Colleen McDaniel
Cruise Critic Editor-In-Chief
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

Free Dining

While there are plenty of for-fee dining options onboard, passengers who would rather not pay have enough variety and quality to satisfy. For those who seek tradition, there are the ship's three main dining rooms: Symphony, Allegro and Concerto. Horizon Court and Horizon Bistro, the ship's buffet options, provide a more casual vibe. Those who want to grab lunch in their swimsuits can get a slice at Prego Pizzeria or a burger from Trident Grill on the Lido Deck. Indoors, Alfredo's offers up delicious thin-crust pizza, calzones, pastas, salads and desserts.

International Cafe (Deck 5): International Cafe is the ship's coffee shop, and while the coffee is priced a la carte, the pastries, paninis and salads are free. The selection often replicates what you'll find in the buffet on the Lido Deck, but the convenience -- right on the Piazza -- is a plus. You can buy a coffee punch card to use during your trip, which also allows you to get free premium teas, a nice perk. You can also use your coffee card to purchase a sweet treat at Gelato, and unused punches carry over to your next cruise. The International Cafe is open 24 hours a day.

Allegro Dining Room (Deck 6): Allegro is typically the ship's only free option for traditional set dining at dinner (though based on customer demand, Princess plans to offer an additional traditional seating in another restaurant). Passengers can eat at either 5:45 p.m. or 8:15 p.m. Menus at Allegro are diverse and always offer an appetizer course, a soup or salad course, a pasta course (which can be ordered as an entree) and an entree. There's also a dessert menu. We found the food to be generally quite good, especially the seafood offerings, which can be difficult to get "just right" when preparing them for a large group of people.

New on Regal Princess menus is "Crafted by Curtis," a trio of menu options from celebrity chef, restaurateur and Iron Chef Curtis Stone. Stone, whose Share specialty restaurant was recently introduced on Ruby and Emerald Princess, is known for creating healthy and inventive regional cuisine, and on our Caribbean cruise the items included mahi-mahi with curried plantains, pork tenderloin with sweet potato puree, and flank steak with black beans. All three were always available.

Another inventive Princess Cruises culinary partnership is with chocolatier Norman Love. On formal nights, don't miss his dessert offerings on the menu.

Regal designates dishes like the fried chicken as "home-style cuisine," and menus offer one such option each night. Other home-style selections include meatloaf, pork shoulder and chili. A number of vegetarian options in each course are included each night, designated with a "V". Frustratingly, healthier options aren't noted as such on the menus, but look for keywords like "low-fat" or "sugar-free" in the item descriptions. Standard items designated as "always available" include shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, salmon, a BLT burger and a grilled chicken breast.

Symphony Dining Room (Deck 5): Symphony serves dinner "anytime" style; passengers show up when they feel like eating, any time between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. There is no set table and therefore no set tablemates or waiters. The menu in Symphony is the same as in Allegro and Concerto.

Concerto Dining Room (Deck 6): Passengers looking for a main dining room experience for breakfast or lunch will find it in Concerto, which offers anytime dining for dinner, as well. Breakfast generally is served 7 to 9 a.m., and includes standards like omelets made to order and eggs Benedict, as well as fruit and yogurt. Lunch is generally served noon to 1:30 p.m. on embarkation day, and sometimes on sea days. The lunch menu offers appetizers, soups/salads, pasta and entrees along with sandwiches and burgers. Portions are appropriately sized for lunch, and it's a quieter experience than you'll find in the buffet. Dinner is served from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.; the menu there is the same as in Allegro and Symphony.

Alfredo's Pizzeria (Deck 6): Princess has perfected the pizzeria at sea with Alfredo's, which offers a selection of tasty thin-crust pizzas, salads and pastas. The Pizza Regal Princess, with Parma ham, cherry tomatoes and shaved Parmesan, is a salty bit of goodness on a crust, and Pizza Hawaiian is familiar -- with ham and pineapple -- but the addition of chicken is unexpected and quite good. Chefs hand-slice the prosciutto on-site, which is actually a lot of fun to watch. Editor's Tip: Grab your lunch there on embarkation day while everyone else is at the Horizon Court/Bistro; you'll have the place virtually to yourself. Alfredo's is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Princess Live! Cafe (Deck 7): Adjacent to Princess Live!, the cafe offers small snacks for free; coffee there is priced a la carte. Princess Live! Cafe is open all day until late night on sea days and from 4:30 p.m to midnight on port days.

