Food on Grand Princess is impressive. On the dining room menu, cruisers will find plenty of dishes that draw inspiration from the local cuisine of the places the ship visits. There's also pizza, grill fare, barbecue, Italian cuisine, a steakhouse and a pop-up restaurant specializing in seafood.
Perhaps one of the most delightful aspects of dining on Grand Princess is that the cruise line leverages its partnership with Chef Norman Love to include fabulous chocolatey desserts on the menus in most of its restaurants, including the main dining room and the ship's steakhouse and Italian restaurant.
Vegetarian and gluten-free options are often noted on the menus. Special dietary requests can be accommodated with advance notice.
In addition to food, Grand Princess serves up a plethora of beverages. While lemonade, tea, water and basic coffee are free, charges apply for soda, bottled water, juice (except at breakfast), specialty coffee drinks and, of course, alcohol. Several packages are offered, including a soda package ($8.05 per person, per day) that entitles the holder to unlimited soda, juice, mocktails and hot chocolate, and an all-inclusive beverage package ($52 per person, per day) that includes everything in the soda package, plus specialty coffees and teas, beer, glasses of wine and cocktails valued at $10 or less. Those who enjoy fancy coffee can purchase punch cards that entitle them to 15 specialty cups of joe for $31. Bottled water can be had for $6.90 per 12-pack.
Michelangelo (Deck 5 midship), Botticelli (Deck 6 aft), DaVinci (Deck 6 midship): These three venues, named and themed after famous artists, serve as the ship's main dining rooms and are elegantly appointed with dark woods and large murals adorning the walls.
Michelangelo is strictly for Anytime Dining between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Botticelli features two set-seating dining times: 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. DaVinci hosts early set-seating dining at 5:30 p.m. and then opens for Anytime Dining from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. DaVinci also offers sit-down waiter-served breakfast every day from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., lunch (sea days only) from noon to 1:30 p.m. and daily afternoon tea from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
All three venues share the same menu for dinner, but it changes daily. Starters generally include small fruit plates, salads and soups like French onion or frozen rum-infused pina colada soup (served in a glass with a straw). Mains consist of items like pan-seared basa with pineapple-papaya salsa, grilled beef tenderloin, Asian-spiced duck breast and tempura vegetables. Always-available entrees include shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, fettuccine Alfredo, grilled salmon, pan-seared chicken breast and hamburgers.
Desserts run the gamut from Black Forest cake with sour cherries and orange Grand Marnier souffle to sugar-free choices like strawberry mousse and always-available options like New York cheesecake, ice cream and a cheese plate.
For the sea day lunch, passengers will find always-available brunch options like eggs Benedict and James Beard French toast in addition to items that change daily. Examples from the rotating menu include chicken liver mousse, seafood quesadillas and Chinese egg drop soup for starters. Mains might include burgers with fries, pasta, fruit salad with cottage cheese, egg-fried Monte Cristo sandwiches, grilled minute steaks and griddled rockfish with pineapple-cilantro salsa. (Combos of soups, salads and sandwiches are also available.) Desserts featured on our visit were amaretto cake, a delicious apple walnut cobbler and a selection of ice cream.
The breakfast menu includes standard fare: juices (orange, apple, prune, tomato, pineapple), fruit, cereal, pastries, yogurt, eggs a variety of ways (fried, poached, soft boiled, scrambled, omelets), pancakes, bacon, sausage and hash browns. Part of the menu also changes; on the day we went, it included melon fruit cocktail and grilled minute steak with eggs and mushrooms.
Service on our sailing was always friendly and generally efficient, with dinner service being the best. After dining elsewhere one evening, we noticed a soup on the dining room menu that sounded delicious. We stopped in to ask if it would be possible to get a couple of bowls to go, and the staff kindly had them sent to our cabin via room service. However, one morning at breakfast we asked for an off-menu cheese omelet with peppers and were told it wasn't possible. We then shortened the request to a simple egg and cheese omelet, thinking it would be no sweat, given that the menu did include a ham and cheese selection. What the waiter brought us instead was an omelet with ham and no cheese.
Alfredo's Pizzeria (Deck 5 midship): Princess has some of the best pizza we've ever tasted at sea, and Alfredo's is one of two places onboard to get it. This sit-down waiter-served eatery offers a small room with tables and chairs amid mosaic tiles and interesting wall art depicting scenes from Venice. The menu includes fancy pies that combine standard tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese with ingredients like artichoke hearts, mushrooms, prosciutto, black olives, anchovies, capers, mussels, bay shrimp, tomatoes, grilled zucchini, peppers, onions and avocado. Strangely, you won't find the usual margherita or pepperoni options listed. The made-to-order pizzas take about 15 minutes, and they're created at a counter in the atrium where passengers can watch the preparation. There are four small slices to a pie -- enough for a light snack for two. Beer, wine and soda are available for purchase. Alfredo's is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily; reservations aren't necessary.
