Dining & Bar Options
First-time cruisers are often surprised at the sophistication of dining at sea. Some ships boast specialty restaurants, others feature healthy dishes for those on a diet, while others have added an Australian twist.
The cruise-ship buffet offers an ever-changing menu of dishes, with chefs ensuring there are plenty of salads, fruit and vegetables. Fill up on the healthy stuff rather than returning to the dessert bar multiple times if you don’t want to roll off the ship as cargo.
Buffets can also include unexpected fun. Diamond Princess, a ship that divides her time between Japan and Australia, features a do-it-yourself ramen bar where you add different toppings to your noodle soup.
P&O recently launched a new casual dining concept called The Pantry. Found on Pacific Aria, Eden and Jewel, the food court-style eatery comprises distinct sections offering Mexican, Asian, curries, meat, fish and chips, salads and sandwiches, and desserts.
Most ships have specialty restaurants – ranging from formal to casual – in addition to their main dining room. Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth has an onboard English pub called the Golden Lion, along with fancier options such as The Verandah – a French fine-diner serving the likes of grilled sea bass with orange and pernod broth, and beef and lobster flambeed with cognac and truffle. Many Royal Caribbean ships feature fun casual diners such as the 1950s-themed American diner Johnny Rockets and hotdog mecca Dog House. Be sure to check, though, if these specialty restaurants carry an extra charge.
Celebrity was one of the first cruise lines to offer a spa restaurant. Aqua Spa Cafe menus include low-sodium dishes such as watermelon and feta salad, a la carte options such as steamed salmon, and sweet treats including lemongrass and cardamom nectarines poached in honey water. Devinly Decadence, on board Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, offers dishes with fewer than 500 calories – think burgers, flatbread pizzas and grilled salmon salad. Devin Alexander, an American celebrity chef and cookbook author, developed the menu for those keeping an eye on their waistline.
What’s in a name?
Some cruise lines boast a “name” restaurant among their dining options. Five P&O ships (Pacific Aria, Eden, Dawn, Jewel and Pearl) feature Salt Grill by Luke Mangan where passengers can dine on the likes of crab omelette, kingfish sashimi, enoki mushroom salad with miso broth, and licorice parfait with lime syrup. Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas both feature Jamie’s Italian, serving Jamie Oliver’s signature antipasti planks full of cured meats, pickles and cheeses, as well as other dishes such as prawn linguini. American restaurateur and TV personality Guy Fieri has added his diner-dude touch to Guy’s Burger Joint, found on nine Carnival ships. Holland America has recruited high-profile Australian chef Mark Best to add dishes to its signature restaurant, Pinnacle Grill.
Cruise lines are home to some of the best bars & pubs at sea. From relaxing piano bars to drinks with a view and even uber cool ice bars on Norwegian Cruise Line ships, there really is something to satisfy all tastes. A few of Royal Caribbean's ships feature, the "Bionic Bar", where robotic bartenders can muddle, stir, shake, and strain your drink to perfection with 30 different spirits & 20 mixers.
Holland America’s ms Koningsdam, which debuts in April 2016 with a Mediterranean journey, will boast the only purpose-built wine-blending venue at sea. Wine connoisseurs and novices alike can book into BLEND to make their own bottle from five barrels of single-vineyard red from Washington state’s oldest winery. Guests can add their own label before the wine is taken to their stateroom or sent to one of the ship’s restaurants to be savoured over dinner. Here are our picks for the 7 best bars at sea.
Cruise lines are also learning that Australians love their coffee. When Carnival Spirit relocated from an American home port to Sydney in 2012, the ship’s staff were trained by Australian baristas in the art of making a great flat white.