The Coolest Cruise Awards

Coolest Restaurant Graphic

Wave Season is underway, and to celebrate we’re spotlighting some of the coolest features the industry has to offer your clients. Over the next couple of months we’ll be giving you the chance to vote on the coolest cruise ship features, spas, restaurants and more, with the winners featured on Travel Agent Central and in an upcoming print issue of Travel Agent magazine. This week we’re savoring some of the coolest specialty restaurants at sea. Carnival Cruise Line took home top honors in the ocean premium and contemporary segment of the Coolest Cruise Ship Show category for the high-tech Rock Revolution, while Victoria Cruise Lines won river premium and contemporary for the traditional Thousand Arms of Bodhisattva Dance. 

MSC Cruises won the first category, Coolest Cruise Ship Pool, for the MSC Meraviglia’s Atmosphere pool, beating out the Celebrity Edge, Navigator of the Seas and Carnival Sunshine in a close race. For our second category, cruise ship features, we broke things down by industry segment. The Ocean Premium \ Contemporary ships had a three-way tie, with the BOLT Roller Coaster on Carnival Cruise Line’s upcoming Mardi Gras, the Magic Carpet on Celebrity Cruises’ new Celebrity Edge and the racetrack on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Encore all taking the top spot. For the Luxury \ Upper Premium segment, Viking’s signature snow grottos were the winner, garnering half of the overall votes. In Small Ships, the salt room on Alaskan Dream Cruises Chichagof Dream won out, while, for Premium \ Contemporary River Cruises, the opening bows on American Cruise Lines’ new Modern Riverboat series came out ahead. In the spas category, MSC Cruises and Seabourn both won decisive victories, each grabbing more than half the votes in their respective segments. For guest speakers, Cunard’s Insights Program and Seabourn’s Collin O’Brady tied for first in the luxury category, while Alaskan Dream Cruises overwhelmingly won the small ship category for its True Alaskan Guides

For shore excursions, Celebrity Cruises’ Private Journeys and snorkeling at MSC Cruises’ Ocean Cay Marine Reserve tied for first in the premium and contemporary segment, while Crystal won the luxury segment for giving guests the chance to fly on a fighter jet. For small ships, Alaskan Dream Cruises won for its exclusive Orca Point Lodge excursion. Turning to the rivers, American Queen Steamboat Company’s exclusive excursion to the Nottoway Plantation won the premium and contemporary segment, while AmaWaterways’ traditional Buddhist blessing excursion won in luxury. In terms of kids’ clubs, MSC Cruises won again for the facilities onboard the MSC MeravigliaMSC Cruises won the Ocean Premium and Contemporary segment for the Coolest Cruise Ship Bar, while SeaDream Yacht Club’s Top of the Yacht Bar took top honors in the Small Ship segment.

Here are the contenders for the Coolest Cruise Ship Specialty Restaurant. Voting for this round closes Monday, January 27!

Ocean Premium and Contemporary


Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line: The Rock Grill

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line offers guests an interactive, Insta-worthy dining experience at The Rock Grill. Available on both Grand Celebration and Grand Classica, The Rock Grill offers panoramic ocean views; once seated, guests order their dishes and receive a lava rock delivered to their table, on which they prepare meat and seafood dishes exactly to their liking.

Carnival Cruise Line: Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse | Brewhouse

The latest product of Carnival’s partnership with celebrity chef and Food Network star Guy Fieri, this restaurant serves up authentic barbecue and traditional sides, served with a lineup of craft beers brewed right onboard at the ship’s brewery. Menu items include slow-smoked brisket, Memphis-style baby back ribs, seasoned grilled chicken, pulled pork, and cedar-smoked salmon with an apricot glaze.

Celebrity Cruises: Eden Restaurant

A multi-level sensory experience that changes throughout the day, from chill mornings to playful afternoons and “sinful” evenings, dinner at the Eden Restaurant aims to take guests on a journey. Before entering, guests start at the Eden Bar on the second level, before heading downstairs to the restaurant. Once seated, the “Edenists” – combination host and performance artist – will serve a choreographed series of dishes from the open-air kitchen, after which it’s back up to the bar for The Crescendo, which serves as a cap to the evening. 

MSC Cruises: Asian Market Kitchen by Roy Yamaguchi

On MSC Seaside, pan-Asian pioneer Roy Yamaguchi has brought his Hawaiian and Japanese fusion cuisine to the sea. The celebrity chef’s first culinary venue at sea, Asian Market Kitchen is comprised of three distinct restaurants, including Fusion by Roy Yamaguchi offering an à la carte menu with gourmet Asian creations; Sushi by Roy Yamaguchi, serving the freshest sushi and sashimi, but with a Hawaiian twist; and Teppanyaki by Roy Yamaguchi, combining cooking with entertainment. 

