My husband and I tend to eat nightly in the specialty restaurants on board ship. Living in NYC, we often attend Broadway shows so we tend not to view on board entertainment venues unless they are before/after dinner. Our dining experience in the specialty restaurants is, therefore, "our show."
We do not like to be rushed, nor do we like to be herded like cattle, nor wait on lines to go into a restaurant. Check the watch, six o'clock? Ok, let's line up in front of the restaurant, eat six courses in less than an hour, go to the cabin to freshen up and then rush to the theater to get a good seat for a show. Not us, sorry....I'm not saying that it is a bad thing, but just not for us nor our lifestyle.
We enjoy dressing up nightly for dinner, sitting down in a restaurant that has lower lights, lower noise level, smaller population, not rubbing up against someone at the next table and having to make coversation with others if we are having a bad day or did not like the port and are still complaining about it...
That's just us and our way of cruising. We don't mind spending the extra money for fine wines and dinner, lingering longer over it (even if it means we are the last ones out of the restaurant which is most always the case). This is our thing and that is what makes a cruise for us. Doesn't mean that dining in the MDR is less enjoyable, but been there many times, done that many times, and this is what works for us at this point in our lives.
We tend to sail only on ships having specialty restaurants, and some are far better than others. HAL's PG is one of the worst, although they are my favorite line, and we still tend to eat there nightly. Celebrity's Olympic is far superior to Tuscan Grill (in my opinion, which does not even come close to Princess' Sabattini's) but the Murano is third on our favorite list. Chops was, at one time, another fave, but we tend to eat less red meat nowdays. Portofino was also excellent on RCL. LeBistro, on NCL, is another favorite for the food and atmosphere. I will also admit that since we eat nightly at these restaurants, we may form relationships with the staff there and are allowed to order off menu at times, order food from the MDR menu, or even make special requests. This depends on the chef, wait staff, and ship as this may also vary and at times, we are not permitted to do so. No problem, we still eat there anyway.
I would suggest that cruisers try at least one specialty restaurant on board a cruise ship which encompasses your favorite food. It is, after all, your cruise, and try to experience all aspects of shipboard life at least once, and then draw your own conclusions.
Wherever you eat, whomever you eat with, enjoy your vacation with its lasting memories!