staff member that’s happy to answer any questions about the food. Those following a vegan diet don’t have to worry about starving; in fact, you’ll savour tasty meals every day.
Emma Le Teace, Cruising Isn’t Just for Old People
One of my favourite things to do on a cruise is to order room service and eat on the balcony. On my latest Cunard cruise, I had an incredible burger and a chocolate cake, enriched by the fact that I dined amidst Montenegro’s unbelievable beauty.
The view was amazing and we spent a good hour or two just chatting, eating and watching the world go by. If you are taking a cruise, make sure that you don’t overlook room service as an option.
We hope this collection of culinary tales has tempted your taste buds – why not start your own gastronomic adventure with Cruise1st? For a full range of fantastic cruises and deals, visit the Cruise1st homepage or call our dedicated team on 1300 857 345.