When cruise ships can finally sail again this year, passengers will be able to enjoy more onboard dining in the manner they've experienced throughout the past year: outdoors.
Demand for alfresco eateries on cruise ships had grown for years before the pandemic. In a post-pandemic world, cruise lines expect their popularity to increase.
Luckily, many of the newest ships were already set to introduce outdoor dining spots that were designed long before 2020. Other lines say they are looking at ways to add outdoor seating in response to what they anticipate will be more demand.
Carnival Cruise Line's new ship, the Mardi Gras, will not only have the line's largest Cucina del Capitano Italian restaurant in its fleet, but it will be the first with both indoor and outdoor seating. And the ship will also have the largest Lido outdoor dining venue on any Carnival ship.
MSC Cruises' upcoming newbuild, the MSC Seashore, will offer more outdoor bar and restaurant seating than any of the line's other ships. The Seashore's Chef's Court, the area that houses its specialty restaurants, will be on Deck 8, a new location that allows for better ocean views and for the line's signature steakhouse, Butcher's Cut, to offer outdoor seating for the first time, on the waterfront promenade.
In addition, the Seashore's buffet area will have a new aft dining area with the Sky Bar, so named because passengers can sip drinks under the stars at the top of the ship.
The MSC Seashore’s buffet area will have a new aft dining area with the Sky Bar, so named because passengers can sip drinks under the stars at the top of the ship.
Ken Muskat, MSC COO, said that the Seashore overall has the highest ratio of outdoor space per guest of any ship in MSC's fleet, "which is very important today and in the future."
"Especially in this environment, people enjoy the outdoors," he added.
Princess Cruises' first restaurant with an outdoor seating area debuted on its two newest ships: the Sky Princess, which sailed for only a few months before the global cruise shutdown, and the Enchanted Princess, delivered in 2020 and still awaiting its first passengers. Bistro Sur La Mer, the French eatery created in partnership with Michelin-starred chef Emmanuel Renaut, is located above the Piazza in the atrium and features an alfresco dining area.
The outdoor seating area at Bistro Sur La Mer on the Sky Princess.
When Windstar Cruises debuts the Star Breeze this year, the 312-passenger ship, which was cut in half and lengthened, will have two new restaurants, including Star Grill by Steven Raichlen, an outdoor barbecue concept created in partnership with Raichlen that will feature his grilled specialties.
Chris Prelog, president of Windstar Cruises, said the line has always offered its guests many outdoor experiences, something that now gives it added allure. The line's masted Wind-class sailing ships, he said, "set the tone" for the Star-class features like expanded outdoor dining.
"Windstar guests really appreciate the outdoor elements of the experience," he said. On some nights, he added, "we spend all evening outdoors, not just for dinner but for entertainment, as well."
The Windstar Star Breeze’s Star Grill by Steven Raichlen is an outdoor barbecue concept created in partnership with Raichlen that will feature his grilled specialties.
Celebrity Cruises' two newest ships, the Edge and its sister the Apex, delivered last year and yet to carry guests, raised the bar on outdoor dining. Its Dinner on the Edge experience on the Magic Carpet, the platform that moves from deck to deck suspended from the ship's side as an open-air bar, is offered on certain days of the cruise, when it docks at Raw on 5 and ascends to the top of the ship. Another area, the Rooftop Garden Grill, in an area inspired by childhood playgrounds, serves "gourmet backyard favorites."
Cruise lines also said that their ships may not be debuting outdoor dining options, but that they are looking at adding more and that many such venues already exist.
Carnival said that as part of its return-to-service plan, the line will encourage guests to dine outdoors more when possible and said many of its newer ships have outdoor dining spaces within existing restaurants.
Holland America Line said that it is exploring adding more outdoor dining seating for passengers as part of its overall dining approach and that on its upcoming newbuild, the Rotterdam VII, the Nami Sushi restaurant will have outdoor seating, as it does on the Nieuw Statendam.
And Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Encore became the latest ship in the fleet to feature the Waterfront, an area with a quarter-mile of oceanfront promenade that features alfresco dining, when it entered service in late 2019. The Waterfront debuted on the Norwegian Breakaway in 2013.
Situated on Deck 8, it enables guests at several specialty dining venues (Onda by Scarpetta, Ocean Blue and Cagney's Steakhouse) to eat outdoors and for those getting cocktails at the Sugarcane Mojito Bar and the Cavern Club to enjoy them alfresco.