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Food

Food is an important part of the cruise holiday experience. There is a wide choice on the menus and the dishes cater for the different nationalities onboard. Anyone going on a cruise holiday can expect to come home a good few pounds or kilos heavier!

The food onboard MV Coral is good, but not inspired. We found the quality of the meat in particular, to be variable. At dinner, it was common to see one dish (often pasta) listed as both a starter and a main course, which was limiting and showed a slight lack of imagination. However, given the wide choice available, there was generally something to meet every taste.

The desserts were possibly the biggest disappointment on board MV Coral, although our waistlines benefited from that! While the sweets were well presented and looked appealing, they lacked flavour. Instead they were little more than ‘sweet’. As a former pastry chef and restaurant owner aware of the high quality ingredients available, I felt the ship’s desserts could be improved.

What the desserts lacked however, the bread made up for! An assortment of bread and rolls were available at every meal and were quite delicious.

Horizon Dining Room

The Horizon Dining Room

The Horizon Dining Room

MV Coral has one restaurant, the Horizon Dining Room, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The dining room is large and accommodates around 400 people at each sitting.

There were two ‘formal’ nights on board which were a great opportunity to get dressed up and put on the ritz. Dress varied from posh frocks and dressy separates for the women to dinner suits and casual jackets and ties for the men.

Each waiter in the restaurant has his own ‘station’ with a given number of tables. He (yes – they are all men) is assisted by commis waiters. You will normally have the same waiters serving you at dinnertime throughout the cruise .

Waiting staff

Waiting staff

The restaurant crew were polite and charming. They also had a huge sense of fun! There were a few impromptu sing-songs, and passengers’ birthdays and special events were celebrated by a group of singing waiters accompanied by guitars and a tambourine. One of our waiters kindly made paper flowers for each of the ladies in his care at the second formal
dinner – a nice touch!

The tables are laid formally with white cloths and napkins. Personally, I’d like to see the napkins starched and ironed rather than just laundered. Dessert forks are not included on the table, which made life a little difficult – chasing a frozen profiterole round the plate did result in a rather messy spill!

The net curtains in the dining room had been washed but never ironed, which took away from the presentation. These little details are the things which set the more upmarket cruise ships apart from the MV Coral.

Breakfast

Breakfast is served in the dining room between 8 and 9.30am. As we prefer to eat breakfast on deck, we didn’t breakfast in the Horizon Restaurant.

Lunch

Lunch is served in the Horizon Dining Room, normally between 12.30 and 2pm. This might change depending on the ship’s itinerary, but timings are always listed in the daily news sheet which is delivered to the cabins.

Lunch is based on ‘open-sittings’ with no tables allocated. Passengers are met at the door and escorted to an available table. The lunch menu is quite formal and different to the more casual buffet available on the Lido deck. Each course has a choice of dishes and is served at the table by the ship’s waiters. Drinks can be ordered from the bar crew who are also on duty.

We enjoyed one lunch in the Horizon Dining Room and shared a table with a German couple. Sadly we couldn’t converse with them as we spoke no German and they didn’t speak English.

Dinner

Dinner is held in two sittings. The first sitting is either 6.30pm or 7pm. The second sitting is two hours later at 8.30pm or 9pm. The meal timings are determined by the ship’s itinerary. If the ship docks at lunchtime for example, lunch is served earlier than usual to allow passengers as much time ashore as possible. Dinner time might be later to allow passengers who are on excursions time to get back on board.

You choose your dinner sitting in advance and your table number is allocated prior to the start of your cruise. It is a good idea to go and find your allocated table before having your first dinner onboard. With 350 – 400 people trying to get seated at any one time, finding your table can take time and does cause a bottleneck, particularly on the first night onboard.

Open-sitting dinners

During the cruise there were 3 evenings when passengers could opt to eat in the Lido Buffet in the evenings. On these nights, an open-sitting was in operation for dinner. Instead of the normal two sittings, the dining room was open all evening and passengers dined at their convenience.

Like the lunchtime service, you are shown to an available table. However at dinner, the waiters were careful to seat the passengers according to their nationality. This meant we shared a table with other English-speaking passengers during the open dinners.

The Lido Buffet

The Lido Buffet is on Deck 7 and adjoins the Café Brazil bar. A self-service breakfast, lunch and tea is available here every day for those who prefer to eat al fresco. An evening buffet was also available on three nights of the cruise. Outside meal times, the Lido is a pleasant place to relax in the shade and there is a drinks table service from 10am.

The Lido Buffet and seating area

The Lido Buffet and seating area

Although an open deck, the Lido is mostly covered by a permanent ‘tarpaulin’ canopy providing shelter from the sun, wind and if you’re unlucky, the rain.

Coffee, hot water for tea, and fruit juice are dispensed from self-service machines at meal times. The coffee is drinkable (but not noteworthy), and there is a good variety of tea bags available for DIY cups of tea. Coffee, tea, and water, etc. can be ordered throughout the day from the bar stewards and these charged to your shipboard account.

The Lido was our venue of choice each evening throughout the cruise. We preferred to relax in the cool of the evening with a drink rather than attending the evening variety shows in the Sirenes Lounge. Although very busy and often noisy at mealtimes with packed tables and a medley of different languages, the Lido was a quiet spot in the evenings.

The Lido also had its own entertainment with a DJ and music later in the evening. Nothing proved quite so interesting however as the pool cleaning ritual, which never failed to fascinate the passengers. The Lido overlooks the pool on the deck below and each evening, it was thoroughly cleaned by one of the crew. He seemed to be blissfully unaware of his audience above watching his every move!

Breakfast

Breakfast is generally served from 7am until 9.30am. Again, meal times can vary depending on the itinerary, but this is listed in the ship’s daily newsletter.

The breakfast buffet is vast – you really are spoilt for choice. With fruit – fresh and dried, and cereal and yoghurt to start, you then move on to the main course. In three separate buffet areas you can choose from a vast array of traditional bacon, egg and sausage breakfast or the continental selection of cold meat and cheeses. From the ship’s bakery comes bread, rolls, croissant, brioche, Danish and muffins.

This is a breakfast lovers dream come true!

Lunch

The selection at lunchtime in the Lido Buffet is as wide as the breakfast choice. Choose anything from soups, cold meats, salads, traditional roasts, chilli and pasta dishes to hot dogs, burgers and chicken wings or ribs. Two chefs are on hand, one carving hot roast-type joints and other creating some sort of made-to-order pasta dishes. We never put him to the test, although we should have!

Sweets, as we mentioned above, were generally less tempting. Great if you have a sweet tooth, but sadly not big on the flavour front. There was a reasonable cheesecake and a rather good chocolate muffin on occasions, but these were the exceptions, rather than the rule.

Afternoon Tea

Just to make sure nobody starved between lunch and dinner, afternoon tea and cakes are served in the Lido Buffet. Along with the self-service drinks, the passengers can treat themselves to a selection of biscuits, cakes and beignets (doughnuts).

The Lido BBQ
BBQ night in the Lido Buffet (at anchor by Mykonos)

BBQ night in the Lido Buffet (at anchor by Mykonos)

An evening BBQ was a highlight of the ship’s visit to Mykonos, giving passengers the choice of an informal dinner in the Lido or a sit-down meal in the restaurant.

We opted for the BBQ, simply because after a tiring time ashore the thought of dressing for dinner was just too much! We made the right choice. The BBQ was good, although the minute steaks left a lot to be desired. However the chicken kebabs and the ribs were delicious. The atmosphere was pure party and we enjoyed the entertainment laid on by the ship’s waiters, which was great fun and not to be missed!