Long gone are the days when the ritual of guessing the ingredients of buffet meals was grudgingly accepted as part of the cruising experience. Culinary prowess is now considered an asset by many cruise lines, and rightly so. Top-notch restaurants, innovative menus, and star chefs are inspiring food lovers to book a berth onboard ships that have become bona fide dining destinations.
For such cruise lines, setting the new culinary standard involves a dedication to quality and experience — not flashiness. Acclaimed Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa, for example, has restaurants on both of Crystal’s ships, the Serenity and Symphony. And The Restaurant, the main dining room aboard every Silversea ship, pays homage to seasonality by changing the menu depending on where you’re sailing (roasted Chilean sea bass is served en route to Chilean fjords). Not to be left behind, Oceania Cruises recently launched a collection of Culinary Discovery Tours, which might include a cooking demo in Provence.
Variety is another upside to cruise lines turning to food to keep competitive. On any given ship, you’ll likely be able to choose among several restaurants, which may serve Italian, Japanese, French bistro, or traditional steakhouse fare. And because consumers are more and more conscious of where their food is coming from these days, the ingredients are often fresh (Yachts of Seabourn and Windstar are just two examples of lines that offer shore excursions with chefs to local farmers' markets), and sustainably harvested.
Here, the top 10 cruise lines dedicated to culinary excellence at sea.