The trend towards specialty restaurants on ships has led to a wide variety of dining options at sea. Some cruise guests worry that this proliferation in specialty dining restaurants may result in poorer quality dining in the main dining rooms, driving guests towards high-priced specialty options. While that could be occurring in some cases, it’s certainly not happening across the board.
Look for a ship that offers a wide variety of highly-rated standard dining choices as well as free or low cost, value-oriented specialty dining options. Take the Carnival Sunshine, for example. The ship features two of Carnival's most popular complimentary specialty dining venues. Developed in partnership with Food Network star Guy Fieri, Guy's Burger Joint serves up free tasty burgers and hand-cut fries poolside. Five different types of burgers are served here and guests can personalize them at the nearby toppings bar. Also conveniently located on the pool deck, the BlueIguana Cantina offers complimentary tasty burritos and tacos along with a large fixings bar. The 24-hour Pizzeria del Capitano is another popular freebie aboard the ship.
The Taste Bar is another guest favorite on the Carnival Sunshine. Passengers can stop in before dinner to try out complimentary appetizers. Each day there’s something new to sample, always free of charge. In addition, The Taste Bar is the “go to” choice for guests in a hurry in the mornings. It’s a great place to grab a quick hot breakfast or snack before heading out on an early shore excursion.
The Carnival Sunshine also offers two of the best value-priced specialty dining options at sea. JiJi Asian Kitchen serves up large four-course meals for $12 per adult and $5 for kids 11 and under. Menu choices are derived from the cuisines of Vietnam, Indonesia, Mongolia, China, Singapore and the Philippines. The slow-braised Wagyu beef short rib, Chairman Mao’s Master Stock Pig, and the Nanjing-style duck appetizers at JiJi are particularly excellent. The Carnival Sunshine is currently the only Carnival ship that has this eatery, but hopefully it will spread to other vessels in the fleet in the future. The word “Ji” translates to “lucky” in English. If you’re lucky enough to be aboard the Carnival Sunshine, don’t miss this treat.
Cucina del Capitano is another specialty dining venue that offers delicious food and great value. This family-style restaurant serves up huge portions in an intimate setting. Dinners consist of three or four courses, depending upon whether both an appetizer and soup/salad are ordered. Some favorite entrée dishes include Nonna’s Linguine & Meatballs and Spaghetti Carbonara. Although it is an Italian restaurant, Cucina del Capitano offers much more than freshly-made pasta dishes on its menu. Guests can choose from grilled shrimp or salmon, braised short ribs in rich red Barolo wine sauce, chicken parmigiana, classic sirloin steak done Italian style, and much more. As with JiJi Asian Kitchen, the surcharge is $12 for adults and $5 for children ages 11 and under. The restaurant also serves pasta dishes at lunch, all free of charge. Cucina del Capitano is now available on several Carnival ships.
Guests on the Carnival Sunshine certainly aren’t compelled to eat in the ship’s specialty restaurants, even though they do offer a good value. There are plenty of excellent food choices in the Carnival Sunshine’s Lido Marketplace and its main dining rooms. In addition, room service is available around the clock.
When thinking about specialty dining options on your ship, evaluate restaurant menus in advance and check out previous guest reviews. In addition, make your dining requests early if reservations are needed. Value-oriented specialty restaurants tend to become more popular and often sell out as the cruise progresses. Don’t be left out. If you do your homework in advance, you’ll know which restaurants fit your dining preferences and budget and can plan accordingly. Bon appétit!