Specialty dining has become a highly anticipated feature of the cruising experience. All cruise ships have at least one specialty restaurant onboard offering an extensive variety of traditional and exotic dishes inspired by Italy, France, Asia and other countries famous for their cuisine. Compared to the "main" dining rooms and buffets, specialty restaurants are by reservation only and offer a more intimate and upscale experience with more courses and the best wine lists.
Guests are advised to make their reservations early, as space fills up fast. First priority is given to suite occupants. All other guests must often adhere to a two-reservation maximum policy, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to book at least once. Those who wish to dine more than twice are added to a waiting list and contacted if there is extra space. Most are "adult-only" venues or do not allow children under the age of 13, so guests are encouraged to make alternate arrangements if they're traveling with children.
A small fee typically applies to specialty dining, but is quite reasonable. Guests can expect to pay up to $30 USD per person, which according to food critics, is worth every penny. Some cruises will even offer half price dining on the first night of sailing. Lunch, if available, is typically $20 USD per person. Among the luxury-level cruise lines, there generally is no charge for dining in specialty restaurants.
Upon entering this intimate atmosphere, the pleasant sound of live music fills the air. Guests will notice their tables are adorned with stimulating décor including Versace place settings, candlelight and leather-bound menus. This experience is accompanied by unmatched service from personable, knowledgeable staff.
Many ships offer "butterfly service," with waiters serving, presenting and removing dishes at the same table in unison. Sometimes, table side cooking, carving and plating is also part of the charm.
Guests are provided with the ship's best wine list, reflecting regions of the world known for their viticulture. Dine like royalty and enjoy mouth watering dishes like Dungeness crab cakes, pan-seared rosemary chicken, Chilean sea bass, and rack of lamb. Save some room for dessert and indulge in a delectable fruit fondue or chocolate soufflé. The menu alone will easily distinguish specialty dining from the alternative.
A small dance floor sometimes exits where guests are encouraged to do so between courses and after dinner. They'll often stay through the night with this pleasant mixture of great service, company and background music.
This experience is available at exceptional value so be sure to make your reservation as soon as you board. A dress code will often apply, but it is best to refer to the particular cruise line you will be sailing with.
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