The Venetian and Florentine Dining Rooms are virtually identical dining rooms, differing only in the color of decor and in the exquisite murals depicting Venice and Florence. Both rooms contain lovely wood and etched glass panels which create a feeling of intimate dining. There are several tables for two, four or six as well as more traditional tables for eight. The food preparation was very good on my cruise, beautifully presented and interestingly varied. Vegetarian selections were excellent and desserts superb. And pastas, a Princess signature option at every meal, were varied and always excellent. A good selection of healthy choice items is offered every night. Waiters are efficient, friendly and helpful.
Princess does not offer its signature Anytime Dining on Dawn Princess. Dinner is served in two set seatings in each dining room with assigned tables and tablemates. Guests with first-seating dining may arrive for dinner at their assigned dining room between 5:45 and 6:30 p.m.; second-seating diners should show up between 8 and 8:30 p.m.
Breakfast and lunch are served from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. and from noon until 1:30 p.m. in the Venetian Dining Room only. For these meals, open seating prevails.
A popular dining venue is the casual Horizon Court, open 24 hours a day. If you're used to ships where the pool deck leads to the buffet restaurant, you'll need to retrain your brain -- Horizon Court is one deck above the swimming area. The buffet -- which is tiny by new-ship standards – nevertheless offers excellent hot and cold breakfast options from 4 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., along with European specialties and an abundance of fruits and breads. Lunch, served from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., includes hot entrees, a carving station, a salad bar, and pre-made salads and sandwiches. The nightly dinner buffet (5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.) serves a DIY version of the main dining rooms' menu. You can graze in between meals with light snacks served from 3:30 until 5:30 p.m. and again from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m.
At dinner, a section of the Horizon Court becomes the Sterling Steakhouse, Dawn Princess' alternate dining venue. It serves surf and turf type dishes from 6 until 10 p.m. for a 20 AUD fee per person. Reservations are recommended. Menu items include a selection of starters (New England clam chowder, brie and papaya quesadilla), five choices of steak (including filet mignon, Porterhouse and Ribeye), barbecued chicken, the fish of the day and a four dessert possibilities (ranging from chocolate pecan pie to raspberry creme brulee).
La Scala Pizzeria, another alternative for lunch or dinner (11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. until midnight), is a lovely slice of Italy with delicious pizza and calzones. Like a true pizzeria, you can even order takeout. The Balcony Grill, overlooking the pool deck, is open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. and offers hot dogs, burgers (plain, cheese, chicken or veggie), bratwurst, knockwursts and Doner kebabs. Oh and don't forget the French fries.
For a treat, sundaes, ironically located near the Oasis Spa and expectedly near the youth center, serves up soft-serve ice cream and popcorn during movie screenings for free. You can also order specialty coffees, iced coffees and smoothies for 3 to 5.50 AUD, and film-favorite junk food for a couple of bucks.
Afternoon tea is served daily in the main dining room from 3:30 until 4:30 p.m. Waiters bring around your choice of Lipton or Bigelow tea in a variety of flavors (Darjeeling, chamomile, Earl Gray, mint), as well as finger sandwiches, scones, cookies and French pastries. Live music adds an elegant touch.
Room service is available 24 hours a day free of charge. Choose from sandwiches (roast beef, tuna, veggie), salads (with or without meat), soup, burgers and hot dogs, Croque Monsieur and pastries. Continental breakfast is available by ticking off choices on the stateroom breakfast card and hanging it outside your door before you go to bed. Pizzas can be ordered from La Scala for a delivery fee of 2.50 AUD. Beer, wine and soft drinks may be ordered for a fee, as can hors d'oeuvre platters for your in-cabin soiree.
Dawn Princess passengers booked in cabins with balconies can order several special, romantic meals to be served restaurant-style on the verandah. Champagne Breakfast is available from 7 until 11 a.m. for 35 AUD per couple. It includes a half bottle of Champagne plus goodies such as smoked salmon, warm pastries and Quiche Lorraine. The four-course Balcony Dinner is priced at 125 AUD per couple and is served from 5:30 until 10 p.m. Enjoy one cocktail per person, canapes, a bouquet of flowers, an 8 by 10 picture and a half-bottle of Champagne pre-dinner. Order from the set menu (Pacific Blue Crab Cake, Broiled Tail of Cold Water Lobster, Surf and Turf) or choose from the dining room dinner menu. You can also make special requests.