SuperStar Libra Dining
Casual breakfasts, buffet lunches and dinners, late evening pizzas and substantial afternoon teas are served in the Saffron Buffet, a large-windowed restaurant situated near the pool area on Deck 9. This space has pretty sloping windows, clean white blinds and rather attractive "Days of the Raj"-style ceiling fans, but the decor could do with updating in parts: The area could be given a considerable lift simply by replacing the rather dull green and grey chairs and tables, and scattering a few plants about.
The same goes for the corridor-style open-air seating areas outside the Saffron, which have attractive sail-effect dividers and rather pretty tiled murals, but could do with losing their blue melamine-topped tables and plastic slatted chairs.
The ship also has two free-to-use main dining rooms: the Taj on the Bay and the Four Seasons, both located on Deck 4. The Taj on the Bay is big and airy, with large picture windows on three sides and clean blue, cream and gold decor. Like the dining rooms on most ships of this vintage, it has a low ceiling and its wood-veneered walls could do with being jollied up a bit -- again, a few plants, Oriental adornments and pictures could affect a magical transformation.
But the food is plentiful, varied (menus rotate between Chinese, Indian, Thai and Malaysian) and pleasantly served by smiling staff. On a Chinese night I tried a honey chicken leg with rice and stir-fried vegetables and found it well presented and tasty, as was the starter of crispy shrimp in batter, and the coconut ice cream and fresh fruit pudding. And a word to the wise: The twice-baked pork soup with root vegetables is more palatable than it sounds.
The Four Seasons Dining Room lies just off the ship's Crystal Court main reception area and is reached via an attractive glass foyer. I personally didn't find the Western-style food as interesting as the Taj's Oriental dishes -- but then I'm a great fan of Oriental food.
The Four Seasons menus, which typically offer a choice of four starters, two soups, salad, six main courses and four puddings, will be suitable for most guests -- with the exception of the weight watchers and diet obsessed, who are left to their own devices as no "spa" or "healthy" menu is offered.
And this is the prettier of the two restaurants, with some circular windows and every table softly lit by glass lamps. It also has a strolling band, if you're planning a romantic evening and enjoy that kind of thing.
SuperStar Libra's pay-per-use restaurants, the casual Blue Lagoon and the top-of-the-range Two Trees, are rather isolated as they are tucked away up on Deck 10 and could do with being clearly signposted and more extensively promoted in the ship's daily paper, Star Navigator. It would really be a shame to miss out on either.
The Blue Lagoon -- on the balcony level of The Saffron -- is nicely presented with pale wood tables and chairs, a purple carpet, and a glass and brass balcony overlooking the restaurant below. It is open around the clock and offers both Oriental and Western snacks, priced at $5.50 per dish. Options include fried noodles with vegetables, chicken and soy sauce; Green Curry Chicken; Satay; Hong Kong Noodle Soup; and Fried Bee Hoon Singapore Style (a concoction of noodles, vegetables and chicken in a tomato sauce).
Western specials include fish and chips, club sandwiches and burgers. Beer costs $3.50 a can, mineral water $2.20 for a half liter and soft drinks $1.70. Oddly, a three-scoop selection of ice cream costs $3, $0.50 more than at Lickety Splits, the ice cream parlor adjacent to the ship's pool on Deck 9 (and which offers free one-scoop cones from noon until 2 p.m.).
And although the Blue Lagoon may be a useful resource in the event of night starvation (as free room service extends only to breakfast), it is underused by day, with most passengers preferring to dine in restaurants that levy no additional charges.
Just off the Blue Lagoon is the $12-a-head Two Trees Restaurant, a pretty 65-seat area with sloping windows, elegant blue and gold seating, snowy tablecloths and a small lounge area at the entrance. The visual highlight is a lovely hexagonal skylight over a vast (artificial) flower display; the lowlight is a red curtain pulled across the entrance to the galley (a proper door and screen would be better). Regardless, you really should eat here at least once on your cruise; the quality of the steaks alone is worth the service fee and, as ever, the Oriental staff offer excellent service.
The downside? The range of vegetables could be improved beyond mushrooms, asparagus, rather stodgy potato wedges and McDonald's-style onion rings, and the puddings are uninspiring.