At the best shipboard restaurants, cruise passengers will enjoy fine dining, extraordinary service and lovely environments for a special evening of culinary pampering. With menus designed to titillate the taste buds of even the most discerning foodies, here are the best cruise ship restaurants at sea:
Silk Road: On the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, passengers can experience the European- and Peruvian-influenced Japanese cuisine that has made Chef Nobuyuki "Nobu" Matsuhisa a culinary star. Dining at the Nobu restaurant is included in your cruise fare — as is the accompanying sake or wine. Try such favorites as salmon tartare, rock shrimp tempura and melt-in-your-mouth miso-marinated black cod.
Red Ginger: On Oceania Cruises' Marina and Riviera, passengers can experience a lineup of complimentary, top-notch eateries including the brasserie of French Master Chef (and Oceania's culinary advisor) Jacques Pepin. Several not-to-miss items in this contemporary Pan-Asian venue include such creations as Summer Rolls with rice paper, pomello, basil, toasted coconut and miang sauce and Asian-spiced rack of lamb.
Prime 7: Meat lovers will find the best steakhouse at sea on the all-inclusive Regent Seven Seas ships. At the complimentary restaurant you can start which such classics as Oysters Rockefeller before diving into USADA Prime, Dry-Aged beef, including a 32-ounce porterhouse, or such treats as whole Maine lobster, accompanied by wine. Save room for the 14-layer Valrhona cake.
Restaurant 2: For culinary creativity akin to what you see on "Iron Chef," head to this intimate, complimentary venue on Seabourn's posh ships. The chefs use luxury ingredients and what's local and fresh in each cruising region to put together an artistic tasting menu that exemplifies the concept of food as entertainment. Foie gras crème brulee, anyone?
Le Champagne: Dishes using artisan and locally sourced ingredients — the chefs are encouraged to take inspiration from the season and cruising region — are expertly paired with fine wines and champagnes at the only Relais & Chateaux restaurant at sea. The six-course menu on Silversea's ships continually changes, as do the pairings, but the masterful results do not. The cover charge is $30.
Pinnacle Grill: The menu at Holland America Line's signature grill (lunch $10, dinner $25) is a nightly winner with such dishes as Lobster Macaroni and Cheese. But the restaurant really goes over the top at special "Evening at Le Cirque" dinners ($39), featuring dishes such as Lobster Salad and crème brulee, created by chefs from New York's famed, James Beard Award-winning restaurant Le Cirque.
Blu: Celebrity Cruises likes to brag about the playful food at Qsine, but the real star is Blu, open on a complimentary basis to guests in the line's AquaClass spa cabins and suites. It's not easy to combine a healthy aspect to fancy cooking, but dishes such as grilled tamarind-glazed quail with tabbouleh salad and pan-seared filet mignon with celery root puree prove you can.
Remy: On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, this beautiful, adults-only restaurant is loosely based on the movie "Ratatouille," and boasts French-inspired tasting menus created by Chef Arnaud Lallement from l'Assiette Champenoise, a Michelin 2-star restaurant in France; and Disney award-winning Chef Scott Hunnel. The dinner cover is $75 to sample the chefs' creative cuisine, but it's worth it. Wine pairing (extra charge) is encouraged.
Ocean Blue: On the Norwegian Breakaway, restaurateur and Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian focuses on seafood at this elegant, contemporary restaurant, with indoor/outdoor seating and accompanying raw bar. Start with such treats as Mussels Tom Ka Gai with chicken confit before diving into the signature Dover Sole. Zakarian will have his first restaurant in the Miami market on Norwegian Getaway, when the ship officially debuts in February.
150 Central Park by Michael Schwartz: Royal Caribbean smartly turned to a James Beard Award-winning Florida chef to oversee this fancy dining spot, located in Central Park on the Oasis and Allure of the Seas, the world's largest ships. Sample a six-course tasting menu with wine pairings ($75) featuring sustainable, seasonal, locally sourced ingredients in such dishes as Florida lobster and lychee salad and pan-roasted Pompano.
By Fran Golden, USA Today
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