The Waterfront is open for breakfast on sea days from 7.30 a.m. to 9.30 a.m.; on port days from 6.30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; and on turnaround days 6 a.m. to 7.30 a.m. For a 'sweet' alternative there are nine options -- from toasted pear and raspberry sourdough bread to vanilla bean porridge. The breakfast menu also lists a dozen savoury delights from the more standard big breakfast to maple scrambled eggs with crispy bacon and toast, or grilled black pudding with two fried eggs over-easy, onion, potatoes, bacon rashers and sticky apple jam, or ham hock and homemade beef casserole with poached eggs and crusty bread.
When it's lunch service on a sea day, the Waterfront is open from noon to 2 p.m. on sea days. On a turnaround day, it is open from noon to 2 p.m.
This is a good restaurant for lunch as many people will be eating on deck at The Grill or taking out plates of food from The Pantry to dine poolside. There are 10 entrees with dishes such as a Lebanese fattoush salad, cream of tomato soup and chicken pho. Alternatively, try one of three pasta dishes on the menu including gorgonzola and chicken penne, spaghetti bolognaise or zucchini and sun-dried tomato cannelloni. Mains include a cheeseburger with French fries, roasted half chicken, lamb rogan josh or fish and chips. Desserts are tempting and include crowd pleasers such as cookies 'n' cream cheesecake and a dark chocolate fudge brownie served with vanilla ice cream, as well as healthy options such as tropical fruit skewers.
The dinner menu, which is on offer between 5.30 p.m. and 9 p.m., offers a daily changing multi-course special and an a la carte selection accompanied by an extensive wine list. Entrees include a choice of four dishes such as Chinese lemongrass chicken with ponzu sauce, baked garlic and eggplant quiche and potato and leek soup. Mains included grilled swordfish steak, Mediterranean vegetable moussaka, steamed vegetable dim sum and crisp bacon linguini with white clam sauce. Four desserts finish off the dinner menu, with a choice of cheese or fruit platter, plus two sweet treats such as apple and amaretti strudel or mango and coconut parfait with chocolate sauce.
The Pantry (Deck 12): The Plantation Restaurant has been replaced by The Pantry, a light and airy dining area with a choice of eight different outlets, ranging from salads to Indian curries, sizzling noodles and Mediterranean inspired fare from The Pantry's newest offering, Nic & Toni's. Similar to a food court, passengers choose items from a daily changing menu at each venue and are served by staff members stationed behind a glass counter. The eight outlets, which have their own themed design, are Mexicana (tacos), Hook's (fish and chips), Curry House (Indian), Stix (Asian), Fat Cow (for meat lovers), Kettle & Bun (sandwiches, soups and salads), Nic & Toni's (Mediterranean) and Sugar Bar (desserts).
While some may mourn the demise of the classic cruise ship buffet, this cheerful dining venue is hygienic, less wasteful and equally (if not more) delicious, with creative plating and high turnover which keeps the food fresh and tasty.
Families and groups can choose from a variety of regular tables with chairs or padded-back banquettes, which can accommodate one to eight people; the high/long tables have enough stools to seat 20 people. However, during peak times, finding a spare table at The Pantry can feel akin to winning the lottery. Extra seating is available in Shell & Bones, which only opens for dinner, but even then, The Pantry struggles to seat its many fans. If the weather is good, head out The Pantry doors and enjoy your meal poolside or take it downstairs to the Oasis 18+ area (provided you don't have kids in tow).
In the mornings, breakfast items are served at each outlet, such as congee and fried noodles at Stix; fresh fruit and yoghurt at Sugar Bar; hot English breakfast at Hook's and Nic & Toni's; a breakfast carving, poached eggs and muffins at Fat Cow; pancakes, French toast, fresh and stewed fruit at the Curry House; and pastries at Kettle & Bun, as well as the usual bacon, toast and cereal, spread out over a number of outlets. Depending on what you feel like eating, you may need to visit different outlets to build your preferred breakfast. However, this isn't really a problem as the wait at each spot is minimal.
The food quality is good, hot and tasty with plenty of turnover to keep things fresh. Mexican dishes are excellent, with the option to add fresh chilli and jalapenos for those who like it hot, and sandwiches and rolls from Kettle & Bun are made with bread that is baked fresh daily. We found portion sizes to be generous but if you want a bigger serving, just ask.