Norwegian Cruise Line: Onda by Scarpetta

New onboard the Norwegian Encore, this at-sea outpost of the Scarpetta restaurant portfolio showcases the bold and rich flavors modern Italian restaurants are known for, including a selection of beautifully prepared seafood and signature dishes, such as Yellowtail Crudo, Branzino, pastas made in-house daily such as Scarpetta’s famous Spaghetti Tomato and Basil, and the desserts of the region, that will provide guests with a true “la dolce vita.”

Holland America Line: Rudi's Sel de Mer

Rudi’s Sel de Mer is an intimate French brasserie serving an a la carte selection of classic seafood dishes with a modern twist. The namesake of Holland America Line’s master chef Rudi Sodamin, the venue is a stand-alone restaurant aboard Nieuw Statendam and Koningsdam, and a pop-up experience in Pinnacle Grill on the other ships in the fleet. Menu selections include whole Dover sole meunière with shaved pink Himalayan sea salt, oysters on the half shell, fruits de mer, and salt-crust baked branzino, as well as favorites such as steak frites, duck cassoulet and coq au vin. End the meal with Rudi’s famed Souffle – a version of the Salzburger Nockerl. For Rudi’s Sel De Mer, Sodamin created Food Faces art for the exclusive show plates made by Bernardaud. Each plate portrays an image of a work of art crafted from food.

Royal Caribbean International: Wonderland

At Wonderland, chefs aim to invent an elaborate dreamscape of never-before-seen fare. The story begins as guests "brush" the menu and find their element— Wind, Ice, Fire, Water, Earth and Dreams— each with a selection of small or shareable fantasies. Amidst amorphous mirrors, mystery and sensory surprises, the intention of it all becomes more certain with each maddeningly delicious bite. 

Cast your vote here:

Ocean Luxury and Upper Premium

Crystal Cruises: Umi Uma and Sushi Bar

Since 2003, Crystal Cruises has featured specialty restaurants by celebrity master chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa – the only Nobu eateries at sea. Onboard Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, Umi Uma and Sushi Bar offers selections created by Nobu and prepared by his personally trained chefs. Menu highlights include signature dishes from miso black cod to yellowtail tartare with caviar.

Oceania Cruises: Jacques

Decorated with heirloom antiques, pickled wood furnishings and art from Jacques Pépin’s personal collection, Marina and Riviera’s Jacques was modeled after a Parisian bistro. Comfortable and eclectic, the ambiance is pure French, as is the cuisine. Luscious aromas waft from the gleaming show rotisserie, where chicken, duck, pork, beef and veal roasts slowly turn. Each dish is a classic, reinterpreted by Master Chef Pépin.

Seabourn: The Grill by Thomas Keller

Available on all Seabourn ships, the cruise line’s partnership with the award-winning and world-renowned American chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller delivers classic American restaurant cuisine, inspired by the 50s and 60s. A unique culinary concept to Chef Keller, The Grill focuses on updated versions of iconic dishes, such as table-side preparations of Caesar salad and ice cream sundaes as well as a range of other steakhouse choices like Lobster Thermidor and creamed spinach. A unique cocktail program and premium wine list of domestic and Old World labels complement the menu. 

Silversea: Hot Rocks

Introduced in 2009 onboard Silver Spirit, Silversea’s Hot Rocks dining concept – grilling your own meats atop a slab of volcanic rock while dining under the stars on the Pool Deck – became such a hit with guests that Silversea has added it to every ship in the fleet, including its polar expedition vessels. Sourced from volcanic rock and placed in an oven to reach an optimum temperature of 400˚C, the restaurant invites guests to cook their food directly at their table.

Viking Ocean Cruises: The Chef’s Table

As part of Viking’s destination-focused dining experiences, The Chefs’ Table offers a unique multicourse tasting experience in which culinary creations inspired by regionally specific cuisines are paired with wines hand-selected by sommeliers. Menus include dining experiences inspired by French, Scandinavian, Mexican, Xiang and more cuisine. The menu changes every three days, so over 15 days, guests have the opportunity to choose from five different “journeys.”

Cast your vote here:

Small Ship

Alaskan Dream Cruises: Kruzof Explorer’s Dining Room

Guests dining onboard Alaskan Dream Cruises’ Kruzof Explorer will have a hard time believing that the boat used to be the home of salty Bering Sea crabbers. Instead of buoys, the deck now has delicate twinkle lights setting a romantic ambiance for the elevated dining experience. The cruise chef highlights local ingredients on the menus each day including wild Alaska seafood such as crab, halibut, shrimp and king salmon, while the ships’ bars are stocked with Alaska beers and spirits. Onboard pastry chefs are responsible for fresh-baked bread and decadent desserts.

