Cruise ship specialty restaurants – are they worth it?

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They offer variety and the chance to celebrate a special occasion in style

All cruise lines offer a variety of restaurants for which there is no fee; a main dining room, buffet, and smaller and larger venues, depending on the size of the ship. In recent years, all cruise lines have added specialty restaurants, dramatically increasing your meal options, for an additional fee.

With so many venues for free dining, you might wonder why you would need to book a restaurant that charges an extra fee. Many cruisers agree that booking specialty restaurants does not enhance their cruise experience and stick to the free options.

Others look at the specialty restaurants differently; they eat dinner out at home at a variety of venues so why not do the same on vacation? Or, they might be celebrating a special occasion or seeking a different dining experience without the crowds in the main dining room or buffet. Fortunately, there are choices to meet every cruiser’s need.

What’s available?

  • Each cruise line offers something different that distinguishes them from the competition. Elegant French, Italian, Asian-inspired, Mexican, you name it -- restaurants and steakhouses to bistros, pubs, and casual dining.

  • Additional fees range from $5.00 to $25.00 for a casual venue up to $85.00 for an elegant experience.

Here is a selective sampling of cruise line offerings:

  • For lovers of French cuisine, Disney Cruises offers several dining options for Remy, their adults-only, French-inspired specialty restaurant on The Disney Dream and Fantasy. Dinner, with a strict dress code, costs $85.00 per person. Celebrity Cruises offers dinner at Murano, their French-inspired specialty restaurant on the Solstice class ships, for $50.00 a person.

  • Princess Cruises is launching a new elegant restaurant on the Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess designed by chef and New York Times best-selling author, Curtis Stone, at a cost of $39.00 per person. Among their other options is The Bayou Café, a New Orleans-inspired specialty restaurant at $25.00 a person.

  • Cunard Cruises charges $26.00 a person for their fine dining specialty restaurant and Holland America Cruises charges $29.00.

  • Carnival Cruises offers a number of specialty restaurants, including the Chefs Table, a VIP experience and multicourse dinner hosted by one of their master chefs. Limited to groups of 14 at $75.00 a person.

  • Some cruise lines offer packages so you can sample different specialty restaurants during your cruise. Norwegian Cruise Line has a variety of Specialty Dining Packages starting at $69.00 per person while Celebrity Cruises offers a five-restaurant specialty dining package for $159 on the Celebrity Reflection. Royal Caribbean offers great savings when you purchase a Specialty Dining Package of up to 40%.

Whatever you choose to do, one thing is clear, you will not go hungry on your cruise.

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