13 Best Cruise Line Restaurants

Cruise ships have come a long way in terms of dining. For decades, they were often lost in a sea of stereotypes, mired in preconceived notions of gluttonous buffets, treacly piña coladas, and well-done steaks. But things have shifted dramatically of late — buffets and guilty pleasure cocktails are still abundant, but not only has the quality of said pleasures risen to new echelons, but cruise ships have become a magnet for specialty restaurants and celebrity chefs. Long gone are the days of lackluster waffles and pizza under heat lamps, and in are the days of caviar platters and $5,000 cocktails.

Like the chefs putting their names on seafaring menus nowadays, passengers see cruise ships as an opportunity to escape, indulge, and try something new. As cruise lines ramp up their amenities and itineraries to levels never seen before, from pickle-ball courts and Pride parties to ports of call in Istanbul and Oslo, the same upswing has taken foot with their restaurants, evolving from dated stereotypes to full-fledged dining destinations in and of themselves. From ritzy steakhouses to whimsical dining rooms and jazzy lounges, these are some of the best cruise line restaurants in the world.

Pinnacle Grill - Holland America Line

If ever there was a cruise line that takes dining seriously, it's Holland America Line, a longstanding company — currently celebrating its 150th year — that recently made waves with its launch of chef-driven food cruises. And if ever there was a restaurant that exemplified those notions, it's Pinnacle Grill. From filets topped with lobster dumplings to baked Alaska the size of Alaska, it ticks all the boxes for the ultimate steakhouse.

Found on numerous Holland America ships, like the Oosterdam and the Rotterdam, the ritzy steakhouse can hold its own against the finest surf & turf temples on land — thanks to its swanky and refined atmosphere coupled with its plethora of wet-aged USDA Prime steaks, meticulous presentation, and expert wine pairings. Celebrity chef David Burke helped create some of the menu items, like the "Clothesline Candied Bacon," featuring maple- and pepper-glazed bacon dangling from miniature wires, and the beef tenderloin with lobster dumplings, lobster béarnaise, celery root purée, and horseradish bordelaise. There's also an umami-rich forest mushroom soup, poured table-side from a tea kettle, sofrito-spiced Alaskan king crab legs, and the "Not-So-Classic" baked Alaska with cherry ice cream, meringue, and flaming cherries jubilee.

Wonderland - Royal Caribbean

It's whimsy and edible pageantry on the high seas at Wonderland, a fantastically themed dining room aboard globe-trotting Royal Caribbean ships like Anthem of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, and Spectrum of the Seas. As the name implies, the restaurant draws inspiration from "Alice in Wonderland" for both its soaring, kaleidoscopic decor and its playful dishes and drinks.

The whole dining experience feels more like an immersive art experience than dinner, starting with guests "brushing" the menu at the entrance of the restaurant, with a paintbrush dipped in water, revealing a slew of dishes inspired by natural elements like earth, fire, sun, ice, and sea. It's like an edible choose-your-own-adventure, with "fire" options like crispy shrimp kataifi with Scotch bonnet pepper, or "sea" plates like Branzino with tamarind emulsion. Even the kids have quirky options, with "Rabbitizers" like fruit salad with hot yogurt and maple ice cream.

Animator's Palate - Disney Cruise Line

Just as the restaurants at Disney World have become full-blown dining destinations in recent years, the same draw can be said of the company's cruise ships, replete with all manner of elaborately themed restaurants, lounges, bars, and cafes. One of the best, though, is an older standby that's remained a frontrunner amidst a sea of dazzling new additions: Animator's Palate.

Like a new kind of dinner theater, the animation-themed restaurant starts with dinner in an all-white room, with walls designed to look like blank canvases for Disney Imagineers. Throughout the evening, the walls and decor magically fill in with color, until by dessert, it's alive with classic Disney characters and settings. All the while, guests are feasting on dishes inspired by pan-Asian and Californian cuisines, like smoked salmon tartare, black bean chipotle cakes, and peanut butter mousse. It's all available aboard Disney Cruise Line vessels like the Magic, Wonder, Dream, and Fantasy.

Red Ginger - Oceania Cruises

Pan-Asian cuisine on cruise ships is nothing new — but pan-Asian cuisine at the level of Oceania Cruises; Red Ginger is a novelty worth cruising for. One of the best Asian restaurants at sea, the sleek and contemporary concept exudes luxury amidst a minimalist backdrop that looks more like a swanky art gallery than a place you'd go for tempura.