Horizon Court and Horizon Bistro (Deck 16): We were blown away by Horizon Court and Horizon Bistro, the ship's buffet. The space is huge, with plenty of seating, including coveted spots by the windows. The selection, too, is massive, and we found the best approach was doing a full walkthrough before even picking up a plate; this helped us make sure we got to try the things that really appealed to us without the waste. We also liked the hand-washing stations located throughout, giving passengers the opportunity to actually wash their hands without traipsing off to a bathroom. Quality at each meal was generally good for a buffet, where dishes often sit out for too long. On Regal Princess, meat doesn't dry out, sauces don't break, and sides stay fresh.

Breakfast starts at 5 a.m. with a continental option. A full breakfast is served from 6 to 11:30 a.m. Options include muesli, scrambled eggs (plain and also with add-ins like shrimp and scallions), pastries, oatmeal and cereal. There's also an excellent international selection, including rice, hot soups, baked beans and grilled tomatoes. Eggs and omelets can be made to order, and it was actually one of our favorite parts about the buffet. You place your order, and the chef hands you a ticket. Once you're seated, a waiter takes your ticket and brings you your order when it's ready. This is similar to the approach used for beverages; you order orange juice or coffee, for example, from a waiter, and he or she will bring it to you. This eliminates lines at omelet and beverage stations. Breakfast items are good, especially the made-to-order eggs. Fruit options change each day, but there's plenty for those looking for something a little lighter.

Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. The options at lunch, too, are varied, with carving stations, made-to-order sandwiches, cold salads and salad bars. We especially liked the salad bars, which grouped items together by salad type, so you could throw together eggs, bacon, avocado and greens for a Cobb salad at one station or romaine, anchovies, lemon, Parmesan and Caesar dressing for a Caesar salad at another.

Dinner, from 5:30 to 11 p.m., offers themed options on certain nights. One night, you might get sauerkraut and various sausages for German night; another you might find fried fish and chips for English Pub night.

Teatime takes place each day from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. An elegant tea service is also available on sea days in the Piazza; this one comes at a cost of $10 ($20 if passengers opt for the addition of sparkling wine).

Pastry Shop (Deck 16): An extension of Horizon Court and Horizon Bistro, the Pastry Shop feels like a real pastry shop, complete with glass cases that show off the work of the pastry chefs each day. The selection is pretty typical of a cruise ship dessert buffet with one addition: Special chocolate desserts, whose recipes are crafted by Norman Love, are available for a fee (in the mornings, there's usually a dedicated Norman Love pastry, but get there early as it usually runs out). Some days, you can find a chocolate fountain there; tell the server which items you want for dipping (things like pound cake, strawberries and pineapple), and he'll stab them for you, a tasty and hygienic approach to this popular option.

Swirls Ice Cream Bar (Deck 16): Swirls is located on the Lido Deck, and during the day, you can grab soft-serve ice cream there. At night, it's where you can find popcorn to enjoy while watching Movies Under the Stars. Swirls is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Prego Pizzeria (Deck 16): Prego is convenient for those passengers who are spending time at the pool and don't want to head inside for a meal. The pizza doesn't compare to that served at Alfredo's, though, so if you're really craving good pizza, head to Deck 6 instead for a great pie. Prego offers a typical selection of pizza -- pepperoni, margherita or cheese, for example. Prego Pizzeria is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Trident Grill (Deck 16): During the day, Trident Grill serves burgers (both meat and veggie), hot dogs and grilled chicken breasts. At night, it becomes a barbecue joint (though burgers are, of course, still available). This, too, is a nice poolside option, but Horizon Court and Horizon Bistro are so good, you're better off there. The Trident Grill is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; the BBQ starts at 6 p.m.

Room Service: The room service menu is solid, with egg sandwiches, fruit and cereal for breakfast and sandwiches, soups, salads, hot entrees and pastries for lunch and dinner. Typically, there's no charge for room service (with one exception: if you order pizza, you'll be billed a nominal charge). Tipping of a dollar or two is appreciated. Room service is served 24 hours a day.

