Compass Rose (Ruby Deck): Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily in the ship's main dining room, all open seating to encourage mixing and mingling. There are four- and six-tops throughout the picture window-lined, chandeliered room, but no real tables for two or for larger groups. Breakfast is usually served from 7 until 9 a.m., buffet-style, with pastries, breads, fruit, juices, cereals, smoked fish and cold cuts making up the bulk of the menu. Buffet stations change daily, but generally include scrambled eggs, home fries, breakfast meats (sausage, bacon) and something sweet for carb-lovers (pancakes one day, French toast the next). Every morning there is also a made-to-order egg station where you can get the omelet of the day or eggs prepared to your liking. Waiters are on hand to serve coffee and deliver items from the egg station to your table; everything else is self-serve.
Time-wise, lunch service begins at around the same time every day, but exact times vary depending on the day's shore excursion schedule (times will be printed in the daily newsletter). Each day, the lunch menu features one soup, one entree and one dessert, all available by waiter service, as well as a full self-service buffet. This meal is very flexible. You can have all three courses served to you for a true sit-down experience. Or, you can have a soup, get up and indulge in the buffet, and then end the meal with the waiter-served dessert. Or, you can skip the menu items altogether and just hit the buffet. Really hungry? Have it all! Buffet options change daily, but there is usually a theme. For example, an Asian-inspired lunch featured curry shrimp, fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, and a sushi display. All beverages are included.
Dinner, too, is scheduled to accommodate tours, starting later, for instance, if a full day ashore means passengers returned to the ship in the early evening. Unlike breakfast and lunch, which are more casual (arrive whenever you like, graze the buffet), dinner is a full sit-down, multicourse affair, and though passengers can arrive when they wish. An amuse-bouche is served to all, followed by a choice of two soups, a choice of two salads and a choice of two or three entrees. There's one dessert each night. You can also choose to partake of a cheese and cracker plate or select from the ice cream and sorbet options. Red and white wines served with dinner reflect the region to which you are sailing, though other options are available if you don't like the nightly selections.
Special diets are well catered to and the maitre d' personally sits down on day one with all passengers who have specific requests (vegetarian, gluten free, low salt or sugar). Upon check-in, the reception desk staffer makes sure to ask if you are a vegetarian or have any food allergies or aversions; the maitre d' consultation is also well promoted in the daily program.
Meals were always served hot and meats cooked to the temperature requested. Some dishes were underwhelming (bland soups, gummy gnocchi) and repetitive (lots and lots of beef tenderloin), while others were exceptional (roast duck that was not at all greasy, served with polenta, a welcome change of pace from rice or potatoes). However, the biggest area we saw for improvement was in tying the offerings in to the places the ship was visiting.
With staffers doing double duty (Was that the lounge bartender busing tables? Yep!), service often exceeded expectations. We alerted my waiter one evening not to bring me dessert as I'd be leaving early to make a late-night spa appointment; dinner had been pushed back due to our shore tour coming back later than scheduled. Not wanting me to have to rush our meal, she took the initiative to contact the massage therapist and delay the start time by a few minutes -- it was a much-appreciated gesture. We overheard one woman voice a complaint after being bumped into by a waiter carrying a tureen, who proceeded to soil her blouse with soup; it was an accident that was handled with a sincere apology and a prompt offer to clean the article of clothing on the house.
Arthur's (Diamond Deck): Arthur's is a more casual option than the main dining room, serving a light breakfast of pastries, cereal, juice, tea and coffee from 6 until 10 a.m. It's a good option for early risers or for grabbing a quick croissant alfresco (tables and chairs inside seat about 20, with a few more scattered out on the adjacent patio). The space becomes a full restaurant around 11 a.m., serving burgers and sandwiches along with soups and salads. For dinner, there's the addition of entrees like steak and chicken.
A "Bite to Eat" menu is available, complimentary, from late morning to late at night. You won't find sandwiches or meals, just snacks. You can order by phone or at the bar, and snacks can be delivered anywhere onboard.