We didn't eat lunch before we got in line to embark, so our first stop after going to our room was to go in search of food. Like most cruises, "basic" buffet food and some specialty restaurants are included in the price of your cruise, with some of the nicer restaurants incurring an upcharge. With Big One's egg allergy still a factor for less cooked eggs (i.e. no mayonaise or other egg-containing sauces, egg pastas, and no little egg bits in fried rice), we opted to spend most of our time at buffets, so my info about the specialty restaurants is limited. But hey, this is also Sue the Bargain Hunter, so why would I spend extra on food anyway, right?
So Day 1, after briefly wandering aimlessly, we found one of the restaurants that is buffet during the day and nice restaurant at night (Moderno, Deck 8 Aft if I remember right). The buffet was "meh", but was enough to tide us over until we wandered the ship more and found additional options. We discovered the Uptown Bar & Grill (Deck 15 Forward) - Think nice, big Five Guys type burgers, but with different options. Here's a photo of my burger from the last afternoon of the cruise - same burger I got the first day. Turkey burger with mozzarella cheese on the Italian roll. Mmmm.... burger...
Just beyond Uptown Grill is the Garden Cafe, a.k.a. the mega buffet. Honestly, we ate most of our meals there just because there was something for everyone and convenient - just five floors up from our room. Little One pretty much lived on cantaloupe and soft-serve ice cream for the week. Big One tried just about one of everything protein or carb (other than eggs and things containing mayo or custard of course). Hubby hit the omelette station nearly every morning.
The beauty of the buffet is that if you don't like something, just grab a new plate and try something else. The buffet is a giant square with the central kitchen in the center. Some stations are repeated on multiple sides like the "grill" section (where you can pretty much always find burger, hot dogs, and fries at any lunch or dinner), but there are more specialized sections where there was one corner where the food tended to be more Indian/Middle Eastern vs. the Asian section and of course the carving station at dinner time. Alas, I only discovered the last day that if I didn't want to stand in the omelette station line, that there was a separate spot that had pre-made omelettes (e.g. I got a Denver omelette that morning).
And yes, as noted, Little One was hooked on the soft serve ice cream machines. They are both located at the end of the buffet closest to the mid-ship exit that heads toward the pools. Yes, there's a real ice cream section to the buffet as well, but the kids LOVE getting to make their own soft serve cones.
So we didn't eat EVERY meal at the buffet. Other places we tried:
- O'Sheehan's is the "pub" - Their bar overlooks the Atrium area where a lot of activities take place so you can drink/eat and be entertained. Since we ate two meals the afternoon of the first day, we thought we'd just get appetizers at O'Sheehan's as "dinner". Keep in mind the appetizers you order are single person size, not table size, so the "nachos" were a one person supply. They also came with the sour cream already poured on them (*Yuck* IMO). We did go back for lunch later in the week and tried the burgers and fried fish though, and were happier with our choices for lunch. The fried fish was a thicker cut of proper fish (like you could see the layers separated vs. minced fish of Gorton's). If you want a view of the activities in the Atrium, plan to come at least 15-30 minutes before the event to grab a chair that directly overlooks if it's a busy cruise week. We also thought we'd try eating breakfast there one morning, but the fixed breakfast menu was pretty much all egg, no pancakes/waffles. (Uptown Grill had a small breakfast menu as well that was also very egg-heavy)
- Taste, Savor, and The Manhattan Room are the complementary (no upcharge) nicer restaurants, and all have the same menu. We ended up in The Manhattan Room the one night, which differs from Taste and Savor because it has a giant window for an ocean view, and they have a band with dancing after 7:30. The kids opted to try "grown up" food rather than eat off the kids menu. Big One has developed a fondness for red meat, and enjoyed his NY strip (although he did snap at me to stop trying to cut his meat for him after he was complaining about grizzle). Little One tried the rotisserie chicken, but was frustrated that it came slathered in gravy. For those seeking healthy kid options, they do give the kids the option of a fruit plate as their appetizer or dessert. For myself, I forget my appetizer but I got the shrimp fried rice which was good. Yeah, we didn't go back for "fancy" food though because it just wasn't fun with my kids.
- Alas, we never made it to Shanghai's Noodle Bar - While also complementary, it's was only open for dinner and had an hour wait the night we tried to go. We promised the kids we'd try to find something similar near home.
- While we didn't go because, well, we were being frugal, my sister-in-law and her husband who previously traveled on the Breakaway thought it was worth it to do the upcharge for Cagney's Steakhouse, which they described as being Ruth Chris-esque.
- We did decide to take the kids to the Cirque Dreams & Jungle Fantasy dinner show. I'll comment on the entertainment portion separately, but the food, while limited menu, was good. The only entree choice except for asking for the kids' menu was a beef tenderloin (filet mignon) with shrimp billed as "surf and turf" with a mozzerella / tomato / prosciutto plate as an appetizer and selection of mini desserts. Big One was happy but Little One again wanted to head up to the buffet for a snack after dinner (She again didn't want to eat off the "kids" menu, so I give her credit for trying it!)
Outside of the Breakaway, one meal we ate on our excursion was lunch at the Blue Lagoon Island Beach. Our excursion price included our lunch:
While not the burger from Uptown Grill, not a bad burger. You had your choice of beef or chicken burger or I think a veggie burger, fried plantain, French fries, beans & rice, plus grabbing fruit / salad and a single cup of drink. Plenty to eat and it hit the spot after some beach frolicking, but I'll spend more time talking about Blue Lagoon later.
So in summary, we all came back a little rounder, even with all the stair climbing we did all day on the cruise, because of all the tasty options!