Princess Cruises is breathing new life into the big-ship buffet concept with its World Fresh Marketplace on two ships. The venue might seem small, but the Marketplace offers plenty of variety to satisfy almost any taste.
In keeping with the at-sea trend that is seeing cruise lines moving away from the single line buffet counter, World Fresh Marketplace is a conglomerate of food stations designed to decrease congestion and move cruisers through the buffet more quickly.
It's a brightly lit, modern space with shiny white tiles on the wall. Each of the three rows of stations is decorated differently (boxy faux drawers in a light wood in one row; modern geometric tiles in white, green and yellow in another; and starkly black, dark gray and red in the third). Surprisingly, the space feels inviting rather than jarring -- as if you had been invited into the homes of three different friends, each with his or her own sense of style.
The marketplace is a noisy spot during any meal, and seats during peak times (embarkation day, sea day breakfast or lunch) are hard to come by. If you can't find a place to sit, ask a crew member for help. Or take your food to the dining tables outside by the pools.
World Fresh Marketplace is composed of about 15 small counters -- some stand-alone, others back to back -- with designations like Western or Eastern Destinations, Fresh Market Meats and Fresh Market Vegetables, Carvery Bazaar, Garden Soup Kettle, Specialty Shop and International Festival.
As is typical of a cruise ship buffet, World Fresh Marketplace is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as at select times in between for daytime and late-night snacking.
At breakfast you'll find cereal (actually there's a 24-hour cereal station so you can get your Cheerios fix any time of day), a design-your-own-pancake station and regional specialties like shrimp and grits and polenta porridge, along with all your usual buffet breakfast offerings.
Lunch features items like Indian sweet potato and zucchini, beef vindaloo and spinach paneer at the Eastern food station; rosemary chicken with side choices that include vegetable korma, chopped zucchini and garlic, beef gravy, roasted peppers, sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions in the Carvery Bazaar; Mexican meatball or cream of mushroom at the Garden Soup Kettle island; and pork carnitas, enchilada casserole, Yucatan cumin-scented chicken, grilled Cuban sandwich, refried beans and lime cilantro rice at the Western Destination station.
Dinner selections include a Family Kitchen island with items like corn dogs, pasta with marinara or Alfredo sauce, cheddar and pancetta quiche, and French fries; an International Festival station that might offer chicken paillard-style with ale gravy, chick pea and potato curry, fish baked Portuguese style, mini minute steak Diane, Hungarian beef goulash and Cajun-roasted potatoes; and a kid-friendly peanut butter and jelly bar.
At the two Pastry Counters, you'll find a selection of cakes, cookies, brownies and other dessert favorites at both lunch and dinner. The nearby "Specialty Shop" has a selection of gluten-free desserts (a real rarity!).
All food offered within the World Fresh Marketplace is included in the price of your cruise. Drinks, other than water, lemonade, ice tea and basic tea and coffee, cost extra.
World Fresh Marketplace is only available on Caribbean Princess and Majestic Princess.