Delicious cuisine, renowned chefs, stunning restaurants, impeccable service: here Becky Wiggins selects the best ocean cruise lines for gourmands

Silversea

As you would expect from the luxurious small ship experience offered by Silversea, dining on board is super high end and served by a discreet, devoted team of staff at a ratio of one to one. With between four and eight restaurants on the luxury cruise line’s ships (fewer on the smaller expedition ships, but still excellent) there are plenty of fine dining options for passengers to choose from.

On the top deck the Pool Grill serves excellent salads, dips and sandwiches during the day, and at night is transformed into a Hot Rocks dining experience, with individual lava stones, allowing guests to cook their own food at the table. La Terrazza offers authentic Italian cuisine where fresh, sustainable ingredients shine, complemented by paired fine wines. The menus in Atlantide and Indochine change weekly to reflect local specialities from the ship’s ports of call. Speciality offerings include Japanese restaurant Kaiseki, with a three-course set menu, featuring only the freshest sushi, sashimi and raw Asian dishes, all skilfully prepared in front of guests to order, together with sake or wine pairings.

Silversea has also partnered with the prestigious Relais & Châteaux to offer a chic French dining experience (think crisp white linen, crystal and impeccable white gloved service) with a bespoke menu created by the skilled team at Relais & Châteaux.

Must try dish: The fish-based set menu at Japanese restaurant, Kaiseki, the highlight of which are the small plates of teppan grill, consisting of rock lobster, savoury miso black cod and tender wagyu beef teriyaki, and finishing with the flamboyant signature tempura ice cream.

Getting there: A seven-day cruise on Silversea Wind, departing on 14 February 2019 from San Juan, starts from £2,790pp, based on two sharing (0207 340 0700; silversea.com).

Seabourn

With a reputation for personalised service on board their all-suite, luxury fleet, Seabourn provides curated voyages to all seven continents with the emphasis on enrichment, visiting interesting ports where larger ships can’t follow. Such is the dedication to excellence that when Seabourn decided to introduce Artisan Gelato, a new line of hand crafted gelati produced daily on board, three Seabourn chefs were sent to Carpigiani University in Bologna to learn about the history and technical aspects of producing the very best gelati in the world.

Newest ship Seabourn Ovation showcases The Grill by renowned American Chef Thomas Keller, the first and only American-born chef to achieve multiple three Michelin Star ratings. The menu serves classic steakhouse dishes inspired by 50s and 60s American restaurant dining, with some, like fresh Caesar salad and ice cream sundaes, prepared for you at you table. Light, airy dining venue Sushi serves Hamachi, tuna, shrimp and other fresh fish prepared in front of diners by skilled Sushi chefs. Romantic candlelit dining under the stars is the USP of glamorous new Earth & Ocean at The Patio. Expect an imaginative menu of eclectic flavours from around the world: zesty Moroccan tagines and meltingly tender slow-cooked beef brisket are just a few of the options.

For cocktail lovers, the seven lounges and bars on board offer a range of craft cocktails created exclusively for Seabourn passengers by world-famous American mixologist Brian van Flandern.

Must try dish: Signature Napa Burger, served in a potato onion bun with secret sauce and Hooks Five Year Sharp Cheddar, served with a side of fries at The Patio is deliciously indulgent and an absolute must.

Getting there: A 14-day Vintage Europe cruise on board Seabourn Ovation between Lisbon and Amsterdam, departing 15 May 2019 starts from £3,499pp, based on two sharing a Veranda Suite, cruise only. Price includes accommodation, all meals, drinks and gratuities (0344 338 8615; seabourn.com).

P&O Cruises

Always a favourite with British cruisers, P&O Cruises offers a wide range of itineraries for all tastes, from family fun in the sun to sophisticated cruises exclusive to adults. Famous for first pioneering partnerships with top chefs from across Britain, the cruise line has worked with its Food Heroes to develop exclusive dining venues and exciting itineraries featuring unique foodie experiences including master classes, book signings, intimate private dining and even specially curated gastronomic shore excursions.