International Cafe (Deck 5, midship): The centrally located International Cafe is the only place on the ship that serves food 24 hours a day. Free nibbles include soups, sandwiches, salads, pastries and other light fare. For-fee specialty juices, teas and Illy coffees are also served there, ranging from $2.75 to $5.
Horizon Court (Deck 14 aft): Horizon Court, the ship's fairly nondescript buffet eatery, has two identical sides, each set up with three rows of cafeteria-style stations that often lead to long lines during peak times.
Hours are the same, regardless of whether it's a port day or sea day. Breakfast (6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.) features meats and cheeses, eggs, bacon, hash browns, fruit, cereal, yogurt, pastries, fruit smoothies, juices, pancakes, waffles and an omelet station. Lunch (11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) is a mix of soups, sandwiches and salads; Asian cuisine; and comfort food like french fries, macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers. Dinner (5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.) might include mini-quiches, a carving station with meat and mashed potatoes, seafood like shrimp cocktail and a variety of desserts that include fruit tarts, JELL-O, chocolate cake, banana-vanilla pudding, blueberry crumble and an assortment of cookies and brownies, as well as some sugar-free options like strawberry mousse layer cake.
Although the food quality is high, the offerings became a little repetitive by the end of our 10-night sailing.
On our cruise, the starboard side always seemed busier and more crowded; head to the port side to find shorter lines and additional seating. The pool area also offers tables and chairs if you still can't find room.
Trident Grill (Deck 14 forward): From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, Trident Grill prepares hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and onion rings by the ship's main pool. Smokehouse BBQ is also available there daily from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., featuring dishes like orange molasses grilled chicken, beef chili and pulled pork. Veggie burgers are provided on request.
Prego Pizzeria (Deck 14 forward): Fortunately for those who prefer more standard pizza options or a grab-and-go counter service experience, Prego, adjacent to the Trident Grill, near the main pool, makes fresh pizza daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Standard pies include margherita and pepperoni. A special third type changes daily and might feature white pies or less common options like the "Nizzarda" (tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, tuna, onions, chili pepper, fresh basil and olive oil), to name a couple.
Coffee & Cones (Deck 14 midship): Feeling like some alfresco coffee or ice cream? Check out Coffee & Cones, which specializes in free soft-serve (chocolate, vanilla or twist) and extra-fee coffee drinks that range from $1.75 to $5. Also for a charge of $3 each, you can try an out-of-this-world ice cream sandwich in amazing flavor combinations like a chocolate chip cookies with vanilla ice cream, coconut-ginger cookies with pina colada ice cream, snickerdoodles with cinnamon ice cream, oatmeal raisin cookies with honey yogurt ice cream or chocolate-chocolate chip cookies with peppermint ice cream. This is also where you can snag a bag of free popcorn to munch on while you catch Movies Under the Stars.
Pub Lunch: On select sea days, Grand Princess offers a pub-style lunch in the Crown Grill. Free of charge, the meal's shining star is the fish 'n' chips, which are superb. Princess Patters list days and hours.
Room Service: The ship's free room service menu is surprisingly extensive. Choose from soup, salads, sandwiches (with choice of french fries, potato chips or coleslaw), hot dogs, hamburgers, beef chili, lasagna, Moroccan veggies with pita bread, and a selection of desserts.
Breakfast can be ordered via a card that you fill out and hang on the outside of your cabin door handle after selecting a desired delivery time. Our meal arrived on the dot, the food was hot, and it was just as we had ordered it with special requests -- no banana yogurt, no bacon, etc. -- honored flawlessly. (One note: The bacon that comes on the bacon, egg and cheese English muffin is Canadian bacon, which took us by surprise.)
Room service also has for-fee options that include a whole pizza ($3), assorted canapes ($10–14), a vegetable platter with dip ($6), cheese and crackers ($12), shrimp ($14), guacamole with tortilla chips ($8), and chocolate-dipped strawberries ($8). Alcoholic beverages and soda are also available for a fee.
Crown Grill (Deck 7 forward; $29 per adult, $14.50 per child): Crown Grill is Grand Princess' steakhouse. Outfitted with a combination of light and dark woods accented with green marble and white tablecloths, this restaurant specializes in seafood and some of the best and most expertly cooked steak we've ever tasted.
