The ship's free-to-use Meridien Restaurant, which spans two decks at the stern of the ship, serves decent quality food in a pleasant but not particularly memorable setting. The highlight of the space is a central circular double stairwell with interesting glass designs set into the ceiling and very pretty glass "orbs on poles" at the bottom.
Lunch menus range from lighter options like ploughman's platters, cold meats and toasted sandwiches, to heartier dishes like beef biryani or lamb's liver and bacon; dinner choices include rack of lamb, wild boar and apple sausages, and salmon en croute.
Attractively decorated in sophisticated shades of brown, cream and grey, and featuring eye-catching Oriental-style blinds on its large windows, the Belvedere offers a wide range of foods for casual dining, with a fresh egg and omelette station operating at breakfast, and at lunchtimes, a "Bistro" hot food section backed up by an Oriental counter offering noodles, rice and curries, as well as an Italian eatery with pasta of the day and pizza. Salads are crisp, and there is a fair selection of cold puddings; tea and coffee machines deliver perfectly drinkable beverages. Fans of P&O Cruises' traditional curries will enjoy Indian buffets held most evenings in part of the ship's Belvedere buffet on Deck 9.
Unfortunately, a lack of smaller tables makes life difficult for those who prefer not to eat with strangers. In fairness, this is partly because older Britons tend to linger too long once they've secured a seat, but even in the more formal Meridien Restaurant, breakfast and lunch can be a nightmare for the gregariously challenged, as waiters cram diners into a limited area forcing them to eat school dinners-style at tables for six, eight or ten.
This is hardly the relaxed, do-as-you-please cruising experience P&O Cruises claims it is trying to provide, and (from the look of various thunderous faces) we could see it did not go down well with passengers.
Travellers keen on elegant restaurants will enjoy Arcadia's pretty Orchid Restaurant, a large-windowed, elegant space with black, white, gold and terracotta decor, in which you can enjoy an intimate table for two and good quality Oriental food for £10 a head.
Top marks, too, for affordable wine (in all restaurants), ranging in price from 13.25 GBP for a bottle of Australian Chardonnay and 16.50 GBP for a sound Rioja, up to 37.95 GBP for a Chateau Prieure-Lichine fourth growth Margaux.