Have you ever wondered what it’s like to dine aboard ship on the Carnival Cruise Line? In this perfectly long post, I’ll walk you through two years of terrific meals on board the Carnival Dream. The Dream is one of Carnival’s largest ships, so the offerings here will give you a good idea of what food you can find across the fleet. All in all, we have been really pleased with the food. It’s great. There’s tons to like. Let’s dive in!
It’s quiet on board the ship in the morning. I like to get up nice and early, before anyone else in my family, and just get some fresh air and watch the sun rise. It’s very peaceful. You’ll see tons of the smiling, blue shirted cleaning crew hard at work, and just a few other passengers enjoying the morning. But once the sun has come up, I bet you’ve worked up a hunger. Time to hit the breakfast buffet.
The Breakfast Buffet
The breakfast buffet has a wide smattering of choices, from custom made omelets to salmon eggs benedict, to sweet breads, pastries and croissants to sausage and bacon and even baked beans. There’s tons of fresh fruit and juices. And when you sit down, they’ll even come by with coffee and juice service and offer you more sweet rolls and pastries. It’s one of my favorite times to chat with the workers.
Here’s the salmon eggs benedict. I just love how that egg drips! It was so good that I had this a few times at breakfast. (And even a few times at the same breakfast!)
Here’s another shot, showing off the French toast and ham and those delicious grilled tomatoes. I loved those tomatoes so much that I had one every single day!
Sea Day Brunch
My kids aren’t young, so I haven’t hit up the Dr. Seuss brunch, but on sea days, I do really like to go to the Sea Day Brunch. They have this in the Crimson Dining Room which is mid ship on level 5. You just walk up and let them know your room number, how many are dining, and whether you’d like to be seated with other folks. I always choose to sit with other folks, and always have fun learning about where everyone is from and what they like to do on ship and in port.
Sea Day Brunch has all the sweet and savory brunch hits you can imagine. Here’s a copy of the menu so you can see what they have.
I am a fan of the roasted flamin’ tomato soup…
… and the huevos rancheros, which is a chicken quesadilla topped with fried eggs, manchego cheese, and some Mexican love. It comes with three sauces: green tomatillo, a deep red ranchero, and some salsa fresca.
They also do an express brunch on port days. Here’s what that menu looks like.
I like to have the avocado toast with whole wheat toast, local greens, red pepper flakes, lemon, and two beautiful poached eggs. It is an awesome breakfast, and just the thing to get you ready for a day of exploring!
Ahh, the lunch varieties! There’s so much going on for lunch aboard ship. You can go to the buffet up on the Lido deck (including the Mongolian Wok), or hit up one of the Lido restaurants. There’s Guy’s Burgers, Guy’s Barbecue (that’s actually down on 5), the pizzeria, the Indian restaurant, and the Mexican place called Blue Iguana Cantina. It’s really hard to hit them all and work through all the great stuff on their menus in just one week!
Guy’s Burger Bar
Let’s start off with Guy’s Burger Bar. This place is a hit and the lines can be long. Don’t worry, they move fast. Also, if you hit it up around 1:30, you will have little or no line. Guy’s offers a variety of burgers…
…and a variety of toppings.
You get your burger at the grill station along with a pile of delicious hot fries and then head over to the toppings bar and top it with whatever you want. It’s super easy to overdo it, which is what I usually do. One of my sons insisted he had 19 burgers in a week. Mind you we were on shore excursions for three of those seven days, so he worked hard at that.
I really like the fries at Guys: they’re real potatoes, cut down. They’re a little floppy sometimes, but they have a nice potato flavor.
The Indian Place
I love the Indian food restaurant on the Carnival Dream. As far as I am concerned, this is the best food on the ship for lunch. There are lots of grilled and sauced Indian options, and great breads, and then a whole host of Mediterranean salads, grilled corn, and spicy sauces. I’m a big fan of the grilled corn.
There was so much fresh variety that I ate here as often as I could. Here’s another pic of this great food!
Blue Iguana Cantina
I’m cheating a little here and showing you a burrito I got for breakfast. They don’t open up until 7:30 so I only had it once, and the lunch lines were so long that I didn’t go back for lunch! But my wife and kids really loved the tacos and lunch burritos here. This breakfast one was great.
