By WALLACE IMMEN
Samuel Spencer has experienced a lot of restaurants in his travels and for him the Tamarind restaurants on Holland America Line ships are all-time favorites. “It’s one of those rare memorable dining events that I sometimes reminisce about even several months after being back on dry land,” said the owner of Cruise Holidays of Calgary Centre in Calgary, Alberta.
It’s one of many rave reviews from a survey that asked Cruise Holiday consultants across North America to choose their three favorite restaurants at sea. Their choices demonstrate how sophisticated shipboard alternative dining choices have become.
The top choices reflect the kind of large-ship cruises the agents tend to sell, and many had not experienced the exceptional specialty restaurants of luxury lines like Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn and Silversea Cruises.
The majority of the top favorites were on ships in the Royal Caribbean International cruise family, but alternative restaurants of Holland America—part of Carnival Corporation — snagged the top two spots.
Here’s a rundown of the top choices (with a tie between Celebrity Cruises and Disney Cruise Line for 10th place):
THE PINNACLE GRILL – Holland America Line. Found on all HAL ships, Pinnacle is the elegant steak and seafood restaurant. Menus include their prime Sterling Silver Beef and sustainable seafood. On most voyages, the grill is transformed one evening into Le Cirque with menus developed in a partnership with the famous Le Cirque restaurants on land. Cover charge: $20.
TAMARIND – Holland America Line. Tamarind offers pan-Asian fare and is available on Holland America Line’s Signature-class ships, Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam. Menus offer selections like snapper baked in rice paper, Penang red curry coconut chicken or wasabi and soy crusted beef tenderloin served on an oak plank. Cover charge: $15.
MURANO – Celebrity Cruises. Found on Celebrity Eclipse, Solstice, Century, Silhouette and Equinox, Murano features a decor inspired by Italian piazzas and the menu is worldly Mediterranean. A sample entree might be crispy Loup De Mer, featuring roasted artichoke, eggplant caviar, kalamata olive puree, sun dried tomato pesto and balsamic reduction. Cover charge: $40.
TUSCAN GRILL—Celebrity Cruises. The Italian-themed steak house is found on Solstice class ships. A typical entree choice may be pan seared salmon on orecchiette pasta with artichokes and olives. Cover charge: $30.
PORTOFINO—Royal Caribbean Featured on a number of Royal Caribbean ships the Italian themed restaurants features seasonal specialties. Some nights are special themes including dinners that include wine parings. Cover charge: $20.
QSINE—Celebrity Cruises A hit on the new Solstice class ships and now being added to the Millennium class ships, the quirky restaurant has a menu-tainment approach that features a menu of comfort foods deconstructed into bite sized morsels that are served in incredibly inventive ways. The menu is on an iPad and the wine list resembles a Rubik’s cube. Cover charge: $40.
CHOPS GRILLE—Royal Caribbean A meat and seafood lover’s hideaway featured on a dozen Royal Caribbean ships. Steaks are the main event offering a vast range of sauces. Service charge: $30
150 CENTRAL PARK—Royal Caribbean These are very cosmopolitan restaurants featured in the central atriums of the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. A favorite option is the multi-course degustation tasting-style menu, Cover charge: $35
SILK HARVEST— Celebrity Cruises. From its curtained-off group dining areas to its menu that spans the cuisines from Japan to Thailand, this is a unique dining experience prepared and served by people who have lived and trained in Asia. Even the cocktails are inspired by the Orient. Cover charge: $25
PALO—Disney Cruise Line This Venetian themed restaurant on Disney Wonder is a 130-seat “Adult Exclusive” retreat located on Deck 10 that caters to those 18 and over. The cuisine is Northern Italian. Cover charge: $20.
You don’t need to be celebrating a birthday, anniversary or reunion to enjoy these restaurants or the 34 other alterntive restaurants that don’t appear in the top 10, commented Bob Morgan, agent with Cruise Holidays of Richmond Hill, Ontario. “The appeal of these restaurants is they provide a memorable dining experience for a modest extra fee.”