SuperStar Virgo Dining
Foodies will have their eyes on stalks -- and their nostrils twitching -- when they sail on SuperStar Virgo. Its fabulous array of restaurants ranges from the large windowed, 560-seat Bella Vista Dining Room (which serves international cuisine), to the exquisite Tatami Room complete with sliding screens, low tables and floor-level seating, where parties of six can indulge in a Japanese banquet and make like extras in "Memoirs of a Geisha."
Another outdoor venue is Taverna on Deck 13 for alfresco snacks -- and gigantic jugs of beer -- in a nautical setting, with a sail-effect canopy, trestle benches and tall tables set on wooden barrels. One deck down is Cafe Gelato, where you can round off a snack fest with an ice cream, an elaborate pudding or, if you must go all healthy, a fresh fruit juice.
Also located on the ship's upper decks is the indoor/outdoor Mediterranean Buffet for casual breakfasts and lunches. Elaborate amounts of food are available here but the mix of Oriental and Western dishes can seem a bit peculiar at breakfast time -- anyone for scrambled eggs with roasted potatoes, Thai fishcakes and prawn dumplings?
The downside of the buffet is that it's an absolute scrum during peak feeding hours; a better bet (for reasonably early risers) is to take breakfast in the Bella Vista, where -- joy of joys -- crabby night owls reluctant to face early morning company can get a table for one, no questions asked (and availability permitting).
Travelers on a budget will find the (free) lunches and dinners on offer in the Bella Vista pretty good as well, but on this ship it would be a crime not to make the most of the alternative restaurants on offer.
For between $70 and $75 Singapore per head, you can tuck into a multi-course Chinese banquet at The Noble House on Deck 7; feast like a rajah at the pretty Taj Indian restaurant on Deck 8; and enjoy top quality Italian cuisine in the small but elegant Palazzo Restaurant.
Both Asian and Western snacks are available around the clock at the a la carte indoor-outdoor Blue Lagoon (main courses cost from $8 Singapore), and there's also a huge, free-to-use 330-seat family-style Chinese restaurant, the Pavilion Room.
But for my money, the top place to eat is the 78-seat Samurai Japanese restaurant on Deck 8. This also has a sushi bar, the Tatami Room and two eight-seater teppanyaki rooms where you can watch chefs prepare melt-in-the-mouth steaks, fish and vegetable dishes -- peeling prawns one-handed, tossing bowls of rice in the air and catching eggs in their tall hats in a spectacular display of culinary showmanship. Expect to pay $25 Singapore to $168 Singapore depending on which set menu you choose, about a third of the price of a top-quality Japanese meal in London or New York.