It’s fair to say that food is not the main reason why people go on cruises. Most often, many people choose a cruise for its ample amenities, beautiful destinations and weather, and amazing entertainment. Food is often a secondary priority, usually provided in the form of buffets—whether all-you-can-eat or all-inclusive, or something else. So, in this seemingly under-saturated market, you might wonder: “which cruise line has the best food?“.
Those of you who like both cruising and eating well, don’t have to worry. There are, perhaps surprisingly, actually quite a few cruise lines with ships that focus on cuisine as well. As the societal focus shifts toward locally sourced, sustainably produced and ethically grown ingredients—organic food, and farm-to-table restaurants… cruise lines have no choice but to follow that trend. And they do so with rather remarkable success.
Many cruise lines now cater toward foodies. They feature things like specialty niche restaurants, cooking classes, excursions to local farmers markets, cuisine-focused itineraries and dishes made with popular ingredients from specific ports of call. Additionally, pretty much every cruise line has a chef who has a Michelin star nowadays. If that’s not proof that modern cruise lines take cuisine seriously, we don’t know what is!
Best Cruise Lines for Foodies and Fine Dining
If your taste buds can appreciate the more sophisticated foods of the world, you should definitely check out our recommendations for the best cruise lines for foodies and fine dining.
Norwegian Cruise Line
If you fancy a cruise that departs from New York City, the ship Norwegian Breakaway from Norwegian Cruise Line should be your first choice. The cruise experience on this ship is as NYC as it gets, with its mesmerizing Broadway performances and typical eateries.
By partnering with renowned chef Geoffrey Zakarian, Norwegian has put itself in the culinary-cruise spotlight. The Breakaway’s dining venues include everything from a Brazilian steakhouse to the highly rated seafood restaurant Ocean Blue, which is run by Zakarian.
Of course, you can find some delicious cuisine on Norwegian’s other ships as well, from the Norwegian Bliss to Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Joy. All those ships offer thoughtfully created menus in up to three different Main Dining Rooms, several casual cafes, grab-and-go places, seafood restaurants, and bars and grills. There are some excellent options for family dining experiences on board, too.
Additionally, Norwegian also gives its passengers the chance to immerse themselves in regional specialties on special shore excursions for foodies.
Suggested dishes: Caribbean lobster risotto, and whole roast Dover sole with meunière sauce
The two ocean cruise ships from Crystal Cruises, the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, feature some excellent culinary highlights. Both ships have a classy Crystal Dining Room, a fantastic restaurant that consistently ranks as one of the greatest dining venues at sea. This exceptional restaurant sets the bar high for all other restaurants and cruise lines out there.
Wine lovers will also be in heaven onboard these ships. Trained sommeliers will help you pick out the perfect wine for your meal. The wine cellars on the ships are stocked with an incredible 10,000+ bottles, including more than 230 vintages.
Besides this high-end dining, you can also enjoy some more casual food. There is the charming Italian and Mediterranean restaurant Prego, while Silk Road serves Japanese-Peruvian dishes created by renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Other foods such as tapas and desserts are also available at the ships’ other eateries.
Suggested dish: roasted wild pheasant breast with pistachio stuffing on Champagne sauerkraut
The largest privately owned cruise line in the world, MSC Cruises has an extraordinary line-up of world-renowned chefs, including Jean-Philippe Maury, one of the best pastry chefs in France; Ramon Freixa, who is a Michelin-starred chef; and Roy Yamaguchi and Jereme Leung. The company says that these collaborations with award-winning chefs are one of their ways to make sure that everything on board is superb.
Food offerings on a MSC cruise range from pan-Asian fusion and American-style finger food to Tex-Mex and sushi. What distinguishes MSC from the other cruise lines, however, is its exceptionally wide range, and number, of restaurants. There are takeaway eateries, dessert shops, a kids food area, a pasta station and a meat carvery. Specialty restaurants include a tapas bar, surf & turf restaurant, Asian market, fish and seafood restaurant, and a sushi bar.
