If there’s one thing that’s for sure on a cruise ship, it’s that you certainly won’t be going hungry. The dining experience is actually one of the best things about cruising, with multiple different options of where to eat, elegant dining rooms and fantastic high-quality food. Last month I boarded Princess Cruises Crown Princess and did my best to eat my way around the entire ship during my 7-day Mediterranean cruise. Here’s a breakdown of the amazing options available…
Note: I have split the dining options into those which are included in the full-board package and the speciality dining options which come with a small surcharge.
The Main Dining Rooms (Decks 5 & 6)
There are three main dining rooms on the Crown Princess; Michelangelo Dining Room (Deck 5), Botticelli Dining Room (Deck 6) and Da Vinci Dining Room (Deck 6). All three of the restaurants are elegantly decorated with art from the corresponding Renaissance artist it is named after.
The main dining rooms offer anytime dining where you can book on the day or turn up and wait to be seated, and traditional dining where you can choose to dine at the same time and at the same table each day (early and late sittings in the Botticelli Dining Room), just like in the ‘Golden Era of sea travel’. You can also choose to either sit with your own party or join a table with other guests. Great for those travelling alone or simply wanting to meet some new people on board the ship.
All three dining rooms have the same menu, with a selection of Princess Cruise favourites which stay the same on every route, as well as a specialities menu which changes with the destinations. This is a fun way of trying different local flavours and delicacies, even when back on the ship. On the evening we sailed away from Marseille I even tried escargot (yes, I do mean snails) for the first time, and I have to admit, I quite liked them!
Horizon Court Buffet (Deck 15)
Horizon Court is a large casual buffet serving a changing offering of breakfast, lunch and dinner from 5am to 11pm each day.
In the morning, the buffet has plenty to offer from cereal, fruit and fresh pastries to sausages, bacon, french toast, pancakes and even a made-to-order omelette station. Horizon Court was definitely my favourite breakfast spot on the ship, being a big fan of an all you can eat brekkie!
For lunch and dinner the buffet options change from day to day, so even if you eat at Horizon Court regularly, you won’t be constantly eating the same thing. As well as a central salad station, there are a variety of pasta and noodle/rice dishes, soups, sides and in the evening a carving station with various meats.
Horizon Court does have it’s own large dining area, however, you can come and go to the buffet as you please, making it a quick and convenient option for grabbing a quick meal or snack to take elsewhere on the ship with you.
The International Cafe (Deck 5)
The International Cafe is located in the ship’s central Piazza and is the only dining establishment on the Crown Princess to be open 24 hours a day. As well as a good coffee and tea offering, the cafe serves a selection of light dishes including pastries, sandwiches, quiche, salads and cakes throughout the day and night.
The International Cafe was my go-to for a quick breakfast if I didn’t make it down in time to hit the buffet or main dining room (possibly because of a few too many cocktails the night before!). The hot egg and bacon breakfast muffin, which is available in the mornings, was definitely my favourite thing on the menu.
Slice (Deck 15)
Slice is the Crown Princess’ casual pizzeria, located on the ship’s top deck next to the Neptune Pool. Slice has a wood-fired pizza oven, churning out ready-to-go slices of margarita and pepperoni, as well as ever-changing local specialities. And for those after something slightly healthier, you can also grab one of the California artisanal toasts with Cali-Avocado or Caprese toppings.
A slice of pizza may not sound like a lot, however, the slices are enormous and a couple will happily constitute a good sized lunch to be enjoyed pool-side.
The Salty Dog Grill (Deck 15)
Another spot for an indulgent poolside lunch or dinner is the Salty Dog Grill which serves a menu of craft burgers, hot-dogs, tacos and fries. The cheese and bacon loaded fries were my personal favourite.
Most of the dishes at the Salty Dog grill are included, however, there is the option to upgrade to the ‘Ernesto Burger’ for an extra $5. The Ernesto burger features a ground rib eye and short rib patty, grilled pork belly, cave-aged Gruyère, caramelized kimchi, beer battered jalapeño and charred onion aioli on a brioche bun, and has been voted one of the best burgers at sea. I can personally vouch that it is a delicious burger and totally worth the surcharge!
