The 10 best cruise ship restaurants and dining experiences

When it comes to onboard restaurants and dining, cruise ships often get a bad rap. There’s a storyline out there that cruises are little more than gorge fests, prioritizing quantity over quality.

After writing about cruising for nearly 30 years, I can tell you this is far from the truth. Quality dining has always been a big part of the cruising experience, and cruise ship restaurant offerings only have improved over the years.

You’ll now find stand-alone restaurants on high-end cruise ships created and overseen by some of the world’s most famous chefs, including Nobu Matsuhisa, Alain Ducasse and Jacques Pepin.

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But even on the largest mass-market cruise ships, the food is getting ever more elaborate and diverse. Norwegian Cruise Line brags that its biggest vessel, Norwegian Encore, has more than 20 different food venues — everything from a casual barbecue restaurant (with live country music) to a high-end Italian spot from the creators of New York City’s Scarpetta.

Some mainstream lines, such as Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises, even have called in chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants to help them design entire culinary programs.

Over the years, as part of testing and reviewing nearly 200 vessels operated by 41 different lines, I’ve eaten at pretty much every cruise ship restaurant.

Just like at resorts on land, there’s incredible diversity out there. Some are great. Some aren’t. Some are too pricey for what they are. Others are bargains.

But the bottom line is there are a lot of wonderful restaurants on cruise ships. Below are my picks for the very best cruise ship restaurants at sea. As you might expect, many of my favorites are on higher-end ships, but several of the top restaurants can be found on the bigger, more affordable cruise ships.

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Where you’ll find it: All Viking ocean and expedition ships

Manfredi’s restaurant. VIKING

Found on every Viking ocean and expedition ship, Manfredi’s is our hands-down pick for the best Italian restaurant at sea. It serves up authentic and hearty Tuscan and Northern Italian specialties such as bistecca fiorentina and osso buco alla Milanese. Appetizers range from hand-cut beef tartare to — our favorite — a chilled asparagus and polenta dish that’s served with a perfectly poached egg, Parmigiano Reggiano and truffle dressing.

Here’s a bit of trivia: Manfredi’s was named after Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, who once owned one of Viking’s rivals, Silversea Cruises, and now owns the recently relaunched luxury line Crystal. Viking chairman Torstein Hagen and Lefebvre are friends. If you’re a cruising aficionado, be sure to hunt among the photos on the wall for the images of Lefebvre and Hagen experimenting with recipes during the restaurant’s creation. The Italy-born Lefebvre supposedly shared some of his favorite childhood recipes for the venue.

Cost: There’s no extra charge to dine at Manfredi’s, but reservations are required. Passengers are entitled to one visit per voyage (those staying in higher cabin categories receive up to four priority reservations).

Related: The ultimate guide to cruise ship food and dining

Umi Uma by Nobu Matsuhisa Restaurant and Sushi Bar

Where you’ll find it: Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony

Umi Uma on Crystal Serenity. CRYSTAL

When it comes to sushi at sea, the gold standard for years has been Umi Uma by Nobu Matsuhisa Restaurant and Sushi Bar. Found on both of Crystal’s ships, the venue is the creation of famed Japanese chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa — yes, that Nobuyuki Matsuhisa — and offers sushi as well as Matsuhisa’s trademark Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine. We’re talking dishes like Nobu-style lobster with truffle-yuzu sauce and miso-glazed black cod.

If you’ve been to Matsuhisa’s Nobu restaurants in New York, Las Vegas or other cities, you know what we’re talking about. This is Japanese cuisine transformed into high art. On the two Crystal ships, it’s also one of the best deals on sushi anywhere.

While it’s easy to rack up a $150 per person bill at a Nobu on land (a single piece of toro sushi costs $17 at Nobu New York Fifty Seven), a night at Umi Uma on a Crystal ship is included in the fare. That fare, of course, isn’t insignificant. Crystal voyages can run as much as $1,000 per person, per day.

Cost: There is no extra charge to dine at Umi Uma. Passengers are entitled to one visit per voyage, with reservations required. Additional reservations may be requested on a space-available basis for a $50 per person reservation fee.

