Last updated: 09:38 AM ET, Tue October 27 2015

Cruise Cuisine: Who Has The Best Food at Sea?

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Jason Leppert | October 21, 2015

Cruise Cuisine: Who Has The Best Food at Sea?

PHOTO: The tantalizing Scallops from Disney Fantasy's "Ratatouille"- inspired restaurant, Remy. (Photo by Jason Leppert)

For as long as cruise travel has existed, it has been synonymous with food. Public perception would have you believe cruise ships are anything from floating buffets to enclaves of fine dining. The reality is often all of the above, and the playing field has become more competitive – always good for the consumer – among mainstream and luxury cruise lines.

At this point in the game, no cruise ship has bad food, as the culinary arts are in the limelight onboard even entry-level cruise lines. But quality does vary. The benchmark for cuisine at sea has clearly been set by the luxury lines – Crystal Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, Silversea Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises at the lead.

Seabourn has recently teamed up with world-renowned chef and restauranteur, Thomas Keller, to further elevate guests’ gastronomic experience, and Oceania Cruises has had a longstanding partnership with master chef and executive culinary director for the line, Jacques Pépin. Silversea has similar credentials with an association with Grands Chefs Relais & Châteaux, and Crystal embraces both traditional and modern dining for its award-winning cuisine.

In short, this is where you’ll find the best food at sea paired with the most attentive service, but you’ll pay a premium for it, too. At least there is no additional up-charge for these line’s all-inclusive offerings. Once you’ve paid the cruise fare, the rest is almost always complimentary on luxury lines, save for the most rare experiences.

Alternatively, mainstream lines offer a taste of such decadence in their specialty restaurants. These you will pay extra for, but when the base fare is considerably less, the surcharge is easier to swallow.

Standard lines these days actually serve very good food in their included price also. Carnival Cruise Line even has a partnership of its own with Guy’s Burger Joint from celebrity chef Guy Fieri. It may be less gourmet, but there is no denying it’s home to one of the meanest burgers at sea.

And when it comes to premium specialty dining, the choices are extensive. Norwegian Cruise Line, for instance, has built its entire Freestyle Cruising model on its freedom of nominally priced specialty restaurant choices, from Italian to French cuisine. Some specialty restaurants can add up quicker than others, however. Dinner at Disney Cruise Line’s "Ratatouille"-inspired Remy will run each guest $85, or $105 paired with wine.

Cruise lines may not be created equal, but their dining differs less than you might expect. It just might be that you can cruise for less up front and splurge on specialty dining and get very close to the kind of culinary experience you would have on luxury lines. Of course, you won’t get nearly the kind of other bells and whistles of such cruise ships, but at least your tongue might not know the difference.


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