Most cruise ships feature a number of alternative restaurants, in addition to their no-charge dining rooms and buffets. These specialty restaurants offer passengers a more personal experience along with menu items not found elsewhere on the ship, but most of these venues come with a cover charge. The per person cover or surcharge includes a full ding experience, from soup to nuts except beverages. Quite often, 3 to 5 courses are included in the charge. The following is what to expect from these wonderful alternative dining venues:
Flexibility – Rather than the traditional dining room on a cruise ship where there is a fixed time to eat, these restaurants are usually open from 5 p.m. till late. Some cruise lines allow you to make reservations before your sail date. Others require you to reserve a table once onboard. We will advise you once your cruise is booked.
Choice – Most cruise lines feature a number of specialty and boutique restaurants to choose from. Popular themes include Italian ristorante, French bistro, Asian sushi bar, and American steakhouse.
Quality – Some of these restaurants feature better china and stemware, more attentive service, and in most cases, better cuisine than in the main dining rooms.
The Best Alternative Restaurant on a Cruise Ship
Holland America Line’s Pinnacle Grill was awarded Best Alternative Restaurant in the Cruise Industry by Porthole Magazine in 2009. The atmosphere is formal and tables are set with Bvlgari china, Frette linens and elegant Riedel stemware. Passengers can choose from menu items such as poached lobster tail, lobster macaroni and cheese, or filet mignon ($20 pp)
Additional Alternative Dining Options
- Carnival Cruise Line features their reservation-only Supper Club where passengers enjoy live music, cocktails, and an artistically plated meal. Try the Filet Mignon topped with gorgonzola (made with garlic, butter and cheese) and piece of cheesecake for dessert ($30 pp)
- Celebrity Cruises has at least one specialty restaurant per ship, and on their Celebrity Solstice, there are four. Murano Restaurant serves dishes like Maine lobster or lamb ($30 pp). Tuscan Grill features tastes of Italy ($25 pp). Silk Harvest is Asian themed with menu items including lo mein, pad Thai, and pot stickers ($20 pp)
- Crystal Cruises features The Sushi Bar, an Asian themed restaurant serving 12 different types of sushi rolls, miso soup, tempura, and grilled Wagyu beef steak. Another popular choice is Prego, an Italian restaurant offering traditional dishes such as risotto, gnocchi, veal scaloppini, and tiramisu (no charge)
- Cunard aboard Queen Mary 2, the Todd English restaurant is a 150-seat Mediterranean venue similar to that of the original Queen Mary’s Verandah Grill, one of that ship’s most legendary spaces, serving elaborate and very rich lunches ($20 pp) and dinners ($30 pp), with some truly amazing desserts. One deck down, adjacent to the King’s Court buffet area, the contemporary Chef’s Galley serves only a few dozen guests who pay $30 (pp) to watch the chef prepare their meal via an open galley and several large monitor screens.
- Oceania Cruises as an alternative to the open-seating main dining room aboard Oceania’s three sister ships (Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica), passengers can make a reservation at two specialty restaurants, the Italian Toscana or the Polo Grill steakhouse. Tostana serves antipasti and pasta dishes, soups, salads, and entrée’s such as medallions of filet mignon, swordfish steak, and braised double-cut lamb chops. The Polo Grill serves seafood appetizers, soups and lobster bisque, Caesar and iceberg wedge with blue cheese and crumbled bacon salads, chops, seafood, and cuts of slow-aged beef (no charge)
- Regent Seven Seas on Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Voyager, two reservations-only (but no-charge) restaurants are open for dinner only. Signatures features cuisine prepared in classic French style by chefs trained at Paris’s famous Le Cordon Bleu School. Latitudes offers a new Indochine menu, with such dishes as a spiced rack of lamb accompanied by Jasmine rice and wok-seared snow peas. On Voyager, Latitudes has an open galley, allowing guests to watch as items are prepared. Passengers can also go casual at La Veranda, serving Mediterranean and North African dishes by candlelight.
- Seabourn Cruise Line’s three sister ships (Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Legend, and Seabourn Spirit) offer a casual option known as 2, which features multi-course tasting menus for as many as 50 guests a night. Chefs prepare an array of small plates typically served two to a course during the five- to six-course meals. Expect such dishes as spring rolls with soy, lobster bisque, grilled Striped Bass, and braised beef short ribs. Dessert may include vanilla beignets sauced with caramel apple, fudge and chocolate along with white and milk chocolate ice pralines. The outdoor seating offers an opportunity to dine with the sea breezes and night sky surrounding you. The ambience is more casual here than The Restaurant. (no charge)
- Silversea Cruises offers two specialty restaurants on their 3 ships. Open for dinner, La Terrazza is a lovely windowed Bistro offering Italian cuisine created by Chef Marco Betti, owner of the award-winning Antica Posta restaurants in Florence, Italy, and Atlanta, Georgia. The second alternative venue offers a new twist on cruise dining, offering menus that pair food with wine (not wine with food.) Developed with master sommeliers trained in the member boutique lodgings and restaurants of Relais & ChÃ¢teaux-Relais Gourmands, the wine menus reflect regions of the world known for their rich, wonderful wine. Sommeliers describe the origin and craft of each vintage, then offer dishes created especially to bring out the wine’s full richness. Guests enjoy a different wine with each course, with the extra charge for dinner varying in accordance with the wines presented.
- Windstar Cruises largest ship, the Wind Surf, offers alternative dining at the casual, 128-seat Bistro, an intimate space with a fantasy garden motif and a menu that rotates between steakhouse, Italian, French, and Indonesian dishes (no charge).
- Disney Cruise Line’s specialty restaurant, Palo, is exclusively for adults. Enjoy a candlelit, gourmet meal where northern Italian cuisine is the specialty ($15 pp)
- Holland America Line features a few different alternative restaurants. In addition to their award winning Pinnacle Grill (see above), Tamarind offers Pan-Asian cuisine ($15 pp), and Canaletto features Italian cuisine (no charge)
- Norwegian Cruise Line boasts their eat-whenever-you-want Freestyle Dining approach with up to 13 restaurants per ship. Choose from a French Bistro, a steakhouse, Teppanyaki, Tex-Mex, and others ($10 to $25 pp)
- Princess Cruises features a steak dinner at the Crown Grill, where passengers choose from a variety of cuts, including a Filet Mignon ($25 pp). Their other specialty restaurant is Sabatini’s featuring an Italian tasting menu ($20 pp)
- Royal Caribbean International features a couple of different alternative restaurants. Chops Grille offers steaks and seafood and Portofino is an elegant Italian restaurant ($25 pp for each restaurant)
Practically all the cruise lines offer some sort of alternative restaurant onboard their ships. Although there is usually an extra cost to dining in these specialty restaurants, the experience is more intimate and the menu more varied than the main dining rooms.