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best cruise food

We'd like to take a cruise but wonder which lines have the best food? We took a cruise on Carnival and the food was a notch above Applebees. Any suggestions?

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  1. I've heard from my parents, frequent cruisers, that Holland America has the best food.

    I've been on Royal Caribbean and Princess and enjoyed the food on both -- Princess a bit more because they had the additional a la carte restaurants, which are always a treat.

    I would always vote the smaller ships. The one thing I hated about cruise ship dining was how institutional it felt -- like I was in a mess hall with nicer linens.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Covert Ops

      If you go on Holland America, go to the Pinnacle Grill. Much better than the main dining room, and if you do your homework early, you can get comped(we got it twice - once from the line(they wanted to fill the room the first night)and once from our travel agent)and we liked it so much we went back two other times. The casual food on the Lido deck is quite good too.

    2. Well, I can tell you with certainty that it isn't Carnival Cruise lines!!!

      my foodie blog:

      1. I wasn't that impressed with Holland America's, except in their specialty restaurant, the Pinacle.

        I think the top 2 are Silversea & Seabourne, by far. I love Silversea's La Salletta restaurant & their galley tour brunch is the only buffet I'll do - it's delicious!!

        1. We've done quite a few Celebrity cruises, and have always enjoyed the food: It's not Michelin 3 star, but they do a pretty darn good job of feeding tasty food to lots of people. Try to get a tour of the kitchen -- amazing place! The kitchen is also very willing to cater to special dietary needs. A word about the service: It beats just about anything you'll find on land!

          1. Interesting question. I am looking to take my girlfriend on a shorter cruise (5 days or less) and I'd like to go to something that is on a 3 star Michelin level.

            1. 3 star Michelin means the best food on the planet -- I don't think you're apt to find this on a boat, given the sourcing constraints. It's not like the chef can go to the local market and buy what's best that day. Cooking on a cruise presents many challenges that land-bound chefs don't have to deal with. It's really not fair to make a comparison between ship and land chefs.

              1. Celebrity is better than any of the other "Mainstream Cruise lines". You typically get what you pay for, all round.

                1. In September, my parents went on a cruise with Crystal Cruises, on the Crystal Symphony. I hear this is the end-all, beat-all cruise line in terms of service and quality of dining. They went on the cruise with 10 of my aunts and uncles, and my grandparents, and none of them could stop raving about the gorgeous food. They even brought home menus for my brother and I to be jealous over!

                  Here's a sample menu from their website:


                  3 Replies
                  1. re: operagirl

                    that looks excellent, thanks for that!

                    1. re: jpschust

                      You're welcome. Bear in mind my grandparents are quite the gourmets (my grandma used to cater with Narsai David), so nobody was exaggerating!

                    2. re: operagirl

                      Second or third the recommendation for the Crystal cruise line and Seabourn. My grandparents were avid cruisers who would only travel on the "best" and Crystal was their line of choice (after the Royal Viking Line went out of business).

                      Seabourn took over several ships from the Royal Viking Line, which was their former favorite. I've been on a couple of Crystal cruises and the food is excellent. My all time best trip was on the Royal Viking Queen (which is now the Seabourn Legend). All food was top-notch and included in the price. You could order (beluga) caviar as an appetizer every single night, which I did for the entire three week cruise (this was in 1992, before the beluga crises).

                      Here's the Seabourn website:


                    3. I've sailed on Princess twice now, but my parents are frequent cruisers and won't go on any other lines. In general, I've enjoyed the food on the ship, but after seven days worth of the stuff I always seem to find something particularly junky like Taco Bell or McDonald's to be oddly appealing... Here's a quick rundown of the food on Princess ships (This info is based on the Star Princess, but applies for the other Grand Class ships as well.)

                      Dining rooms: There are options for either traditional fixed seating dining (you eat at a specific time)or Personal Choice dining, where you can choose when you eat. We generally opt for the personal choice, since we don't usually know when we're going to eat. For dinner, the menus are four courses (appetizer, soup/salad, entree and dessert) and for each course there will be some items always available, and other items which change on a daily basis (roughly 3-4 of each.) A lot of the items do use some fairly costly (and even soem rather exotic) ingredients, with the most expensive items (like lobster tails) served on the second formal night (there are 2 on a 7 day cruise.) Even when it's not formal night, they'd like you to dress up a little nicer than usual for the dining rooms (a button-up shirt and khakis will do.) I'm not familiar with breakfast and lunch items in the dining room, since we didn't ever eat those in the dining rooms. Also keep in mind that alcoholic beverages are charged separately from the meal, which pretty much holds true throughout the ship. There are plenty of options for those, and there are non-alcoholic options as well.

