The Bacchus Dining Room, named for the Greek god of wine, is the main restaurant for dinner. It's visually "loud" in purple hues with grape motifs on the ceiling and walls, and pale pink table linens. Surprisingly, there is only one dining room on Spirit-class ships (while Carnival Valor and even the older Celebration feature two main restaurants), but at two decks high, Bacchus comfortably accommodates all passengers in two seatings (early at 6 p.m., late at 8:15) or on a flexible basis, via Carnival's "Your Choice Dining" program. With the flexible option, passengers can have dinner in the main dining room anytime they like between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m. (times may vary). Dining assignments -- which you select before the cruise -- are made on a first come, first served basis, so if you have your heart set on one or the other, consider booking sooner rather than later.
Dinner runs like a well-oiled machine; service is prompt and attentive, and aside from generally boring salads (iceberg lettuce and a few random tomatoes), food consistently meets or exceeds expectations -- particularly high-quality, hearty cuts of meat that are brought out as requested.
Menus feature Spa Carnival and low-carb entrees daily, as well as special selections for children and vegetarians. Often, the low-carb choices mirror the main menu choices -- fish, steak, chicken -- but are prepared with lighter sauce or accompanied by healthier sides like steamed vegetables. Breakfast and lunch is also served here in an open-seating fashion every day. The breakfast menu is the same each morning, offering standard fare: French toast, pancakes, omelets, eggs Benedict, etc. Lunch choices often reflect what's available in Horatio's, the buffet area.
Dinner at Nick & Nora's, nestled under a skylight in Carnival's signature red funnel, is truly unforgettable and worth the $30 per-person charge considering the quality of the meals, exquisite atmosphere and extra-attentive service. If you make reservations, be sure to take the glass-backed elevator up -- there is a gorgeous black and white photo of the 1930's Manhattan skyline that pops into view as you arrive, and it aptly feels as if you are leaving the cruise ship behind for something entirely different. There are plenty of cozy tables for couples and small groups. Truly intimate and lovely, with prime cuts of meat, delicious Caesar salad prepared tableside and Versace china to boot. Leave room for dessert, such as a trio of chocolate treats.
The lido buffet is Horatio's, a sprawling, one-level restaurant offering full breakfast and lunch buffets, as well as a casual dinner alternative and a late-night "bistro." Among the plentiful tables and chairs are cozy booths, which make it feel more like a restaurant than a cafeteria (there are also tables set up poolside for those who prefer dining alfresco). Breakfast options include eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes, grits, Cream of Wheat, bagels and fruit. There is an omelet station each morning for made-to-order egg dishes, and separate islands for juice, coffee, fruit and yogurt. Assorted pastries and juices are brought around on carts by staff, a nice touch (fancier than usual for Carnival). Lunch options include hot buffet items (such as surprisingly tender pork chops), a salad bar, an Asian station, a carving station and sweets. There's rarely a line more than a few minutes and nearly always a place to sit.
The 24-hour pizzeria and 24-hour ice cream/frozen yogurt station are located here, along with a deli offering a variety of hot and cold items from tuna sandwiches and roast beef subs to gooey Reubens and Indian-spiced chicken tikka wraps. There is also a poolside grill offering burgers, hot dogs and the like. Hot coffee is available at drinks stations throughout at no cost, but the offerings at the specialty coffee bar near the pizzeria, as well as The Fountainhead Cafe in the lower promenade area, are extra.
Each afternoon, a sushi cart is set up outside of Maguire's Bar offering rotating options like salmon, shrimp and assorted rolls (free of charge). But that's not even the best part -- sake is available (unfortunately not free of charge) in Maguire's to accompany your Japanese snack.
The Punchliner Comedy Brunch was the result of Carnival's relationship with comedian George Lopez. Available on sea days, the brunch features a five- to six-minute comedy performance by an in-house stand-up every hour on the hour. The Mexican-inspired brunch menu is pretty interesting –- there's a Caesar salad with fried chicken and jerk bacon, a breakfast burrito and huevos rancheros. There's also a Bloody Mary bar. There is no extra charge to dine (bloody Marys are extra) though reservations are recommended.
Carnival Miracle's Taste Bar (Deck 2 along the Promenade) is available from 5 – 8 p.m. on sea days and select port days. The dining option (free) features a selection of tapas curated from a number of Carnival's newest dining venues (many of which are not found on Miracle). You can pair tastes with a specially selected cocktail for $5. For example, you might find roasted pork tacos and lime tortilla soup inspired by the BlueIguana Cantina (debuted on Carnival Liberty), with a Blue Margarita as the accompanying drink. Or, try "Nonna's" meatballs and ricotta bruchetta, inspired by the Cucina del Capitano Italian restaurant introduced on Carnival Magic, paired with the venue's house Chianti.
Also available on all of Carnival's ships is The Chef's Table dining experience, which affords a dozen passengers a multicourse dinner with a master chef, a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley and its operations. This dining option usually takes place in a nontraditional venue, such as the galley or library, and it can be booked onboard at the information desk for a per-person cost of $75.
Still hungry? Room service is available around the clock. Tasty sandwiches are a nice touch (try the mozzarella with grilled veggies and basil aioli), though mainstays like juices, breads and pastries, salads, veggie platters, cookies and brownies, cakes, yogurt, fruit salad, and beverages (including bar service at regular bar prices) are also on the menu. Service is usually prompt. Full stateroom bar service is available 9 a.m. until 3 a.m. In-cabin continental breakfast is available by hanging a checked-off menu on your doorknob -- and being that this is a "Fun Ship" and you're not exactly expected to turn in at a reasonable hour, the deadline for this is a generous 5 a.m. There are no hot dishes on the list, just fruit, cereals, yogurt, breads and pastries, juice, milk, tea and coffee.