Carnival Fantasy Dining
Food onboard is generally delicious, but there aren't as many venues as on some other ships. Although both of the ship's dining rooms seem swanky, there are no alternative dining options, with the exception of the Promenade Deck's Bistro, which serves coffee drinks, pastries and other dessert items.
Two dining rooms are available for dinner onboard. Jubilee is positioned on Atlantic Deck (Deck 8), aft, while Celebration is located midship on Deck 8. Decor in Celebration is fairly muted and elegant, with black marble counters, wooden chairs and booths, white table cloths and accents of yellow, gold and blue. Jubilee's furnishings are similar, featuring accents of yellow, gold and red, instead of blue.
Those who choose set-seating dining will go to one or the other at a set time -- either 6 p.m. or 8:15 p.m. Those who choose the Your Time Dining option, as we did, are assigned only to Celebration and can eat whenever they choose between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m. On our six-night sailing, we decided to experiment with different dining times, but we only had to wait once (at 7:30 p.m.), and it was no more than five minutes before our beeper buzzed to signal that a table was ready.
Our experience in Celebration (which has the same menu as Jubilee each night -- both menus change nightly) was absolutely superb. Service was outstanding, with our waiters remembering little things like the fact that I liked nonalcoholic pina coladas with my dessert or that my brother liked two scoops of ice cream (instead of one) with his. Among our favorite dishes were strawberry soup, grilled chicken quesadillas and escargot for appetizers; lobster tail, penne with seafood in tomato cream sauce and mahi mahi for entrees; and, of course, Chocolate Melting Cake (available nightly) for dessert. Although food quality was generally great, I did try a chilled mango soup that I thought was a little too sweet for anything other than dessert, as well as a pumpkin and squash pie that, while tasty, was a bit dry. For healthy options onboard, check out the Spa Carnival fare on each night's dining room menu. Each menu also carries "Always Available" options that appear every day, as well as vegetarian selections, which included a very tasty broccoli and cauliflower tortellini. Open-seating breakfast is also available in Celebration from 8 to 10 a.m. on sea days and from 7 to 9 a.m. on port days. Dining rooms are not open for lunch when the ship is in port.
The most convenient dining option onboard is the Windows on the Sea buffet on Lido Deck (Deck 10). Continental breakfast is served on sea days from 7 to 7:30 a.m. and on port days, starting at 6 a.m. Items offered include fruit, yogurt and bagels. Buffet breakfast runs from 7:30 a.m. to noon on sea days and from 6 a.m. to noon on port days. Take your pick from eggs, bacon, waffles (which were cold and crumbly when I tried them), French toast, grits, oatmeal, fruit and yogurt. An omelet station is available at the rear of Windows on the Sea, where the pizzeria is located.
From noon to 3:30 p.m., lunch is available; one section serves Indian cuisine, and other options -- like a pizzeria and a deli -- are located at the rear of the venue. (Pizza is available 24 hours a day, as is soft-serve ice cream.) Main buffet items vary, but may include chicken, potatoes and a variety of veggies and salads. Dinner items, similar to those offered at lunch, are also offered in Windows on the Sea daily from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Late-night snacks like cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chicken breasts and chili are available at Windows on the Sea from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily. Drinks like iced tea, water and lemonade (which always seemed far too sweet) are available here 24 hours a day.
Editor's note: You may want to avoid the buffet around noon, as lines can often snake out the door and into the pool area.
Another free dining option is the Sushi Bar, located at the end of the promenade on Promenade Deck (Deck 9), just before the Grand Atrium. Look carefully, or you'll miss this little stand, which is open from 5 to 8:15 p.m. daily and offers several types of sushi, including vegetarian options. No seating is available, but tables can be found nearby on the promenade.
If you're itching to taste something different, try the Mongolian station at Mongolian Wok. You can find it right next to the grill near the pool on Lido Deck (Deck 10). It's open daily from 12 to 2:30 p.m. on sea days and from 12 to 3:30 p.m. on port days and offers a variety of vegetables and other stir-fry items. The grill, located next to Mongolian Wok, is a great option if you're lounging poolside and start to feel those hunger pangs. Rotisserie is available there from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. on port days and from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on sea days. A grill, serving burgers, popcorn chicken, hot dogs and an assortment of salads, joins the rotisserie from 12 to 6 p.m. daily.
The ship's only for-fee edibles come from the Bistro patisserie, found at the end of the Promenade Deck (Deck 9). Choose from cookies, pastries and other sweets, as well as specialty coffee beverages. All charges are billed to passengers' onboard accounts. Chocolate chip cookies from this cute little coffeehouse-type eatery are definitely worth a tiny splurge.
Complimentary room service can be ordered 24 hours a day. Items on the room service menu include sandwiches (turkey, ham and cheese, New York strip loin with brie, mozzarella and Portobello mushroom, etc.), Caesar salad, veggie sticks, assorted juices, cheesecake, chocolate cake and yogurt, among other things. Alcoholic beverages carry standard charges, plus an automatic 15 percent gratuity per drink. Breakfast fare (bagels, yogurt, fruit, etc.) is also available. In our experience, delivery was generally prompt and friendly. You may want to keep a couple of singles handy for tips.
Also available on all of Carnival's ships is The Chef's Table dining experience, which affords a dozen passengers a multicourse dinner with a master chef, a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley and its operations. This dining option usually takes place in a nontraditional venue, such as the galley or library, and it can be booked onboard at the information desk for a per-person cost of $75.