                      In addition to the usual dining room fare, the Princess ships also have an steakhouse option (very good steaks,although they come with an additional $15 charge per passenger and you'll probably want to make a reservation when you board in order to get the seating you want) and Sabatini's, an Italian restaurant which is supposed to be very good, but I haven't tried it ($25 per person service charge, and same warning on reservations.)

                      On the less formal side, there's the Horizon Court Buffet, which is open 24 hours, and is about what you'd expect from a buffet (although oftentimes the entrees from dinner do make their way to the buffet later in the evening if you find something you want seconds on.) It's a lot more informal, and you can take the stuff from here pretty much wherever you want. Also during the day, there is a pizzeria (with limited selections that change daily, but the pizza is much better than the usual chain pizza) and a grill (standard burger-and-fries fare) found near the outdoor pool area. There's also an ice cream parlor open during the day, but this comes with an additional charge as well.

                      Overall, the food on Princess is quite good, as long as you don't mind the selection being somewhat limited. You have to keep in mind they need to be able to feed 3,000 passengers a day (plus another 1,000 crew) and most of the time they're not going to be able to restock food during the cruise.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Vexorg

                        I ate at Sabatini's once, it was quiet, dimly lit and relaxing, a nice change from the mess-hall dining room experience.

                        I don't recall the meal (it was several years ago) but I remember it was about 5 courses and had limoncello at the end. ;-)

                        1. re: Vexorg

                          Why do I remember our Princess cruise where every meal was included in the price of the cruise and it was usually 'all I could eat". They would give me 2nds or an entirely different entree if I couldn't decide which one I wanted.
                          This was in a 1990 Panama Canal cruise

                          1. re: Vexorg

                            I went on a Princess Cruise and went for the flexible seating. I found I couldn't just eat there whenever I wanted though. If I didn't want to wait for a table, I had to make reservations.

                            The food on Princess was pretty good, although I didn't always think it was imaginative. I remember enjoying some of the stuff in the buffet - like the pesto lasagne.

                            I had dinner at Sabatino's one night. I did enjoy it, but I don't know if it was worth the extra cost.

                            I never did try the pizza. I"m a little sad about that. I've heard it's pretty good.

                          2. Holland America has top-notch service and some of the best and friendliest staff around, but their food tends to be rather bland and mediocre. My parents just got off a HAL cruise, and they were not impressed with the food (although they raved about the crew, as usual).

                            Princess actually has excellent food considering how many people they're serving.

                            Crystal's food is also excellent, and their specialty restaurants are to die for. What's nice about Crystal is that the supplements for their specialty restaurants are really reasonable, so it pays to make a run for the restaurants to make reservations as soon as you board.

                            1. NCL to Bermuda, most of the dining room food was just awful. Knowing that the destination to port was a short one, we just hung on for local fare. Reminder: if you drink coffee-cruise java is by far the worst experience.

                              1. Our first cruise was a Princess cruise and we found the food so bad that we wouldn't get on another ship for 5 years. Now, to possibly give Princess an excuse there was a new chef on the ship that cruise.
                                We met a woman in Ft. Lauderdale once who had worked for a few cruise lines. She told us that the more a cruise line charges on average means the more they spend on food per passenger and the quality improves. So, taking her advice we have been on 3 Radisson/Regent cruises. The food quality was light years ahead of Princess but we felt like we were on a floating retirement community. Last year we tried the Queen Mary 2. Overall not as luxurious as Regent but we enjoyed the food outside of the main restaurant. This was the best balance of good enough food and finding people our own age to meet.

                                1. My wife and I are planning a food and wine spotlight cruise on the Reagent Voyager through the Mediterranean. Any one been on one of these cruises or heard of anyone else's experiences?

                                  1. Try www.cruisecritic.com Great site, forums there would be a great place to post this topic. You'll get the low down from lots of people about their opinions about the food on every cruise line imaginable.

                                    I've only been on NCL and found that it varies. My first cruise to the Eastern Carribbean the food was fantastic and service was tremendously professional - but we also were seated each night in a separate smaller dining area set off from the main larger room (not a specialty restaurant, just a smaller room with tables for 2 and all ocean views).

