You will be assigned to one of the ship's three main restaurants throughout your cruise, and given a specific dining time. Food onboard is good quality and superior to many other ships trying to target this 60-plus British market. We noted that the chefs used spices imaginatively to enhance dishes in the main dining rooms.
Tintagel, Heligan and the Four Seasons (Deck 6): The three main dining rooms are all different spaces, but offer exactly the same menus. Tintagel is done in warm shades of red and cream, while the Four Seasons features stylish creams and chocolate browns. The smaller Heligan, done out in gold and olive, is off the Tintagel room and serves as a more intimate dining space than the two larger rooms.
The main dining rooms offer open-seating breakfasts (7 to 9:30 a.m.) and lunch (noon to 2 p.m.) and two seatings for dinner at 6:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
The chefs offer a good mix of mains that reflect the cuisine of the destination or the evening's theme, as well as excellent vegetarian choices and a British "Dish of the Day." Tandoori chicken, ribs in jerk sauce, smoked chicken with penne, a delicate Dover sole in a dill sauce and lamb shank are typical main courses. There are also three "Always Available" dishes if you don't fancy anything on the menu: grilled fish of the day, grilled breast of chicken or a simple pasta dish. Desserts range from cheese boards to traditional British puddings such as bread and butter pudding.
Breakfast each day features a well-stocked buffet, as well as a la carte items. Lunch selections cater to a broad range of tastes, from old-fashioned fish pie, curries and roasts to stir-fries and a pasta dish of the day. There's also an excellent salad buffet.
Secret Garden (Deck 6): This restaurant offers lighter, buffet-style meals for passengers who want more relaxed dining hours and no fixed seating. Actually, the Secret Garden would make a very attractive alternative restaurant (something the line may trial), but Fred. Olsen's older, more traditional clientele are resistant to the idea of paying supplements for a "special night." Even as a casual dining area, it's worth a visit, as its Oriental-themed decor and wooden fretwork screens make it very pretty.
Breakfast times vary depending on what time the ship calls into port and tour times, but it is usually available from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. or from or 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., with open-seating lunch from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. There's open seating for dinner from 6:30 p.m. to 9p.m. If you get peckish later, there is a themed "Supper Club" each night, which might be Caribbean, Irish or Middle Eastern cuisine available from 11p.m. to midnight.
For casual dining, hot and cold buffets supplement waiter service at breakfast and lunch. The ship's Norwegian ownership is clearly discernible from the high quality of seafood and fish dishes; seafood platters are regulars on the menu. There are occasional theme nights. Dinner menus include two or three main courses from which to choose, as well as a good range of curries, pasta dishes and roasts.
The Grill (Deck 6): The poolside area on Deck 6 incorporates an open-air venue -- an eatery added in 2013 -- which is open for breakfast and lunch for free, and dinner for a fee (see below). For breakfast, you can expect a set menu served at your table, which might include an omelette, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and a selection of pastries and juices; for lunch, food might include a selection of salads, burgers or freshly made pies. The Grill is open from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast, from noon (when the ship is at sea) or 12:30 p.m. (when in port) to 2 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. for lunch and from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for dinner.
Room Service: Cabin service is available at no charge 24/7. The menu includes a continental breakfast served from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.; snacks like sandwiches, pasta dishes and burgers served throughout the day; and tea and pastries in the afternoon only.
Boudicca has only one for-fee restaurant, which was introduced in the 2013 refit. This is new territory for Fred. Olsen; the typical Fred. passenger does not expect to fork out anything extra for food, and on our cruise -- even on Valentine's night -- there were just a handful of couples having dinner in The Grill. A coffee and chocolate shop, as well as fancy afternoon tea, round out the extra-fee food offerings.
The Grill (Deck 6); £20: This venue is an outside area with 10 tables, rather than an actual restaurant. It's free during the day (see above), but carries a £20 per passenger surcharge for the evening service from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The menu consists of three starters -- scallops, chicken liver parfait and ravioli-style pasta filled with lobster. The mains are either a seafood grill or a choice of three steaks: fillet, sirloin or rib eye. The desserts are chocolate fudge cake or strawberry panna cotta.
The food is good, but not exceptional: the steaks are not the prime cuts you might be used to onshore (or even on many U.S. cruise ships), and the scallops were not that flavoursome, despite the chorizo and pea puree. The highlights are watching the food being prepared in the open-plan kitchen and the superb personal service. It's also a lovely space, with the pool area behind, and not a thoroughfare, so it feels cozy even though it's outdoors.
Cafe Venus (Deck 7); a la carte: A dedicated coffee and chocolate shop, in the area around the Library on Lido Deck 7, opened in November 2013. Cafe Venus is the first of its kind across the Fred. Olsen fleet and serves a selection of speciality coffees and teas and luxury chocolates, with coffees starting from £2.10. (If you want a larger size you'll pay double that). They also serve chocolates, Turkish Delight and scones, all for a fee. The cafe is open from 7:30 a.m. to midnight.
Afternoon Tea (Deck 9); £6.95: Several times per cruise, usually on sea days, a premium afternoon tea is served in the Observatory Lounge for an added fee. While passengers originally grumbled about paying for tea service when it was first introduced, the teas are actually very popular and, if you're an afternoon tea fan, extremely good value compared to anything you'd get in a London hotel. A more ordinary afternoon tea is served every day in the Secret Garden with cakes, filled rolls and sandwiches. Tea dances, complete with a band and gentlemen dance hosts, are held on sea days in the Neptune Lounge. These are free of charge.