Thomson Dream Dining
The main dining room, The Orion Restaurant, is on Deck 4, accessible only from the two forward stairwells and lifts. (Unusually, at a time when many newer and larger ships have no more than two passenger stairways, Dream has a total of four.) Dark wood panelling and gilt lend a traditional air to the room, which is lit by large portholes along either side and an illuminated glass cupola in the centre. There are tables for two, four, six, eight and more. Breakfast (8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.), lunch (noon to 2:00 p.m.) and dinner (6:15 p.m. to 10 p.m.) are open seating -- though the room is hardly used early in the day. As with much of what is available on the ship, the quality and variety of cuisine is of a high standard, though presentation can occasionally be a bit of a letdown. One of the disadvantages of not having fixed seating and the same waiters at every meal can be the need to explain one's foibles and dietary quirks at every meal, but the staff are quick to catch on and remember.
Breakfast consists of a comprehensive selection of cooked options, pastries and muffins, fresh fruit, cereal, yoghurt, etc. At lunch, there's a choice of two or three starters, two soups, a salad and five main courses, plus cold meats. The dessert selections are supplemented by ice cream, fresh fruit and cheese. Dinner brings three further appetisers, two soups and a couple of salad choices before mains, which are likely to include fish, pasta, poultry, beef and vegetarian options.
The main casual restaurant, The Lido Buffet (breakfast: 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; dinner: 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and late-night: 11:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.), is aft on Andromeda Deck (Deck 9), with most of the serving stations arranged along the port side of the central galley, which can sometimes make queuing an unnecessarily extended process. A dessert station and additional hot servery are provided aft on the starboard side. The recent refit added the Lido Pool Grill (open 11:30 a.m to 7:00 p.m.), a salad buffet line outside by the pool, which also accommodates an in-demand grill that serves burgers, hot dogs and chips (fries) cooked to order. A full bar is provided, and the area forward of the pool has been given a canvas awning to protect against the sun; unfortunately it's less effective against rain.
For the first few days of each cruise, and at times of heightened alert for Norovirus outbreaks, the buffet restaurant does not operate self-service. Crewmembers serve all items, almost always in extremely generous portions.
Themed food evenings are held on a couple of nights per cruise. Curries and Caribbean cuisine are always popular.
Two decks further up is Sirens, a smaller buffet restaurant that serves a restricted selection for breakfast (6:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.) and lunch (noon to 4:00 p.m.). It's usually less crowded, particularly early in a cruise before everyone has discovered its existence. The morning omelette station becomes a cooked-to-order pasta bar at lunchtime, though it's not always the fastest food choice, partly because the chef has to serve hot desserts and sponge puddings and custard as part of his duties. Afternoon tea is also served there (3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.) and in the Argo Lounge at the same time.
Outside, by the main pool, the Terrace Grill is another popular burger outlet, with pizzas and freshly-tossed salads on offer.
In the evenings, Sirens converts to The Grill, a themed, a la carte restaurant accommodating up to 40 diners. Cleverly positioned blinds, subdued lighting and rearranged tables change the atmosphere completely. The menu for one-half of the week is eastern fusion; the remainder is French-influenced. Reservations are required, and the £20 cover charge deters many passengers, although it provides excellent value for money.
Full English breakfast is available from room service for £5.95 (continental breakfast £4.95). Champagne breakfast can be yours from £45.
There is a small, reasonably priced room service menu of soups, salads and sandwiches. A club sandwich costs £3.60, cheeseburger £3.50 and steak sandwich £5.25. Room service wine starts from just less than £4 a glass.
Once each cruise, the pool deck plays host to an extravagant, late-night Choco Magnifique chocolate buffet -- billed as a feast for the eyes (and cameras), as well as for the stomach.
All-inclusive drink packages are available at varying rates, depending on cruise demand and promotional activity. On our January cruise in the Caribbean, a seven-night all-inclusive drink package (which charges an extra supplement for premium spirits and certain cocktails), was available for £219 per person. Early bookers might get the same package included in their fare.