Kerry Spencer
Cruise Critic Editor
3.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

The ship's eight dining venues vary considerably in terms of quality. We were disappointed by the standard of food in the ship's Lido Buffet (and Sirens, which offers the same buffet dishes).

Fried bread is served as a greasy wedge at breakfast; scrambled egg has a sloppy consistency and the daily carvery is overcooked, often dry. We also experienced burnt pizza at the Terrace Grill and an overcooked and tasteless lobster tail in Orion Restaurant. We would like to see some improvement in the quality of the free-dining options onboard, particularly in the Lido Buffet.

The ship's three specialty restaurants are superb, though, and if you're willing to spend between £15 and £20 per person for the experience (per restaurant), we recommend giving them a whirl.

We were impressed with the ship's gluten-free options, with bread and cakes available daily in the ship's free restaurants. Gluten free and vegetarian dishes are labelled on menus, though occasionally limited in choice. Soya milk is offered as a diary alternative at all venues.

If you're a coffee drinker, you should invest in a Coffee Card at The Coffee Port, where coffee is very good, unlike the ship's free coffee which has a harsh bitter taste.

Free Dining

Orion Restaurant (Deck 4): The ship's main dining room operates an open-seating policy at all mealtimes and is hugely popular in the evening. The restaurant can get exceptionally busy from 7:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. when passengers can expect to queue for a table. Tables are arranged for two, four, six or eight passengers.

A formal waiter service is offered at all times and service is quick -- almost too fast with courses presented in quick succession. We found the overall quality of food at Orion Restaurant average -- with dishes uninspiring and often bland or overcooked.

At breakfast the menu always features a selection of fruit juices, breakfast pastries, cold cut meats and cheeses and a fish of the day, usually kippers or mackerel. There's also a full English breakfast, made-to-order omelette, French toast and eggs Benedict. An Express Breakfast option for those disembarking early or looking for a quick bite includes bacon, egg, sausage, baked beans, grilled tomato and fried bread.

A Healthy Options section includes items such as fruit salad, porridge and cereal.

Orion is sometimes closed at lunchtime on port days, but when open it serves a menu of starter, soup or salad, main course and dessert, with dishes such as Caesar salad, beef burger and chips, chicken curry, fish and chips and roast dinner. Hot and cold desserts such as treacle sponge and custard and ice cream are typically available to finish.

Dishes on the evening menu are more refined, often with a French theme -- cheese souffle, escargot and French onion soup, followed by beef consomme and duck breast salad. There's usually up to nine options for the main course -- typically two or three fish and shellfish options, meat dishes and one or two veggie options.

Three supplementary dishes are available daily for an extra charge of £9.95, including rib eye steak, fillet steak and lamb cutlets.

Desserts include options such as bread and butter pudding, chocolate brownie, ice cream and heathy options such as fruit platter and sugar-free peach cobbler served with sugar-free ice cream. Passengers can also request to have the sugar-free ice cream served on its own.

Open: Breakfast (7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.); lunch (12 p.m. to 2 p.m.) and dinner (6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.)

Lido Buffet (Decks 9): The self-service Lido Buffet is open almost all day -- from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. -- with short intervals in service when dishes are updated from breakfast to lunch, lunch to dinner and dinner to late night buffet.

This no-frills restaurant offers a mix of round tables of eight and smaller tables seating two and four, including some booth-style seating.

The quality of food in the Lido Buffet is run-of-the-mill -- there's a decent variety of dishes but they often lack in flavour and freshness.

Passengers can help themselves to hot and cold breakfast items including a full fry up with HP sauce on standby. PG Tips is the tea de jour, with juices and a filter coffee freely available.

Omelettes, eggs Benedict and pancakes can also be made to order at breakfast.

At lunchtime breads, soup, salad, cold meat and cheese, fries, hot and cold pasta dishes and typically at least one meat and one fish dish, plus a daily carvery, are on offer. Dishes such as curry, pasta bake and fish pie are regularly available.

Lido Buffet serves similar dishes at dinnertime, with cold meats, cheese, salad, soup, hot and cold pasta dishes, a fish dish, such as haddock or whiting, a traditional dish such as Shepherd's pie and two meat dishes -- one always a hot carvery. Potatoes cooked in a variety of ways and vegetables are always available.

At least one veggie option is available. A made-to-order station is also open at lunch and dinner where chefs usually serves pasta dishes or stir-fry.

Desserts include a colourful selection of mousses, torts, cakes, jelly and there's always one hot pudding with custard. There are two self-serve ice cream machines in the Lido Buffet, one serving vanilla and the other chocolate.