                                    Second cruise to Bermuda was mediocre at best, and service at dinner was actually pretty awful on some evenings; like HillJ mentioned above. The waitstaff were horribly under-trained and many pompous and acting as if they knew better than you when you'd complain about something wrong with the food or wine. The saving grace on that cruise turned out to be that the gentleman in charge of the dining room turned out to be the same one in charge of the 1st cruise I took 3 years prior (our honeymoon, different & better boat/destination). He actually remembered us (not just making it up - he specifically had details to relay back to us!) and from that moment on made sure that we were very well taken care of.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: sivyaleah

                                      I did a western carribean NCL cruise and found it sort of uneven. Dining room was mixed. Terrible cheeses in the cheese plate. French restaurant was great and so was the steakhouse. The Japanese hibachi was fun, but they used enormous amounts of butter to cook things - hardly traditional and not very good for you.

                                      Buffets were everywhere on the ship and the one by the pool often had themes (like one day it was all German). No better and no worse than any other buffet.

                                    2. You really get what you pay for at a cruise ship. Princess, HAL, Celebrity, RCCL, and Carnival are the mid-range ship for the masses.

                                      Crystal, Seabourn, Regent, QMII etc are the luxury lines and their fares are about twice as much as the mid ranged ones. Some of those ships serves caviar and Don Perignon for free...

                                      Never been to the luxury lines (not likely until my son is much older), but out of the mid range ones I had the best luck with Princess. But generally if you are picky about the food the mid range cruises won't give you spectacular food. At best it's more like a good hotel quality one. Buffets are generally bad. Sabatini on Princess was very good and worth the extra cost.

                                      I've also sailed on RCCL, and their dining room food was solid. Celebrity had great desserts on our Alaskan sailing but the dining room fare was hit & miss (they tried to be too fancy and failed on the execution). Carnival was the pits for our Med cruise this summer. My siblings sailed on NCL and said that the food there was worse than Carnival, believe it or not.

                                      I've heard good things about the food on Disney Cruise Line, but haven't been. Cruisecritic is a good site for cruise line info, but from my experience not many reviewers are foodies.

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: notmartha

                                        I would certainly not put Carnival in the mid-range category! Carnival is for people who can't afford a decent cruise and just want to board a ship to drink and party. I'm met people on who were turned off of cruising because their first cruise was Carnival.

                                        I think NCL and RCCL are the next step up, and then would be Princess, HAL, and Celebrity. I agree that the luxury cruise lines would have better quality food, but you certainly pay for it! I'd also expect them to have a higher quality because they typically have fewer guests on board.

                                        We went on HAL to Mexico from San Diego and thought the food was pretty good. We had one meal in the "upgrade" restaurant and it was outstanding. Because we went early, the staff had time to talk with us and we enjoyed that. We had hit-or-miss coffee, but found that we could ask the dining staff to brew a new pot if the one they gave us was too weak. After a few days, we just ordered espressos when we sat down. I think any of the higher-up mid-level lines (does that make sense?) have decent food and you can always order 2 servings if you find something you really like. We had lamb chops two nights and after wishing I ordered double the first night, I definitely did so when it came up on the menu again! Surprisingly, our filet and lobster night produced the most tender and tasty lobster tail I've ever had. Didn't even want butter!

                                        Granted, the food is not up to the standards of the greatest landlocked restaurants, but for what it is, I think it's really enjoyable. Besides, if you're going on a cruise solely for the food, perhaps a cruise isn't the best way for you to travel?

                                        My parents were looking to take a cruise around Hawaii until my mom realized she would just be sitting down watching TV and movies (she wasn't interested in the ports - they grew up in HI) and eating all the food. So, she figured she could take the money they were going to spend and splurge at some high-end Vegas restaurants, the Sterling brunch at Bally's and whatever buffets she wanted to enjoy!

                                        1. re: leanneabe

                                          Doesn't Carnival own RCCL, Cunard, and Princess? In a way, it's all the same cruise line.

                                          1. re: Avalondaughter

                                            Carnival owns Princess, Holland America and Cunard.
                                            Royal Caribbean owns Celebrity.

                                            On all routes they basically all provision from the same companies, so there's a good chance they're using similar basic ingredients.

