When you pay your fare and board a cruise ship, that fare includes more food than you could ever hope to eat, in the main dining room, at the buffet, and at other casual eateries (including, in most cases, room service) around the ship. Yet despite all of this variety, eating in the same places for every meal, every day, can get tedious after awhile. Many people crave the variety offered by other restaurants, and sometimes cruise passengers seek a more upscale experience, either for their own personal tastes, or to celebrate a special occasion. These needs are served by onboard specialty restaurants.
Each cruise line has their own slate of specialty restaurants, and such establishments can even vary from ship to ship. Generally, they offer a higher quality experience as compared to the other dining venues aboard, and are accompanied by an additional charge of anywhere from $10 to over $100 per person. These restaurants vary in nature: French, Italian, Asian, Creole or other cuisines, steakhouse, fondue, sushi, grilling or other cooking styles. Whatever you can imagine is likely on a cruise ship somewhere! Celebrity Cruises offers an experience where a professional chef can help you grill your own steak, while on Royal Caribbean, sushi chefs serve you counter-side, and on Norwegian Cruise Lines a chef will grill your entrees before your eyes.
While such restaurant offerings are a step above the norm on a cruise ship, some cruise lines can provide truly memorable dining experiences. Q*Sine, on Celebrity’s newer ships, offers a sharing menu of familiar dishes re-imagined in the most creative ways imaginable (sushi lollipops and a filet mignon painter’s pallet are two of our favorites). Remy’s, on Disney Cruise Line’s newer ships, presents a high quality French cuisine dining experience rivaled only by the most sophisticated land restaurants. Norwegian’s Ocean Blue serves elegantly prepared seafood at indoor and outdoor tables, as well as offering a raw bar. Princess’ Cruises’ Winemaker’s Dinner offers gourmet dishes with sophisticated wine pairings, served inside a private wine cellar.
You can see that the options are many and varied, depending which cruise line and vessel you are sailing. Yes, there is an extra fee for such experiences, but many feel that such fees are well worth the cost. As always, this is an individual choice, and what is right for one passenger may not be for another.
While such dining experiences are not mandatory, you may find that eating at a specialty restaurant during your cruise will be an experience you may never forget. As always, I would encourage you to explore your options, and decide what best fits you and your vacation lifestyle!