As part of Carnival's Signature Dining, you choose to have dinner either in the same main dining room (Washington, decks 3 and 4 aft, or Lincoln, Deck 4 forward) at the same table every night at 6 p.m. or 8:15 p.m., or you can opt for "Your Time Dining," arriving in the Lincoln dining room, Deck 3 forward, anytime between 5:45 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Wait times depend on when you show up, how many are in your group and if you want your own table. You can limit the time in line by arriving early and opting to sit with fellow passengers.
We always considered Carnival's food to be among the best of the mass-market lines. Alas, we think the dining room meals have gone down a notch in quality. You can still get a good meal, but you should choose carefully. The always-available fried chicken is crispy, but the hamburger is just okay, and the grilled fish is variable. The turkey, lobster and some pastas are good. Our fried shrimp repeatedly arrived half-cooked, and the steak is tough. However, nobody starves on a cruise. The waiter will whisk away the unpalatable item and quickly bring something else.
The sea-day brunch in the dining room offers relaxing service while also thinning the crowd at Rosie's, the buffet area. The brunch menu features a range of items that include smoked salmon and bagels, eggs Benedict, omelets, chicken quesadillas, pork chops, French toast, mac 'n' cheese and grilled salmon, plus ice cream, caramelized cheesecake and chocolate brownies. Again, the quality varies. Our table found the smoked salmon and the French toast tasty, but the omelets greasy. The Washington dining room on Deck 3 serves open-seating breakfast daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
Scarlett's Steakhouse, Deck 10, Valor's only specialty restaurant, serves a tasty meal. Reserve ahead, and be prepared to pay $35 per person for a four-course dinner that includes an appetizer, salad, entree and dessert. The jumbo shrimp cocktail and the grilled Portobello mushroom are several classes above those served in the dining room, as are the steaks, lobster, lamb chops and grilled fish. The quiet atmosphere with background music is conducive to conversation. While the steakhouse once had dancing to live piano music, that's now gone.
Taste Bar on deck 5 serves small bites of items available at the line's newer eateries that are not on Valor. Several nights a week at select times, you can sample the roast pork and chicken lime tortilla soup from BlueIguana Cantina, the no-nonsense meatball from Cucina del Capitano, and the pepper pot soup and fried sweet potatoes from the Red Frog Pub. A nice way to try items from restaurants and bars unavailable on Valor, the delicious bites make us eager to book a cruise on Carnival vessels that offer the showcased eateries.
Rosie's, the Deck 9 buffet, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Themed with tile mosaics that depict WWII's Rosie the Riveter and working women wearing hard hats and handling blowtorches, Rosie's provides ample seating indoors, as well as tables outdoors near the pool.
However, when everyone wants to leave the ship at the same time, expect waits at the buffet. In St. Thomas, our first port, at Rosie's we waited 20 minutes for an omelet. The line moved so slowly that the omelet was cold by the time we scooped our hot cereal. When we arrived at Rosie's closer to 9:30 a.m., the lines moved quickly.
Rosie's does a good job at lunch. The carvery features beef, ham, turkey or other meat. At the popular Mongolian Wok, you select the vegetables, noodles, meats, seafood and poultry for servers to stir-fry while you wait. Along with such salad staples as potato and coleslaw, you might find Asian salad one day and pickled squash salad another day. Food windows along the room's sides serve deli sandwiches, paninis and burritos. Don't miss Fish and Chips, located up the stairs in Rosie's. Along with battered fish, you can try ceviche, bouillabaisse, smoked salmon and sushi. Outdoors, near the pool, separate areas offer pizza, burgers and ice cream.
Rosie's and the pool area also offer after-hours food. Rosie's serves late-night snacks from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. You can always grab a sandwich at Rosie's deli station, which opens at 11 a.m. and does not close until 11 p.m. In addition, the pizza and ice cream services are available 24 hours a day, as is room service.
Room service is convenient, especially for those early-morning shore tours. In the morning, you can wake up to cold cereal, fruit, smoked salmon and bagels, as well as juices and coffee delivered to your cabin. Snacks, desserts and sandwiches are available throughout the day and night.
At the Java Cafe, Deck 5, you can purchase tastier coffee and bigger cookies than those served in the dining room.