National Geographic Sea Bird Dining
Lindblad's passion for local, sustainable food is the most notable aspect of its dining experience. Through various food alliances, the ship brings in as much locally sourced food as possible -- fruits, cheese, wine and beer, specialty meats (such as bacon or sausage) -- especially on the Columbia River itineraries. The hotel director or chef might even visit local orchards or farms while in port and bring back fresh produce. In addition, all fish served onboard is sustainable seafood. Sorry, shrimp-lovers, but the line doesn't serve it because of the number of other fish that are killed in the process of catching shrimp.
All passengers dine together for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the main dining room. It's lined with picture windows and banquettes running down the two long sides. Chairs and tables are in the middle. Meals are always open-seating at six- and eight-top tables, and you can seat yourself where you like. The dining room seats 66, and the expedition staff will dine with you, so there are no empty seats. Don't expect a table to yourself. Most Lindblad cruise travelers aren't looking for solitary meals; people are enthusiastic about meeting others, and conversation tends to flow easily.
Menus for the day are posted in advance outside the dining room. To get a better sense of numbers and to reduce waste, the dining staff requests you sign up for your dinner entree choice in the morning, though you can always change your mind later.
An early-riser continental breakfast with pastries, fruit, yogurt and juice is set out in the lounge (by the library) at 6:30 every morning. Regular breakfast is served buffet-style at 7:30 a.m. Cereal, oatmeal, bread and bagels for toasting are complemented by a changing assortment of fruit (often with a featured local fruit) and hot items like eggs, pancakes, French toast, croissants, muffins, bacon and sausage. Juice, milk, coffee and tea are available. The scrambled eggs were a bit on the "processed" side, but everything else was tasty. They even had Nutella for a decadent toast topping.
Lunch varies greatly, depending on the day's schedule, but was often our favorite meal. One day, we ate at a local establishment midway through an all-day tour; another time the crew set up barbecue fare (burgers, hot dogs, potato salad and watermelon) on the upper deck for an alfresco lunch. Typical dining room lunches featured a soup and either a buffet or family-style servings of simple yet tasty fare: salad nicoise, focaccia sandwiches and the like. And there were always yummy cookies for dessert. We were impressed at how well these options catered to various dietary needs (vegetarian and nondairy, for example).
Fruit and some sort of salty snack (nuts or trail mix) are laid out in the lounge between meals. At 6 p.m., complimentary appetizers (cheese and crackers, hummus and pita, fruit) appear in the lounge to accompany happy hour and the daily "recap." The hors d'oeuvres often featured local products, such as smoked fish and local apples, pears, and fruit spreads on our Columbia River itinerary.
Dinner is served at 7 p.m. and is a sit-down meal with waiter service. You choose your table and tablemates (unless they choose you first). The waitstaff is extremely agreeable and will do its best to accommodate your desires, whether that's bringing you a half serving of a second entree to try or preparing off-menu items like house salads and fruit plates. Dinner consists of three courses, but you only have real choice in the entree. Starters can be a salad or soup; there's only one option each night, but you can usually request a house salad if it doesn't appeal. For entrees, you can choose from the changing meat, fish or vegetarian option, or select from three always-available items (steak, chicken or chicken Caesar salad). One dessert item (local huckleberry creme brulee, cheesecake topped with area peaches) is offered, in addition to three flavors of ice cream or sorbet. Meals take about 1.5 hours -- no lingering, three-hour affairs on this ship.
Once per cruise, a special theme dinner is held (Mexican night in Baja, crab night on the Columbia River). For these events, the dining staff dresses up, and the dining room is decorated.
Passengers with food restrictions, other than vegetarians, should indicate their specific dietary needs on the pre-cruise forms or contact Lindblad in advance of the sailing. Once onboard, the hotel director will seek out all cruisers with special diets to make sure their needs are met.
There is no room service, except in the rare case of illness or injury.