There's a big emphasis on dining onboard Royal Princess, with a total of 16 places to eat. For the main dining room experience, Royal Princess offers "anytime" and "traditional" modes of evening dining in three different restaurant venues. Allegro offers set-seating and set-tablemates options (typically at 6 and 8:15 p.m.), while Symphony and Concerto are open seating (between 5:30 and 10 p.m.). All offer the same menu, with the most special menu items (lobster, beef wellington) occurring on formal nights.
Concerto is open for breakfast (8 to 9:30 a.m.) and lunch (noon to 1:30 p.m) every day.
All three MDR's offer vegetarian, heart-healthy and Lotus spa (lower in sodium, fat and cholesterol) menu items for those with dietary restrictions.
Generally, food and service were excellent at all meals. The restaurants have a nice range of table sizes, including plenty of two- and four-tops for more intimate dining, and also larger tables for groups of eight or more. One note, though: Those who opt for the open-seating venues at busy times may be encouraged to dine at large tables with other passengers, even if a smaller table is requested.
One of the biggest improvements on this ship is the Horizon Court buffet venue. The buffet area has double the number of seats found on Crown Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess; Royal offers space for 900 indoors and 350 outdoors. It also offers a greater variety of table styles, including two-tops and "counter-height" bistro-style dining tables.
The buffet complex is broken up into two main spaces; the section closest to the Fountain Pool is designed to resemble a Parisian cafe, while the area closer to the aft has a contemporary vibe. An expansive space, the Horizon Court has a new action-station layout with food "venues" that include a taqueria, rotisserie, sandwich shop and Japanese hibachi grill. At night, the Horizon Court becomes the Horizon Bistro, offering an interactive experience with themed events and specialty dinners. On certain nights, passengers may find a Brazilian churrascaria, Argentine gaucho theme, German Beerfest, European bistro or British pub. There is no extra fee for themed events.
Princess is also debuting a pair of for-fee options in the buffet complex in a cordoned-off area on selected evenings. The Crab Shack is a fun spot that comes with mallets, bibs and buckets. Dishes include crawfish in a Bayou-style "Mud Bug" boil, spiced peel-and-eat shrimp or a mixed steamer pot filled with snow crab, jumbo shrimp, clams and mussels. The Fondue Dispensary offers a variety of cheese fondues like classic Swiss with white wine, German cheddar with beer and a French cheese with Champagne. Other Swiss, German and Austrian specialties round out the menu. Both are sit-down venues with table service, but neither has a set number of seats, as they are areas within the Horizon Court, rather than restaurants in themselves. A spokeswoman for Princess said: "We are currently hosting various sized groups to confirm the best capacity." Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are recommended. Each has a $20 cover charge.
Also new: The Pastry Shop is a dedicated room for all types of fee-free desserts, including croissants, pastries, hot desserts, freshly baked waffles and French toast at breakfast; classic and modern desserts at lunch and dinner; tea sandwiches, cookies, desserts and waffles at tea time; and special show pieces and flambes in the evening. This completely separate space features its own unique decor and seating area, plus a dedicated specialty coffee section. Passengers even get to see pastry chefs in action as they demonstrate their skills in chocolate work and cake decorating. There are also pastries available elsewhere in the Horizon Court.
Chef's Table Lumiere is a new approach to Princess' pioneering Chef's Table concept, during which an executive chef cooks dinner and explains technique to an exclusive group of passengers (for a $95 fee, including wine). Royal Princess' version adds a "curtain of light," which surrounds the diners and creates a private, softly lit space in the center of the bustling main dining room. Additionally, the Wine Maker's Dinners will take place in new private dining spaces in the Symphony and Concerto dining rooms for $40 per person. Surrounded by wine bottles, the circular areas are inspired by wine cellars and seat up to 12 people. Diners can enjoy specialty menus developed with winemakers and paired with wines. Menus include carved meats like crown of veal rack, lamb Baron and veal rack a l'Orlov. Bookings can be made at the Reception Desk.
Crown Grill, Princess' signature steak and chops house, and Sabatini's, its northern Italian restaurant, both return on Royal Princess. Both are open from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. and cost $25 per person. With its signature theatre-style open kitchen, the Crown Grill has a menu of chops, seafood and premium sterling silver steaks. Sabatini's serves dishes that include pasta, seafood and Italian specialities. It's an elegant spot, with a centerpiece featuring a wine display. It's also open for lunch.
One significant change on Royal Princess is that both the Crown Grill and Sabatini's are paired with complementary lounges. The Wheelhouse Pub, a popular Princess lounge, featuring an ersatz British vibe, nautical theme and unobtrusive piano music, is coupled with the Crown Grill; the location also features a free daily pub lunch. Sabatini's is grouped with Vines, the ship's wine bar, together in one convenient area.
Alfredo's, a no-fee (except drinks), stone-oven pizzeria, was first introduced on Grand Princess after its 2011 refurbishment, and it makes an encore here, with expanded seating. The Neapolitan-style pizzeria offers traditional, hand-stretched pizza, along with antipasti and desserts, in an enclave just off The Piazza. It's fun for people watching, and the pizzas are marvelous.
Two other new venues are the Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar, which is Princess' response to the increased demand for raw bars at sea. It serves sushi, sashimi, ceviche and caviar, which range from $4.50 for two pieces of sushi to $70 for an ounce of caviar. You also get a complimentary dish, such as edamame or wakame, with each drink. It's in a great spot on Deck 7 overlooking the whole Piazza. Gelato, on Deck 5, feels more like an American ice cream parlor than a traditional Italian-style gelateria; it serves ice cream, sundaes, sweet crespelle (Italian crepes), fruit smoothies, shakes and homemade waffle ice cream cones. Prices start at $2.75 for three scoops and range up to $6.50 for an alcoholic sundae. This venue seats 35 people.
You'll find that The International Cafe -- a staple on most Princess ships -- has been expanded and is situated opposite Gelato, serving excellent (for fee) coffees ($1.25 to $3.75) 24/7 and a selection of delicious (free) pastries, quiche, hot breakfast sandwiches, freshly baked cookies, panini sandwiches, salads and desserts.
The Princess Live! Cafe offers excellent coffee and tea, as well as fresh juices and baked goods in the morning. Prices start at $1.25 for a regular coffee and go up to $3.75 for specialty coffees. After 5 p.m., the bar there offers up a selection of aperitifs and digestifs. The cafe's decor includes wall-mounted screens that show cruise-related information, as well as a stylish seating area with high-backed chairs and low tables.
Poolside, you'll find Swirls Ice Cream and Prego Pizzeria, which offers three types of greasy, grab-and-go pizza (compared with the lighter, more varied menu at sit-down Alfredo's). There's also the Trident Grill, which serves hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken sandwiches. At night, the Trident Grill is transformed into a traditional "smokehouse-style" barbecue, serving up plates of jumbo chicken wings, Route 66 beef chili, Texas-style BBQ brisket, Kansas City Sweet & Smoky Spare Ribs and North Carolina Pulled Pork. The Outrigger Bar on Deck 16 serves made-to-order burritos, crispy pork flautas, barbecued pork fajitas and fresh tortilla chips with guacamole and Mexican salsa at lunchtime. Its drink menu includes specialty margaritas and slushies; in the morning, it offers a Bloody Mary bar.
Afternoon tea is served daily in the Piazza and also in Concerto dining room from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Room service is offered 24 hours a day, with salads, sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers available, as is a continental breakfast via a door-hung card.