I enjoy eating out and we go out to a fine restaurant a number of times throughout the year and also enjoy eating at many different restaurants when my wife and I travel.
I have eaten at Gordon Ramsay in London to Thomas Keller's, The French Laundry, in the Napa Valley and while they were fantastic meals I have to admit that I have eaten almost equivalent meals onboard ship. It was ten years ago when I went to Ramsay's and I didn't have to pay. The bill was over 800 pounds for four people.
A meal we had on the Millennium, in the Olympic restaurant, is probably the best. I had lamb that was perfectly prepared and a foi grois appetizer that was phenomenal and the a waitstaff were a joy to behold.
We had a seven course dinner, with wine pairings, in Aqualina, on Azamara Journey that was almost perfect and the $45 additional charge was a bargain for what we received. Then again the wine pourings were quite large and my wife was "floating" by the end of the meal.
I have also had wonderful meals on NCL and Princess. The main dining rooms on Carnival have often pleased me. The only cruise lines that I don't have fond food memories of are Royal Caribbean and Holland America. While the food was fine it didn't leave a real positive impression and a couple of things like the blandness of HAL's food and the overall mediocre food quality of Royal Caribbean have actually put them far down on my list of cruise lines I consider when choosing a cruise. These impressions include their specialty restaurants. It's been a few years since I've cruised either line so I suppose I should give them another try.
I'm fairly critical of food and worked in the business for a few years and know how hard it is to deliver good food to a large number of people.
I personally like the specialty restaurant trend that allows almost ala minute serving to the guest, rather than short-order cooking. Not all specialty restaurants deliver this level but many do. I.E. My personal experience with Chops, NCL's Mexican and Italian restaurants and Sabatini's are more "turn and burn" with foods that have a quick turn around of entrées with many sauces and pasta that seem to be mass produced rather than produced to order. I.E. An Alfredo sauce in Mama's on Norwegian Jewel that had a flour taste suggesting the base of the sauce was a regular bechamel (white sauce). It was good but not great.
I'm glad that cruise lines are allowing chefs to put their names with a cruise line's food. I worry when they "remove" their names from the cruise lines food. It's then you wonder "why?". I know that when Blau and Associates took over Celebrity's food there were reports of a slip in quality but it seems that since the addition of Jacques Van Staden it may have improved. I am a bit confused how the relationship between Elizabeth Blau and Associates works with Van Staden? He is a corporate officer of Celebrity and works for the cruise line. I don't know how long it will be until he and Blau "butt heads".
All in all: If people do enjoy some good food I think they will find it on most cruise lines. It's one of the major factors that keeps me cruising.