Specialty dining on cruises elevates your culinary experiences

Cruising is a vacation option packed with value. Included in your cruise fare are meals in the main dining room and many casual venues on board, as well as your cabin, and most entertainment and onboard activities. Specialty dining restaurants charge either per diem per passenger or guests can pay a la carte.

We’ve asked travel experts about why to splurge on these dining extras.

Specialty dining helps make cruise vacations relaxing and exclusive

At specialty dining venues, there is a broader selection of dining times, allowing guests you more activity choices, says Charlotte Nichols, director of business development, supplier relations and partnership marketing for AAA Travel at AAA Northeast. Generally, when eating dinner in the main dining room, guests have a set dining time. A specialty dining reservation can change an evening routine a bit.

Special requests may be easier

Specialty dining allows more customization available for your overall experience. If there are food restrictions, they may be easily handled there. Also, if sailing during a celebration, it can be nicer in a more intimate setting like birthdays and anniversaries.

Ambiance matters

The main dining rooms are nice and the servers are very attentive but the noise level can be a challenge. “Specialty dining venues are smaller and more intimate spaces for romance or are easier to have conversations with like-minded people,” Nichols says.

Mix it up

Nichols said to try an avoid the boredom of the same venue night after night. “Switch it up,” she recommends. On Royal Caribbean’s newest ship Symphony of the Seas, which is also the largest ship in the world, guests can elevate their main dining room experience at dining venues including Chops Grille, Hooked Seafood, 150 Central Park, Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver, Wonderland and Izumi.

The level of service and dining experience is well worth the cost at any of these restaurants.

Try and book your cruise with dining perks

The cruise lines use have been using specialty dining promotions and perks as part of their booking incentives instead of reducing cruise prices, says travel blogger at WeAtTheSea.com, Michelle Miller.

“Specifically, they are being offered in a choose your perk format, Celebrity, MSC, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian have all have done this fall,” she says.

According to Miller, cruisers are given options of things like 1) specialty dining, 2) beverage packages, 3) internet use, 4) onboard credit, 5) shore excursions. “Depending on the level of cabin selected, the cruisers can choose one or even all of the perks offered,” Miller continues.

The ports of calls may even be featured

Travel professionals like Rachael Young with Journey Genies Travel Planning, recommend specialty dining to their clients for a more enhanced experience over a buffet or the main dining room. Sometimes, these dining venues feature menu items tied to the ports the ship is calling on.

“Along with fine dining selections, a specialty restaurant may be themed to a particular destination or region,” explained Young. “This often means you can venture outside of your culinary comfort zone, trying new and delicious foods that have more cultural flair.”