A specialty restaurant means many things to a cruise lover. It’s a special night out, a chance to trade the main dining room for a more intimate setting, and a delicious meal, guaranteed. It is also well worth the small extra cost that most specialty restaurants charge.
We’ve curated a humble collection of what we believe to be some of the best specialty restaurants you’ll find on various lines and ships. Read on for some mouthwatering suggestions, and if you find yourself aboard any of these lines or ships in the near future, don’t forget to make a booking - particularly if you have a special occasion to celebrate at sea.
Cagney’s Steakhouse - Norwegian Cruise Lines
Cagney’s Steakhouse is a firm favourite with many NCL passengers and a solid choice for a memorable evening. Carnivores, in particular, will love this steakhouse, which features a menu including an array of beef cuts as well as seafood, soups, salads and sides. The dark-wood ambience and cocktails with a vaguely masculine vibe (negroni or martini?) give it a real old-world charm, and you will enjoy dimly-lit dinners here, deep in conversation and dining on quality steaks. From filet mignon to New York strip, Cagney’s serves up meaty goodness on most of the NCL fleet. You can’t go wrong with this eatery which caters to many tastes.
La Mer - Princess Cruises
Currently, the only iteration of this fabulous restaurant is found aboard the Majestic Princess, the latest and greatest fleet member. It was recently reviewed by our team and came out as “hands down the best dining experience aboard the Majestic Princess.” With a French-inspired menu and a casual bistro feel, La Mer is modern and refreshing, serving tasty, fresh and inventive dishes across all courses. The mastermind behind the eatery is Chef Emmanuel Renaut, highly celebrated in the cooking world and whose Flocons de Sel restaurant has received three Michelin stars.
The Grill by Thomas Keller - Seabourn Cruises
While this is not a specialty restaurant in the sense that it charges extra, it is reservations-only and offers a special dining experience outside of the main venues on the gorgeous Seabourn luxury ships. Considered a chophouse with the farm-to-table approach that chef Keller loves and uses in his Michelin-starred restaurants on land, it’s a beautiful space with a fabulous menu featuring gourmet versions of classic favourites - many of which are prepared tableside. The very high standard of “every day” dining onboard a Seabourn ship will clue you into the fact that this “special” restaurant is something spectacular.
Wonderland - Royal Caribbean
This kooky and imaginative restaurant is found on several of Royal Caribbean’s newest big ships, including the Ovation of the Seas which regularly sails Down Under. It’s an innovative dining experience, inspired by Alice in Wonderland - and will certainly take you down the gastronomical rabbit hole. Ornate and interesting decor matches with interactive menus and unique dishes prepared and presented in amazing ways. Wonderland is a restaurant to remember, and it comes highly recommended for adventurous diners who are up for anything. If you’re a fan of plain fare or have narrow tastes, Wonderland is probably not a good fit!
Salt Grill - P&O
We couldn’t go past this “local” favourite by celebrity chef Luke Mangan. It remains consistent as the best specialty dining option on the P&O fleet, with an array of fresh and modern dishes crafted from Australian ingredients. Chef Mangan is an Aussie himself, and he knows what antipodeans like to eat. Creative dishes like crab omelette and a licorice parfait mix with classic steaks, salads and seafood on a menu that will please anyone. The delicious food, friendly and impeccable service and crisp decor make the Salt Grill an ideal venue for a special evening, and the fact that it features on every single P&O ship makes it accessible to many Aussie and Kiwi cruisers. The restaurant also serves high tea, so you can enjoy a different ambience and cuisine for a special girls’ outing or elegant afternoon date.
Sel de Mer - Holland America
Available as a standalone restaurant on the Koningsdam and as a pop-up evening at the Pinnacle Grill on other ships in the fleet is the very special “Rudi’s Sel de Mer” by Master Chef Rudi Sodamin. This is one for the seafood lovers, styled as a French-inspired seafood brasserie - “sel de mer” translates as “sea salt”. Delicious fresh fish and seafood populate the menu, but there are more Gallic favourites for those in the party who prefer land creatures: co au vin, duck cassoulet and classic steak frites. If you book in here, don’t forget to try some cheese and wine. In true French style, these simple pleasures are some of the highlights. Holland America has always shown a real interest in and commitment to good food at sea, and Rudi’s Sel de Mer is no exception.
Cruises and food go hand in hand, it’s a well-accepted fact. If you want to take that twosome to the next level, we suggest trying some of these fantastic specialty restaurants - our list covers a relatively wide array of lines, but there are plenty more eateries to experience. Get your taste buds ready and start dreaming of your next cruise from Australia.