Bad cruise food: it’s an issue that unites Youtube vloggers, stand-up comedians, and the average Joe alike. The food on cruise ships has become a universal punchline, with huge dining halls and uninventive buffets looming as far as the eye can see.
But when we entered the chat, we wanted to change that perception. We feature 20+ unique eateries whose offerings have electrified the industry and earned praise from publications across the map. Cruise Critic named us “Best Dining” in their 2022 Editors’ Pick awards, raving, “Virgin’s dining program is as eclectic and on-trend as the line [itself] – from veggie restaurant Razzle Dazzle to the first Korean BBQ at sea, Gunbae; the Mexico City-inspired Pink Agave, experiential The Test Kitchen, and food hall The Galley, where you can pick up bento boxes and order delicious ramen.”
Best of all, this bounty is included in your voyage fare — tips, too. So come see what the (non) fuss is all about.
The best cruise restaurants at sea
The journey to bringing such a different approach to food on the open sea was not a short one; it began with years of ideation between us and top land-based chefs, culminating in a collective decision on a menu concept.
“Food and drink were a big priority from the beginning,” explains Charles Steadman, Director of Virgin Voyages’ Food & Beverage Experience. “Once a concept is in a good place, we identify the culinary recipe needs. After a couple review sessions and alignment with the consulting chef, they come to Miami to test recipes and cook with our Director of Culinary Development, Levi Mezick, in our test kitchen space.”
On most cruise ships, one larger central galley (or kitchen, for land-lubbers) would be used for the preparation of all food on board. On our ships, each of our eateries has its own separate galley dedicated specifically to the dishes of that particular restaurant. This contributes to the distinctness of the flavors and energies we offer — and to the willingness that some of the world’s most exciting culinary minds have shown to be part of a cruise line’s food concept.
Sohui Kim, a New York-based chef and James Beard Award semi-finalist, shared what enticed her to work with Virgin to help create the menu at Gunbae. “The vision…was articulated with passion, a commitment to sustainability and an outstanding program for food and drink, which really is the driving engine of a great vacation!”
Not just the best food on the ocean…
For those with a taste for fine wine in addition to fine dining, Wine Spectator magazine named The Wake among its Grand Awards picks for 2022. The Grand Award is “our highest award, given to restaurants that show an uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine programs.” Wine Spectator emphasizes that its award winners “deliver a serious breadth of top producers, outstanding depth in mature vintages, a selection of large-format bottles, excellent harmony with the menu, and superior presentation.” Not an easy feat at sea, but we’re proud, and grateful, to have pulled it off somehow.
And our drink excellence isn’t limited to wine. One of our bartenders, Edgar Pacheco, was named World Class Cruise Bartender of the Year in a competition run by spirits industry giant Diageo.
We’ve explicitly tried to make a name for ourselves by working with the top minds in every industry — and our food and drink offerings on board reflect this commitment to excellence. As Silvana Salcido Esparza, pioneer of Mexican cuisine and the brains behind the menu at Pink Agave, put it, “It [was] a no-brainer for me to partner up with Virgin Voyages. Virgin Voyages stands alone in quality and branding. Nothing short of pure quality.”