Coffee & Cones (Deck 15)
Alongside Slice and the Salty Dog Grill on deck 15, you’ll find Coffee & Cones which I guess is pretty self-explanatory. Coffees, teas, frappes and ice-cream cones all available to take away and enjoy poolside.
For a small surcharge, you can also get ice-cream sandwiches in exciting flavours such as the cookie colada, snickerdoodle and mint paddy.
Sabatini’s Italian (Deck 16)
Sabatini’s is Princess Cruises sophisticated Italian eatery, decorated with grand Roman pillars and hand-painted murals of Italian landscapes to give the dining room a rather romantic authenticity. Voted one of the “Best Cruise Ship Specialty Restaurants” at sea by USA TODAY, Sabatini’s is understandably one of Princess Cruises most popular restaurants.
Every dinner at Sabatini’s starts with herby focaccia grissini, rosemary flatbread topped with air-cured parma prosciutto and marinated green and black olives, just about wetting your appetite in time to move on to the antipasti, which includes cheese and tomato carpaccio, artichoke soufflé and calamari.
My favourite thing about Sabatini’s had to be the fact that you don’t have to choose between a pasta dish or one of the other delicious main courses, but rather, in true Italian style, you can have both! For the pasta course, you can choose between seafood spaghetti, braised short rib penne or spinach and ricotta manicotti, while for secondi you can pick from the likes of lobster, chicken supreme, steak and roasted veal (plus vegetarian options).
For dessert, I would highly recommend the chocolate tiramisu, which comes immaculately presented as part of the Princess Cruises ‘Chocolate Journeys’ program – a selection of chocolate desserts handcrafted by renowned chocolatier Norman Love.
Surcharge: $29 per person.
Crown Grill (Deck 7)
Ah, the Crown Grill… Where do I even start?
The Crown Grill is Princess’s onboard steakhouse, serving hand-cut cooked-to-order steaks and premium seafood. I’ve said it to many people before and I’ll happily say it again, my dinner at Crown Princess’s Crown Grill is undoubtedly up there with one of the best meals of my entire life!
Each one of my courses was not only beautifully presented but also full of unbelievable flavours, starting with the beef tartare with quail egg followed by the goat’s cheese and tomato salad. For main course I indulged in the 14oz rib-eye steak, cooked to utter perfection and complemented by the Crown Grill’s gourmet salts. Instead of individual sides, we were brought a selection of potatoes, creamed spinach, grilled asparagus and sauteed mushrooms for the table.
As if the meal wasn’t perfect enough already, for dessert we were each given ‘The Crown Dependance’ – a sampling plate of all of the restaurant’s desserts including a s’more stack, a molten chocolate fudge pot and a chocolate peanut butter bar (plus more). It’s safe to say I needed rolling back to my room after that!
Surcharge: $29 per person.
Crab Shack Pop-Up (Deck 15)
The Crab Shack is a pop-up restaurant which happens within a cordoned off area of the Horizon Court on select nights during the cruise, with guests donning oversized bibs to chow down on a variety of tasty seafood.
For starters, guests are brought a basket of popcorn shrimp and hush puppies with a bowl of clam chowder, followed by an entree of crawfish, crabs leg, shrimps and/or mussels, then nicely finished off with a selection of cakes.
Salty Dog Gastropub at the Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7)
A fairly recent addition to the Crown Princess, the Wheelhouse Bar is now home to the classic British-style Salty Dog Gastropub by award-winning chef Ernesto Uchimura. The menu includes dishes such as the Ernesto Burger (voted the best burger at sea), beef short rib poutine, toasted halloumi and lobster mac & cheese. There is also an elaborate drinks menu, with a selection of international beers and ciders, creative cocktails and award-winning whiskies.
The gastropub also serves a complimentary traditional pub lunch for all guests on sea days, with dishes including shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to try the Salty Dog gastropub, however, we did walk past at lunchtime on a sea day and it was extremely busy, so make sure to arrive early to avoid disappointment.
Surcharge: $12 for two courses.
The Chef’s Table is a luxury dining style which includes pre-dinner cocktails and hors-d’oeuvres in the ship’s Galley, followed by a special private dinner hosted by the executive chef who will individually describe each dish and flavour combination.
Unfortunately, this is a dining option we did not get to experience. But who knows? Maybe on one of my future cruises…