Offering next-level cuisine and an extra bit of glamour for a special night out, specialty restaurants are a great way to mix up your dining routine while on a cruise. There is much debate as to whether it is worth paying a little more on top of your cruise fare when there is a perfectly good meal included, but foodies will know that as long as the menu lives up to the hype, the extra cost is well worth it.
Here are a few of our favourite spots for that intimate date or classy evening with family and friends. Get the glad rags out and enjoy fabulous service at restaurants on some of Australia's favourite cruise lines.
Salt Grill by Luke Mangan, P&O Australia
P&O Australia is all about delivering a quality experience Down Under and the Salt Grill merely enhances that reputation. The restaurant is designed by celebrity chef Luke Mangan and offers a relaxed atmosphere, combined with top-notch food and service.
The Grill is available on all P&O Australia ships, open for dinner and occasionally lunch as well. It has a cover charge of $49 for dinner and $39 for lunch, a fraction of what you might expect to pay for a restaurant of the same quality on dry land.
Designed by Mangan, who has an exceptional international reputation, the menu is simple and laid-back, without compromising on quality - one interesting touch are sardines straight out of the tin! Along with main dishes, there is an extensive tapas menu and a list of fabulous Australian wines to enjoy with your meal. Seafood is prevalent, but there are plenty of other options, including poultry, red meat and vegetarian dishes.
Sam Corlett-Wood, Groups Manager for Cruise Sale Finder, says this is her favourite onboard eatery: "I found the Salt Grill is more of a romantic scene so it would be perfect for honeymooners or if you're celebrating a wedding anniversary. The surcharge is worth every dollar!"
Chef's Table, Royal Caribbean (Radiance of the Seas)
The Chef's Table is the height of fine dining onboard a cruise ship, designed to be a culinary experience rather than just a restaurant. The private table is pricey but worth it for a truly classy night out and perfect for an anniversary, birthday or any special occasion that warrants a splurge.
The five gourmet courses are paired with specially chosen wines, and the service is personalised and attentive. Reservations fill up quickly, so we recommend you make a booking as soon as you get onboard. The cost is $95 per person and the menu a set one.
Radiance of the Seas is one of only three Royal Caribbean ships which cruise exclusively in the northern hemisphere (the other two are the mammoth Allure and Oasis of the Seas) - so don't miss your chance!
Sterling Steakhouse, Princess
The classic steakhouse has long been a staple on Princess ships and is available on all of the vessels cruising Down Under. It takes a refined and elegant approach to the traditional American restaurant and has been voted one of the best cruise ship steakhouses by USA Today. Sterling serves prime cuts of grain-fed beef which you can even choose yourself from a presentation tray. This is one for the real steak lovers.
With a surprisingly small cover charge of $20 per adult and $10 per child, it is an excellent option for a family night out during your Princess cruise. All tastes can be catered for, as the menu goes beyond just cuts of beef - there is also a fish of the day and chicken on the menu.
Amy McMillan, a Cruise Sale Finder consultant who has sailed on many Princess ships, is very impressed: "Make sure you don't miss out on the Sterling Steakhouse experience during your cruise. The cover charge is minimal and great value for money as you can take your pick from a premium selection of top quality steaks and select a combination of your favorite sides. It is an excellent venue to book, especially if you are celebrating something special on your holiday."
Murano, Celebrity (Celebrity Solstice)
Celebrity cruises are all about great service and a luxurious holiday. Innovation blends with tradition to produce an amazing cruise line - and Murano is an extension of this. It features exquisitely presented European cuisine, mostly French with dishes such as duck confit, filet mignon and other gourmet favourites. It also has an extensive wine list and a variety of cheeses.
Murano's standards of service are just as impressive as the food, so it is a real treat for a night out. Guests must be 12 years or older, making it a peaceful place to eat. There is also a sommelier to guide you through the wine list. If dinner is not your thing, the restaurant also hosts a Champagne High Tea.
Sarah van Iersel, Team Leader at Cruise Sale Finder, counts Murano as her favourite specialty restaurant. Her highlight? "They have lobster on the menu, which they bring out and cook in front of you. It's amazing food."
Do you have a favourite restaurant that you like to splurge on while cruising? Let us know in the comments below - happy dining!