I guess we're in the minority when it comes to the specialty restaurant charges. I also cannot see paying the extra charge when the food in the dining room is fine.
Well you can add me to that minority. Food on cruises certainly is delicious and plentiful, and the variety of places to eat that don't cost extra is what has kept us from the specialty places. Plus, we don't eat red meat more than a couple of times a year.
I was on Crystal last year and had dinner one night in their specialty Italian restaurant. The food and service were sublime, it was one of those 3-hour meals with lots of friends and it worked out great. However, the extra cost was $6 per person for gratuity, and that doesn't count, in my book, as an extra charge.
Maybe I'm just not that much of a gourmand, but the included food and atmosphere certainly are great for us. On some 3-night cruises, we've eaten every meal in the Windjammer, and didn't feel we've missed anything.