                                            1. re: monku

                                              Provisions may be the same but chefs of different nationalities and cuisines prevail.
                                              My Princess cruise had an Italian chef which, I think made all the difference.

                                              1. re: mucho gordo

                                                Every ship in any cruise fleet follows the same recipes to the letter.
                                                I've been on several Princess Mexican Riviera cruises and the food is good, but there was no noticeable difference.

                                                1. re: monku

                                                  That's interesting. I always thought each chef was on his/her own just as if they had their own restaurant.

                                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                                    It's the economy of scale...down to the nightly production shows.
                                                    Every ship in the fleet around the world has the same live production shows for a three year run then change them.

                                                    1. re: monku

                                                      I can understand that better than the fact that the chefs are not free to create their own menu or put their own spin on the cuisine.

                                                      1. re: mucho gordo

                                                        Don't get me wrong, the executive chefs are highly qualified and come with experience from the finest restaurants in the world.
                                                        I'm sure they prepare special meals for the captain.
                                                        On a Royal Caribbean cruise in Alaska we had a party of 14 and every night someone was preparing special appetizers for our group. One night was the best gumbo I've ever had.

                                        2. re: notmartha

                                          notmartha, I beg to disagree on the "you get what you pay for" idea. My husband and I have taken several Celebrity cruises and one much-more-expensive Radisson cruise. The food on the Radisson cruise was good, but not quite as good as Celebrity. I imagine that the higher tier ships might be better, but I never expect to find out first-hand.

                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                            For most cruise site description, Carnival is still considered to be the mid-range - on par with Princess, HAL, RCCL, NCL, Disney and the like. It is a little bit cheaper, and while they do have a reputation as a party boat because of the 3 day iterinaries, it's not like every boat is the same and every iterinary is the same. Believe me - there's more party animal at the RCCL W. Caribbean cruise we went on than the Carnival cruise to W. Med.

                                            Princess seems to command the most premium out of the mid range, and I found that they don't skimp as much on the food as say Carnival. I found fresh fruit (even papayas), shrimp to be abundant on Princess, and even the more relatively expensive/exotic veggie like belgian endives are in the salad bars. On RCCL and Carnival they dole out shrimp like they were gold. This is part of you get what you paid for.

                                            My theory is that they have to save money somewhere as their fare are less, and the most obvious place to save is on food.

                                            I remembered reading that the higher end cruise line the wine/soda are included, as is the service, and also they have the expensive stuff like caviar and such at certain events. That's also part of the you get what you paid for - try having free champagne and caviar at your mid range cruise ships. Soda are also not free on the mid range cruise ships.

                                            I don't know whether there's a huge difference/value between the best mid-range and the worst high-range. Haven't had a chance to find out (give me 10 years after my kid goes to college).

                                            My first cruise was on Celebrity - due to their reputation as a foodie cruise line. Well, nowadays most cruise lines have celebrity chef designed menu, and I think they are mostly hype. The Celebrity cruise I was on had stringy/tough way undercooked duck that the even the RCCL cruise chef was able to master reasonably well, so you never know.

                                            Bottom line is, cruise ship food varies, even within the same cruise line. No guarantee and the worst thing is if the food is bad you can't hop off and find food elsewhere. So I learned to set my expectation low and hope to be pleasantly surprised.

                                            My comments were based on the 5 cruises we went to the past 6.5 years, and the cruises my siblings & parents went on (they are serious chowhounds as well).

                                        3. I appreciate and agree with many of the points made. I would add that our disappoint in cruise fare is compounded by the amount of spin cruiselines, travel agents and travel clubs place on "how wonderful" the food is going to be on a cruise...and then you get onboard and quickly realize...that much has changed.

                                          In the three years dh and I waited before returning to Bermuda, we didn't recognize the food service: ie: Midnight buffets, Captain's nights, Coffee and dessert bars, service at poolside, specialty restaurants and beverages were all redesigned. Most evident at main dining room dinners.

                                          This hasn't prevented us from cruising but our expectations and destinations have changed.

                                          1. Radisson/Regent include some drinks - if I recall correctly, wine with dinner, but it wasn't of a great quality. You could upgrade for a reasonable fee to a better bottle. I think they also give you a small 'starter bar' in your cabin, but it's been a few years - not positive about that.

                                            Crystal, although excellent food for a larger ship, nickel & dime you on everything - NOTHING is included. Really irritating after having cruised on an all-inclusive line.

