The Reflection isn’t just the newest (debuted in 2012) and largest (3,046 staterooms, 126,000 gross tonnage, and an additional deck) of Celebrity’s fleet, it also has the best dining. The Reflection includes the standards on every one of Celebrity’s ships: the Sky Observation Lounge (complete with stunning views), the entertaining Martini Bar, and the Lawn Club — which is anything but a standard dining experience, as guests are invited to cook their own steaks to perfection outside on grass. But these locations are more spacious on the newer, larger ship, and include a suite-only restaurant and an even more exclusive one for AquaClass passengers.
Diners in the elegant main room, Opus, can choose either traditional dining at 6:15 p.m. or 8:45 p.m., or flexible Celebrity Select Dining (6 p.m. to 10 p.m.), and reservations for the latter can be made online — even prior to boarding! At the buffet, in the Oceanview Café (modeled after an international marketplace), the menu changes every day, with a wide variety of cuisines showcased at live cooking and other made-to-order stations. There’s also a grill, an additional café, and room service, in addition to French, Italian, sushi, seafood, and fine dining fee options. Don’t be deterred by the extra options though — the free restaurants provide plenty of impressive culinary experiences for travelers not willing to shell out additional money.
When the Disney Dream debuted in 2011, it was a turning point for the Disney cruise line and its aging fleet, as the two other ships entered service in 1998 and 1999. The new one expanded a capacity of 2,400 people to 4,000. Then the Disney Fantasy joined its siblings a year later and raised the bar yet again. Like all Disney cruises, the ship features a rotational dining routine where the eateries change each night, but the guests’ servers do not. The over-the-top presentation doesn’t change either, as diners of all ages are delighted with entertainment as they eat, like at Animator’s Palate, where guests’ own placemat doodles are collected and brought to life onscreen. Grown-up guests can also opt for French cuisine at Remy’s and Italian at Palo — for a fee. The latter’s lobster ravioli and osso buco might be enticing, but those looking to splurge should try Remy, which offers a three-hour seating, a delectable seven-course meal, and a wine-pairing option. Diners can even meet with the sommelier before dinner for planning, and upon returning to their stateroom, will find a box of Remy chocolates as a thank you. No, no, thank you, Disney.
Norwegian might not have the fanciest cuisine around, but the options are so abundant that it’s overwhelming — and this rings especially true for the Breakaway and Getaway ships, which have almost identical dining selections. In addition to the Savor, Taste, and Tropicana or Manhattan (for the Getaway or Breakaway, respectively) main dining rooms, there’s also the Garden Café buffet, O’Sheehan’s Irish pub, Shanghai’s Asian fusion, Flamingo/Uptown Grills (for Getaway/Breakaway) and the Haven Lounge & Restaurant for VIP guests. And these are just the complimentary options! There are also at least eight more fee restaurants, which are either à la carte, or have a fixed price of no more than $30. The Getaway even features the Illusionarium, where guests can be amazed by a live magic show while their taste buds are equally in awe.
Before you even taste the food, you're apt to find the dining possibilities aboard the Seabourn Odyssey quite impressive. The main dining room is decked out in sheer white floor-to-ceiling drapes, Restaurant 2 has black leather chairs and purple pillows (and acts as the indoor/outdoor Veranda Café during the day), and The Colonnade has a style unlike your typical buffet, featuring breathtaking ocean views all around. Then we get to the food itself, like chestnut and porcini mushroom soup paired with a honey-spiced squab-and-fig empanada, pan-seared grouper, and caramelized guava cheesecake. And wherever you end up onboard, and at whatever time of day, there always seems to be complimentary caviar and Champagne nearby.
