Choosing your favorite food on a cruise is like choosing your favorite child. This was a tough choice! We have been privileged to have cruised several different cruise lines and while there are plenty of great free or included food choices, specialty dining is my favorite way to treat myself while on vacation.

Here are my top picks by cruise line for the best food I have had on a cruise ship.

Disney Cruise Line – Palo

Our cruise in 2016 on the Disney Dream was our very first cruise! So we didn’t want to miss out on dining at Palo, their Italian specialty restaurant. We had heard such incredible things about this restaurant and we agree! Its reputation is well-earned. The service is exceptional, the food is cooked perfectly and expertly presented. Their chocolate souffle is legendary and I was pleasantly surprised when they offered to make me a gluten-free version! It was a fantastic meal and a highlight of our cruise! At the time we dined there, the cover charge was $30 per person and we elected to have the wine pairing with it which added another $59 per person. We thought it was definitely worth the cost. I am sure the menu and pricing has now changed, so you will have to double check those details for your reservation.

Princess Cruises – Ultimate Balcony Dining

We sailed on a back to back Eastern and Western cruise aboard the Caribbean Princess in 2018 to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. What an unforgettable cruise! Princess is well known for their amazing food and service, but one experience just blew us away – Ultimate Balcony Dining. This is a private dinner presented on your balcony, with your own private server and a photographer to commemorate the occasion with a photograph. It includes a cocktail of your choice, champagne, and a multi-course meal! They call you a few days before to make the arrangements and to get your entree choices. Of course, they took great care of my gluten and nut allergies. Even though a heavy rainstorm changed our plans and we had to move it indoors into our cabin, it was a spectacular experience. We felt so pampered! At the time of our cruise this was just $99! Totally worth it! and they had a breakfast option for $45. When I cruised the Discovery Princess in April this year, this dining option was not yet available. I hope they bring it back soon.

Royal Caribbean International – Chops Grille

Surprisingly, we have only sailed Royal Caribbean once. We sailed the Enchantment of the Seas in 2019 out of Galveston, Texas for my birthday. We took the advice of some seasoned cruisers and booked lunch on embarkation day at Chops Grille. I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed this! Not having to fight the crowds at the Windjammer on embarkation day was worth the price of the lunch. We were one of three tables there that day for lunch. It was quiet, and the service was incredibly attentive. The food was delicious and much cheaper than going there for dinner. It was a great start to our cruise! At the time of our cruise, this was a cover charge of $21 per person. Totally worth it for all you get!

Norwegian Cruise Line – Moderno Churrascaria

We tried Moderno on our NCL Breakaway cruise to Bermuda last October, 2021. Moderno is NCL’s Brazilian steakhouse. There is an ample salad bar and the meat service is brought to you table side. It’s an all you care to eat experience. You get a card which is red on one side and green on the other. When you want them to bring you more meat, leave the card with the green side up, and the red side up when you need a break. There are many different cuts of meat to choose from and they even have roasted pineapple! One of my favorite things I had was their Brazilian cheese bread called pao de queijo which is also placed at the table. There is no way you will leave here hungry, and at just $25 per person, it is a fantastic value. Definitely one of our best specialty meals at sea. It is not available on every NCL ship, but if they do have it on your cruise, please check it out!

Carnival Cruise Line – The Chef’s Table

The Chef’s Table is an experience everyone should try at least once. It is a luxurious, multi-course dinner hosted by a Master Executive Chef. It includes wine and an amazing, full-service dinner of creative appetizers, entrees and desserts. This experience is limited to a select group of 14 people, so book it early! The cost ranges from about $80 to $100 depending on the ship. We have done it twice, on Carnival Radiance and on Carnival Vista, and have it booked again on our upcoming cruise on the Mardi Gras. It is out of this world!

So there you have it! My top choices to date of best food I have had on a cruise ship. I’m sure this list will grow with time and as I continue to experience new cruise lines. I hope you give specialty dining a try on your next cruise and treat yourself! You deserve it!