                                            I believe the same for QEII, but have not cruised on her.

                                            Silversea & Seabourne include EVERYTHING - silver caviar service on demand (others may do this - I didn't try on Radisson or Crystal) brought to your suite (they're all suites, not cabins on Silversea - not so on Seabourne) 24/7, as often as you'd like. Your bar is stocked with your requests. ALL drinks, including fairly decent wine with dinner - we usually upgraded, again at a reasonable fee, but the ones service were quite drinkable. Had a bottle of Gaja Chard for $100 once, which I thought ridiculously well-priced & delicious! Dom Perignon is served upon boarding to Am Exp Plat travellers, but the standard 'call' champagne is not Dom (which isn't such a bad thing - I think it's way overrated). Silversea's regular champagne I believe used to be Veuve, but now a lesser known, but good, French brand. Don't know what Seabourne's is now, but it's sure to be high quality. Cigarettes are even free (which still surprises me in this day & age), but smoking areas have happily been greatly restricted. As I mentioned, the specialty restaurants, especially La Salletta on the Silver Cloud & WInd are excellent & should not be missed. You do have to purchase a wine to dine here (only time you need to purchase any drink), but again, very reasonable & excellent wine list. There were $20 - $1K plus bottles. The average age on these deluxe cruises has plummeted. We were the 2nd to the youngest on our 1st SS cruise in our early 40's. 4 cruises later, not the case at all - many our age & some younger & most not much older. Generally, you do find older travellers on Holland America & the QEII cruises & on most of the longer cruises that can not be broken up into sections.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: torta basilica

                                              The average age on our Holland America Alaskan cruise had to be about 75 - kids included!

                                              1. re: calabasas_trafalgar

                                                I believe it - ours too - even over the holidays. A lot of motorized scooters parked in hallways...

                                            2. I've taken two west coast princess cruises and I'm a foodie. The food on the first was very good and the second was "ok to pretty good". Princess cuisine staff management include many italians. The onboard pizzeria is terrific. The italian food is quite good. Stay away from the mexican, asian, etc. We found caviar in the buffet one night and took it to our cabin to enjoy.

                                              Princess also lets you bring your own wine and champagne..as much as you want. Corkage is only $10. If you enjoy wine, bring your own glasses too.

                                              1. The pizza on the Dawn Princess was some of the best I've ever had. Talking to one of the cooks-he said he makes 100 pounds of fresh pizza dough every day. I ate it everyday is was so good.

                                                First of all don't expect cruise food to be much above what you might get at the Cheesecake Factory. Go with that in mind and you won't have high expectations and be disappointed. On cruise lines its all about presentation, profitability and feeding masses of people.

                                                One thing to understand about cruise lines is they basically all get their provisions from the same purveyors where they port. There's basically two classes in cruising...call it middle class and high class. Carnival owns Holland America so the food quality isn't going to be much different. I will say I've had better prepared meals on Holland America and I attribute that to the fact that they have smaller ships than Carnival. Holland America also claims a lower crew/passenger ratio. On Holland America I've had Alaskan King crab legs and Maine lobsters. Downside is Holland America ships are not mega ships with all the bells and whistles that the other lines have. Royal Caribbean has decent food-the maitre de told me now that when you order a steak its cooked to order and not cooked ahead of time. NCL is just ok, their freestyle dining makes it somewhat interesting.

                                                Bottom line is with todays cruise ships carrying 2,500+ passengers, food is prepared like an assembly line. They're preparing up to 10,000 meals a day.

                                                Disadvantage of the high end cruise lines is the average age of the passenger is also way up there. (more disposable income).

                                                1. I have been on three cruise lines, Seabourne, Celebrity and Princess.

                                                  Seabourne - look at the prices and one would expect top tier everything and that's pretty uch what you get. Nice staterooms and exceptional food.

                                                  Celebrity - I thought the food was very good, different varieties, well prepared and as good as a "pretty good" resto.

                                                  Pricess - Like Celebrity in food quality and variety. Their "anytime" option is not exactly anytime, but it gives great flexibility. You get the same base food and each resto will have one specialty in addition.

                                                  Buffets on latter two - they are horrible. How do people eat this junk? I am glad many people go there as it leaves a more quiet atmosphere in the sit-down restos.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    I found the buffet on the Dawn Princess last month quite good. Of course I picked only what interested me, but there was always something.

