PHOTO: Kung Pao Chicken at JiJi Asian Kitchen on Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista. (photo by Jason Leppert)
As a standard mainstream line, you might not initially think of Carnival Cruise Line as a brand to showcase notable specialty restaurants.
However, the half dozen it features are surprisingly gourmet. Here we rank them in order of deliciousness and describe some highlights:
1. JiJi Asian Kitchen – Carnival Sunshine and Carnival Vista
Only being available on two Carnival ships for now—it will also be on Carnival Horizon in 2018—JiJi Asian Kitchen is not just the all-time favorite in the fleet but also one of the best for Asian cuisine overall at sea.
This one is far worth the $15 surcharge per person ($5 per child) and can be easily repeated within a week via standout dishes like Slow-Braised Pork Belly, Jiaozi (pot stickers), Peppered Beef and the best Kung Pao Chicken ever. Even classic dishes are elevated here.
2. The Chef’s Table – Fleet-wide
For $75 to $95 per person, The Chef’s Table is definitely the most expensive on Carnival, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. It’s not a restaurant per se so much as it is a multi-course dinner experience hosted by the Master Executive Chef at the main dining room.
Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres lead an exclusive group of 14 on a galley tour before the special meal. On the Carnival Vista, the experience is even better thanks to a dedicated air-conditioned Chef’s Table room positioned within the actual galley.
3. Steakhouse – 14 Ships
It may have different names on different ships, but Carnival’s steakhouse is one of the most consistent specialty restaurants with an excellent common menu available for $35 per adult or $10 per child.
Among the great starters are Beef Carpaccio, Ahi Tuna Tartare, New England Crab Cake and Lobster Bisque with Vintage Cognac. Then hearty cuts like a 14 oz. Broiled Prime New York Strip Loin Steak, an 18 oz. Grilled Prime Cowboy Steak and even Surf & Turf paired with sides such as Baked Potatoes with Trimmings and Yukon Gold Mash with Wasabe Horseradish finish off before dessert.
4. Seafood Shack – 8 Ships
The Seafood Shack is a new casual spot for grabbing premium fresh shellfish at a la carte prices; it is a great poolside alternative.
New England Clam Chowder in Bread Bowl tastes good as an appetizer even if the bowl can be too hard to consume, but the Lobster Roll is excellent through and through. What’s more, market prices are available for everything from Snow Crab by the pound and individual Raw Oysters to buckets full of Fried Buffalo Shrimp and/or Fried Clam Strips. Classic Fish and Chips and a Fried Seafood Platter among others are also on the menu.
5. Bonsai Sushi – 6 Ships
Raw seafood lovers will also enjoy Bonsai Sushi for a la carte pricing. Ebi, Sake, Maguro and Hamachi are available as sushi or sashimi in addition to a few appetizers, soups and salads. Bento boxes are a great option for sampling a number of different dishes including the always popular California Roll, but the Spicy Tuna and Tempura rolls are also tasty.
As a starter, the Wagyu Kakuni slow braised short ribs are worth trying.
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6. Cucina del Capitano – 4 Ships
The least remarkable on the list is honestly Cucina del Capitano for $15 per adult or $5 per child. Traditional Italian dishes here are good but nothing to write home about.
Insalata Caprese, Nonna’s Linguine & Meatballs and Sicilian Cannoli are among the rather pedestrian choices. It would be nice to see a far greater selection of pastas and sauces available in addition to more daring entrees like Ossobuco. Honestly, the line’s free pizzeria is a better option for dinner.
This post first appeared on TravelPulse.