Like the ship itself, the food on Marco Polo wouldn't be considered avant garde, but you won't go hungry onboard. There are two main dining venues aboard Marco Polo: the main dining room, called the Waldorf Restaurant, on Atlantic Deck 6 and the casual buffet, Marco's Bistro on Magellan Deck 8. Both serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and for the latter meal, both adhere to the ship's dress code (an important distinction from most other ships). The Waldorf Restaurant has two seatings for dinner (at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.) and open seating for breakfast and lunch. This large, attractive room is set low and amidships -- where the original dining room was on the Alexander Pushkin -- and is lined with big windows. An attractive stained glass dome tops the raised center section, while the rest of the room is decorated with backlit etched glass panels and Asian artwork. Chairs, though they have no armrests, are comfortable, as are the booths that sit beneath the windows; tables are a bit close together, as is common on smaller ships, but nevertheless it is a comfortable and very pleasant room for any meal. Breakfast features all the usual staples: fruit; cereals, breads, pastries, eggs -- fried, scrambled, in omelettes or eggs Benedict -- pancakes, french toast, sausages, bacon, baked beans, grilled tomatoes and hash browns. Lunch menus generally offer two starters, two soups (one chilled) and four main courses including pasta and sandwich choices. There are two desserts and a variety of ice cream choices including diet ice cream and sorbet. Dinner menus offer three starters, two soups, four main courses and three desserts plus ice cream and cheese. The main course choices usually consist of one seafood, one beef, one poultry, lamb, pork or veal and one pasta choice.
Both lunch and dinner menus also offer "Healthy Choice" and "Vegetarian Choice" options; the Healthy Choice options as well as all the vegetarian options (except the main course) are usually modified versions of offerings from the regular menu (e.g. different dressings, sauces or side dishes to meet the healthy or vegetarian requirements).
Service in the dining room is professional, and the wait staff go out of their way to accommodate as many special requests as possible. The food itself is both filling and attractively presented. Traditional British dishes as well as more contemporary selections are on offer at both lunch and dinner.
Although casual dining venue Marco's Bistro is small, it does well to handle its own share of hungry passengers. This is, naturally, most popular at breakfast and lunch. The room itself is located all the way aft by the pool and has large floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, attractive light wood furniture with marble tables, and a very cheerful light blue color scheme.
At breakfast the selections mirror those of the Waldorf; inside there are two identical buffet lines and outdoors by the pool is a tea station. Lunch offers more informal and varied fare than the dining room, with a made-to-order pasta station indoors in addition to the buffet lines. The buffets tend to favour salads and desserts, but there is a decent variety of main courses as well. The pasta is always a good bet paired with one of the many salad choices.
Afternoon tea is also offered in Marco's, with a nice variety of cookies, cakes and tea sandwiches. Sadly, however, the ship does not offer an "elegant" sit-down tea, which is a strange omission for a ship with many British passengers. Another odd problem on a ship full of tea drinkers was the routine lack of teacups, which frustrated passengers didn't hesitate to point out to staff.
Marco's casual feel takes on a bit more atmosphere at dinner with linen tablecloths and candles on all the tables, but as it is a buffet, don't expect a waiter to be hovering by, waiting to help.
At all meals, staff -- who are rotated in from the Waldorf Restaurant -- are on hand, and they are happy to carry trays for anyone who needs assistance. Interestingly, while far from large, and quite popular, Marco's never seemed overcrowded.
Finally, one of two coffee and tea stations is outdoors, which is a rather odd place to put it. (When Marco's is open, coffee and tea is available inside, but during off hours you have to go out on the pool deck to fetch a hot drink.)
Cabin service (24-hour) is rather limited: breakfast features Continental selections only, and the rest of the day, there is only a selection of soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts; hence it is not possible to order a real meal from cabin service. (However, exceptions naturally are made for ill passengers.)