Related: These are the 6 cruise lines with the best food at sea

Red Ginger

Where you’ll find it: Oceania Cruises’ Marina, Riviera, Sirena and Vista

The Red Ginger restaurant on the Oceania Cruises ship Sirena. OCEANIA CRUISES

Red Ginger might be the most gorgeous restaurant you’ll ever see on a cruise ship. With a nod to feng shui, it radiates harmony and tranquility with ebony woods, a soothing waterfall wall and striking, modern Asian artworks. But it’s not just a pretty place: It’s a den of yumminess, too.

Found on four Oceania Cruises ships — Marina, Riviera, Sirena and Vista — Red Ginger offers classic Asian dishes with a contemporary twist, all dreamed up by Oceania’s well-regarded, in-house culinary team with input from famed chef Jacques Pepin. We’re talking about miso-glazed sea bass wrapped in a hoba leaf, and sole tempura with an orange ponzu sauce and spicy daikon. For dessert, don’t miss the lemongrass creme brulee.

Cost: There is no extra charge to dine at Red Ginger, but reservations are required. Passengers are entitled to one visit per voyage (those staying in top suites can go twice).

Fahrenheit 555

Where you’ll find it: Carnival’s Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration, Carnival Venezia, Carnival Breeze, Carnival Vista, Carnival Horizon, Carnival Panorama, Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Sunrise, Carnival Radiance, Carnival Luminosa, Carnival Jubilee (debuting in December) and Carnival Firenze (debuting in April)


One of the great paradoxes of the cruise world is that one of the lowest-cost operators — Carnival Cruise Line — has one of the best steakhouses at sea. At a fixed price of $48 per person, Fahrenheit 555 is also a relative bargain compared to similar steakhouses on land.

Found on Carnival’s six most recently built ships plus a few others, Fahrenheit 555 offers all the steakhouse staples, from a 14-ounce New York strip to a nine-ounce filet mignon (both USDA Prime, aged 28 days). Other entree choices include an appropriately marbled hunk of Australian Wagyu beef, grilled lamb chops and Dover sole. Starters include Heritage Berkshire pork belly, bone marrow and hand-cut beef tartare, and — of course — jumbo shrimp cocktail.

Carnival has a long tradition of offering high-end steakhouses on its ships. The line began rolling out steakhouses in 2001 with the debut of its Spirit Class ships (where, in one of the great quirks of cruise ship design, the steakhouses are located in red domes that form the forward portions of the ships’ funnels).

There now are steakhouses on 23 of Carnival’s 25 vessels, with varying names and decor (only Carnival Elation and Carnival Paradise lack one). When it comes to culinary offerings, they’re all similar to Fahrenheit 555.

Cost: $48 per person

Related: 5 reasons you should splurge on a cruise ship specialty restaurant


Where you’ll find it: Le Commandant Charcot

Nuna on Ponant’s Le Commandant Charcot. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

The newest temple to gastromy at sea is Nuna on Ponant’s epic new icebreaking expedition ship, Le Commandant Charcot. Elegant and refined, it’s a high-end French restaurant that serves dishes designed by Alain Ducasse, the famed French chef.

You’ll find everything from French-style beef fillet served with a pepper sauce and veal tenderloin with a vegetable matignon and potato cake to monkfish medallions on the menu, with some international dishes mixed in with the classic French cuisine. Dessert options include a selection of French cheeses that number into the dozens — perhaps the most spectacular cheese selection found on any cruise vessel.

The setting itself is lovely, at the back of the vessel overlooking the wake and featuring furniture from iconic French furniture design house Ligne Roset, Bernardaud French china and glassware by Elne.

Cost: There is no charge to dine at Nuna

La Dame

Where you’ll find it: All Silversea ships except Silver Origin


The premier restaurant on Silversea Cruises ships is a temple to high-end French cuisine. Named after La Dame de Paris, aka the Eiffel Tower, it serves such classic dishes as filet of Limousin beef, grilled rack of lamb and pan-fried Dover sole. The menu includes two different styles of foie gras, as well as caviar.

As you might expect for a fancy French venue, the service is all white-glove elegance in a refined but contemporary setting. As you might not expect on an upscale all-inclusive cruise line, the restaurant does have a hefty cover charge.

Cost: $60 per person for all ships, with the exception of the new Silver Nova. The cover charge for La Dame on Silver Nova, where the experience includes an exclusive selection of French wines and digestives, is $160 per person.