From the menu, diners can choose appetizers like black tiger prawn and papaya salpicon, carpaccio of pine nut-coated lamb loin, spiny lobster cakes or pan-seared Pacific scallops, while soups and salads might include shrimp and pancetta bisque, black and blue onion soup or marinated goat cheese and tomato salad. Entrees fall into three categories: seafood (a mussel pot, Chilean sea bass with king prawns or Maine lobster tails), chops (beef, veal, lamb, pork or porterhouse) and steaks (New York and Kansas City strip, rib eye or filet mignon). A variety of gourmet salts is also provided to complement each meal; the options include Hawaiian black salt, smoked applewood salt and Himalayan mountain pink salt. Try the sampler for dessert, and you'll get a taste of molten Dutch chocolate cake, lemon meringue pudding tart, a seven-layer s'mores stack and a milk chocolate peanut butter bar that features Norman Love chocolate.
The food preparation area is open to the restaurant so passengers can view their meals being created. Alcoholic beverages cost extra; Crown Grill has an excellent wine selection, which can be viewed from the wine cabinets that line part of one wall. This venue is open from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day; reservations are recommended.
Sabatini's (Deck 7 aft; $29 per adult, $14.50 per child): Italian eatery Sabatini's is a bit hidden, tucked away on Deck 7 between the photo gallery and Explorer's Lounge. Two small waiting areas flank the entrance, giving way to a space that was updated during the 2016 refurb. The neutral decor features creams and browns with light and dark woods and small pops of muted blue and yellow. Columns line the walls, which are somewhat minimalist, bearing an occasional planter or mural of the Coliseum. A chef's work station is set up to one side of the restaurant, and cruisers can watch as their meals are prepared.
All tables receive a selection of breads and marinated olives. Examples of menu items include white bean and black mussel soup, baby field greens with cheese and vinaigrette, fried baby squid with lemon garlic dip, and thinly sliced chilled veal roast with tuna caper aioli as starters. One of the most popular items is hand-formed burrata cheese on a bed of tomatoes with balsamic reduction, and it's absolutely superb. A second course of pasta includes one of the following: spaghetti with lobster, scallops, shrimp and mussels in tomato sauce; braised short rib over penne; or manicotti with spinach, ricotta and fontina cheese roulade over tomato coulis. For mains, passengers can decide between delectable baked striped bass, garlic-infused shrimp, lobster three ways, strip steak, veal rack or chicken supreme stuffed with eggplant, Asiago cheese and tomatoes. Dessert examples include espresso creme brulee, a citrus tart with chocolate and tiramisu with espresso gelato (made with Norman Love chocolate).
Alcoholic beverages, including wine, are available for an extra fee, as is the restaurant's signature olive oil, which can be purchased for $16 a bottle. Sabatini's is open every day from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; reservations are recommended.
Crab Shack (Deck 14 aft; $29 per adult, $14.50 per child): Crab Shack is generally offered twice per sailing. (Dial 3463 for details on days and times or to make reservations, which are recommended.) Located in a special section of the Horizon Court buffet, this casual venue is the type where you'll don aprons to protect your clothes, wield special tools and eat lots and lots of seafood.
Prepare to get messy with menu options such as crawfish with corn on the cob; Alaska king crab legs with peel-and-eat shrimp; a clam, mussel and shrimp pot; or a mix of snow crab, king crab, jumbo shrimp, clams, mussels and kielbasa. Each person starts off with a basket of popcorn shrimp and hush puppies, as well as a bowl of Manhattan clam chowder, and a small rotating selection of desserts is offered from a small display case. Options might include a fruit tart or flourless chocolate cake. Drinks are available for a la carte purchase.
Ultimate Balcony Dining ($45 breakfast, $100 four-course dinner): Anyone with a balcony cabin who would like to dine alfresco and in private can book one of Princess' Ultimate Balcony Dining packages. The packages are pricy, but they include a special menu and in-cabin waiter service that will bring everything out to your balcony, complete with tablecloths and place settings. Breakfast includes a half bottle of chilled sparkling wine, homemade pastries, cold smoked salmon with dill cream cheese and roasted lemon brioche, fresh fruit and quiche. Dinner might feature combinations like Pacific blue crab cakes baked in a puff pastry with marinated chevre and mesclun field greens and broiled lobster tails with veggies or grilled filets of beef tenderloin with chateau potatoes and veggies. Reservations are required.