For the late-night buffet there's typical post-pub fare of burgers, chips, breaded chicken, pizza and hotdogs. Waiter service is available for drinks in the Lido Buffet and there's also wine and soft drinks dispensers.

Open: Breakfast (7 a.m. to 11 a.m.); lunch (11:30 to 4 p.m.); dinner (6 p.m. to 11 p.m.), and late-night buffet (11 p.m. to 1 a.m.)

Sirens Buffet (Deck 11): Sirens Buffet is a smaller version of the Lido Buffet, serving the same dishes, open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.

There's some outdoor seating as well as a U-shaped restaurant inside. It's all help-yourself buffet, but with waiter service for drinks.

Afternoon tea features a selection of sandwiches, cakes, warm scones with freshly-whipped cream and jam; there's also a gluten-free sandwiches and cake offered. We were impressed with afternoon tea, which is popular among passengers -- particularly on sea days when queues can form at the buffet line.

Open: Breakfast (7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.); lunch (12 p.m. to 3 p.m.); afternoon tea (3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.)

Terrace Grill (Deck 11): Terrace Grill is open for breakfast and lunch and features a chef cooking dishes at a station with a scattering of tables that flow from Sirens restaurant out onto the terrace.

Terrace Grill is a relaxed space that can get busy at lunchtime as the only venue serving a variety of fast food-style items. Dishes available at lunchtime include salad, a cold pasta dish, hot dogs, pizza, burgers and chips, with a variety of toppings, such as cheese and fried onions available.

Open: Breakfast (6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.) and lunch (12 p.m. to 3 p.m.)

Room Service: Room service is only available to Premium cabin passengers and Grand Suite passengers. Even then it's limited to one free breakfast per sailing, with tea, coffee, juice, pastries and cereal the only items available on the room service menu. Passengers are free to take food and drinks back to their cabin.

Fee Dining

Kora La (Deck 4); £17.95: We're big fans of Kora La, the ship's Asian restaurant. The food, service and ambiance are spot on.

Open for dinner from 6:30 p.m., the menu steers towards Indian dishes with typically one noodle and Thai dish, too. The menu is often changed up during a sailing, giving repeat diners more choice.

Kora La is accessed via Orion Restaurant, to the aft, and the square-shaped space feels intimate with black tablecloths draped over a scattering of two-, four- six- and eight-seat tables.

The quality of food at Kora La is excellent -- including freshly made naan bread and poppadoms served with a selection of chutneys and Raita to start.

The menu includes two courses plus accompaniments, with starters such as king prawns Kerala-style, chicken satay and vegetable samosas. Passengers can create their own curry -- there's a choice of chicken, beef, lamb, prawns or vegetables -- in either a Kashmiri, Madras or Vindaloo-style, or choose from one of the standard main course options, such as a Madras fish curry, slow-cooked beef Rendang or stir-fried noodles. All dishes are served with rice and naan bread.

Mistral's (Deck 11); £19.95: This modern European restaurant is the ship's fine-dining option with a mix of two-, four-, six- and eight-seat tables.

Mistral's offers a more refined dining experience, with little touches such as three flavoured salts presented with a selection of bread to start. The menu includes three courses and dishes are taken up several notches from those offered in the ship's main dining room, with more premium ingredients used in refined dishes.

The menu typically features one veggie option.

Hot Stone (Deck 11); £15.95: From 6:30 p.m. the Terrace Grill transforms into a white-table-clothed alfresco dining venue called Hot Stone. The menu remains the same for the duration of every sailing.

A sharing platter is presented to the table to start (there are no other choices available) that includes a selection of small bites. The main features several options of meat and fish dishes that are then cooked at the table to the passengers liking.

Hot Stone is fun and theatrical, with a server preparing you for the meat onslaught of the main course by tying a paper bib around your neck. Because of the meaty nature of the menu, Hot Stone isn't suitable for vegetarians.

We found the food very good, though desserts were a let down -- they weren’t fresh and a mousse arrived frozen.

The Coffee Port (Deck 5): The Coffee Port serves an excellent Lavazza coffee -- Cappuccino, Mocha, Latte, Macchiato, Flat White or Americano -- from £2.50. There's also a "Luxury Hot Chocolate," Twinings Tea, juices and soft drinks and a selection of gelato and delicious Patisserie Valerie-style creamy gateaux available.

Marella Dream Information

Marella Dream Ship Stats

  • Crew: 600
  • Launched: 2005
  • Decks: 11
  • Passengers: 1,533
  • Registry: Malta

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