They have this long line of salsas and toppings too!
I’m sorry I don’t have better pictures. My kids hit this up at least three times a day and night. The pizza takes about 5-10 minutes to make, but they’ll make it up fresh for you. They also have some ready on hand 24×7. This is the prosciutto arugula pizza!
The Mongolian Wok
The Mongolian Wok is a lot of fun. You select what you’d like to have wok’d up from a couple salad bars worth of items, and then they cook it in a big wok for you with your choice of pork, chicken, clams and mussels and sauces: black bean, Korean barbecue or Thai green curry. This was a lot of fun, and very filling!
I tried. I like Guy. He’s a riot. His Burger Bar is terrific. Guy makes fun food for fun people. This barbecue is not fun food. It’s not good food. And the lines are too long. It’s totally a pass. I honestly thought it was miserable and sad. But it’s ok to not believe me. Go get in that one hour line and try it for yourself. You might love it. But if you know barbecue, you might hate it. Good looking pictures though!
Sea Day Tea Time
At three pm on sea days, you can enjoy tea time in one of the main dining rooms. I got there late, so I didn’t get a bunch of photos, but you get a choice of teas and then the dessert cart comes rolling around. I had this bright lemon cake with a macaron and an apple cobbler. The lemon cake was truly the winner.
Dinner in the Main Dining Room
We never made it to the fancier restaurants that have added fees, but almost every night we made it to the Dining Room. The first year our table was a comfortable booth over to the side, and the second year it was a four top table in the center back portion of the ship where we had beautiful views off the back of the ship, through its huge floor to ceiling windows. It was pretty spectacular.
We really liked eating in the main dining room. You have three servers that focus on you, taking your orders and bringing you food, filling up your drinks and bringing you desserts. They clean the table between courses. The only requirement is that you don’t come in a baseball cap, flip flops, a swimsuit, or a sleeveless shirt (for men). We got a little dressed up each night, which for me usually meant shorts and a Hawaiian shirt and some loafers. Easy. There’s one Captain’s Dinner, which is usually on the second night. We do dress up for that. Basically church clothes: blazer, nice pants, nice shirt. Kids are fine without a blazer. Feel free to really dress up… some wear tuxes!
Dinner in the dining room is really spectacular. It’s some of the best food on the ship. All of the below items are free (but note the note about the lobster!). You can have as much of anything as you like, and so we usually ordered three appetizers each, one or two different entrees, and dessert. We always start each night by ordering the dessert cheese plate to have with our bread. Every single night when we showed up, there would be two cheese plates and a basket of bread waiting for the four of us. Like I said, the service is great. They really try to anticipate your needs.
The cheese plate had fresh fruit, a candied pear slice, brie, cheddar, blue, swiss, and gouda.
I’ll put a few menus at the end, but each day the menus feature a drink, appetizer, entrée and dessert from the local area. We usually chose at least one appetizer as part of our meal. The appetizers are sized to just be about three bites worth of food, or so. Don’t worry about what they’ll think if you order three appetizers or more. We did it all the time; most of the diners do so that they can try things they’ve never had before. Here’s several things we tried:
Shrimp Cocktail. I don’t have a picture of this because it looks pretty sad. A lettuce leaf, four shrimp, a wedge of lemon, some cocktail sauce.
Beet Carpaccio. My wife is a vegetarian and really loved this, especially the parmesan tuile!
For the rest of us meat eaters, here’s the Beef Carpaccio:
Braised Ox Tongue with Onion Marmalade on Crostini. This was a delicious slice of beef with candied orange peel and cranberry on a toast. I loved it. The kids freaked out.
Chesapeake Crab Cakes with Herb Remoulade. These were so beautiful and delicious!
Salmon Cakes. These were served on thick slices of tomato. I had never had these before, but really liked them!
Braised Rabbit in Puff Pastry Shell with Red Wine Sauce
Escargot. Yep. Snails in garlic butter with toast. These. Are. So. Good. And it was great to scare the kids with!
Mussels. I was surprised that they ordered these, but they were a huge hit with the kids!
Shrimp Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce
Fried Oysters with Remoulade
Flatbread with Cajun Shrimp
Bacon-Wrapped Scallops in a Pastry Shell.
