Cruisers will never go hungry aboard Discovery Princess, thanks to the ship's multitude of complimentary and additional-cost dining venues. The ship offers three main dining rooms, plenty of cool snacks in the International Café, and the usual poolside eats. The World Fresh Marketplace -- the ship's main buffet and casual eatery -- is better than most, with a great selection of cuisines for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And while there are additional cost options aboard Discovery Princess, their prices will hardly break the bank and emerge as some of the best specialty restaurant values we've seen in recent years.
A bonus for room service lovers: it's completely free of charge onboard Discovery Princess, and food can even be ordered as part of the OceanNow component of your Medallion app to any location on the ship (fair warning, though -- this only worked about half of the time on our sailing).
The Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan Main Dining Rooms: Located on Decks 6 and 5, this trio of restaurants serve as the main dining rooms aboard Discovery Princess. Skagway and Juneau offer anytime dining, while the stern-mounted Ketchikan Dining Room on Deck 6 serves dinner in two traditional sittings: early and late. At least one dining room is open in port for breakfast, and sit-down lunch is offered on sea days. Menus are the same throughout each restaurant and décor is similar between the three, though the aft-facing Ketchikan Dining Room is a touch more upscale. Menus change daily, and an "Always Available" selection of favorites like chicken, salmon and steak graces the left-hand side of the menu.
Gigi's Pizzeria: Past Princess passengers will remember this as Alfredo's, which was long the name of Princess Cruises' complimentary pizzeria. Rebranded as Gigi's, it serves up the same fresh pizza and calzone dishes in its great Deck 7 location, adjacent to floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows. Gigi's is open from 11:30 p.m. until 10:00 p.m., and usually has a pretty substantial wait as the clock strikes Noon -- so plan your visit earlier or later for best results.
The International Café: This underrated venue on Deck 5 is most commonly thought of as a coffee bar, but while the caffeine may incur a surcharge, the Café's selection of sandwiches, pastries and desserts does not. Mornings are characterized by fruit and yogurt cups, breakfast sandwiches and croissants, and one of the best breakfast burritos we've eaten -- in bite-size. Lunches offer sandwiches and soups, and afternoons see desserts, cookies and sweets trotted out.
World Fresh Marketplace: Discovery Princess' casual buffet eatery, the World Fresh Marketplace is separated into several sections so as to disperse passengers better. It rarely feels overly crowded, and there's always something for everyone, with numerous cuisines represented. The ship's breakfast congee (an Asian type of rice porridge) is the best we've had on a ship in recent memory, and dishes at lunch and dinner aren't afraid to roll out the spice and seasonings in the venue's non-American culinary offerings.
Slice: If you're craving pizza and don't want to wait for one to be made at Gigi's, head up to Slice on Deck 16 where pizza is served by the slice between 11:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
Swirls Ice Cream Bar: You guessed it -- this poolside eatery on Deck 16 serves up everyone's favorite frosty dessert.
Room Service: Bucking the growing trend on other lines, room service is entirely free of charge aboard Discovery Princess.
Chef's Table Lumiere, $$$: Limited to 10 to 12 people per night, per cruise, this is the most exclusive gastronomy experience aboard Discovery Princess. Passengers enjoy a personal escort to a prime table in the dining room where Champagne and appetizers are served while the Executive Chef details the multi-course tasting menu (with wine pairings) that will be served. Dietary restrictions can be accommodated, and reservations are definitely required in advance.
Crown Grill, $$: Princess Cruises' classic steakhouse experience, Crown Grill does not disappoint onboard Discovery Princess, with classy décor adorned with Art Deco motifs, excellent cuisine and friendly service to match. While carnivorous delights are on the menu here, consider trying one of the seafood dishes -- we were blown away by the alternatives to steak here.
Sabatini's, $$: This Italian restaurant on Deck 5 forward delivers a paired-down menu from year's past, one that gives it more of a focus on great Italian cuisines as opposed to Olive Garden-esque abundance. The wine menu is solid, and libations like Peroni beer and Limoncello are, naturally, available for an additional cost.
Bistro Sur La Mer, $$: Fans of French cuisine need look no further than this beautifully-designed space on Deck 7. Classic staples are offered here, from lobster bisque and escargots to entrees that include red snapper, jumbo scallops, filet mignon and seared duck breast -- all for the low price of $29 per person. It's a great chance to be adventurous and try something new, though bleed-through noise coming from the Piazza Atrium below sometimes dampens the experience (country music wafted up to greet us as we dined on our French homestyle pate with fig and pear compote).
Ocean Terrace, $-$$: This casual sushi joint is one of the more underrated dining experiences aboard Discovery Princess. Sushi and sashimi are offered a'la carte, along with a selection of chilled sake, cocktails, and wines by the glass. Located off the ship's central Piazza Atrium, it is easy to miss. Open for lunch on sea days and dinner each evening.
Salty Dog Gastropub, $: Burgers and casual fare rule the roost here, with the Ernesto Burger (developed in partnership with award-winning chef Ernesto Uchimura) taking top billing. Other worthy menu items include the poutine (it won't win awards in Quebec but is one of the better versions south of the border), fried chicken sandwich and wild mushroom saute. The disappointment? The beer menu is weak and unimaginative -- Budweiser, Heineken and Sierra Nevada do not a gastropub make.
Gelato, $: Tasty-smooth Gelato is offered at this cool little eatery just off the main piazza atrium on Deck 5.
If there's one place that every cruiser should try aboard Discovery Princess, it is the Crown Grill steakhouse. Sure, it's a steakhouse -- but it's a good, solid one at that, and one that's a favorite with past Princess passengers -- especially on formal night. Book this one well in advance; it tends to be unavailable once onboard unless you're willing to dine at 9 p.m. (and we were!).
Allergies and dietary restrictions are taken seriously and are catered to with ease aboard Discovery Princess, both in the ship's complimentary dining venues and in the ship's extra-fee specialty restaurants.
That's not to say that all restaurants are well-suited to every person; someone with a gluten intolerance, for example, might want to avoid the admittedly gluten-heavy Sabatini's.
Onboard, our nut allergy was treated seriously, and all dishes came out last, following everyone else's meal, to ensure no cross-contamination took place. It's a little detail that we found reassuring, particularly when other tablemates ordered the same dish.
In the main dining room, those with special dietary restrictions are encouraged to pre-order meals for the following day's lunch and dinner with the Maitre 'd. We did this and found it to be a great success.
As with anything, those with allergies should still take proper precautions as they would on land, including having any relevant medications or EpiPens on hand, just in case.