This question was answered on our Cruise IQ show on October 24, 2017.
There’s no denying that specialty dining restaurants on cruise ships are big money-makers for the cruise lines and you’re going to see more and more of them as new ships are built and added to existing ships.
If you’ve cruised for more than 10 years, you probably remember that the offerings in the main dining room were quite different than they are today. There’s definitely been a slimming-down of options and premium items like steaks and seafood as well as fancy decadent desserts. Today, if you want a really good steak, or lobster (I mean a real lobster not just a large shrimp) you’ll need pay for a specialty dining experience. Some cruise lines have even started offering premium selections within the main dining room for an upcharge.
In addition to the changing main dining menus, the general ambiance has also changed. What used to seem like fine dining, now more reflects a banquet style approach, where you have fewer options in a less formal environment.
The main dining room still offers a great meal with great service included in the price of your cruise and it’s our choice for the majority of our cruise meals onboard. If you are looking to celebrate a special occasion or want a more intimate, leisurely dining experience, with several unique dishes, prepared and served with stylistic precision, then the specialty restaurants are a perfect choice. While we enjoy going to one or two specialty restaurants during a week’s long cruise, we’ve never found that it was a requirement on any cruise ship in order to have a satisfying meal.