Hurtigruten: Lindstrøm

Lindstrøm is the gourmet specialty restaurant on the Roald Amundsen, and it is named after Adolf Lindstrøm, the favorite chef of the Norwegian polar heroes. Haute Scandinavian cuisine is served up here. 

Cast your vote here:




Coolest Cruise Ship Pool

MSC Meraviglia's Atmosphere Pool

MSC Cruises: MSC Meraviglia’s Atmosphere Pool

MSC Meraviglia’s Atmosphere Pool, located on Deck 15, is inspired by the cool vibes of Miami’s South Beach. At 82 feet long, there’s plenty of space for swimming, and at night, the space transforms into a dazzling spectacle with special lighting. 

Coolest Cruise Ship Features

Carnival Mardi Gras BOLT Roller Coaster

Carnival Cruise Line: Mardi Gras’ BOLT Roller Coaster

When it sets sail in 2020, Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Mardi Gras, will have an exciting centerpiece on its top deck: the BOLT roller coaster. The new ride will send guests in all-electric, motorcycle-inspired vehicles along an 800-foot track. Guests will be able to choose their own speed, making it a little more manageable for the faint of heart!

Celebrity Edge Magic Carpet

Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Edge’s Magic Carpet

The signature feature of Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship, the Celebrity Edge, the Magic Carpet is the world’s first cantilevered, floating platform that reaches heights of 13 stories above sea level. The size of a tennis court, the inventive venue transforms as it moves up and down the ship throughout the day. At the top, it becomes a space where guests can take in a unique, al fresco culinary journey; on Deck 14, it serves as an extension of the main pool area; on Deck 5, it provides access to the new Raw on Five specialty restaurant; and on Deck 2, it provides a new luxury embarkation station. 

Norwegian Encore Racetrack

Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Encore’s Racetrack

Billed as the longest racetrack at sea, this feature on the newly christened Norwegian Encore takes guests 1,100 feet with four high-speed curves extending up to 13 feet over the ship’s side, reaching speeds of up to 30 mph. The race cars are electric, which means that they’re quiet, but engine noises are piped through speakers in the car’s headrest to ensure that guests get the full racing experience. 

Viking Snow Grotto Revised

Viking: Snow Grotto

On all of Viking’s ocean-going vessels, guests in the LivNordic Spa have the chance to experience a Nordic bathing ritual, complete with a “snow grotto” where the ground is piles with snow, ice covers the walls and snowflakes descend from the ceiling through chilled air. Part of alternating hot and cold therapies, it is said to stimulate the circulatory system. 

Chicaghof Dream's Salt Room

Alaskan Dream Cruises: Chichagof Dream’s Salt Room

The main deck of Alaskan Dream Cruises’ Chichagof Dream includes a salt cave with nearly four full walls of Himalayan salt. With a capacity of up to six guests, salt caves are said to be able to alleviate respiratory conditions, as well as promote calm, detoxification and wellness. No reservations or bookings required!

American Cruise Lines Opening Bow

American Cruise Lines: Opening Bows

Each of American Cruise Lines’ new modern riverboats has a unique, patent-pending opening bow and retractable gangway, allowing guests to board the ship through the bow. This feature also enables the riverboats to make bow landing to docks or riverbanks wherever needed, opening up a wealth of new itinerary opportunities. 

Coolest Cruise Ship Spas

MSC Cruises: MSC Seaside’s Aurea Spa

The MSC Aurea Spa is billed as the only Balinese-style spa at sea, and the new MSC Seaside is home to the largest one in the MSC Cruises fleet. It has a variety of treatment rooms and dedicated facilities, plus a Jean Louis David Salon and a dedicated barber shop. A dedicated nail salon also offers 13 types of manicures and pedicures, plus there is a make-up room and a medi-spa center offering beauty-enhancing and de-aging treatments.

Seabourn: The Spa at Seabourn

The Spa at Seabourn provides guests with a wide spectrum of massages, facials, and beauty and acupuncture treatments. Personalized spa services are also offered in a dedicated Spa Cabana at The Retreat atop Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation, available by reservation. With an ocean-view gym and Motion Studio guests can enjoy wellness experiences ranging from yoga and meditation to crystal sound bath sessions and stretch classes. Seabourn additionally offers Spa and Wellness with Dr. Andrew Weil, a fleet‐wide mindful-living program at sea that integrates physical, social, environmental and spiritual well-being.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for your chance to vote on the coolest cruise ship spas, specialty restaurants and more!

Coolest Guest Speakers

Queen Mary 2 sails with New York City skyline in background

Cunard: Insights Program

Recent speakers in Cunard’s Insights Program have included Wes Anderson, Alan Cumming, Keegan-Michael Key and John Landis, plus George Takei will be featured on Queen Mary 2’s 2019 holiday voyage in the Caribbean. During Cunard’s annual Transatlantic Fashion Week, top designers offer talks and runway shows onboard. Stephen Jones brought his stunning line of hats onboard for 2019’s Fashion Crossing, and Badgley Mischka will be headlining the 2020 voyage. Also in 2020, genealogy experts from will be onboard to speak with guests and offer insight on how to discover one’s family history. 

