By Becky Beall
Cruise Critic Contributor
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

Almost all the dining on Carnival Ecstasy is free as there are no up-charge specialty restaurants. For the best selections, hit up the main dining rooms for evening meals, which feature a full three courses plus dessert. Lido buffet selections are typically plentiful and include a daily Chef's Choice (ranging from American to French to Italian) that we always enjoyed. There are ample places to grab a quick bite at nontraditional meal times as well as a (for fee) coffee shop.

Free Dining

Wind Song and Wind Star Dining Rooms (Deck 8): Wind Song and Wind Star are Carnival Ecstasy's two main dining rooms and they look and feel alike, right down to sharing the same menu. The main difference is that you'll find traditional set dining times for dinner in Wind Song (6 and 8:15 p.m.), while Wind Star is for passengers choosing the flexible Your Time Dining, open each evening, from 5:45 to 9 p.m.

Wind Star also offers open seating for breakfast daily from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. Breakfast in Wind Star is generally good with omelets, fruit and hearty servings of bacon and sausage. We found lunch to be too heavy on the salads and sandwiches so preferred opting for the Lido Deck, where the variety was greater. Always double-check your FunTimes (the printed daily schedule) as other events sometimes replace these meals -- like the Seaday Brunch, which is not to be missed with its fancier fixings like salmon, pancakes and other delicious treats.

Only dinner is served in Wind Song, with the exception of the Dr. Seuss-themed Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast on the last sea day (reservations are encouraged and there is a small charge).

Both main dining rooms offer the same menu each night consisting of rotating items and several choices that remain the same. Steakhouse selections are also available in the main dining rooms for an extra $20 charge and include filet mignon, New York Strip, lobster or surf and turf options. The rotating menu always offers a variety, including at least one vegetarian choice. Waiters are careful to work with those who have food allergies to come up with versions of menu items that suit their needs.

Among our favorite meals were the grilled tilapia and asparagus, prime rib, lasagna Bolognese and chateaubriand (thick-cut tenderloin filet) with bearnaise sauce. Featured salads were tasty, packing some extra servings of veggies, and appetizers were consistently good. Feel free to ask waiters to swap out an appetizer if the one listed with the entree you want isn't to your liking.

One weak spot was the steaks, which we found came out the same regardless of how we asked them to be cooked. We discovered we got better steaks if we ordered them from the everyday menu on nights when they weren't a featured entree.

Carnival's famous warm chocolate melting cake is the most popular dessert by far featuring a chocolate cake with a pudding-like center served with vanilla ice cream. It's fantastic with an after-dinner coffee. Other deserts are also always available including scoops of ice cream in different flavors, sherbets, sugar-free options and a cheese platter.

Lido Restaurant (Deck 10): The Lido buffet is casual with plenty of seating and lots of options. Breakfast begins at 6:30 a.m. with a continental option just ahead of the full breakfast, which starts at 7:30 a.m. Options include eggs, bacon, grits, oatmeal, fruit, cereal and yogurt as well as awesome made-to-order omelets that are outstanding. Carnival also offers late-riser breakfast choices up until noon; these include cereal, yogurt, scrambled eggs, bacon, oatmeal, pastries and a small selection of fruit.

Lunchtime diners will find the salad bar and different versions of fish, chicken and pasta along with several side options. There is a daily Chef's Choice (American, French, Italian, etc.) that we found to be quite good. Lunch is served noon (sometimes 11:30 a.m.) to 2:30 p.m.

Dinner is available from 6 to 9 p.m. and is noticeably more crowded on port days than on sea days. The salad bar is always popular and dinner choices look much the same as lunch.

There is a dessert table at lunch and dinner and Swirls (soft serve ice cream or yogurt) is available 24/7.

Pizza Pirate (Deck 10): Hugely popular with the younger crowd, yet tasty enough for everyone, Pizza Pirate makes thin crust pies 24 hours a day. Wait time is short for popular cheese and pepperoni varieties but note that special orders (multiple meats or additional veggies) can take a little while. Located at the back of Deck 10 close to the buffet, but at its own separate counter, Pizza Pirate shares space with the Carnival Deli.

Carnival Deli (Deck 10): Side by side with Pizza Pirate is the Carnival Deli with wraps and sandwiches like a turkey wrap, tuna on white bread, pastrami on rye and a grilled Reuben, just to name a few. This is a nice, lighter alternate to the heavier meals found in the buffet; sandwiches can be pressed or served cold. The deli is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

BlueIguana Cantina (Deck 10): Located poolside, BlueIguana Cantina offers breakfast from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. serving burritos stuffed with your choice of Mexican scrambled eggs, chicken sausage, ham, skillet hash browns, tomatoes, cheese and other scrumptious fillings. Lunchtime (noon to 2:30 p.m.) is similar: choose a tortilla or taco and then pick out a protein (chicken, fish or  pork) and fillings from the fantastic choices like roasted corn, refried beans, tomatoes, cilantro lime rice, black beans, lettuce, peppers and onions. The salsa bar is extensive and offers ice cold watermelon. This ended up being our favorite lunch spot, and we weren't alone.

Guy's Burger Joint (Deck 10): Awesome burgers with lots of fixings can be found at Guy's Burger Joint, Carnival's partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri. Featuring burgers grilled to perfection with many topping choices (think lettuce, tomato, onions, pickle, onion ring) and served with hand-cut fries, this poolside spot is popular with all ages thanks in part to the burger shack look that sports surfboards and sees the silverware rolled in red "oil rags." Guy's Burger Joint is open daily 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Room Service: Breakfast room service is limited to the continental variety, but especially nice if you have a balcony; choose items from a list and place a hanging card outside your door before you retire for the evening. The rest of the day meals can be called in, with standard choices like sandwiches and salads that are free of charge, or hot foods for a small fee. Also, late-night options are available after 10 p.m. for a small fee. Room service is available 24 hours a day; remember to tip a couple of bucks.

Fee Dining

Chef's Table (Deck 8); $75 for kids, $95 for adults: This exclusive dinner experience is hosted by the Master Executive Chef and comes with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, and a divine multicourse dinner including appetizers, entrees and desserts that are not found on regular dining menus. The once-per-cruise event takes place in the library and you'll need to reserve through Guest Services early on as there's only room for 14.

Rolls Royce Café (Deck 9); a la carte: Treat yourself to a specialty coffee or freshly brewed cup of tea and a pastry or a milkshake at this grab-and-go spot. You can also find special treats like chocolate-covered strawberries. Rolls Royce is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; be sure to get a selfie with the cafe's namesake.

Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast (Deck 8, Wind Song); $5: The entire family can enjoy this festive Dr. Seuss-themed breakfast with bright, colorful tablescapes and appearances by Cat in the Hat, Sam I Am and Things 1 and 2. Choose the classic Green Eggs and Ham or go for some funky French toast (coated in Froot Loops) coupled with "Moose Juice" or stick with a standard breakfast offering of eggs, bacon, waffle or other familiar choices. (Note: They allow time for photo opportunities with the characters, including official ship photos as well as with your own camera.)

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