I have to say that the dinner I had, almost ten years ago, in the Olympic Dining room on the Millennium was one of the best meals I've ever had on land or sea.
Sadly, I can't say the same for the dinners I've had more recently in the SS United States (Constellation) and the two dinners I've had in Murano's on Century.
They were good but not at the same level. Gone is the butterfly service and I had to send back a steak twice on my last Murano's visit because it was very overcooked and the waiter had the nerve to tell me that a Medium Well steak was medium rare.
That really irritated me.
The dinners I've had in Cagney's, Le Bistro and Moderno, on NCL, have been excellent. As have been the dinners in the Carnival steakhouses but I haven't ate at the steakhouse, on Carnival, in my last two cruises just because of scheduling and the groups I was with.
The worst luck I've had with alternative dining is with Royal Caribbean. I have yet to have, what I consider, a real good meal in any of their alternative restaurants. I know a lot of this is "luck of the draw" but if I draw the short straw too many times I will no longer play the game.
The alternative restaurant and flexible dining options are what kept my wife and I cruising. We were ready to find something different because we were very tired of the "herd" feeling of eating at a set time and sometimes having to rush back to the ship because we had to eat dinner and felt obligated to be there and had no way of letting our tablemates or anyone know we would not be there.
Alternative restaurants are here to stay but I have to say that what you are now getting in the alternative restaurants, in terms of quality of product, is what you received in the MDR six to ten years ago. The ala minute of the alternative dining provides a better meal but the meats, fish and vegetables are what you once received in the MDR.
I take alternatives now as part of the experience and put one, two or more nights of alternative dining into my cruise budget.