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The Best Cruises for Foodies

If you're a food lover, sail on these ships in 2016.

U.S. News & World Report

The Best Cruises for Foodies

Restaurant table setting in cruise ship, close-up

With an increasing number of specialty dining venues and food-centric programs, these cruise lines are enhancing culinary experiences at sea. (Getty Images)

The dining rooms on today's cruise ships are no longer filled with flavorless buffets, water-downed cocktails and rock-hard dinner rolls. In fact, many cruise lines have contracted some of the world's best chefs to ensure the dishes they're offering aren't just high-end, but innovative, inspiring and delicious. In addition to upgrading their culinary offerings, many companies are putting together food-centric programs for the serious gourmand that include everything from private cocktail parties to intimate wine tastings to excursions to farmers markets and more. And though many cruise lines have stepped up their food game in recent years, these four companies still reign supreme when it comes to onboard gastronomy. Just make sure you pack your appetite for meals on these ships – they're the top places to eat and drink at sea.

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas offers restaurants with menus created by celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Michael Schwartz. These spots feature a range of delectable and imaginative offerings, like modernist inspired corn soup (that's both hot and cold), avocado and crab bruschetta and locally sourced gastro pub fare (like hearty burgers with creamy spreads). The ship's diverse restaurant options, serving everything from Asian-inspired to Italian-influence dishes, ensure you'll never go hungry.

Paul Gauguin Cruises

On Tere Moana, you'll feel more like you're sailing on a private yacht than a giant cruise ship. With a capacity for just 88 guests, Mauna offers a more intimate atmosphere than you might expect to find on larger boats, like Royal Caribbean's Quantum-class ships. The main culinary consultant, Jean-Pierre Vigato, is a Michelin-star recipient for his Paris dining establishment, Apicius. His creative menu blends traditional French cuisine with the beautiful bounty of the Polynesian islands. In addition to the fare you can enjoy onboard, the smaller ships can access hard-to-reach ports, allowing for food-centric excursions when you dock, like private wine tastings in Croatia and coffee samplings in Colombia.

Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises' Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony take cruise cuisine up a notch with standout specialty dining options. Creative yet classic, the Italian and Japanese dishes crafted by renowned celebrity chefs Piero Selvaggio and Nobu Matsuhisa at specialty dining venues Prego and Silk Road and the Sushi Bar cater to food-obsessed passengers. Plus, Crystal offers a Connoisseur beer menu, featuring an extensive array of handcrafted ales to sample. And an added bonus: Crystal announced a selection of Wine & Food Festival-themed cruises sailing in Asia, Europe and other hot spots in 2016 that will feature special culinary events, hands-on demonstrations and food-focused shore excursions.

Oceania Cruises

Oceania's Marina and Riviera ships were made for serious foodies. The cruise line invested in a Bon Appétit Culinary Center, which features a selection of stations open to all passengers. Each epicurean receives his or her own space to whip up their own mouthwatering dishes with the help of a classically trained chef, ranging from homemade pizzas to Sicilian-inspired pasta dishes. Plus, each ship offers top-notch dining spots, including a dining room with French-inspired dishes created by acclaimed chef Jacques Pépin and Asian-influenced bistro Red Ginger.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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