Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served in the Clipper Dining Room. The low-ceilinged room has booths for six along the walls, and tables for four, six or eight in the center. 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. At all meals, you can choose to dine at any time within the restaurant's operating hours (usually 7:30 to 10 p.m. for dinner).
Breakfast and lunch are both served buffet-style. 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). Coffee and tea are served once you're seated (tea drinkers, look for the tea menu on each table). The breakfast buffet is available from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. every morning. Early or late risers will find a small selection of juice, pastries and spreads in the Piano Bar from 6:30 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.
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, or a whole salmon and a made-to-order pasta station round out the selection of main dishes, and a 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.
Once a week, there's a barbecue on deck, held in 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.
Dinner is a sit-down affair. 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, I asked for the 'pike on a bed of risotto' dish to be modified, as I don't like pike, and a decent-sized portion of risotto arrived.
Star Flyer has a decent wine list, featuring mainly European wines, and a good house white or red at 15 euros a bottle. If you don't finish a bottle in one sitting, the wait staff will store it for you for the next night.
The most highly anticipated meal onboard is five o'clock snack (officially referred to as "cocktail hour with hors d'oeuvres"). Snack consists of cookies, finger sandwiches, fruit and a hot treat (quiches, waffles, chicken fingers) and is served by the Tropical Bar. 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, the Tropical Bar is the site of a 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 snack is one solo, usually meaty dish -- chicken fingers, fried calamari, meatballs and so on.
In general, though, I'd rate the quality of the food as good but not gourmet. Presentation is elegant and the fish dishes were consistently excellent. Captain's Dinner menu got high marks (lobster, lamb -- even the veggie dish was really tasty) and the soups were always perfect.
There's no room service onboard, although if, for example, someone is feeling seasick, there's no problem in taking some comfort food to the cabin on a tray.