Marco Pierre White’s reputation as the godfather of British Cooking is surpassed only by his passion for quality perfect ingredients and flawless customer service. Guests can learn to cook with Marco at the Cookery Club on board Ventura, Azura and Britannia, as well as finding his unique gala dinner menus across the fleet. Master pâtissier Eric Lanlard has devised the wonderful, whimsical Afternoon Tea by Eric Lanlard and hosts onboard cookery classes where guests can learn to bake or even enjoy a hosted dinner with Eric in The Cookery Club.

Award winning wine expert and TV presenter, Olly Smith presents The Glass House, a stylish restaurant and wine bar on board.

Must try dish: Incredible sharing plates in Olly Smith’s The Glasshouse, paired with a glass of wine from Olly’s wine list. Our favourites include crisp tempura king prawns with patatas bravas and aioli dip and Thai beef salad with mint, ginger, basil and jasmine rice.

Getting there: Join wine expert Olly Smith on Ventura for a 13-night cruise on 26 November 2018, departing from and returning to Southampton, visiting Madeira; Tenerife; Gran Canaria; Lanzarote; and La Coruna. Prices start from £719pp for an inside cabin (03453 566 699; pocruises.com).

Holland America

On board HAL’s sophisticated fleet, you’ll find attention to detail taken to the next level: fresh flowers, curated works of art and luxurious touches at every turn. Nieuw Statendam, the newest addition to the elegant pinnacle class, boasts Oprah Winfrey as its godmother.

The Culinary Council, overseen by Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, sees seven celebrated international chefs allocated a designated dining experience on board, bringing some serious culinary clout to dining venues across the fleet, and the recently announced collaboration with wine critic James Suckling will see him designing and developing the curation of the onboard wine offering. Casual dining options, with the bright Lido Market, ostensibly a buffet style grab and go option, offering individual marketplace-type outlets. The delicious scent of fresh bread and pastries will lead you straight to Breadboard; there’s a tempting range of healthy and hearty fresh salads at Wild Harvest; fresh coffee at Perk; and home cooked food at Homestead.

Must try dish: Delicious shrimp Provençal with yellow rice at Rudi’s Sel de Mer.

Getting there: The 14-day premier voyage of Nieuw Statendam departs Fort Lauderdale on 5 December 2018. Prices start at £1,199 for an ocean view stateroom, based on two sharing on a cruise only basis (0344 338 8605; hollandamerica.com).

Oceania Cruises

Committed to providing what they term the ‘OLife difference’, Oceania Cruises offers a country club casual ambience and exceptional, personalised service on board their four mid-sized ships: Insignia, Nautica, Regatta, and the recently refurbished Sirena, and two slightly larger vessels, Marina and Riviera. Overseen by Executive Culinary Director and legendary Master Chef Jacques Pépin, the luxury cruise line boldly claims to serve the finest cuisine at sea. From gourmet burgers and hand-dipped milkshakes by the pool at Waves Grill, to the white linen-clad tables and sparkling Riedel crystal in the sumptuous Grand Dining Room, standards are high ship-wide.

In the Grand Dining Room, guests can choose between the gourmet tasting menu with perfectly paired fine wines or order à la carte.

Must try dish: The Polo Grill surf & turf: a classic pairing of Florida lobster tail with 28-day aged Black Angus filet mignon.

Getting there: A 14-night cruise on Marina, departing Barcelona 3 May 2019, starts from £4639pp. Ports include Valencia; Palma; Toulon; Monte Carlo; Antibes; Cinque Terre; Ajaccio; Florence/Pisa/Tuscany; Sorrento and Capri; Amalfi/Positano; and Rome.
(0345 505 1920; oceaniacruises.com).

Princess

Taking guests to 360 destinations across six continents on board their elegant ships, there really is an opportunity for every passenger to come back new from a Princess cruise. With the promise that every dish is ‘designed for fresh’, you’ll find handcrafted bread baked daily, steaks aged and hand cut on board and, homemade ice cream. From hand tossed pizza at Alfredo’s Pizzeria to quick bites including delicious breakfast parfaits and grilled paninis in the 24-hour International Café, the always popular British pub lunch and opulent multi-course gourmet main dining, there’s a huge range of inclusive dining options.

