Affordable Cruise Ships Offer Exotic Asian Eateries


shanghai chinese restaurant
Shanghai Chinese restaurant on MSC Cruises // Photo by MSC Cruises

In the upcoming issue of Travel Agent magazine on Aug. 6, consortia leaders and travel agency owners will reveal their personal favorites for dedicated Asian restaurants onboard cruise ships. Not surprisingly, they selected Oriental eateries on premium, upper premium and luxury lines.

But several affordable, contemporary lines also offer savory Asian options. Among them are Carnival Cruise Lines, MSC CruisesNorwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International.

They serve up everything from Chinese to teppanyaki, from sushi to Thai within dedicated Asian restaurants on select ships in their fleets. Most of these dining venues carry a separate dining fee or a la carte pricing.

Here's a look at some of those exotic choices. 

Note: Only contemporary lines with ships that have full-service, dedicated Asian restaurants, rather than "stations" within a buffet restaurant, are mentioned below.

Izumi, Royal Caribbean International: If clients love Asian food, Royal Caribbean International's ( Izumi offers everything from sushi rolls to hot rock (ishi-yaki) plates, from sashimi to traditional Asian dishes.

The Oriental eatery is currently available on Grandeur of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas, Splendour of the Seas and the line’s two newest vessels, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. It will also be offered on Serenade of the Seas after the ship emerges from a November drydock. 

Arvid Olson, owner, Travel Leaders, Palm Coast, FL, tried out Izumi on Rhapsody of the Seas last April. “This is a more casual restaurant with a sushi bar and more informal service [than some of Asian restaurants on the premium and luxury line ships],” he says.

“They also feature hot rock dishes, where you actually cook your own food, and I guess I am lazy when eating out as I would rather have the chef do the cooking,” he notes. 
Yet, Olson says members of his party were so impressed with the quality of the tempura dishes and the dragon rolls that they went back a second time. He describes the Izumi service on Rhapsody of the Seas as friendly and very professional.
Menu items are priced a la carte plus a dining fee of $3 for lunch or $5 for dinner, which includes gratuities.
bonsai sushi on carnival breeze
Bonsai Sushi on Carnival // Photo by Andy Newman of Carnival Cruise Lines
Bonsai Sushi, Carnival Breeze: Asian dining has progressed from a sushi cart to a stand-alone, full-service restaurant, Bonsai Sushi, on Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest ship, Carnival Breeze (
A sushi boat is available at $15 for two. Individual sushi pieces start at just $1.  
Travel Agent covered this restaurant briefly within several previous Web stories about the new ship; the related links are listed on this page.
Teppanyaki and More, Norwegian Cruise Line: Genting Hong Kong, which also owns Star Cruises, owns half of Norwegian Cruise Line ( So not surprisingly, Norwegian's ships have long featured Asian options.

One of the most popular dining options onboard Norwegian is Teppanyaki, typically a smaller, more intimate venue within a larger Asian restaurant on all Norwegian ships except Norwegian Epic, where it has blossomed into a stand-alone entity with 24 oversized Hibachi grills.

Whatever ship clients choose for Teppanyaki, though, a form of dinner theater emerges nightly. Just think "Benihana of Tokyo" in terms of the action. Asian chefs cut, chop and dazzle guests with their artistry. Food is served sizzling hot from grill to plate.

This alternative venue is open for dinner, and priced at $25 per person. Reservations are critical. Reserve as early as possible as seating is limited.

Norwegian Epic also features a full-service Shanghai Chinese Restaurant, with a $15 per person fee. Featuring a lively open kitchen that guests may view while waiting for their food, its menu includes Chinese cuisine, noodles, wok fried dishes and dim sum.

A personal favorite of many agents is the separate Shanghai Noodle Bar; pricing is a la carte, but affordable. Among the choices?

Guests might order the steamed pork pot stickers with ginger soy dipping sauce for $3.50 and pair that with the Spicy Seafood Udon Noodle dish, a mix of seafood broth, shrimp, squid, crab, octopus, onion, red bell pepper and chili powder for $5.50.

On the new Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, the line’s two new ships slated to launch in 2013 and 2014, respectively, look for the signature Teppanyaki to have a traditional Japanese rock garden and 96 seats surrounding 12 flat top grills.

On the two new ships, Shanghai Noodle Bar will have all-counter seating around an open kitchen.

Shanghai and More, MSC Cruises: Diners might try spicy hot Szechuan dishes or sweeter, milder Cantonese food within MSC Orchestra’s specialty restaurant, Shanghai.

At lunchtime, the venue also has a dim sum menu, featuring specialties from every region of China. Ten pieces of dim sum are about $9.25.

Or for the same price, clients might opt for the Nari Goreng with carmelized pork skewers in a peanut crust or, alternatively a monkfish curry and Kataifi pastry nest, served with Basmati rice.

MSC Cruises ( also offers the Kaito Sushi Bar on the MSC Poesia and MSC Musica, as well as Oriental Plaza on MSC Magnifica.

Stay tuned for the Aug. 6 issue of Travel Agent to learn about the premium and luxury line Asian restaurants rated as personal favorites by travel agents and travel industry leaders. When that story is published, we'll post the link here.

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