Pacific Dawn Dining
Since we first cruised on Pacific Dawn in 2008, just after her debut, both the dining choices and quality of cuisine have improved markedly. The main dining room is the a la carte Waterfront Restaurant on Promenade Deck (Deck 7) aft. A more traditional style of cruise ship dining room, it's nicely appointed with warm wood, white linen and tables that seat from two to 10 people. It serves breakfast from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., lunch from noon to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5:30 to 10 p.m. There are no traditional sittings; like all the venues onboard, it operates on a Your Choice Dining basis, allowing you to choose who you dine with and when. You can also pre-book a time that suits you the day before.
Breakfast offers a choice between a variety of a la carte dishes that include cereals, yogurt, bakery items like toast and Danish pastries, healthy options like fruit, cold cuts and eggs served in a variety of ways. Daily specials may include Eggs Benedict or a Mexican omelet filled with spicy ground beef and green chili peppers.
Lunch can be anything from a quiche and a steak sandwich to bangers and mash or Irish stew. The dinner menu, however, has two options; on one side, there's a selection of entrees, pasta, mains, sides and desserts available every day. On the other, there are selections that change daily. There are plenty of local dishes to whet the appetite. They include seared Tasmanian salmon and homemade pot pie with lamb, combined with a choice of international favorites like Indian butter chicken curry and Asian stir-fry noodles. Ask your waiter nicely, and you can also get extra steamed vegetables of the day.
Plantations is the casual dining option, located on Lido Deck (Deck 12) aft. A large buffet-style restaurant, it's open for breakfast between 6 and 10:30 a.m., lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., and dinner from 5 p.m. until late. It was updated in the refurbishment with a new color scheme and furniture, but it has limited outdoor seating, which is a drawback in good weather. We also heard plenty of grumbles about the short hours for lunch when shore tours returned late and passengers couldn't get anything to eat.
Breakfast was hearty and well done with a wide range of hot and cold selections on offer. For lunch, there was usually a choice of two good quality pre-made sandwiches, as well as a variety of hot dishes, including pasta, chicken, fish and vegetables. For some reason, the salad was a bit thin on the ground, featuring mostly greens -- no tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli or other veggies. Only occasionally could we find any chopped olives or pulses (beans). Dinner offerings were similar to those found at lunch, minus the sandwiches and with a better choice of salad. We only had dinner once, due to the bright lighting and the lack of outdoor seating.
Another major improvement in Dawn's culinary offerings since the 2010 update is La Luna. Occupying an aft area of Plantations at night only, it's an Asian-fusion restaurant that carries a cover charge of $20 a head. Offering rotating Thai and Chinese degustation menus, it's one to save your appetite for, and it's well worth the fee. Salt Grill by Luke Mangan was also added in 2010. It's a stylish space with a highly polished wooden floor and accents of purple and silver throughout. Located on Lido Deck (Deck 12) forward, it offers the same menu for lunch and dinner, with the only difference being the cost; lunch is A$30 a head, while dinner is A$40. Succulent offerings include prawn toast with smoked corn salsa, kingfish sashimi, Mangan's famous Glass Sydney crab omelet, and fish mains. Here's a tip: an insider told me it can be easier to get a booking for lunch, although Salt isn't open on port days.
The Grill on the Lido Deck serves traditional Aussie tucker (food), such as pie and mash and grilled sandwiches, although I'd recommend it for emergencies only. Although cooked fresh, a hamburger with salad I ordered came with just a bun, a patty and a tiny sliver of lettuce.
There are two places to order your daily caffeine hit or a pot of luxury T2 tea -- the cafe on Lido Deck beneath the big screen or the bar in the Atrium opposite reception. Both are good with top-quality baristas. Pacific Dawn does not host an afternoon tea time.
Room service is available, but it has a disappointingly limited menu, and items are charged a la carte; a Caesar salad will set you back A$8, while an Aussie Outback Burger is A$9. A bonus is the absence of dirty trays and plates cluttering up the passenger accommodation hallways.