Breakfast service runs from 6 a.m. to 10.30 a.m. The Pantry reopens for lunch service from 11.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (11.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. on sea days), closes in the late afternoon and serves dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Kettle & Bun is the exception, remaining open from 11.30 a.m. until 9.30 p.m.
Shell & Bones (Deck 12, a la carte pricing): Each evening the rear of The Pantry is closed off to create a separate pay-as-you-dine restaurant, which opens daily from 5.30 p.m. to 9 p.m. There is more 'shell' than 'bones' on the compact menu, which features dishes such as Singapore-style crab ($25), a hot seafood extravaganza ($50 for two) and Portuguese-style roast chicken. Sides such a grilled corn cobettes, garlic bread and potato wedges are complimentary as are the two kid's options of fish fingers or a seafood party plate. There is one dessert -- apple and rhubarb crumble served with New Zealand Natural ice cream ($9) -- which is excellent and designed to share.
We were impressed with Shell & Bones on the night we visited. Dishes were high quality, particularly for the price, and the plush seats and curved banquettes create a casual, upmarket ambience. While service is somewhat uneven, perhaps because the restaurant is still new, waiters were eager to please. Just beware of over ordering, particularly as each main dish is chargeable. Our 'succulent roasted chook' turned out to be a whole chicken (unexpected given the modest $15 price tag; we definitely didn't need one each) and the tasty crab and snapper cake was saucer-sized and an inch thick. Shell & Bones offers excellent value, provided you curb your enthusiasm when ordering.
Salt Grill by Luke Mangan (Deck 12, $20 to $49): This restaurant by famed Australian chef Luke Mangan is a 75-seater fine dining experience, with exceptional service and elegant surrounds. It can be booked for dinner from 5.30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and swings the doors open on sea days for lunch from 11.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. ($39) and high tea from 3 p.m. ($20). The dinner menu allows diners to choose one starter such as tapas, oysters ($2 surcharge each) and raw dishes, sophisticated salads or dishes such as tempura prawns or five spice cured duck, with golden beetroot, almond dressing, crisp pancetta and baby lettuce. One main dish can be selected from four types such as 200g tenderloin steaks, 300g scotch fillets, Australian lamb chops, BBQ Cajun spiced baby chicken or pork cutlets with the option to order multiple side dishes. There are also four fish dishes -- choose from barramundi, ocean trout, snapper and tuna -- with a surcharge of $22 for a roasted lobster tail. The eight desserts include the pretty-as-a-picture floating island, with fresh berries and fruit and Frangelico anglaise and the chef's signature liquorice parfait. Reservations are essential, preferably as soon as you board to avoid missing out. Whether you are celebrating a special occasion or simply enjoy good food, Salt Grill should not be missed.
The Grill (Deck 12, a la carte pricing): The Lido Deck takeaway kiosk offers a range of casual meals such as a bacon and egg roll, chorizo and egg roll, beef burger, pulled pork burger, pie with mash and peas, hot dog (all $3 each), pepperoni, margherita or Aussie pizzas ($9.50 each).
New Zealand Ice Cream Parlour (Deck 12, a la carte pricing): Satisfy your cravings for something sweet outside The Pantry where you will find 12 flavours of quality New Zealand-made ice cream, milkshakes, thickshakes and sundaes.
Room Service (a la carte pricing): Food, soft drinks and bottled water are available 24 hours, while beer, wine and Champagne can be delivered to your cabin from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Each item is priced individually.
Breakfast must be ordered the night before, with a specified time for delivery. While breakfast is free everywhere else on the ship, you have to pay for it if you use room service. Prices range from $3 each for toast, croissants, pastries, tea, coffee, hot chocolate and juice; $5 each for cereal, yoghurt and platters of cheese, fruit or meat; and $10 for a hot cooked breakfast. A $10 breakfast set includes one drink, bakery item, cereal, yoghurt and platter; a $15 set includes a drink, bakery item and hot breakfast item.
Light meals, priced at less than $10 per plate, can also be delivered to your cabin. The menu includes sandwiches (roast beef, tuna or chicken), toasted three-cheese panini, an Aussie outback burger, pizza, lasagne, steak and mushroom pie, wedges, nachos, soups and salads. Desserts include citrus cheesecake, chocolate fudge slice, cheese plate and sliced seasonal fruit. Cheaper snacks include packets of potato chips, peanuts and cashews for $3 to $5.