                                                  2. Why dont you have a look at the cruise dining menu's at http://www.Cruises.co.uk so you know the different type of food served on the cruise ships. It usually varies by cruise line.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Cruises Fan

                                                      Thanks - but I can't see a menus page. Your link just goes to an albeit interesting cruise discussion board. Could you provide the link you intended. TIA

                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                        Hi Harters try this link and you should be able to see the menu for some of the cruise lines, although i did think there might be more then this. It might have been another website possibly.

                                                        1. re: Cruises Fan

                                                          I think basing decision on menus would be a mistake. An item could sound wonderful but if it is prepared with only average qualify food and poorlly seasoned it won't be a great experience. We had shrimp cocktail served 2x on recent HAL cruise. They were sort of soggy and lacked good fresh taste so just being on the menu is meaningless.

                                                    2. We don't do major cruise lines. Mob psychology. But we were on the Sea Cloud (the original) from Barcelona to Nice and were shocked by how poor the food was. On the other hand, we did one of the French barge trips (and I am ashamed to say I don't recall the company) and were blown away. Now I admit that we both love bistros in France as much as we do three-stars, and will kill for oeufs meurette, for instance, and there were several classic dishes on the menu, but beautifully executed, as though grandmere were in the kitchen instead of a smiling skinny 23-year-old chef.

                                                      1. My friends have taken about 6 Oceania cruises and said the food is amazing. Jacques Pepin is the food consultant and was on their most recent cruise & gave cooking demos. They ran into him & his wife all the time on the ship.

                                                        1. We just returned from HAL Alaskan cruse. I went with low expectations and that is pretty much what I found. They do have great sounding menus. But generally the food tastes like what it is - prepared for masses. Someone on Cruise Critic board had posted a mention of loving the Beef Wellington so when I saw it on the dinner menu that was my choice. It was the most disgusting thing I have ever attempted to eat. The "puff pastry" that was wrapped around it wasn't puffy. It had been sitting for so long it was just a soggy yellow mass of goo. The whippped pototatos on the plate had congealed so that when I put my for in for just a forkful I lifted the whole small mound of potatoes off the plate. What was disappointing was the server who took my basically full plate off the table failed to acknowledge that I hadn't eaten much so he didn't offer to get me anything different. I did make my disappointment know to the head chef who stopped by the next day looking for compliments (poor guy). On the 6th evening they offered ox-tail soup with puff pastry topping. I didn't even consider it but some of my tablemates did and they said it was great. Go figure.
                                                          We had thought about popping for the extra $20 for dinner at Pinnacle Grill but had gotten kind of mixed reviews. We did stop in for breakfast one day (no extra charge) and they took over 30 minutes to serve because they said the fritatta took a long time to bake. It wasn't more than 1/4 of an inch thick. So we just stayed with the main dining room.
                                                          Because we had booked an upper verandah cabin we were offered access to the Neptune Lounge and this saved our week. The coffee there was better than on Lido deck and they had some deliicious chocolate croissants. Gennerally they just served appetizer and small biite kind of things buffet style but all of their food seemed to be a touch above the Lido deck buffets.
                                                          They had chef recipes featured each evening but I can't say they appealed to me more than other menu items.
                                                          The food always sounded good and looked relatively appealing but just didn't deliver it taste..There were a few on board cooking demos that were aimed at a pretty novice level of cooks.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: chocchic

                                                            Agree the HAL beef wellington needs to be dropped from the menu, but we always find great surprises as well and the food does differ from ship to ship in quality, service and presentation. HAL has the best fresh baked breads of any ship we have sailed and they automatically serve sweet butter which is a very nice continental touch. Their cheese plate has improved and is quite good now. We have liked the food on the Zuiderdam and the Maasdam the best. But all HAL ships so far have done excellent things with liver which is a huge mass dining room challenge but some of the best I have ever had which continues to surprise me.

                                                            Love HAL room service for their excellent french onion soup and we always have at least one room service club sandwich dinner per cruise when we don't want to dress up. HAL now has a master chef program menu which brings in new and more modern menu items that definitely elevates it beyond mass produced banquet food. We have also sailed Crystal several times and there is more fuss in their food but there are major deficiencies as well. Avoid their "Italian" Prego like the plaque but their asian Nobu is credible for a special event dinner. They still don't quite understand fresh and sushi in the same sentance but it is improving. MV Discovery food is very competent, but British and a bit dull for dinners, hit and miss for their speciality restaurant and very good to excellent for their breakfast, lunch and tea buffets.

