Hebridean Princess Dining
Unlike almost any other cruise ship you care to name, all food is fresh and locally-sourced. Menus feature top quality fish and seafood, along with venison, grouse, pheasant and prime beef supplied by one of Scotland's classiest butchers, the aptly-named Campbell's. As far as the ship's very talented chef, 39-year old Edinburgh-born Paul Sim is concerned, top quality produce simply but exquisitely cooked is the order of the day.
Paul, who has previously worked for Silversea Cruises and some of Europe's top hotels, was in charge of cooking for the royal party, with the help of only four sous chefs in Hebridean Princess' small galley.
The Columba dining room is arranged to reflect the passenger breakdown, with two main tables -- the Captain's table and the Chief Engineer's table -- and a number of two- or four-person tables, depending whether couples wish to sit together; the solo travellers are all invited to dine with the Captain or the Chief Engineer each night.
Days start with still-sizzling cooked breakfasts of fried bread, black pudding, crispy bacon and perfect eggs, always with a special such as kippers or smoked salmon. There is also a buffet of cereals and juices.
Luncheon (as it is known) is a three-course serving, which might include devilled whitebait or a soup to start, followed by a choice of two mains such as boiled bacon loin or West Coast salmon or Oban Bay langoustines. You can also help yourself to a cold buffet.
Dinner menus range from crispy sea bream on bubble and squeak to mouthwatering Grampian venison on blackberry mash with smoked bacon cabbage, followed by spicy traditional Clootie dumplings or raspberry and whisky-laced Cranachan, with excellent local Scottish cheeses to finish.
There are two Gala dinners on each seven-day cruise, where haggis and "tatties and neeps" are piped in and the Captain makes an address.
The Columba dining room is as stylish as the food. Walnut-paneled and picture-windowed, its snowy-clothed tables are laid with fine china and glassware and embellished with richly-colored floral displays.
There are two wine lists -- an eight-page book which includes champagnes and dessert wines, and in which everything listed is included -- and a two-page list of premium champagnes and fine wines, which are priced separately. Unless you're keen to spend £300 on a bottle of vintage Louis Roederer Cristal, there's little point in venturing onto the latter list.
Two wines are suggested at dinner, but you can choose whatever you want from the longer list. Typical house wines might include a 2011 Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis and a 2008 Pinotage from Springfontein, South Africa.
All soft drinks, spirits and champagne (except the aforementioned premium brands) are included.