While there isn't a vast array of for-a-fee options -- the ship only has one specialty restaurant -- those included in the fare abound and are generally excellent. Enjoy a full breakfast with table service, bistro-style sandwiches and salads, burgers by the pool, tea and scones, fine dining in the evening or cake and coffee at twilight. Or opt for room service, our favourite cruise indulgence, which is still free on Princess. If dining is an important part of your overall cruise experience, you are unlikely to be disappointed.
Rigoletto Dining Room (Deck 5): There are two main dining rooms, with the red-and-gold Rigoletto available for dinner only. Traditional dining (set seating times, same waiters and tablemates) can be found here at 5:30 pm and 7:45 pm daily.
Traviata Dining Room (Deck 6): Traviata has a blue-and-gold colour scheme and a ceiling glamorously studded with twinkling lights. It offers a sit-down option for breakfast, and serves lunch (sea days only), afternoon tea and dinner.
Breakfast is served 7 am to 9 am (or 7:30 am to 9:30 am on sea days) and includes coffee and juice, fresh fruit, cereals, yoghurt, pancakes, eggs a few ways, bacon, sausages, and hash browns. There is also a changing page of two additional options such as French toast or a bowl of poached figs, peaches and pears.
Lunch is served from noon to 1:30 pm with a changing daily menu. Try ricotta and spinach ravioli, roasted beef tenderloin, fish and chips or ham and tomato focaccia. Burgers, soup and salad are also available. Desserts range from bread and butter pudding or vanilla souffle to ice creams, from butterscotch to chocolate and marshmallow or passionfruit frozen yogurt. Afternoon tea is served from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm and includes a selection of tea, scones and sandwiches.
Dinner is a multicourse affair and has enough mainstay and rotating options to please any palate. On the menu's left page are Princess Favourites, such as prawn cocktail and pan-seared herbed chicken breast, which are available every evening. On the right you will find a daily changing menu featuring dishes such as lobster bisque or chicken and sweetcorn soup to start and a baked seafood parcel or roasted beef rib for mains. A nightly dessert selection -- perhaps something from Chef Norman Love's Chocolate Journeys (a partnership with the cruise line) -- is offered, along with a sugar-free option, ice cream and a few more goodies. Coffee and tea are served, but specialty coffees and drinks like wine or soda are additional.
Club Class Dining (Deck 6): Only suite and Club Class Mini-Suite passengers can dine in the small, exclusive Club Class Dining area in the front corner of the Traviata Dining Room. Club Class has its own hostess at the entrance to Traviata and there is never a wait to be seated. Each setting is dressed with grey linen tablecloths, matching monogrammed napkins and a vase with a single orchid. Tables are predominantly for two and spaced so far apart that some diners may find it hard to believe they are in a cruise ship dining room, if it weren't for the ocean view outside the window. The menu is the same as the main dining room, but additional touches, such as a fresh fruit breakfast trolley featuring sliced mango, kiwi fruit and berries, abound. There is also a daily special prepared gueridon-style (on a trolley near the table) by the Club Class maitre 'd for dinner and lunch (sea days only). Sparkling service is provided by a small, dedicated team of waitstaff who take the time to get to know diners' likes and dislikes.
Cafe Corniche (Deck 8): Cafe Corniche offers a good selection of pizzas and, in the evening, a small additional range of Italian antipasti, and desserts in a pleasant setting overlooking the atrium. Unfortunately, the rather lacklustre service we experienced does not live up to the food, which was generally very good whenever we dined here. During lunch, everything on the menu is complimentary. In the evening, some items such as a cheese and charcuterie board (A$4), grilled lamb skewers (A$4) and an excellent prosciutto, pear, gorgonzola and spinach pizza (A$5) are chargeable. However, it is easy to enjoy a delicious dinner at Cafe Corniche without spending any extra. The restaurant is open from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm daily and noon to 2 pm on sea days.
Horizon Court (Deck 14): Like most of Sea Princess' public areas, Horizon Court is beautifully designed, with pleasing light and airy decor and ocean views. However, at peak times, it does get crowded, and tables can be hard to come by. Unlike some cruise ship buffets, this restaurant has food available all day from 5 am to 11 pm with just a short 15-minute closure from 5.15 pm to 5:30 pm so staff can set up for dinner.