Speciality restaurants include celebrity chef Curtis Stone’s first restaurant at sea: SHARE. The new restaurant features a creative six course fine dining option. On Diamond Princess and Sun Princess there is also the excellent sushi restaurant Kai Sushi, while the surf ‘n’ turf at the Crown Grill is also mouth-watering and not to be missed.

Must try dish: Wonderful and deeply aromatic stir-fried chilli crab at Curtis Stone’s SHARE.

Getting there: A 10-night Southern Caribbean Medley cruise on board Crown Princess, round trip from Fort Lauderdale in Florida, sailing on 27 November 2019, starts from £1,259pp, including flights. Ports of call include Aruba; Bonaire; Grenada; Dominica; St Thomas (US Virgin Islands); and Princess Cays in the Bahamas. Call 0344 338 8663 to book or visit princess.com.

NCL

Norwegian Cruise Line offers laid back family fun on its modern fleet, with an emphasis on freedom and flexibility, so you won’t find fixed dining allocations or pre-assigned seating on board. There’s a huge range of complimentary and speciality dining options to suit every taste.

NCL’s newest ship Norwegian Bliss offers a range of signature à la carte restaurants including the return of the cruise line’s guest favourite, the lively, cooking-as-performance-art Japanese hibachi steakhouse, Teppanyaki; French cuisine at Le Bistro; authentic Tuscan fare at La Cucina; outstanding Mexican food at Los Lobos; fresh seafood at Ocean Blue; and the colourful Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Sea, featuring laid back island-inspired live music and serving signature items like the Cheeseburger in Paradise, best enjoyed with a Who’s to Blame Margarita.

Award-winning Iron Chef Jose Garces has not one but two speciality restaurants on Norwegian Escape. Chic dining venue Bayamo by Jose Garces features a Cuban influenced menu highlighting the flavours of Latin America with dishes such as berenjenas, roasted aubergine with tomato rice and a saffron emulsion; and bacalao carbonizado, black cod with a squid ink glaze, saffron, and tomato and chorizo rice. Spanish Tapas restaurant Pincho Tapas Bar by Jose Garces offers small plates like tortilla Española (Spanish omelette) and boquerones (white anchovies with pine nuts) along with Jamón Ibérico specially imported from Spain.

Must try dish: the classic ribeye at Cagney’s Steakhouse, paired with Cagney’s famous Parmesan Truffle Fries – a match made in food heaven.

Getting there: A seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise on board Norwegian Bliss departs Miami on 26 January 2019, sailing to St Thomas (US Virgin Islands); Tortola (British Virgin Islands); Nassau (Bahamas) and returning to Miami. Cruise costs from £1119pp for premium all inclusive (0333 336 0794; ncl.co.uk).

Regent Seven Seas

Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers, as you would expect, excellent dining. Casual restaurant La Veranda serves a comprehensive range of breakfast and lunch buffet items, all served in the chic dining room or al fresco on the shady deck. At night it transforms into Sette Mari at La Veranda, a casual Italian dining experience featuring an authentic Italian menu, paired with fine Italian wines.

You’ll find the speciality dining, Parisian-inspired Chartreuse, on board Seven Seas Explorer, Seven Seas Voyager, and Seven Seas Mariner. Elegant guest favourite, modern steakhouse, Prime 7 has an appealing, intimate ambiance enhanced by a warm palette of earth tones, with leather wingback chairs and rich burnished wood, and offers exceptional steakhouse cuisine in a luxurious setting.

Must try dish: Speciality dish filet de canard aux navets et cerises: seared Barbary Duck breast with glazed turnips, candied Morello cherries and sour cherry mustard, served in Chartreuse.

