Bounty of dining options on the Enchanted Princess: Travel Weekly

I make my living writing about food and travel; I worked as food editor at Real Simple and Food Network magazines and continue to be a contributor there and at other national publications. So I was looking forward to the promised gourmet culinary offerings on my first cruising experience aboard Princess Cruises’ Enchanted Princess, on a voyage that would take me to Spain, Gibraltar, France and Italy.

Though my dining experience on the Enchanted Princess wasn’t always smooth sailing, I can say that Princess takes food seriously and will not leave you hungry; I found the ship to be a playground for culinary adventurers with an appetite. 

Specialty dining

The culinary highlight for me was The Catch by Rudi ($39 per person), where Princess culinary director Rudi Sodamin has curated a seafood-centric menu. Favorites included a towering fresh seafood platter, buttery salmon captive inside a smoke-filled glass cloche and whole Dover sole. Here, seafood is treated delicately and presented with the panache Sodamin is known for (see his book “Food Faces: 150 Feasts for the Eyes” for a taste of his whimsical plating style).

The catch of the day, branzino, presented tableside by the maitre d’ at The Catch by Rudi. Photo Credit: Lizzy Briskin

I was lucky to dine at The Catch multiple times during my cruise, and I didn’t run out of enticing menu items to try. At The Catch, the waiters were professional and well informed about the menu, and they went out of their way to make each guest feel like they were in a fine dining room.

Crown Grill, a classic steakhouse, and Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria offered mixed experiences. The starters were light and tasty at Crown Grill, but the porterhouse was gristly and just seemed like a low-quality cut, unfortunately. At Sabatini’s, the tomatoes in the Caprese were mealy and flavorless (a shame in August on the Mediterranean), but the osso buco with risotto Milanese was tender, juicy and memorable. It was one of my favorite meals onboard.

The Ultimate Balcony Breakfast was a treat, with a caveat that there’s so much food it’s hard to find space to balance the plates of smoked salmon, pastries and fruit in your stateroom. Aside from the pastries, which were super sweet and bordering on stale, this was a high-quality, luxurious breakfast, and it’s always fun to eat in your robe with a view of the French coastline. 

An ample seafood tower featuring oysters, shrimp, mussels, clams, langoustine and lobster at The Catch by Rudi.

An ample seafood tower featuring oysters, shrimp, mussels, clams, langoustine and lobster at The Catch by Rudi. Photo Credit: Lizzy Briskin

If you’d like to go above and beyond for a special occasion on the Enchanted, consider the 360 Dining Experience or a wine dinner.

Princess partnered with Caymus Vineyards in April 2022 to offer a five-course menu with pairings curated by winemaker Chuck Wagner. Though the ambience of the Winemaker Dinner was special and the wines were delicious, the meal had some misses, including an odd first course of cold mushrooms on a bed of cooked romaine lettuce. The bomboloni dessert, however, called the Chocolate Raspberry Dream, was both stunning and delicious.

The buffets

The Enchanted Princess runs two expansive buffets at nearly all hours: World Fresh Marketplace and International Cafe. Breakfast options include a beautifully presented side of smoked salmon and freshly pressed, made-to-order juices as well as more standard fried eggs and pancakes.

Because of my mission to sample as many of the ship’s food offerings as possible, I mostly visited the buffet for breakfast, when it was always bustling. Specialty coffee drinks come out fast and furious, and there’s enough turnover at the steam tables to keep the flapjacks and French toast fresh and fluffy.

I preferred the DIY buffet options, such as a hot bowl of creamy congee with an array of salty toppings and the build-your-own bagel sandwiches, to the premade dishes. I found the square-cut frittata patties underseasoned and the steamed and roasted veggies overcooked and mushy.

Lunch and dinner at the buffets brought dishes from around the world, including Indian curries and naan, Filipino chicken adobo and Italian-American baked pasta. While largely flavorful and diverse enough to keep the palate entertained, I never found a buffet dish with any real spice. 

Standard dining options

If cruisers are sticking to a budget, the standard dining options offer enough variety to avoid food fatigue.

The Enchanted Princess has three main dining rooms: Amalfi, Capri and Santorini. The daily dinner menus are identical at each restaurant, as is the grand white-tablecloth decor. Though the restaurants are designed to give the effect of fine dining, the experience of waiting in line for a table (even, some nights, when you already have a reservation) diminishes the touch of luxury. 

A dramatic presentation of smoked salmon under a cloche at The Catch by Rudi.

A dramatic presentation of smoked salmon under a cloche at The Catch by Rudi. Photo Credit: Lizzy Briskin

Capri is a nice option for a sit-down breakfast or lunch if you don’t want to face crowds or you’re looking for something different than a buffet — it’s the only one of the three dining rooms open for breakfast and lunch. When I had dinner at Capri, the entrees included flavors from around the world, including Jamaican jerk chicken and fettuccine Alfredo. 

Here, as elsewhere on the ship, there were highs and lows. The shrimp cocktail (part of the Princess Favorites menu available every day) was large, sweet and well cooked, and the linguine with clams, was herby, al dente and included a generous portion of seafood.

On the downside, several of the meat dishes were overcooked, or possibly they became so sitting under plastic cloches for too long, and nothing was hot enough. The best bites I had in the main dining rooms were a crisp Caesar salad (another staple menu item) and the decadent chocolate cake for dessert.

For casual, all-day offerings there’s the Salty Dog Cafe, a poolside hangout with burgers and fries, and two wood-fired pizza spots: Gigi’s Pizzeria and Alfredo’s Slice. Gigi’s in particular offers super-crisp, fresh-from-the-oven pies reminiscent of the pizzaiolos in Naples.

OceanNow, Princess’ on-demand delivery service, uses the brand’s Medallion wearable device to locate hungry guests who order snacks, dessert or a cocktail nearly anywhere onboard.

I regularly ordered bottled water and coffee, which sometimes took five minutes to arrive at my stateroom and other times took over 45 minutes (at which point my cappuccino was frothless and tepid).

When I ordered pizza to my stateroom at an off-peak hour, it arrived in about half an hour, so while the cheese was still melty and soft, the pizza wasn’t piping hot from the oven. I’d have been better off visiting the counter at Alfredo’s Slice on the top deck. 

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