Seabourn Cruise Line

Seabourn: Collin O’Brady  

Acclaimed Antarctic explorer Colin O’Brady is joining the Seabourn Conversations onboard enrichment program for its 2019-2020 Antarctic sailing season. The sailing, a 21-Day Ultimate Antarctica & Patagonia itinerary, departed November 28, 2019, from San Antonio (Santiago), Chile. O’Brady, 33, made worldwide headlines when he became the first person to cross the landmass of Antarctica solo, unaided by kites or resupplies. He accomplished the feat in 54 days, covering more than 930 miles along the way, including more than 77 miles in the final 32-hour window where he went without sleep.

Alaskan Dream Cruises: True Alaskan Guides

The owners of Alaskan Dream Cruises are members of the Alaska Native Tlingit clan, and their ancestry helps them offer a unique perspective on cruising in Alaska’s Inside Passage. Passengers get the chance to immerse in the Southeast Alaska cultures of the region, Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. True Alaskan Guides are onboard every cruise to offer the unique cultural perspective to passengers. The guides talk about the lifestyles, legends and practices of the Alaska Native cultures of the Inside Passage region and offer their own personal stories from their ancestors who have called Alaska home for thousands of years.

Kids' Clubs

Coolest Kids Club MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises: MSC Meraviglia Kids Clubs

The MSC Meraviglia has five dedicated kids clubs, many developed in partnership with LEGO Group and Chicco – a leading baby brand. The kids clubs designed in partnership with LEGO offer young cruise guests from all over the world to interact and make friends from across the globe. Play with LEGO transcends language, since every child can together play with the iconic building blocks. And, as part of the kids clubs on board MSC Meraviglia kids can play in a tech lab, including 3D printers VR gaming and 3D product scanning.


MSC Cruises: Champagne bar on MSC Seaside

MSC Seaside’s champagne bar is situated in the social hub of the ship, the atrium, surrounded by several Swarovski crystal staircases lining the space. Here guests can sip on more than 20 different varieties of champagne, including several special champagne cocktails like the Blooming Champagne, combining champagne with wild hibiscus syrup and a hibiscus bloom; the Violette, mixing champagne, vodka, créme de violette, fresh lime juice and a drop of butterfly pea flower; or the French Kiss, with Créme de Cassis de Dijon, champagne and Frangelico; to name a few. A menu of raw bar items is also available for snacking.

SeaDream Yacht Club: Top of the Yacht Bar

As day turns to night, SeaDream Yacht Club guests enjoy the picturesque sunsets at the Top of the Yacht Bar aboard SeaDream I and SeaDream II. The night sky transforms the deck to a memorable night with accompanying music and a social atmosphere. Mingling with friends for a night of cocktails, live guitar music, dancing and 360º views of the twinkling stars are all part of the Top of the Yacht Bar experience.


Carnival Cruise Line: Rock Revolution

Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, Carnival Panorama, puts on a production with some high-flying technology. Rock Revolution is a modernized, concert-style show inspired by the legendary Woodstock music festival that employs “dancing drones” that interact with the music and performers. Paying tribute to the Summer of ’69 and fashion styles reminiscent of icons like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, the show also incorporates a horn trio and three-person rock band playing illuminated LED-interactive drum sets.

Victoria Cruise Lines: Thousand Arms of Bodhisattva Dance

Victoria Cruise Lines’ entertainment program is unique as the American-managed company recruits its wait staff, housekeepers and other ship personnel from artisan communities throughout the Yangtze River region. Come evening time, their true passion is on full display as passengers are treated to music and dance performances including the mysterious art of face-changing. However, the most acclaimed performance on any voyage is Thousand Arms of Bodhisattva, an ancient dance during which ornately costumed female dancers strike elegant, fluid poses layered to create the appearance of a graceful multi-armed deity, set to the backdrop of soothing traditional Chinese music.

Related Stories

The Most Innovative People In Cruise Travel Of 2019

On Site: Hanseatic Inspiration's Top Spaces

Cruising Into the Wild on National Geographic Venture

Best Year Ever in Caribbean Cruising But What's Up With Alaska?

Suggested Articles:

Everything old is new again—and for many travel advisors, a storefront on Main Street is the hottest old idea for 2020.

Carnival Cruise Line said work will now begin to finalize the ship’s interior and exterior outfitting. Here’s the latest.

The Constellation Lounge is a viewing area that will be perched up high and forward on each of the line's two new expedition ships. Here's more.