You only pay at Le Bistro, and it is about 25.00 a person. There are 2 full service resturants on the Dream, they serve the same dinner at each one, just depends on which 1 you get into, and yes there is a buffet. I did think that the room service menu could have been better, but I did enjoy myself. I was on the Dream last Oct, while in New Orleans.
The main restaurant is the Four Seasons, the largest, seems located in the center of the ship; the minor one is The Terraces, towards the end of the ship; Sun Terraces Tratorria -- where most of the buffet breakfast is served.
Le Bistro is the french restaurant -- you pay $15.00 for a complete lunch/dinner and $20.00 if you order the lobster and steak combo.
The food is just oh soooooo divine, gourmet food every single item, except for the Thai Salad. Mouth watering rack of lamb, don't forget to order their bread pudding, just out of this world ..... I will take this ship again for the food alone. And oh their wonderful desserts ..... can't say enough on the food....
Sailed the Dream 11/02. We MUCH preferred the aft Terraces dine room for all meals it was open. Great view over the aft pool out to sea. At that time there was also a no charge italian resturant you could choose for dinner and the larger mid-ship dine room was designated as formal on the optional formal nites.
Do be sure to try the dine room for breakfast as they have a rotating menu of specials plus all the standards. The eggs benedict and sardou are to die for. The frittas are really good and the blintz can be great.
We've sailed the Dream twice. Once from New Orleans and once from Dover for the Scandanavian Capitals. We preferred the Terraces at the aft of the ship. Felt the service was a little quicker and the afternoon sun in the Four Sasons can be blinding if you're on the western side of the ship. We could not get the staff to lower the curtains as people farther away from the window were enjoying the view.
The buffet is in the Sports Bar and Grill. Not a likely sounding place for it but that's where it is. It's a bit of an awkward layout but it's not too bad once you get past the welcome aboard buffet. Seating there is limited and the staff was a little too nice to gently move along folks who were dawdling after having completed their meals (by that I mean they were now playing bridge while others trolled for a table)
The Tratorria was divine. We dined there while sailing through the Kiev Canal and being followed by several hot air balloons. What a gorgeous site. There is no charge for that restaurant but reservations are required (although we did get in one night when business was a bit slow). Their tiramasu was heavenly.
My favorite spot was the Observation Lounge. It wasn't quite as good as the Viking Crown Lounges on the older RCCL ships but it was close. Nice view and if you are a Latitude member they offer discounted drinks each evening there. After the first night we never had to show our card again, they remembered.
I know people have mixed reviews of the Dream but we had a wonderful time on both our voyages. Because she was stretched the layout is a bit weird and can't always "get there from here" without going up or down a deck, or traversing the show lounge or the dining room but it didn't take long to get the hang of it.
The staff was courteous and experienced. This ship does a variety of itineraries so you can find her in a lot of places. I'll be glad to see her return to the Texaribbean this fall where we just might sail her again.
Oh yeh, I forgot to answer the part about lines and times. We tend to dine early (5:45 - 6) and we never waited more than a few minutes and that was seldom. It did seem to me from casual observation, though, that the Four Season had longer lines than the Sun Terrace, but maybe that's because my cabin was near the dining room and I was trekking through it frequently.
By the way, are you from Louisiana? I live in PIneville.
I'd like to affirm MB's opinion of the Sports Bar. We too cruised the Baltic last year on the Dream and, despite the few unfavorable reviews we had seen, we found the Sports Bar to be a terrific place to enjoy breakfast. As in many things, timing is everything. Once we figured out the least-busy time to arrive, it was a breeze. And the food was, in our opinion, very well prepared with an excellent selection. As for the main dining rooms, we also dined in the 5:30-6:00 time frame and never had to wait for more than a few minutes (with the sole exception of one formal night, when the wait was about 20 minutes).
It seems the breakfast crowd really hit about 8:30 or 9:00 on sea days. I'm usually up a bit before that so breakfast wasn't a problem for us. Of course, if it's a port day, and on the Baltic cruise there were lots of port days, most folks were chomping at the bit to get off and breakfast was pretty busy. So having said all that, best bet for breakfast is early beats late.
Snack stuff. As I recall the pool area buffet was open most of the time. There were some down times as they swapped over but I don't think it was too long. I don't think however they stayed open very late. There were usually late night snacks in the casino.
I do remember that they had fabulous cookies by the poolside.