Royal Princess presents a wide variety of dining options, most of which are generally tasty. It's a ship that offers something for everyone, from grill bites and two pizza joints to specialty seafood, steaks and Italian. Look for "one time only" eating options such as the Crab Shack and Pub Lunch; both are worth advance reservations once you're onboard. Most dietary preferences and allergies are accommodated, although these aren't necessarily marked everywhere.
Princess has worked on improving its wine list, teaming up with wine expert Doug Frost, one of four people in the world to have both a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier certification. The redesigned wine list encompasses 142 choices from around the world, most at prices under $50.
Allegro, Symphony and Concerto (Decks 5 and 6) Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D)
For the main dining room experience, Royal Princess offers "anytime" and "traditional" modes of evening dining in three different restaurant venues. Allegro, on Deck 5, offers only set-seating/set-tablemates options (typically at 5 and 7:15 p.m.), while Symphony has open seating between 5 and 9 p.m. Concerto offers a mix, with a first seating at 5 p.m.; anytime dining starting at 7:15 p.m. and Club Class dining from 5 to 9:30 p.m. All offer the same menu, with the most special menu items occurring on formal nights.
Allegro is the only one of the three to be open for breakfast daily (7 to 8:30 a.m.) and lunch on sea days (noon to 1:30 p.m.). Allegro is also the site of the ship's free afternoon tea from 3 to 4 p.m. daily.
All three MDR's offer vegetarian, heart-healthy and Lotus Spa (lower in sodium, fat and cholesterol) menu items for those with dietary restrictions.
The restaurants have a nice range of table sizes, including plenty of two- and four-tops for more intimate dining, and also larger tables for groups of eight or more. One note, though: Those who opt for the open-seating venues at busy times may be encouraged to dine at large tables with other passengers, even if a smaller table is requested, to avoid a longer wait time.
Horizon Court/Bistro (Deck 16) Meals: B, L, D
The Horizon Court buffet has a station layout with food "venues" that include a taqueria, rotisserie, sandwich shop and Japanese hibachi grill. It never feels too crowded, even at peak times. At night, the Horizon Court becomes the Horizon Bistro, offering an interactive experience with themed events and specialty serve-yourself dinners. On certain nights, passengers may find a Brazilian churrascaria, Argentine gaucho theme, German beerfest, European bistro or British pub. There is no extra fee for themed events.
Within the Horizon Court is The Pastry Shop, a dedicated room for all types of free baked goods; classic and modern desserts at lunch and dinner; tea sandwiches, cookies, desserts and waffles at tea time; and special show pieces and flambes in the evening. There are also pastries available elsewhere in the Horizon Court.
Prego Pizzeria (Deck 16) Meals: L, D
This pizza counter by the pool offers three types of grab-and-go slices (compared with the more varied menu that includes salads and thinner crust pizza at sit-down Alfredo's).
Trident Grill (Deck 16) Meals: L, D
Another poolside venue; during the day you'll find hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken sandwiches here. At night, the Trident Grill is transformed into a traditional "smokehouse-style" barbecue.
Swirls Ice Cream (Deck 16) Meals: Snacks
Free soft serve ice cream, located by the pool.
Wheelhouse Pub (Deck 7) Meals: L
Once per cruise, there's a British pub lunch in the Wheelhouse Pub and adjoining Crown Grill, serving up a simple menu. It does get popular, however, so best to arrive early.
Alfredo's Pizzeria (Deck 6) Meals: L, D
This Neapolitan-style pizzeria offers traditional, hand-stretched pizza, along with antipasti and desserts, in an enclave just off the Piazza. It's fun for people-watching, and the pizzas are generally good.
International Cafe (Deck 5) Meals: B, L, D
The coffee drinks here cost money but the food is all free. Located in the Piazza and open 24 hours, this spot works well for a light bite anytime. You'll find a selection of delicious pastries, quiche, hot breakfast sandwiches, freshly baked cookies, panini sandwiches, salads and desserts.
Room service is offered 24 hours a day, with salads, sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers available, as is a continental breakfast via a door-hung card.
Sabatini's (Deck 5); $29 for adults, $14.50 for children ages 3 to 12 Meals: D
Sabatini's focuses on Northern Italian food with dishes that include pasta, seafood and traditional entrees. It's an elegant spot, with a centerpiece featuring a wine display. The veal dishes are outstanding, as are the pastas. Vegetable antipastis also stand out.
Gelato (Deck 5); a la carte ($2.75 to $6.50) Meals: L, D
This space on the Piazza feels more like an American ice cream parlor than a traditional Italian-style gelateria. It serves ice cream, sundaes, sweet crespelle (Italian crepes), fruit smoothies, shakes and homemade waffle ice cream cones.
Chef's Table Lumiere (Deck 5); $115 with paired wines, $100 without Meals: D
Held once per cruise, this new approach to a chef's table has an executive chef cooking dinner and explaining techniques to an exclusive group of passengers. Royal Princess' version adds a "curtain of light," which surrounds the diners and creates a private, softly lit space in the center of Allegro. It books up quickly so reserve in advance.
International Cafe (Deck 5); a la carte Meals: Snacks
While the pastries are free in the International Cafe, you can also have an extra-fee upgraded version of tea (known as the Royal Tea, with proper tower of savories and sweets versus waiter-served one-offs at the free one) or with Champagne, every day at 3 p.m. Specialty coffees are also available at all times for a fee.
Wine Maker's Dinners (Deck 5 or 6); $40 per person Meals: D
Surrounded by wine bottles, these circular and private spaces off the Symphony and Concerto dining rooms are inspired by wine cellars and seat up to 12 people. Diners can enjoy specialty menus developed with winemakers and paired with wines. Bookings can be made at the reception desk.
Crown Grill (Deck 7); $29 for adults, $14.50 for children ages 3 to 12 Meals: D
With its signature theater-style open kitchen, the Crown Grill has a menu of chops, seafood and premium sterling silver steaks. This is lovely place for a date night.
Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar (Deck 7); a la carte ($4.50 to $70) Meals: L, D
Princess' response to the increased demand for raw bars at sea serves sushi, sashimi, ceviche and caviar. You also get a complimentary dish, such as edamame or wakame, with each drink. It's in a great spot on Deck 7 overlooking the whole Piazza.
Crab Shack (Deck 16); $29 per person Meals: D
Once per cruise, Princess also offers the Crab Shack, a fun spot cordoned off from the buffet that comes with mallets, bibs and buckets. Dishes include crawfish in a bayou-style "Mud Bug" boil, spiced peel-and-eat shrimp or a mixed steamer pot filled with snow crab legs, jumbo shrimp, clams and mussels. Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are recommended.