Getting there:
A 10-night cruise on Seven Seas Explorer departing Lisbon 8 April 2019 and visiting Funchal, Santa Cruz de La Palma, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Arrecife, Agadir, Casablanca, Seville and Barcelona starts from £5079pp for a veranda suite on an all-inclusive basis including flights and transfers (023 8068 2268; rssc.com).

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity has always been renowned for innovative dining experiences, but with its revolutionary new design, elegant interiors created by Kelly Hoppen, MBE, and emphasis on luxury and innovation, new ship Celebrity Edge takes it even further. From reimagining the main dining experience to the addition of the Magic Carpet – a floating deck that will providing al fresco dining with some spectacular ocean views – there are clever touches at every turn.

Celebrity Edge boasts not one, but four main dining restaurants, each with a distinct theme, and each influenced by different regions around the world: Tuscan, a tribute to current guest favourite, Tuscan Grille; contemporary French restaurant Normandie, inspired by current Solstice class speciality restaurant, Murano; Cyprus, with a nod towards Celebrity Cruises’ heritage, serving a modern Mediterranean menu with a focus on Greek cuisine; and ‘New American’ restaurant, Cosmopolitan, with a stunning walk-through wine display, creatively inspired by the ‘best of the best’ menus served in main dining rooms across the fleet.

There are seven brand new speciality restaurants, including the unusual Eden, offering a choreographed culinary journey featuring ‘sensory and experiential’ dishes served by performance artists called Edenists. The glamorous Fine Cut Steakhouse, Parisian inspired,
Le Grand Bistro is the perfect place for a café au lait and croissant. Elegant Raw on 5 offers an artfully presented raw bar, displaying a mouth-watering array of fresh seafood, plus sushi, sashimi, and caviar. Foodies will also love Chef’s Market Discoveries, culinary-themed shore excursions.

Must try dish: The sushi lollipops served at innovative ‘global fusion’ restaurant Qsine.

Getting there: A seven-night cruise on board new ship Celebrity Edge, sailing from Rome to Barcelona and departing 15 June 2019, starts from £2,548pp, based on two sharing (0845 163 4100; celebritycruises.com).

Viking Ocean Cruises

With an emphasis on beautiful design details, dining on board Viking’s chic ocean vessels is as elegant as you would imagine, but there’s no sense of stuffiness on board. Along with the calming colours and Scandi interiors comes friendly, unobtrusive service and attention to detail.  Main dining in The Restaurant is bright and welcoming with a creative menu, and as Viking’s Chairman, Tor Hagen, believes that all onboard dining should be of the same standard, there are two alternative restaurants on board, both complimentary. Manfredis’ Italian Restaurant has a convivial atmosphere and the food (and complimentary wine) is spectacularly good: choose from generous platters of antipasti, a delicious range of pastas, excellent steaks and fresh seafood too.

The Chef’s Table is an experiential dining option featuring a five-course menu paired with selected wines. There are a few different variations, but we love the sublime ‘Asian Panorama’, starting with an amuse bouche of chilled king crab with a coconut foam and curry sauce, followed by delicate lobster and chicken shu mai, a surprising palate cleansing red chilli and lemongrass granita, then Peking duck before a trilogy of desserts; each course as beautifully presented and delicious as the last.

True to its Scandi roots, Mamsen’s deli serves delicious, sweet Norwegian homemade waffles (a great breakfast choice) and excellent open sandwiches, and the buffet service World Café offers a seemingly endless range of International dishes, with plenty of outdoor seating.  The sophisticated afternoon tea, served in the charming Wintergarden with a view of the pool, and with the accompaniment of a string quartet, is effortlessly elegant, with a choice of teas to accompany the sandwiches and pastries.

Must try dish: The legendary bistecca Fiorentina at Manfredi’s has long been a favourite: with thick cut ribeye steak marinated for 72 hours in a special blend of spices and seasonings.

Getting there: A 15-day Into the Midnight Sun cruise from Bergen to London on Viking Sun starts from £4,490pp. Price includes all meals, 10 guided tours and return travel from the UK, with departures in June and July 2019 (020 8780 8700; vikingcruises.co.uk).

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