There are three main dining rooms: Cinnamon, Saffron and Bay Tree.
Saffron is open daily for breakfast (7.30 a.m. - 9 a.m.) and lunch (12.15 p.m. - 1.45 p.m.). Breakfast is also served in the Bay Tree on port days (from 7.30 a.m. - 9 a.m.). Both dining rooms operate two-sitting fixed dining in the evening (6.30 p.m. and 8.30 p.m.).
Cinnamon is open to supplement Saffron sometimes for breakfast on port days, times as above, but mainly it's an evening venue (6 - 9.30 p.m.) for Freedom dining. In theory this means you can turn up and dine when you want; in reality, as mentioned, having just one Freedom dining room and 1,300 passengers on the Freedom dining plan meant it didn't work.
Food in the dining room ranged from very good (the lentil and mushroom suet pudding) to “I wish I'd gone to the buffet” (braised rump steak), but generally was fine, with the speed of service more of an issue for me.
The ship's self-service buffet is split into two section -- The Waterside (open 6 a.m. - 5 p.m., except when there is a themed event, when it stays open until 10 p.m.) and the Beach House, which is supposed to be 24-hour, and includes waiter service at night.
A children's tea is served in the Beach House from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. but moves to Waterside on themed buffet evenings. These evenings were good, especially the Indian night, as evidenced by the non-stop queues, and Asian night. Incongruously there was always a roast as well, no doubt for Brits who “don't do foreign”.
There are two speciality restaurants -- The White Room, which serves dishes created by U.K. celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, and East, which has Eastern-style menus. Both are open every evening, 6 p.m. to 10.30 p.m., and have a cover charge.
In The White Room it's £20 per person on two-week voyages, £25 per person on seven-day holidays and £30 per person on short-break cruises. In East, it's £15 per person on two-week voyages, £20 per person on cruises of seven nights or less. Menus change three times per two-week cruise.
Both were a nice change from the dining room and buffet. East is a lovely room -- its red carpet, white upholstered chairs and dark wood tables successfully give it a very Eastern feel, as do the menus. I had a delicious chicken, lightly spiced but tasty, while a friend gave good reports of his Oriental-style lamb shank.
My favourite in The White Room was the plate of cold cuts of meat followed by rib-eye steak -- although I happily skipped the snails that came with the steak on one menu. I also had a very tasty belly pork and heard good reports of the fish (I am told the sardine starter in particular was excellent).
I was lucky to get into The White Room as it was fully booked within a couple of days of the start of the cruise so many passengers could not experience it.
That's not so great, but there is an alternative. Balcony dining, available every evening from 6 p.m. to 9.30 p.m., weather permitting, serves a full menu from The White Room for £100 per couple, which also includes a bottle of champagne, a butler for the evening, flowers and corsages.
In Las Ramblas you can get tapas in the bar -- three tasters for £2.50 per person -- or a three-course Spanish meal for £5 per person in the little restaurant to the side of the bar. Bookings are not required, and it was never busy.
During the day, the burger bar and pizzeria are open by the pool, and you can also buy ice creams from £1.05.
Afternoon tea is served in Saffron and Waterside from 4 p.m - 4:45 p.m. There is also 24-hour room service, mainly free but certain items are charged (prawn salad £1.75, chicken and bacon sandwich £1.50).