Food options aboard Sun Princess are generally good and passengers have enough variety to keep satisfied, without having to pay for the specialty dining restaurants. There is even enough variety on a 10-day itinerary to prevent boredom.
Breakfast and lunch are offered in the Regency Dining Room, however most passengers opt for the casual buffet at Horizon Court or fresh baked pizzas at Verdi's pizzeria. The Terrace Grill made it easy for a lunch of hotdogs, BBQ, chips and salad by the pool. The decadent dessert area at Horizon Court is also noteworthy.
There is no flexible 'Anytime Dining' arrangement where passengers can eat in one of the two identical dining rooms at times they choose. Instead traditional dining is offered at set times.
Marquis & Regency Dining Room (Deck 5 and Deck 6): There are two set dinner times of 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. in the Marquis and Regency Dining rooms. Both have dark woods, etched glass, warm peach tones and tables of crisp white linens with an identical layout and menu offered. Passengers with an allotted time will have the same waiter and table for the duration of the cruise.
The three-course daily menu offers a variety of meals with healthy choice and vegetarian options. If nothing satisfies, passengers can order from the fixed menu where a prawn cocktail is never a bad idea. Starters are usually a soup or salad; try the Pina Colada cold soup. Entrees can include oversized truffle ravioli with watercress salad and generous mains can feature a decent-sized lobster tail. There's always a good choice of dessert options with gourmet ice creams, creme brulee and cheese platter.
Don't miss the Bomb Alaska parade, where -- on the last night at sea -- executive chefs and dining room staff glide around the main dining room with candlelit Baked Alaska deserts to the cheer and swirling napkins of diners. Afterwards, you can sample the caramelised meringue-encased ice cream desert.
Open seating for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea is available at the Regency Dining Room. Breakfast is from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. and afternoon tea from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Lunch is closed on port days.
International Cafe (Deck 5): The 24-hour cafe in the atrium offers fresh-baked complimentary pastries, soup, salads, grilled paninis and cookies throughout the day. Specialty coffees and teas range from AU$2.50 to AU$4.50; no surcharge is applied on the standard price. A Coffee Card can be purchased for AU$33.35 to save on 15 express-based hot or cold specialty coffee drinks, which includes complimentary brewed and premium coffee
Verdi's Pizzeria (Deck 8): Decorated with tiled floors and wrought-iron tables and chairs that overlook the atrium, Verdi's Pizzeria offers pizzas and salads in a casual setting. The tasty pizzas are a good alternative to Horizon Court.
As the dining area is situated between the midship and forward lifts -- like other spaces off the atrium -- it functions as much as a corridor as a public room. Verdi's Pizzeria is open from noon to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. for a late-night snack.
Swirls Ice Cream (Deck 12): Free ice cream conveniently located between the Riviera Pool and Kids Club makes for happy kids. Choose from strawberry or chocolate soft serve in waffle cones or tubs finished with sprinkles and assorted toppings. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Terrace Grill (Deck 14): Passengers wanting a quick meal in their swimsuits can grab a hot dog, cheeseburger and chips at Terrace Grill (seating overlooks the pool) or take lunch down to the outdoor tables on Deck 12. A water dispenser is also available. The menu varies daily, offering BBQ options such as buffalo chicken wings, Texas ribs, meat pies and German sausages. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Horizon Court (Deck 14): Located on the forward of the Lido Deck and open all day, alternating between the port and starboard sides. The ship buffet is the most popular dining option. Horizon Court offers a continental breakfast from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m., full breakfast from 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., light snack from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and dinner from 3:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The cleanliness is impressive: hand-wash stations greet all passengers before entering the buffet area; plates are handed over with gloved hand; dirty plates are removed quickly; tables are wiped down efficiently; food areas are kept tidy; and tongs are put back in place.
Free water, lemonade, ice tea and juice as well as brewed coffee and tea can be ordered from the attendant or passengers can help themselves. The tempting specialty coffees at the barista station charge a small fee.
Breakfast is the busiest time, where there might be a small queue and a table for four difficult to locate. Eventually one can be found among the throngs. Breakfast options include: a continental option comprising deli meats, cheeses, cold pastas, fish, fruit and salads, fresh baked bread and rolls, a selection of yoghurts and muesli, international station with rice, tofu, congee and soup; and the very popular hot breakfast buffet with all the usual suspects -- bacon, sausages, grilled tomatoes and scrambled, poached and boiled eggs. Other hot items can include pancakes, waffles, ham, rice, curries and potatoes.
Lunch options vary with different cuisines including: ramen station, sushi, carving stations, smoked ribs, sandwiches, wraps, excellent salad selection with varied dressings and fruit options.
Buffet dinners are themed and can feature Italian, Mexican or Asian nights. The carvery is also impressive with succulent meats and accompaniments. Also noteworthy is the large dessert area filled with decadent sweets, cakes, puddings, souffles and jelly.
As with most buffets, meals may not be to taste, so sample a little before returning for more. While not everything is a flavour explosion, there are menu items that are snapped up deliciously quickly and others that sat to dry out in the buffet warmer. Tip: When seafood options are on the menu, get in quick or miss out.
Most dinner meals featured in Horizon Court are also on the menu in the main dining room; at least one of the main, a soup and a desert. A children's menu is offered and includes alphabet soup, nuggets and chips and ice cream. The small menu does not change each night, however kids do not seem to mind.
Room Service: No service delivery is charged for room service on Princess Cruises departing Australia. Complete a menu card and hang it on the cabin door the night before to order free room service breakfast.
Choices are limited to juices, tea, coffee, yoghurt, cold cereals, select bread, pastries and preserves. There is one hot option of a bacon, egg and cheese muffin.
A small all-day menu for lunch and dinner is available: It includes sandwiches, salads, a small variety of hot options including a hot dog and cheeseburger and sweet treats including chocolate chip cookies.
Sterling Steakhouse (Deck 14); AU$25: At dinnertime a thin partition separates Horizon Court buffet diners from restaurant patrons of Sterling Steakhouse. Reservations for the ship's specialty steakhouse, which is decorated with artificial plants and tables adorned with polished glasses and linen tablecloths, fill up days in advance. Many passengers gushed at the quality of the steaks and how well cooked they are and are happy to pay the AU$25 surcharge.
Open 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., the menu changes daily but can include a starter of black tiger prawns and papaya salad, grilled lobster tail or a 14 oz bone-in rib eye for main and a desert of seven-layer s'more stack.
Kai Sushi (Deck 7); a la carte pricing: The specialty sushi restaurant was added during the 2013 refurbishment, in time for the ship's cruise schedule departing Japan ports. The contemporary sushi bar with sleek black wood, checkered tables and boxed lanterns also offers bench seats to watch sushi chefs prepare dishes a la carte.
Kai Sushi is more popular with Japanese passengers and relatively quiet during an Australian cruise; the prices may put people off -- five sashimi pieces cost AU$13.75; two pieces of nigiri sushi AU$5; and seafood udon AU$24.
Open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Verdi's Pizzeria (Delivery); $3 per pizza: Takeaway pizzas cannot be ordered from the restaurant but pizza orders can be delivered to cabins for a surcharge of AU$3, no extra service delivery applies.