Thomson Celebration Dining
Thomson Celebration offers a number of dining options. The main Meridian restaurant (Deck 4) is open for waiter-service breakfast from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m., lunch service from 11:30 p.m. to 1.30 p.m., and open-seating dinner between 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. (although there is an inevitable bottleneck around 7 p.m.). On formal night (usually one on a seven-night cruise), a two-seating service is offered at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Meridian has tables for two, four, six and eight and has a relaxed, friendly vibe. The waiters are extremely attentive and helpful; the maitre d' on our cruise was particularly good, always in control and always friendly.
Waiter-served breakfast includes a full English fry-up as well as cereals, pastries, fresh fruit and porridge. Lunches and dinners consist of a mixture of traditional British and international cuisine; dinner includes three starters, two soups, two salads, five mains and a selection of desserts. Steak is always available for a cost of £9.95. Typical dishes at lunch and dinner include chicken Kiev, filled pancakes, Caesar salad, roast turkey, tandoori chicken, seared sea bass or steak and mushroom pie. There is always a vegetarian option; these were both creative and tasty, as was all the food. However, there's no special healthy-choice menu similar to what you'd find on some American-run ships. Hot dishes really were hot, and presentation and quality were impressive.
Once a week there's a Buffet Magnifique in the Meridian -- a lavish spread of food, the display augmented by ice carvings and sculpted fruit and vegetables. Passengers are invited to photograph the spectacle before consuming it.
The second option is the small and exclusive Mistral's restaurant, behind the Meridian and open from 6.30 p.m. to 10 p.m. It carries an additional charge of £19 per person and the emphasis is on contemporary, international cuisine. Compared with the Meridian, the presentation here is more refined and the ingredients more expensive, including lobster and steak. Service is super-attentive, and the restaurant has a genuinely upmarket feel. We felt it was worth the fee, and a lot of people used it to mark a special occasion.
The Lido restaurant offers 24-hour buffet service on the top deck. Situated at the stern of the ship, it overlooks one of the two pools and has indoor and outdoor seating, with the outdoor area shaded by a large canvas. Breakfast includes a full English (with the service station attracting long queues at peak time), as well as fruit, yoghurts, cereals and pastries. Lunch combines lighter fare like a salad bar with cold cuts, made-to-order pasta and typical British dishes, including a roast. Dinner offerings include salad, soup, steak, a carvery option and a vegetarian dish. There is also an ice cream and dessert station offering British favourites such as crumble and custard. Various theme nights are laid on during the course of a week, from Indian to Tex Mex.
Breakfast in the Lido restaurant runs from 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., lunch is from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., and dinner is from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Throughout the day, there is a pizza and snack station (sandwiches, jacket potatoes and chips) at the adjacent Lido Grill, which strangely (yet pleasingly) also offered vindaloo curry on my cruise. From 11 p.m. until 1 a.m., there is a late-night buffet. From 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. a late-night snack menu is available.
To protect against Norovirus, the Lido is all waiter service for the first couple of days of the cruise, a sensible precaution that passengers seem to happily accept.
Tea and regular coffee are available throughout the day from the Lido -- including a full selection of Twinings tea. Cappuccinos and espressos cost extra and have to be ordered from the bar.
Drink prices are pretty reasonable, with wines under £4 a glass and the cocktail of the day starting at around £3.95.
Thomson also offers a drinks package -- for £219 per person, per week, which includes all draft beers, spirits, aperitifs, house wines and soft drinks. All occupants of a cabin must sign up for the deal.
There's a small room service menu, with prices ranging from £3.50 for a cheeseburger and £3.60 for a club sandwich to £4.95 for continental breakfast.
For special occasions extra-fee options include sparkling wine and Champagne and strawberries. A Champagne breakfast is available through the Touch of Class package, which also includes flowers, wine, breakfast in bed, dinner at a senior officer's table, an announcement in the Cruise News daily paper, plus a celebration cake in the restaurant.