Fee Dining

Passengers have plenty of options for spending money on dining on Regal Princess, but the ship really only has two true restaurants: Sabatini's and Crown Grill. Each is a good value when compared with other fee-at-sea restaurants.

Gelato (Deck 5); a la carte pricing: Get dishes, cones and sundaes, as well as crepes, at Gelato. It's open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Sabatini's (Deck 5); $25 per person: The Sabatini's menu offers an appetizer/soup/salad course (many people order several of these), a pasta course and an entree course. There's also rotating "off-the-menu" chef's specials each night. Items are fairly traditional, and they lean heavily toward seafood, though people who don't eat fish will still have plenty to choose from. Make sure to try the calamari cone, which is good for splitting with two or more, as well as the burrata, which is supremely creamy and salty and tastes really fresh. The lobster three ways is also excellent, but it's small (and really, it's lobster two ways, with a lobster sauce). Those looking for something traditional and rustic should try the lombata, a delicious veal chop served with a spiced ragout and tangy Barolo glaze. Disappointing at Sabatini's is the lack of atmosphere. Lighting is bright and there's no background music to soften the mood. We also found that wait staff were neither educated about the menu or the wine list. Sabatini's is open for dinner from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Winemaker's Dinner (Symphony, Deck 5, and Concerto, Deck 6); $40 per person: Passengers can dine in semi privacy in small areas in the Symphony and Concerto dining rooms. The Winemaker's Dinner is a special menu that pairs each course with a specific wine from one winemaker. The winemakers vary each night, so wines (and menus) change for each dinner. The menu is set and includes a chef's prelude, appetizer, soup, entree and dessert. Wine is free flowing, and chances are good that you'll find at least one to spark your fancy. Contact guest services to find out when and where the Winemaker's Dinner is available.

Chef's Table Lumiere (Allegro, Deck 6 ); $115 per person: The Chef's Table Lumiere is really an experience, rather than a venue, though the table space -- part of Allegro Dining Room -- is something to behold, with its crystal privacy "curtains of light" and incredible Murano glass table centerpiece. It includes a tour of the main galley, hosted by the maitre d' and executive chef, where you'll sample appetizers and partake in a Champagne toast. The dinner includes a specially created menu and wine pairing. Contact guest services to find out when the Chef's Table is available.

Crown Grill (Deck 7); $29 per adult, and $14.50 for children ages 3 to 12: Crown Grill is a true chophouse, serving beef (one person at our table pronounced the ribeye the best she'd ever eaten), veal, lamb and pork chops, as well as a variety of steaks. Sides are served family-style, and appetizers (including the lamb loin Carpaccio) are excellent, though wholly unnecessary for a meal that size. Servers take the time to explain the various cuts of steak (when you enter the restaurant a maitre 'd shows you a meat cart and explains each option). One interesting feature on the menu is its gourmet salt choices – these include varieties such as Hawaiian Black, Smoked Applewood and Himalayan Mountain Pink.

Save room for dessert, and give the sampler a try -- that way, you don't have to choose. Crown Grill is open 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar (Deck 7); a la carte pricing: Located on the Piazza, passengers can have drinks there in addition to tapas portions of sushi, ceviche and caviar. Edamame, wakame and various small salads are "free" with the purchase of drink. Sushi, sashimi, nigiri and poke are fairly standard, with mostly tuna and salmon options. The oyster shooters are fun and spicy. A surprisingly large variety of smoked and cured fish is available, and it can be paired with premium vodkas. Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar is open from 4 to 11 p.m.

Crab Shack, (Deck 16, in the Horizon Court); $29 per person: Offered as an alternative to formal night dining, which on our cruise was held twice, a portion of the Horizon Court turns into a traditional crab shack, with brown paper on the tables, lobster bibs and cracking tools galore. Menu options like hush puppies, mudbug boils and steamer pots are really meant to be split between at least two. The food is good (try the shrimp spiced with Old Bay), but there's nothing available for those who don't like seafood. Waiters are more than willing to get something for passengers off the buffet or from the main dining room menu, however. While there's a fee for the restaurant, it's not private, and you'll be dining nearby others who are eating at the buffet. When it's open, the Crab Shack operates from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

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