Here, contemporary plates fuse flavors from Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and beyond, starting with shareable platters of fresh sushi and skewers, along with rich tom kha gai soup redolent with coconut milk and lemongrass. The spicy duck and watermelon salad, strewn with cashews and sweet fish sauce, is far from a vegetal afterthought, followed by stunning entrees like sole tempura in orange ponzu, lobster pad Thai, and red snapper in banana leaf with Makrut lime and chili paste. Save room for sweets, like the steamed ginger cake with apple-cardamon ice cream. Red Ginger can be found on Oceania Cruises' Marina, Rivera, or Sirena.

Silver Note - Silversea

If Frank Sinatra were alive today, he'd surely be a fixture at Silver Note, a jazzy piano bar and restaurant with swanky decor and a dark interior motif that feels like a romantic lounge in New York City or Paris. Found aboard Silversea ships like the Silver Dawn, Silver Spirit, and Silver Muse, all of which are smaller vessels providing a more intimate outing, Silver Note reaches a high note in dining, drinking, and nighttime entertainment.

Bedecked with a grand piano and bluesy singers, with plenty of room for couples to dance once they've polished off their Sugar Volcano, the lounge features tapas-style plates like yellowfin tuna with green quinoa, marinated octopus with caramelized pumpkin purée, and seared lamb loin with onion risotto and lamb jus — and dish beautifully presented, and ideally followed by the aforementioned Volcano, a kind of mountainous cheesecake with chocolate and caramel.

Fahrenheit 555 - Carnival

Found aboard several Carnival Cruise Line ships, like the Breeze, Celebration, and Horizon, Fahrenheit 555 is among the swankiest steakhouse at sea. Awash in hues of brown and crimson-red, and adjoined by a huge wall of wine bottles, the dining room is stately and majestic — an optimal setting in which to enjoy decadent portions of surf & turf.

Starters include escargots, Cognac-spiked lobster bisque, and meltingly tender beef carpaccio with shaved parmesan, while salads hew classic with Caesar salad and iceberg wedges. On to the entrees, steak is the star, available in burly portions of broiled prime New York strip, grilled cowboy steak, and spice-rubbed rib-eye, while seafood shares the spotlight with lobster tail and Maine lobster ravioli. To drink, sommeliers oversee an enviable portfolio of buttery whites and robust reds, along with dessert wine and digestifs — both of which pair nicely with chocolate samplers and cheesecake with hazelnut biscotti.

Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso - Windstar Cruises

A newer addition to Windstar Cruises' increasingly alluring dining options, Cuadro 44 by Anthony Sasso showcases the contemporary Spanish stylings of a Michelin-starred chef. Found aboard the boutique lines' Star Class ships, which include Star Breeze and Star Legend, the intimate and art-filled restaurant zigs where many cruise ship restaurants zag, emphasizing small plates and open kitchen cookery.

With only 38 seats, a far cry from standard super-sized cruise ship dining rooms, Cuadro 44 offers a more curated and quaint dining experience, complete with a communal table and chef's counter. From here, guests can savor authentic tapas like Spanish tortillas, paella croquetas, and charred octopus with pimentón and pickled celery. There are also a few entrées, like pork belly with romesco and jamón bacon bits, or toasted angel hair pasta with confit chicken and chorizo, and worthy desserts like churros with salted tamarind hot chocolate.

The Grill by Thomas Keller - Seabourn

Boutique cruise line Seabourn went big when it came to taking a chef-driven approach to its dining offerings. And by "big," we mean Thomas Keller, a Michelin-starred icon and one of the most lauded chefs in the U.S. Found aboard the posh Encore ship, The Grill by Thomas Keller is an opulent ode to Americana, spotlighting surf & turf — and everything in between — in a lavish style befitting its gilded dining room.

Here, guests can indulge in fine dining on the high seas, starting with table-side Caesar salads and steamed artichokes with garlic mayonnaise, before progressing to show-stopping plates like Dover sole Meuniere, lobster Thermidor, broiled veal T-bone, and Snake River Farms rib-eye. The steakhouse stylings keep going strong on the side, and for dessert, with options like steak fries and creamed spinach, followed by seven-layer coconut cake and ice cream sundaes. Round it all out with a classic cocktail or a glass of Old-World wine.

Canaletto - Holland America Line

As one of the most global cruise lines, with numerous sailings to Italy, Holland America knows a thing or two about authentic Italian cuisine — a concept on full, lustrous display at its elegant Italian concept, Canaletto. Found on nearly a dozen different ships, the airy restaurant pair prime sea views with prime meats, seafood, pasta, and some pleasant menu surprises.