                                                            On our next trip we will try the new special night Le Cirque menu and see how that translates down to a cruise ship on the high seas. Agree, the specialty steak house menu Pinnacle Grill was a disappointment and we have not been back. But over all, we are quite satisfied with HAL food and they do go our of their way to make you happy if something does not turn out well or to your liking. Ships cannot be ranked the same way land based restaurants are judged. One eats well on HAL ships and we save our "dining" for our time in various ports. HAL always gives us the best itinerary for the price with the biggest and most comfortable cabins out there for comparable prices, more traditional and formal old-fashion cruise ship experiences and has settled very nicely into our first choice for mainline cruising. After Crystal we decided we don't cruise to eat. For the extra price we could dine every port stop in Michelin 3 star restaurants with wine instead of choosing them for their marginally better dining offerings. One can only eat so much and after three days or so of having eyes bigger than the stomach one backs off considerably from all the choice anyway and settles on typically a few old favorites that any ship can usually do well. And be thankful in fact the food often looks better than it tastes. That is ultimately a virtue when there is 24/7 cruise ship offerings all inclusive. Be glad the novelty wears off in a few days.

                                                          2. Agreed, with a couple of exceptions. One night they served some of the better stuff, and i ordered a lobster tail that was so good and perfectly cooked I must have snarfed it down instantly, because the waiter brought me another one with a wink and a smile. The second one was just as good. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'd take a cruise for the food.

                                                            7 Replies
                                                            1. re: EWSflash

                                                              I don't think many people actually take a cruise for the food (or at least people who are into food), but it's certainly a consideration for those who care about what they are eating.

                                                              Regent Seven Seas (mentioned above I think) has exceptional food. Some of the other lux lines are likely similar.

                                                              1. re: tommy

                                                                Tommy, you are probably right about not taking a cruise for the food. But food is an important part of my life and a feature of any vacation. When I used to travel with my son's sports teams I always asked that I eat just one good meal a weekend and I would go wherever. Sometimes the meal ended up being great, just cooked donuts or some weird local favorite but if it was well cooked and distinctive in some way I was fine. The cruise ship I was on just didn't give me any really positive memories. We're talking about doing a Mediterranean cruise and I don't have a clue where to start. I like cruising because it gives you an easy way to go from port to port (or beach to beach).

                                                                1. re: chocchic

                                                                  We just got back from the Grand Mediterranean (12 day) cruise with Princess - loved every second of it. We chose traditional dining, first sitting, for dinner. Loved the food - probably might have been less impressed if we'd had the buffet every night, but the food in the traditional dining room was great, and our waitstaff were exceptional.

                                                                  Buffet (breakfast) was ok - pretty good for a buffet, actually. After 12 days I was getting a little bit over it, but I think that's pretty good going, considering. We didn't have many lunches on board as we were out exploring any time the ship was in port.

                                                                  I regret not getting the chance to try the pizza, as I hear that it is really pretty good... but I was conscious of over-indulging.

                                                                  This was on the Ruby Princess, which I think is the newest ship in the line. Based on this experience, I wouldn't hesitate to go on another Princess cruise.

                                                                2. re: tommy

                                                                  One of the couples we went on the cruise with did partially go for the food, they're both plus-size and food-focused, and she once told me that 'overweight people were always afraid of running out of food'. That's not the case with me, actually, but I can see the attraction if you're going to be out of reach of the mainland, and they always have food available on board, even if the food isn't that great.

                                                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                                                    I don't know if I believe any of this, but regardless, I stand by my assertion that "not many people who are into food actually take a cruise for the food." This was in direct response to your comment about you not taking a cruise for the food ("I'm not sure I'd take a cruise for the food."), which was the first time in this thread that this possibility was raised from what I saw.

                                                                3. re: EWSflash

                                                                  Yeah, the lobster was pretty good - but the sauce they served with it was weird. Don't know why they couldn't just offer butter.

                                                                  1. re: chocchic

                                                                    Wow- that's too bad. Mine was served with butter and a lemon wedge. It even seems easier.

                                                                4. We had an interesting experience on my family's first cruise on Carnival when we went about 10 years ago. My parents and I enjoyed the regular menu cruise food, but after the first meal, the maitre d asked if the rest of our group (we were 4 families) would enjoy Indian food more than what was being served to everyone else.