With the recent emphasis in the cruise industry on dividing shipboard dining between free and fee restaurants, it was refreshing to see Princess take care of its passengers without asking for much extra — especially on the new Regal Princess. To start, the ship has three main dining rooms — Symphony, Allegro, and Concerto — with the first featuring two dinner seatings (5:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.) and the latter two offering “anytime” dining. This mixed style is rare and much appreciated, as most cruise lines pick one or the other, which can alienate some passengers. There are also two cafés, two pizzerias, a pastry shop, an ice cream bar, a grill, room service, and the Horizon Court and Horizon Bistro, the ship’s buffet. The latter is the gem of dining aboard the Regal, and its highlights include made-to-order omelettes (which are then delivered to your table) in the morning, a similar option for sandwiches at lunch, and themed dinners. There are also seven fee dining options, including a gelateria, a grill, a seafood bar, a crab shack, and a fondue restaurant.
For a special treat, try a Norman Love-created chocolate-wine pairing flight, followed by a stroll on the Princess SeaWalk, a gross-bottomed walkway that extends 30 feet over the edge of the ship.
The No. 4 spot has to go to both ships, because the two newest members of Royal Caribbean’s Fleet, the Anthem of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas, have almost exactly the same dining options. Both feature the complimentary restaurants American Icon Grill (comfort food), Chic (contemporary cuisine), Coastal Kitchen (California Mediterranean fusion), The Grade Restaurant (Continental), and Silk (Pan-Asian fusion) and the same six other smaller venues, and both also have fee dining at Jamie’s Italian (by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver), Michael’s Genuine Pub (by culinary genius Michael Schwartz), Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine, Chops Grille steakhouse, and Izumi Japanese. The difference? The Anthem has a Johnny Rockets, but the Quantum has the Kung Fu Panda Noodle Shop. At all eateries, there are no set dining times, no assigned seats, and no required formal nights. Check the schedule, check the destinations, but rest assured that whichever Royal Caribbean ship you choose will be an absolute dining delight.
Although it debuted back in 2003, the Crystal Serenity can still best newer and larger ships 13 years later — and a lot of this has to do with that fact that Crystal was the first luxury liner to partner with superstar chefs and restauranteurs. Starting with the Crystal Dining Room (the main room, which rarely, if ever, repeats menus), to Prego (which includes dishes from Piero Selvaggio’s Valentino in Los Angeles), to Silk Road and the Sushi Bar (featuring Nobu-trained chefs), to winemakers’ dinners in the Vintage Room, and even the occasional appearance by Alan Wong (of Alan Wong’s Honolulu), there’s something for everyone (and probably multiple things for everyone) aboard Crystal, especially thanks to all-inclusive prices.
Although guests on Silversea’s Silver Spirit might be tempted to stay in their luxurious suites all day (Silversea offers all-suite accommodations), there are six fantastic dining options aboard — all of which are fine dining, and none involve any extra fees (except for reservations). The main restaurant features modern international cuisine, a bar and grill serves poolside eats during the day and grill-your-own seafood and steaks at night, Seishin has Asian fare and a nine-course tasting menu, Stars is a small plates supper club, Le Champagne is the only Relais & Châteaux wine restaurant at sea (it has a six-course menu with wine pairings, of course), and La Terrazza has enticing Italian food. Try staying in your room now. (Although, did we mention the room service is served course-by-course by butlers? Because we probably should have gotten that out there sooner.)
Oceania Cruises often claim to have the best cuisine at sea (especially on the Marina, which has the most options), and with master chef Jacques Pépin as the line’s executive culinary director, it’s hard to argue with them. And the best part? Oceania has open seating so guests can sit wherever and whenever they would like, and there are absolutely no dining surcharges at any restaurant on the ship. Period. Whether guests choose continental cuisine in the Grand Dining Room, Italian specialties at Toscana, steaks at the Polo Grill, French fare at Jacques, semi-private vintage wine and gourmet food pairings at Wine Spectator Magazine’s La Reserve, or any of the other dozen restaurants aboard (there’s even the Bon Appétit Magazine Culinary Center for guests wishing to improve their own cooking skills), they can expect a top-notch experience without needing to bring their wallets or keycards — except, of course, to get back into their staterooms, where there’s also complimentary room service.