Food stations are separated by type and are mirrored on either side of the deck during peak periods. Take a quick peek which side might be less crowded before you take a plate. When things are quieter, one side of the buffet closes. A continental breakfast is served from 5 am to 6 am and regular breakfast from 6 am to 11:30 am, with typical morning fare. Lunch features various dishes representing different international cultures: we saw sauteed bok choy with chicken, garlic and ginger, grilled fish, schnitzel and beef roulade. Sandwiches and salads are also available. A dessert counter is located on the opposite side of the buffet at its own station with an attendant doling out individual-sized portions. Lunch is 11:30 am to 3:30 pm, when many of the dishes are cleared away in favour of a light snack served until 5.15 pm. Dinner is served until 11 pm.
Beverages can be found at two back counters at the rear of the buffet. These counters offer water, iced tea, juice, hot water, regular coffee and decaf 24/7. Waiters come around to take drink orders, including your choice of non-chargeable drinks mentioned above.
Terrace Grill (Deck 14): This large counter on the Lido deck serves complimentary hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries, meat pies and bratwurst and knockwurst from 11:30 am to 8 pm, weather permitting. Seats with a good view are available here so you can dine while watching a movie or live concert.
Room Service: Available 24 hours a day, room service offers a menu of hot and cold sandwiches (club sandwich, turkey breast, etc.); soup of the day with saltines; mixed greens or chef's salads; hamburgers, hot dogs and hot dishes such as lasagne, beef chilli or a Moroccan vegetable stew served in a crockpot with pita bread. You can also order desserts like caramel flan, fudge cake or milk and cookies. Service is consistently prompt and pleasant, and usually correct. Room service breakfast is continental, while suites have access to full breakfasts. One of the few items that attracts a charge is pizza from Cafe Corniche which can be delivered to your cabin for an added fee of A$3.
La Patisserie (Deck 5): Specialty coffees such as iced lattes and cappuccinos can be found at La Patisserie, which opens at 6 am. La Patisserie offers a small selection of snacks such as pastries on a covered tray. Ocean views are available from some tables but this cafe is equally popular for takeaway. Coffee lovers can purchase a Princess Coffee Card, which entitles holders to 15 specialty coffees at a reduced rate. La Patisserie is open from 6 am to 11 pm and also serves alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer.
New Zealand Natural Ice Cream Bar (Deck 12): Satisfy your cravings for something sweet at this for-a-fee ice cream shop where you can buy New Zealand-made ice cream, milkshakes, thick shakes and sundaes.
Amuleto Bar (Deck 14): Located in the Horizon Court, this cafe serves specialty coffees for a fee. Treats in the glass-fronted cabinet are tempting, complimentary and available throughout the day. Amuleto is open from 5 am to 11 pm.
Sterling Steakhouse (Deck 14): A$29 per person, A$21.75 per child aged three to 12 years. Steak and seafood are the main draws at Sterling Steakhouse, the ship's only specialty dining venue. This isn't a standalone restaurant but part of the Horizon Court buffet, which is screened off and dressed with white tablecloths every evening. It is a pity the buffet's bright lights can't be lowered to create a bit more ambience, but otherwise the concept works reasonably well. We were expecting a wide selection of beef cuts, and were not disappointed, although the limited appetiser selection may be too seafood-focussed for some diners. That said, our party loved the black tiger prawns with papaya salpicon and the generous Mediterranean-style lobster cake. Mains include lamb chops from New Zealand, an excellent filet mignon available in two sizes or a pork chop served with delicious caramelised apples. Sides are generous -- served for the table -- and range from grilled asparagus to sauteed wild mushrooms, loaded baked potatoes and mashed potatoes. Four dessert choices follow, including a standout Norman Love milk chocolate and peanut butter bar creation served with honey-roasted peanuts. Really, you could share this rich dessert, but it's too good not to have one each. Sterling Steakhouse is open daily for dinner from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm.
Ultimate Balcony Dining: A$45 per couple (breakfast), A$125 per couple (dinner). If you have a balcony, take advantage of dining on it (and time it well with scenic cruising or a port arrival) with Ultimate Balcony Dining, an upgraded version of room service. Breakfast is served at a time of your choosing, and special and/or dietary requests can be made. Arriving with a tablecloth and many plates, your server will arrange your meal however you choose -- -inside or outside -- along with a small bottle of prosecco on ice (perfect for mimosas). Breakfast consists of juices, cold-smoked salmon with dill cream cheese and lemon brioche, quiche, a plate of muffins, rolls and pastries, fresh fruit and filter coffee or tea.
A romantic balcony dinner is also available and includes a multicourse lobster (or steak) dinner with pre-dinner cocktails, canapes, a flower bouquet as well as a souvenir photo and a half bottle of chilled sparkling wine. Note: 24 hours' notice is required so a staff member can meet with you to confirm menu preferences and any special requests.