Eating well at a great restaurant is one of life's finest indulgences, whether it's leave-you-speechless haute cuisine or greasy, salty guilty pleasures. The good news for cruisers is you don't have to leave dining choices behind on dry land when you set sail. Cruise ships are continually upping the ante with specialty restaurants that feature international dishes, celebrity chefs, intimate venues, innovative menus and all-around delicious food.
Partnerships with such storied chefs as Marco Pierre White, Michel Roux, Jamie Oliver and Eric Lanlard have certainly raised the food bar at sea, but even in-house culinary teams are turning out novel cruise ship fare. Look for onboard venues embracing the gastropub movement, advanced cooking technologies and even molecular gastronomy.
Many, but not all, of these dining venues come at a price, but the extra fees are often worth it. If you're an avid foodie, a couple looking for a romantic splurge or to celebrate a special occasion, or anyone wishing to cap a holiday with an especially memorable dinner, you will relish this list of our favourite cruise ship restaurants.
1. Verandah Restaurant
The Verandah Grills on the former Atlantic "Queens" are recreated aboard Cunard's Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. Situated on Deck Two, adjacent to the - Grand Lobby, these prepossessing rooms offer a tasteful evocation of this legendary cruise line's peerless traditions.
Open for lunch and dinner, the menus boast numerous individually-priced a la carte choices; there's also a degustation menu and an exclusive wine-pairing menu. The French influenced cuisine is created by Cunard's Global Culinary Ambassador, Michelin-starred Jean-Marie Zimmermann, and amounts to culinary perfection.
Specialities include Torchon de Foie Gras de Canard Mi-Cuit a la Poire, Nougat Brulee; Grenadin de Boeuf Poele aux Morilles, Legumes Primeurs a la Truffe, Pomme Soufflees, Jus Reduit au Madere; and Hot Vanilla Souffle Infused with Edmond Briottet Peach Liquer (and if you are confused about what that all means - ask the waiters, they will explain!)
Sindhu offers a fusion of modern British and Indian cuisine, and is so popular that it has been rolled out across the entire P&O Cruises' fleet.
Sindhu's aim has been to debunk the myth that Indian cuisine is endless variations of chicken tikka masala; and the philosophy behind the restaurant (which was overseen by Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar until recently) is to infuse familiar ingredients with Indian spices and incorporate different textures and flavours.
Diners can enjoy refined Indian cuisine, with dishes such as 'Hariyali Jhinga,' ginger and mint Tiger prawns, pineapple chutney; 'Karara Kekda,' crisp soft shell crab, celeriac and apple slaw, passion fruit chutney and 'Lasooni Machhi,' pan-roasted salmon, spiced wilted spinach, tomato and tamarind sauce.
3. The Glass House
The Glass House is an informal restaurant and wine bar created by TV wine guru Olly Smith, which again can be found across the P&O Cruises fleet. The wine list globetrots around the world and includes wine flights, for the undecided.
The menu is simple; divided into set-price small plates which can be enjoyed tapas-style, such as chorizo, pork belly and butter bean cassoulet, hot oak smoked salmon fishcakes with hollandaise and broccoli sauce, warm quail Scotch egg with horseradish and mustard dip. Large plates feature prime steaks of grain-fed English beef aged on the bone for a minimum of 21 days. There are also daily specials, such as north Atlantic cod fillet in cider batter and hand-made chips.
Celebrity Cruises' boasts that the key principles of its "modern luxury" dictum are built around matching and exceeding the aspirations of guests. This includes offering an innovative fleet, personalised service, and distinctive and exquisitely presented cuisine. So it is with Celebrity Eclipse, which sails on a variety of summer-long itineraries from Southampton.
One of the ship's signature restaurants where a surcharge is applicable, Murano is like a fine old mink coat -- opulent, dignified and warm. The food is delicious and is assembled brilliantly by an accomplished brigade of chefs.
Murano's distinction is its blend of classic and modern continental cuisine, with many dishes prepared tableside. The Wild Forest Mushroom Cappuccino with Creme Fraiche and Fine Herbs is to die for, as is the Dover Sole Veronique with Green Grapes and Beurre Noisette, not forgetting the delicious Valrhona Cocoa Cake with Caramel and White Coffee Ice Cream.
Princess Cruises' Crown Princess, based in Southampton, and Pacific Princess, based in Dover, both feature this much-loved Tuscan-inspired specialty restaurant, where diners go for a taste of la dolce vita.
This elegant room has a centrepiece wine tower displaying vintages that would delight the most discerning oenologist. During afternoons at sea wine connoisseurs can revel in "Super Tuscan Tastings" of the acclaimed vintages Sassicaia, Tignanello and Masseto.
Featuring northern Italian and Mediterranean specialities, many of them lighter than traditional dishes from the area, Sabatini's menu is like a horn of plenty. Over a complimentary glass of Prosecco, diners on cruises from Southampton can choose favourites such as Burrata alla Panna con Carpaccio di Pomodori, Spaghetti allo Scoglio, Branzino al Forno con Zucchini and Semi-Fredo al Cioccolato Bianco Soffice e Limoncello.
6. Chops Grille
Chops Grille is renowned for its club-like ambiance and is one of the most popular restaurants across the Royal Caribbean International fleet. This signature eatery is available on the two U.K. based ships -- Independence of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas.
With earth-toned leather-backed chairs, curtains in hues of crimson, claret and gold and light wood furnishings, this classic American steakhouse is as sophisticated as it is snug.
Grade-A premium cuts of steak and fresh seafood are well to the fore on the unpretentious menus. Popular choices include Dungeness crab and shrimp cake with remoulade sauce, 12oz New York strip steak served with a variety of sauces and sides such as rock salt baked Idaho potato or crimini mushrooms and leeks. The most indulgent and calorie-laden dessert is chocolate mud pie.
7. Epicurean Restaurant
P&O Cruises' flagship -- Britannia -- introduced this restaurant when the ship launched in 2015. But despite being the main speciality restaurant onboard, it does not have any celebrity chef name attached to it -- it is all the concept of the line's executive chefs.
The concept behind the restaurant is serving up classic British dishes and re-interpreting them for today's modern palates. Dishes include: Double Gloucester Old Spot pork fillet, loin of wild boar, butter-poached lobster tail and a duo of duck specialities.
The experience is similar to that of a top London restaurant with a name chef attached -- that is except for the price tag.
Playful, unexpected and food-wise hit and miss, QSine onboard Celebrity Silhouette, is one of those restaurants you'll either love or hate. iPads replace menus; traditional dishes are reinvented and the décor is eclectic.
Upside-down lamps and chairs, funky art on the walls and swirly carpets on the floor create an Alice in Wonderland feel to this, the hippest of cruise ship restaurants.
It's an interesting blend of tapas-style tastes with gourmet interpretations of ethnic comfort food. The menu includes Kobe beef sliders, sushi lollipops, lobster fritters, "chintinis" (Chinese melange served in martini glasses), "disco" shrimp (poached tiger shrimp) and, for dessert, beignets, cupcakes and cheesecake bites. Cost is $45.