Caprese Salad. This one kind of looks like it is smiling at me. The dark eyes are a balsamic reduction!
Don’t skip the soups! Carnival Cruise Lines has such wonderful soups! Rich and deep and flavorful, and just one cup in size so you have plenty of room for a few more apps! The soup service is really fun. For many of the soups, they place your bowl down with whatever chopped ingredients go in it and then pour the liquid soup around it. It’s a pretty neat thing to see, and the kids really felt special when they ordered it!
Here’s what the Gazpacho Andalouse looks like before they pour in the liquid.
And here’s a shot after they pour the soup into your bowl. Carnival does a great job with the whole soup-pouring presentation. It makes it feel special. The kids ordered soup each night just so they could have that extra touch.
Oh this Gazpacho. How I loved it. I could drink two gallons of this. I want the recipe. We ordered two of these each when they were on the menu!
Carnival even makes a Green Gazpacho!
Here’s the French Onion Soup. I could eat a gallon of this rich beef and caramelized onion soup!
Here’s the Manhattan Clam Chowder
The entrees are as wide ranging as the appetizers. There’s always chicken, fish, beef and pork, a local themed dish, and then a handful of other fun entrees. Here’s a sampling of what we had.
Lobster. There’s at least one formal dinner/Captain’s Dinner each trip (usually the second night). Our week-long trips had two (the second one was on the fifth night). On the Captain’s Dinner night, you can eat yourself full of lobsters for free. Yes, as many as you want. One of my sons ate four one night before he called it quits! On the other nights, those lobsters are $20 each.
Vegetarian Lasagna. This is really good.
Blackened Redfish with Fried Okra Garnish
Prime Rib with an Onion Ring Garnish and Baked Potato. This one looks a little fatty. Usually it’s not that fatty. But frankly, I’d order the flat iron steak instead.
Flat Iron Steak. We had a bunch of great steaks! These come with a baked potato and broccoli and your choice of sauces. I most often got the mushroom sauce, but there’s also barbecue sauce, béarnaise, and peppercorn sauces (you can also get ketchup and A-1 sauce!). Here’s a couple of pictures of these great steaks. They were absolutely terrific, but I had to stop ordering them so I wouldn’t miss out on all the other great items on the menu!
Island Citrus Tilapia
Fried Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, Brown Gravy and Broccoli. The chicken was great. They did it right, with crispy skin and juicy meat. We really tore this up.
Veal Parmesan. This was not as successful. Thick breading, thin veal, not enough sauce. But I like a lot of sauce. I had this with the succotash which you can see in that small bowl behind it.
Cinnamon Pumpkin Cheese Pie. For the favorite vegetarian in your life. This was dinner not dessert and was really good. A nice savory cheesy pumpkin pie. Mmmn.
The Vegetarian Indian Dinner. This was not as good as the Indian place at lunch. But nothing ventured nothing gained. Here are a couple of photos, since it changes each night.
Citrus Salmon Fillet
Carnival Cruise Lines does a great job with all the food, including all of the sides which are shown throughout the above pictures. My kids (ok, I’m lying, me too) loved the loaded baked potatoes. We had them every night with bacon, sour cream and chives:
Desserts are really good. We were hooked on the Carnival Melting Chocolate Cake and had at least one each night:
Here is the Tiramisu:
Blueberry Pie a la mode:
If you are just needing a break from all this rich food, you’re plenty welcome to have one of the cheese plates (we always got this for appetizers) or a nice fruit plate.
And for those on diets (I know, why?) there are diet desserts that have low or no sugar. I tried this strawberry mousse for the team. I recommend just skipping it instead:
As you can tell, we really take advantage of the main Dining Room. The service is great, the food is terrific, and it was a really great way to regroup with the family after everyone’s different adventures aboard ship that day. That’s quality family time that I will keep close, forever. Carnival knows what it is doing. It’s a class operation, and we’re going back again this year.
An Assortment of Menus
Here are an assortment of menus over the last two summers. Note that the menus rotate, so not every single thing is available each night, although many are available your whole trip. I’ve also included the menus for breakfast, daytime and late night dining in your room! Some caution with these in-room menus: in January 2019, Carnival announced that all in-room dining will now carry charges. At least you can see what is on offer!