Star Flyer offers plenty of choice within its one restaurant, and the quality of the food is very good, but not gourmet. Presentation is elegant, and the fish dishes were consistently excellent. The Captain's Dinner menu got high marks (lobster, lamb -- even the veggie dish was really tasty), and the soups were always perfect.
If you're looking for a bite outside of meal times, substantial snacks are served twice a day during the cocktail hour and -- as one of few ships that still uphold the tradition -- at midnight. Other than some fruit at the Piano Bar, you're out of luck if you get the munchies between meals.
Clipper Dining Room (Deck 2): Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served in the Clipper Dining Room and included in the fare. A crew member ringing a bell heralds the start of mealtimes. Meals are open seating at breakfast and lunch, so you choose your own table. At dinner, the maitre d' will seat you, wherever possible with people who speak your language. Breakfast and lunch are both served buffet-style, and dinner is a sit-down served meal.
The low-ceilinged dining room has booths for six along the walls, and tables for four, six or eight in the center. At all meals, you can choose to dine at any time within the restaurant's operating hours.
Breakfast options include cereal and muesli, yogurt, fresh fruit, juice, meats and cheeses, an omelet station, toast and spreads, pastries and hot options (bacon or sausage, potatoes, scrambled eggs, pancakes, crepes or French toast). Sometimes there are rather curious choices such as hearty chicken dishes and cooked vegetables that wouldn't be out of place at dinner, but that didn't deter some passengers from tucking in. Coffee and tea are served once you're seated. (Tea drinkers, look for the extensive tea menu on each table, which also includes a detailed guide to the optimum steeping times). The breakfast buffet is available from 8 to 10 a.m. every morning (sometimes from 7:30 a.m. on port days).
Lunch is typically served from noon to 2 p.m. and is themed -- French, Italian, Asian, seafood -- though not all the dishes follow the theme. Deli meats, a selection of cheeses and breads, and an impressive array of salads are always available, and a variety of hot options change daily. A carving station with, for example, a leg of lamb, roast turkey, suckling pig or a whole salmon and a made-to-order pasta station round out the selection of main dishes, and a large variety of cakes, pudding and fresh fruit are available for dessert. Waiters offer complimentary water or iced tea, or you can order drinks from the bar.
Dinner is served from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. You can arrive with your dinner party and the maitre d' will seat you together -- or he'll place you wherever a spot is free. The menu each night includes two starters, a soup, a salad, a sorbet, four main courses (one vegetarian and one Chef's special -- often a local dish) and three desserts (one is typically ice cream), as well as a cheese course. One nice touch is that every evening prior to dinner, the menu is posted in the Tropical Bar along with a plate of each starter and main course. Not only is it helpful to see what your meal will actually look like, but it's quite a social activity -- it became a ritual for many of us to try to identify which menu listing goes with which plate and debating the merits of lamb versus lobster, fish versus steak.
In addition, you can always request a few basic dishes, such as pasta, consomme or steak and fries, which are on the "always available" menu. The chef is flexible, too; for example, one night, we asked for the "pike on a bed of risotto" without the fish and a decent-sized portion of risotto arrived. Diners can also order two or more starters, or a combination of dishes, if that's what they fancy.
A typical menu might include palm hearts with avocado mousse or seafood in a filo pastry parcel, followed by cucumber cream soup or apple and carrot sorbet. There is always a daily small salad, such as chicory and orange or radicchio with pine nuts that can be ordered after, or instead of, an appetizer. For mains, expect dishes such as sole and vegetables served in a lemon butter sauce, filet of pork with Gorgonzola sauce, lamb curry or vegetable tempura. Desserts might include cheesecake with a cherry compote, almond cookies with red berry compote or ice cream.
Each week there is a five-course Captain's gala dinner, featuring lobster as a main course option and finishing up in traditional style with a flaming baked Alaska dessert, which is paraded round the darkened dining room by the staff.
Star Flyer has a decent and reasonably priced wine list, featuring mainly European wines, and a good house white or red starting at €16 a bottle. The most expensive wine on the list is a Louis Jadot, Puligny-Montrachet Burgundy for €45. Suggested wine pairings are listed on the daily menu. If you don't finish a bottle in one sitting, the wait staff will store it for you for the next lunch or dinner.
Piano Bar (Deck 3): Early or late risers will find a small selection of juice, pastries and spreads in the Piano Bar from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. A self-serve tea and coffee station is located at the end of the bar, and is a godsend on blustery days at sea when sitting on deck gives you a chill. The hot beverage station and a display of fruit in the Piano Bar are the only 24-hour dining options on the ship.
Tropical Bar (Deck 3): The most highly anticipated meal onboard is the five o'clock snack (officially referred to as "cocktail hour with hors d'oeuvres"). It consists of cookies, finger sandwiches, fruit and a hot treat (quiches, waffles, chicken fingers). Although snack is called for 5 p.m., by 4:45 p.m. everyone is peckish after a day in the sun and starts to eye the offerings. By the stroke of 5 p.m., the Tropical Bar is the site of a minor feeding frenzy.
On the flipside, the least celebrated meal is the midnight snack. Only the late-night bar crowd -- a small minority of the passengers -- indulge in this final meal of the day, which is probably why it comprises one solo, usually meaty dish -- chicken fingers, fried calamari, meatballs and so on.
Once a week, there's a barbecue on deck by the Tropical Bar. The ship's staff set up serving lines with the usual cold lunch items, plus grilled burgers, hot dogs, chicken, fish and corn; there was also a roasted whole pig.
Room Service: There's no room service onboard; however, if someone is feeling seasick, there's no problem in taking some comfort food to the cabin on a tray.