Porthole’s Five Faves
Five favorite dining experiences at sea
Ask any cruiser and chances are they will admit that food is key to their overall shipboard experience. While there’s no doubt that today’s cruise ships serve cuisine that rivals top-notch, land-based restaurants, after sailing dozens of cruises, I’ve realized that there’s great dining — and then there’s great dining experiences.
Often, specialty restaurants come at an extra cost, but it’s a small price to pay for some of these amazing opportunities that will become memories for years to come. Here are five of my all-time favorites.
Qsine: Celebrity Cruises
I still remember in 2010 when Celebrity Cruises announced plans for a new dining venue, Qsine, which would be featured aboard the new Celebrity Eclipse. The claim to fame was a modern take on contemporary favorites served in the most innovative and creative of ways. Peruse the iPad menu and then try everything from Sushi Lollipops to a Meatball Trilogy to Crunchy Munchies. The funky, feel-good menu has surely become one of the industry’s most unique dining experiences as well as a passenger favorite, and has since been added to five other ships in the line’s fleet.
($45 per person)
This intimate adults-only dining venue aboard Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy is inspired by Disney’s Ratatouille movie both in its design as well as the finest in French-inspired cuisine. Course after course brings small plates of authentic French cuisine, each boasting amazing presentations and flavors. And I’m not sure if it was the romantic setting, the (many) glasses of wine (we opted for the additional wine pairing), or the fact that a cruise often inspires you to do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do, but it’s true. I took my first (and only) bite of red meat in about 25 years of being vegetarian. I just couldn’t help it — the Australian wagyu beef looked that good.
($75 per person)
Sabatini’s: Princess Cruises
The year was 2001. It was my honeymoon, my first cruise, and my first specialty restaurant dinner all wrapped in one. At the time, Sabatini’s featured a tasting menu, allowing guests to literally sample anything — and everything — they wished. So when the servers began coming out of the galley, one by one in perfect harmony, with tray after tray of some the finest Italian cuisine that this 24-year-old whippersnapper had ever seen or tasted, I was hooked. Today, the restaurant now offers an a la carte menu that continues to serve amazing Italian dishes and desserts.
($25 per person)
Restaurant 2: Seabourn
As if the dining in Seabourn’s main Restaurant isn’t delicious enough, enter the line’s specialty dining venue, Restaurant 2, and you now have a dining experience. This modern, intimate venue serves a menu of small plates that are innovative, creative, and perfect for sharing. The wonderful multicourse evening, complete with fine wines and great ocean views, is definitely one that is meant to be slowly savored.
(No extra charge)
Chef’s Table: Carnival Cruise Lines
Party of 15, please. What better way to travel with family than on a cruise? And what better way to celebrate a special occasion on said cruise than by dropping off the kids in the kids’ clubs and making your way — by way of a private galley tour — to a secluded, intimate dining room complete with a long Chef’s Table that looks set for royalty, and your own wait staff, sommelier, and even the master chef himself on-hand to answer questions and share knowledge throughout your culinary journey.
($75 per person)
— Jodi Ornstein