                                                                  It turns out that since so many of the crew were from India, there was a really good Indian chef on board for staff meals. Those those chose the Indian food from then on were quite satisfied, and even I had to admit that the quality / taste of the Indian food was better than the steaks, lobster, duck, etc that was served on the regular menu. The Indian food was really a lot better than most restaurants in the US that I have been to.

                                                                  1. Check out Oceania, they have two ships that run a Bon Appetite cullinary center on them. You can cook with the big name chefs. I booked my cruise through the agent that invented Cruising with the Chefs, check them out www.cruisingwiththechefs.com and ask for Rodney. He is great and takes care of everything. I think that there were 7 fantastic restaurants on board our cruise ship the Marina.

                                                                    1. I've cruised Celebrity too many times, Holland America here we come. My first cruise with Celebrity was on the Horizon, it was fabulous, Dinner was always delicious and the service was exemplary, and this was not a specialty pay extra restaurant. Wait staff presented your dinner and waited for your approval. Formal dining was enforced, don't show up in your cut offs, that is what Carnival is for. My last two Celebrity cruises to Alaska were disasters, very disappointed.

                                                                      1. When we visit America next year, we're hoping to include one of the short (4 night?) cruises out of Miami. Can I assume that quality will be in line with the various comments upthread about different cruise lines or do companies adopt a different standard to food on these short trips? Our only previous cruise experiences have been P & O Mediterranean ones, where the food has been OK fro mass catering.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                                          A few thoughts:
                                                                          I worked on an Alaskan cruise ship for five years. Leave Van.>'Inside Passage' going up>West side of Van. Island going 'down.
                                                                          'New Territories' owner and officers. Filipino wait staff.
                                                                          Chinese in the engine room.
                                                                          Every night was 'theme night' except the first and last nights.
                                                                          These were buffet type meals. All you could eat huge tiger prawns/Australian lobster tails/rib eyes. You name it!
                                                                          Second night
                                                                          Italian'. That was all that was on offer. LOTS of pasta dishes and pizzas. ETC ETC. Each night the menu shunk and the quality plummeted. LOL
                                                                          On the last night? Huge buffet. The huge tiger prawns and lobster tails and rib eyes were all mysteriously found in the walk-in.
                                                                          The Chinese workers were NEVER seen by any passenger.
                                                                          There was a little game on each voyage: A large chart of the inside passage was put up and an officer plotted our course through the Inside Passage each day on it with a grease pen. The game was to guess how many miles the ship had travelled each day. You made your estimate on a piece of paper and put it in a little box. The next day the passenger who had guessed closest got a prize.
                                                                          Problem was the same officer who came down from 'above' and put the course on the chart each day at four PM was always drunk. The other problem was he always positioned the ship about a twenty nautical miles from where we actually were at that point in the voyage.
                                                                          Me to the drunk officer: "See? We're passing Sarah Light off our starboard side. You've got our position twenty miles from here". Officer: "No one knows".
                                                                          Me: "I know". Officer: "I go now".
                                                                          That was on my first 'voyage'. It happen every 'voyage' for five years!
                                                                          Food: compared to your basic decent restaurant: 3/10.
                                                                          We're thinking of taking one of who canal cruises through N. France etc. Any suggestions? The ads look beautiful on TV. How's the food etc?

                                                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                                                            We've never done a canal or river cruise but have been considering one. That follows an acquiantance telling me how good they were,particularly the food. Now, of course, that comes with the usual caveat that I don't know what standards of foody-ness she works to. So, her "very good" may well be my "just OK". But I think it could be a fun week, although I have some reservations about the small boat and the inevitable need to be more sociable than on an ocean cruise.

                                                                            As for a company, suggest you have a look at Viking River Cruises. They're certainly frontrunner if we run with that idea.

                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                              Have done two barge cruises, one in Burgundy and one in Italy. Both small, of course, and both with good-to-excellent food. Italian cruise was on La Bella Vita with an Italian woman cooking who said her idea of fusion food was a first course from Sicily, a main from the Veneto and...well, you get the idea. The Burgundian one was several years ago on the Mirabelle and I've urged a number of people on them since, and all came back moaning happily about the chow. Company has changed names since then, but the boats can be googled. These are all much smaller than what Viking runs, maybe 16 passengers max, and that makes for better food, I think.