Along with unique nightly specials, like osso bucco Milanese with saffron risotto on Mondays and veal liver Veneziana with mascarpone whipped potatoes on Wednesdays, the menu boasts shareable starts like veal and sage meatballs, beef carpaccio with mustard aïoli, and grilled calamari with salsa verde. Heartier portions exhibit a penchant for balance, refinement, and elegant plating, from the spaghetti alle vongole swirled with garlicky clams and shrimp, to braised beef short rib gnocchi with butter-roasted carrots and the grilled Branzino with verdant elements of zucchini, mint, and pistachios. Finish off with a silk-smooth orange blossom ricotta tart, and pair it with a bracing Negroni.

Remy - Disney Cruise Line

Among the most in-demand adults-only restaurants aboard the Disney Cruise Line fleet, Remy is a ritzy restaurant specializing in polished French fare partly inspired by Disney's most food-centric film, "Ratatouille." But instead of a rat chef, the mind behind the menus here is vaunted French chef Arnaud Lallement, who works with Scott Hunnel — from Disney World's most acclaimed restaurant, Victoria & Albert's — to curate a menu of authentic cuisine.

Meals here begin with a complimentary Champagne cocktail, followed by a spree of seasonal French fare via a multi-course tasting menu, highlighting ingredients like Kobe beef, sablefish, elk, duck, and langoustine. It's all interspersed with a roving cheese trolley, a deep wine list, and a five-course dessert experience. The restaurant also offers a prix fixe Champagne brunch, with plates like vegetable risotto, lobster cannelloni, and gnocchi. Remy can be found aboard the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.

150 Central Park - Royal Caribbean

Considering cruise ships are far from land, the concept of farm-to-table cookery isn't typically associated with sailing the high seas. But thanks to restaurants like 150 Central Park, a rigorously seasonal restaurant rooted in farm-fresh ingredients plucked at their peak, those assumptions are shifting. Found on Royal Caribbean ships like the Allure of the Seas, the Oasis of the Seas, and the Harmony of the Seas, the restaurant serves dishes as artistic and contemporary as they are bright and bold.

Start with an Urban Garden Martini, a fresh aperitif made with vodka, cucumber, basil, and lemongrass, as you peruse appetizers like sunchoke veloute, roasted spiced pumpkin bisque, and seared honey-glazed scallops with chorizo stew and orange sauce. Entrées are even more elaborate, whereas seared venison loin comes with chocolate-port wine sauce, cauliflower steak features Greek yogurt and pumpkin seeds, and lamb Wellington arrives with butternut squash and garlic jus. For the grand finale, look for artisanal cheeses and fried cheesecake with Nutella and caramelized popcorn.

Mamsen's - Viking

Considering its Norse name, and the fact that the fleet sails to Norway, it's only fitting that Viking cruise line features a Scandinavian restaurant rooted in Norwegian tradition. So named for the mother of Viking chairman and CEO Torstein Hagen (mamsen means "mum" in Norwegian), the cute and sunny eatery serves up atypical cruise fare like traditional heart-shaped waffles from the Explorer's Lounge of Viking's ocean ships.

Said waffles are Mamsen's calling card, an ode to a Norwegian household tradition otherwise known as hjertevafler. Thinner and less fluffy than their Belgian or American counterparts, they're served with brown goat cheese for a distinctly toasty richness. Elsewhere on the homegrown menu, guests will find dishes like open-faced sandwiches, cured meats, Norwegian cakes, and ertesuppe, aka pea soup. It's all served up in a quaint, relaxing cafe-like environment that feels comfortably aligned with the cozy Scandinavian concept of hygge.

Razzle Dazzle - Virgin Voyages

Known for its playful, colorful, and whimsical concepts, from hotels to airlines, Virgin Voyages keeps the cheeky theming going strong with its most unique dining and drinking concept, Razzle Dazzle. Found aboard the Scarlet Lady ship, this is the kind of exciting something-for-everyone bar and restaurant that serves everything from melon salad to rainbow churros.

The contemporary and stylish space skews vegetarian, with plates divvied into categories like small plates, mains, and meatier "naughty" options. Mushroom tartare and whole-roasted heirloom cauliflower are a couple of standouts, as is the vegetarian "fish" & chips, with crispy banana blossom subbing in for seafood. Fried chicken with buttered hot sauce provides a meaty option, while desserts shine with blueberry-green tea vegan cheesecake, rainbow churros with ube ice cream, and a whole category dedicated to milk and cookies. Also available on ships like the Scarlet Lady and the Valiant Lady, Razzle Dazzle by Night offers a late-night vibe with cocktails and disco-centric dance music.