Pacific Rim

Where you’ll find it: Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer, Seven Seas Splendor and Seven Seas Grandeur


Another one of my favorite cruise ship restaurants is Pacific Rim, found on the two largest Regent Seven Seas Cruises vessels. Serving pan-Asian cuisine, it’s elegant and upscale — as you would expect from one of the world’s leading luxury lines — and has a mouthwatering menu.

Signature dishes include grilled Korean barbecue lamb chops (served with wok-fried Brussels sprouts and gochujang sauce) and a miso black cod wrapped in a hoba leaf. Signature appetizers include a crispy soft-shell crab served with a kizami wasabi mayo.

For dessert, don’t miss the chili chocolate mousse. True to its name, it’s infused with chile and wonderfully spicy. For something more neutral, my pick is the green tea panna cotta, served with mango and a lychee ragout.

Cost: There’s no extra charge to dine at Pacific Rim, but reservations are required.

Related: Peek at the over-the-top luxury of Regent’s Seven Seas Splendor

Eden Restaurant

Where you’ll find it: Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex, Celebrity Beyond and Celebrity Ascent

Eden restaurant. CELEBRITY CRUISES

Celebrity Cruises has created a temple to gastronomy with Eden Restaurant, found on its new Edge Class ships. Located at the back of each vessel in a whimsical glass-walled and plant-filled dining and entertainment space called Eden, it offers a fixed-price menu with a wide range of choices for appetizers, three entrees and two desserts.

In a sharp departure from Eden Restaurant’s original concept of mesmerizingly imaginative dishes with fanciful names and often exotic ingredients, the menu now offers such classic dishes as filet mignon and mini short rib Wellington with mashed potatoes, vegetables, mushrooms and bordelaise sauce, and slow-cooked corvina — all cooked perfectly.

In addition to the regular menu, Eden offers two seven-course tasting menus — one with some dishes derived from animals and one that is completely vegan.

Cost: $65 for the basic menu; the tasting menus cost $100.


Where you’ll find it: Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy

Remy restaurant. DISNEY CRUISE LINE

For the most part, the food on Disney Cruise Line ships is just so-so (in my opinion, at least). It’s a line you book for its great family entertainment, not cuisine. But Remy is the great exception — a dining experience that is among the finest at sea.

Created by two renowned chefs (Arnaud Lallement of France’s three-Michelin-starred l’Assiette Champenoise and Scott Hunnel of Disney World’s high-end Victoria & Albert’s), it offers exquisitely presented, French-inspired cuisine of the highest quality in an elegant setting at one of the highest prices of any cruise ship eatery.

Like pretty much all venues on Disney ships, Remy has some whimsical Disney touches. Named after the rat hero in the Disney animated film “Ratatouille,” it has his stylized likeness worked into the art nouveau design.

But there’s nothing Mickey Mouse about the restaurant’s sophisticated decor and finishings, which include high-end Frette linens, Riedel glassware, Christofle silverware and gold-cushioned stools to hold ladies’ purses. This is a fine dining establishment where you wear a jacket or cocktail dress to dinner while savoring mouth-watering small plates of duck, quail, Wagyu beef, king crab and the like.

Cost: $135 per person for dinner, not including wine. A brunch service is also available for $80 per person, and a dessert offering is $65 per person.

Steakhouse at the Verandah

Where you’ll find it: All Cunard ships

Steakhouse at the Verandah. CUNARD

Steakhouse lovers will find another great option in Steakhouse at The Verandah, located on all Cunard vessels. It’s a shrine to the most indulgent, marbled and mouth-watering cuts of beef, from 35-day dry-aged Scotch grass-fed Black Angus to Australian grass-fed Wagyu beef (the latter for a $30 upcharge). It also serves seafood options such as grilled whole Dover sole and Maine lobster. Appetizers include clam chowder and lobster cocktail.

At a price of just $45 per person if booked in advance of sailing (with a few supplemental charges for premium items), it’s a great bargain in my book — at least compared to fine steakhouses on land.

Cost: $45 per person if booked in advance of sailing; $50 per person if booked on board. A few premium dinner items come with extra “supplemental” charges. The steakhouse is also open for lunch for $25 per person if booked in advance and $30 per person if booked on board.

Bottom line

Good food is plentiful on cruise ships, where you will find a few truly world-class restaurants. Some of the same chefs behind the best-known restaurants on land have turned their attention to restaurants at sea in recent years, making it easier than ever to have a knockout meal during your cruise.

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