Food is a big part of cruising for most passengers, and like most major cruise ships P&O Arcadia has food available in a variety of places around the ship – some at no additional cost and others for a fee.
About 400 of the Arcadia’s 850 crew are in food service. This includes everyone from chefs to dishwashers, all of whom are necessary to keep food flowing through the ship.
Meridian Dining Room
The Arcadia has just one two-level dining room called the Meridian Restaurant. It serves breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner daily. Menus are posted outside the dining room ahead of time so passengers have the opportunity to decide if that is what they would like or if they would rather eat elsewhere before they go inside.
Breakfast in the dining room is pretty slow so best done on a day with lots of spare time. You can get out a bit quicker by requesting a table just for your own group and asking for speed service, but speedier service is relative to the normal amount of time so still not exactly fast. They have a standard daily menu plus an extra item for each day of the week. My favorite, Eggs Benedict, was their Monday daily and they don’t have them on the Lido so that was the only chance to get them on the Arcadia. At least they come with actual runny sauce without having to ask for the sauce on the side like on some other ships where you just get a bit of dried up sauce clinging to the egg if you don’t ask for it on the side.
Lunch in the dining room has starters and for the main course regular or light options as well as a couple dessert choices. It didn’t seem as slow as breakfast in the dining room, but considerably slower than the Lido buffet. Something to do if the menu looks good and you have time for a leisurely lunch.
Each afternoon the dining room had afternoon tea with a variety of delightful goodies.
Dinner menus often contained very British items that needed translation from our British tablemates as we aren’t accustomed to things like Bubble and Squeak or Syllabub. Some things we had heard of before in travels to Australia like Bangers & Mash and Pavlova. The dining room has good food with fixed time early or late seatings on deck 2 or Freedom Dining on deck 3. I did give up on ordering any vegetarian meals after the first few I tried though. On a lot of ships the vegetarian meals are what I order most, but good as they would sound on the Arcadia’s menu, the actual meals I got were pretty odd. Then one day several other people at our table ordered a particularly delicious sounding vegetarian meal. I did not order it having not had good luck with them previously. That day the vegetarian meals actually came to the table looking as good as the menu made them sound and they all enjoyed it.
Buffet – The Belvedere
Besides the main dining room the other major food venue is the Belevedere buffet on the Lido deck. The buffet serves breakfast (continential 6:30-7 full English 7:30-11:30, lunch noon-3, snacks and afternoon tea 3-5, dinner 6:30-9:30, and late night bites 10pm-6am. Dinner themes vary, often food of a particular country.
Breakfast seemed a bit lacking compared to American ships. Most of the stations serve the exact same thing – Full English Breakfast. Which probably works for them since the majority of passengers are English, but we’re used to more variety in the food choices. There are no English muffins or bagels. They do have an omelet station, but no pancakes or French toast, though they do have an odd fried bread thing. Maybe it’s an acquired taste. Anything is better than marmite though, which is the British version of vegemite -Australia’s worst spread. Marmite is even more awful since even the Australians don’t like it.
On the plus side they do have pineapple juice as an option as well as orange or apple in the juice machines. They also have the best sweet rolls of any ship we’ve sailed on and their breakfast options include a daily fruit smoothie. After about 2/3 of the cruise passed we noticed a waffle iron at one of the Lido breakfast stations and it turned out they will make waffles if you can find someone to make them. They pull out a bin of old cold waffles from under the counter that were made who knows when and try to get you to take one of those, but will make a fresh one if you insist.
At lunch the only cold drink available is water. They do have milk dispensers which are intended for tea or coffee, but if you want a glass of milk it works for that as well. Coffee and tea are available, with a selection of flavored teas. No ice though. Too bad because if there was you could brew your own ice tea. I suppose you could have the room steward fill your ice bucket and make ice tea in the cabin since there is a tea pot there.
Lunch has more variety than breakfast at the buffet and with the addition of the Neptune Grill which serves fish & chips and fajitas as well as burgers, finding something tasty is pretty easy. They have some good desserts too. Some days they have something special like a selection of fancy cakes or a variety of pies.
Afternoon snacks on the Lido include some of the things served at tea in the dining room as well as a selection of hot foods that usually include things like mini quiche and french fries. One day they had a chocolate buffet complete with chocolate fountain.
The Neptune Grill on the Lido outside by the pool area serves burgers including veggie burgers, fish and chips, and several items that change throughout the cruise including their desserts. The serve yourself bar near the grill has things like tacos or sandwiches (different food on different days). The grill is open from 11am-6:30pm, the serve yourself area at lunchtime only.
Some days they had extra stuff out on the Lido by the pool at lunchtime. Sometimes there’s a barbecue and on Sundays they have Sunday roast with a variety of meats and side dishes including English favorites like Yorkshire Pudding.
Like all the major cruise lines, P&O has several restaurants where guests pay extra for premium food. Their selections include sea food at the Ocean Grill and Indian food at Sindhu. Recipes at both restaurants come from their Michelen star counterparts on land and food is cooked in the restaurant by chefs trained for that specific restaurant rather than in the main galley. Both are open for dinner only.
Caffe Vivo – Coffee Shop
Their coffee shop, called Caffe Vivo gives a free sweet or pastry with the purchase of coffee or tea.
Like most cruise ships, the Arcadia has a variety of bars with locations throughout the ship both inside and in some outside areas of the Lido deck.
P&O DINING ROOM DRESS CODES (From P&O’s Website)
Stylish resort or leisurewear is ideal for Evening Casual nights, for example casual separates or dresses for ladies and open-neck polo shirts and casual long trousers (not shorts or 3/4 length trousers) for men. A jacket and smart trousers can be worn but are not compulsory. Smart dark denim is also fine, but not trainers, football shirts or tracksuits.
Black Tie nights foster a rather special atmosphere on-board and we know that our guests adore dressing up and it has long been a part of the P&O Cruises experience, adding a touch of glamour and a real sense of occasion to evenings at sea. Seeing an entire ship full of people transformed into their finery is quite something to behold. Ladies wear glamorous evening wear including cocktail dresses, ball gowns or even smart trouser suits. For men, dinner jackets or tuxedos are the norm, but a dark lounge or business suit and tie can be worn as an alternative. You can also wear formal national dress and military uniform.
That sounds pretty fancy for modern cruise ship formal nights, but a lot of people came in clothes that would be suitable for most churches rather than anything super fancy. They did have a black and white black tie night and most people did stick with black and white clothing that day. There was a time when formal nights on cruise ships meant tuxedos and ball gowns, but since airlines started charging for luggage and people began to pack lighter the dress codes relaxed a bit on most ships.