Suggested dish: anything on the menu of luxurious Ocean Cay is phenomenal
Seabourn is one of the world’s best luxury cruise lines, sailing literally all over the world. From Alaska to Antarctica, from the Mediterranean to the South Pacific, if you’re after luxurious journey to pretty much every coastal destination on earth, this is the company for you. One of its greatest features is its gourmet dining. Serving award-winning cuisine, the various dining venues on each Seabourn ship provide you with the perfect choice to suit your mood.
Dining abroad a Seabourn ship is 100% complimentary; you can dine where, when and with whom you want. Noteworthy restaurants are The Restaurant, The Colonnade, The Patio and, especially, The Grill by Thomas Keller, a world-famous American restaurateur who owns three Michelin-starred restaurants. Additionally, you can also opt to have your multi-course meal from The Restaurant served in your own suite or your veranda
If all of that doesn’t convince you that Seabourn is one of the best cruise lines for foodies, this fact will: the company is a member of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, one of the most prestigious gastronomic and fine-dining societies in the world. In a nutshell, dining at a Seabourn ship is a world-class experience.
Suggested dishes: lobster thermidor and creamed spinach
Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas is the ship for you if you’re into mouthwatering (and even experimental) food. This is one of the cutting-edge ships that make Royal Caribbean one of the best cruise lines for food and fine dining.
One of the most revolutionary cruise ships that currently sail the seas, Quantum of the Seas has no fewer than fifteen restaurants. There’s a bionic bar—where actual robots mix your cocktails!—and a sushi restaurant, while the Chef’s Table offers a superb private five-course dining experience.
What you should focus on, however, are the restaurants owned by famous British chef Jamie Oliver and renowned Miami chef Michael Schwartz. Another highly recommended venue is Izumi, a superb Japanese restaurant offering guests an exotic East Asian dining experience.
Suggested dishes: the entire Chef’s Table experience will blow you away
Princess Cruises is basically the cruise line that gave the world the concept of “chef’s table at sea”. It is, in other words, a pioneer when it comes to culinary cruises and one of the best cruise lines for foodies and fine dining in the world. And that’s a true statement, Food & Wine Magazine having voted it as one of the “best cruises for food lovers”—literally.
On a Princess Cruise, there’s lack of neither high-end cuisine nor dining options. Everything from hand-tossed pizzas to world-class chocolates to multi-course gourmet dinners is available.
Princess Cruises has teamed up with two award-winning chefs, Los Angeles-based chef Curtis Stone and Ernesto Uchimura who founded the world’s first umami burger restaurant. Chocolatier Norman Love crafts stunning desserts and creates menus filled with different chocolate drinks, including chocolate-infused cocktails. His “Chocolate Journeys” also feature wine-and-chocolate pairings, which is always a fun thing to do.
Suggested dish: The “Ernesto” burger, previously voted as the best burger at sea
Viking Ocean & River Cruises
Through its “destination-focused dining”, Viking Cruises offers its passengers yet another chance to immerse themselves in the local culture of their destinations—one of its signature features.
However, you can also enjoy culinary classic at its many different restaurants, which are famous for offering the most al fresco dining at sea. So, whether you’re looking to try some local specialties or simply want to enjoy comfort food you know, Viking’s restaurant will take care of you.
Mention-worthy eateries onboard Viking Ocean ships are Mamsen’s, which serves Norwegian specialties for breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner; the Aquavit Terrace, a magnificent al fresco dining area; and The Chef’s Table, which offers a multi-course tasting and wine-pairing experience. Additionally, another feature that makes Viking Ocean Cruises one of the best cruise lines for foodies is The Kitchen Table. This onboard cooking school takes food lovers on an interactive culinary journey through local culture and cuisine.
The company’s other branch, Viking River Cruises, also offers destination-focused dining. Although the river ships are much smaller than the ocean-going vessels, they do have a few excellent dining options: Aquavit Terrace and The Restaurant. Again, this is where you’ll find the “most al fresco dining” on the waterways of Europe.
Born and raised in Belgium, Bram is currently based in the Pacific Northwest where he spends his days blogging, hiking, indulging in freshly roasted coffee and sipping craft beers. An experienced traveler, his most memorable journeys include a sea crossing on a cargo ship, a cruise along the Norwegian fjords, a multi-month bike trip around northern Europe, and a road trip across Australia. He's obsessed with America's national parks.