One would hope that travelers to India would be open to at least trying the country's flavorful food. The chef on Ganges Voyager II makes it easy for even the most hesitant to take a bite, with spice levels that are severely dialed down for Western palates. Those who want hotter food can request chili-charged choices at dinner and a bowl of spicy sauce is always set out at lunch.
India is a boon for vegetarians, as many Hindus do not eat meat; meals on Ganges Voyager II usually have two or three delicious vegetarian choices. This is not the country to request a steak, however; in several Indian states, the slaughter of cows is illegal. Chicken, pork, prawn, fish and goat are all served up as options. Rice is the starch of choice, which should please those looking for gluten-free options; other items can be made available upon request.
Indian wine, beer and spirits are included in the fare and poured liberally at lunch and dinner. The local red wines taste a little immature, but the whites are more palatable. Premium -- i.e., international -- wines can be bought off the wine list.
Dining Room (Deck 2): The Ganges Voyager II dining room is a cheerful restaurant with square tables for four and two, as well as one round table for six. Larger parties can be accommodated by pushing several tables together. There are no reservations or set seating, and passengers can eat when they want to during service hours.
Breakfast is served in the dining room between 7 and 8:30 a.m., although the time can differ if excursion times change. The meal is served buffet style, with an omelet station and a la carte choices like pancakes, waffles and eggs Benedict also available. The buffet station holds several kinds of fruit, including dragon fruit and papaya, meats and cheeses, cereals, yogurt, muesli, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and pastries. There's usually at least one Indian choice as well, such as paranthas (stuffed pancakes) or besan ka cheela (a type of vegetarian omelet).
Lunch usually runs for 90 minutes, with the time varying according to afternoon excursions. It's also served buffet style. Hot items always include made-to-order pasta, a Western choice such as fish and chips, and several Indian options such as vegetable curry, local fish wrapped in a banana leaf and sauteed mustard greens. The spicy sauce for heat lovers changes daily. On the buffet, you'll find everything you need to build a familiar green salad, as well as interesting cold salads with Indian flavors (such as mango, avocado and shrimp). Small tea sandwiches, smoked meats, cheese and crackers, two choices of soup and numerous breads round out the options. At least three desserts, including Western-style coconut cake or an Indian bread pudding, are offered.
Dinner begins at 7 p.m. and runs for two hours. It's a four-course affair, although you can eat as many or as few dishes as you wish. Typical appetizers might include a roasted tomato cocktail, methi pakoda vegetable dumplings and fresh salmon rosette; followed by a choice of soups including mulligatawny (chicken and lentils) or kaddu ka shorba (pumpkin). There's a choice of four entrees, with at least two of them vegetarian. Menu choices might consist of penne arrabiata, royallu vepudu (Indian prawn stir-fry), roasted leg of goat and Mumbai pav bhaji (a vegetable stew with potatoes). Fresh naan (similar to pita bread) is given at every meal. Always-available choices are green salad with house dressing, consomme, grilled chicken breast or grilled salmon with vegetables. There are usually two desserts offered: an Indian sweet such as balusahi, a sugar-soaked doughnut, or ice cream. We did see chocolate desserts created upon request, however.
As noted earlier, the ship's chef makes the Indian food onboard very mild, unless you ask. That's in contrast to the Indian meals that Ganges Voyager II passengers have earlier in the tour, at the Oberoi hotel restaurants. Most dinners at the beginning of the trip are purchased on your own and the menus are as varied as you'd find in any luxury hotel restaurant. If you like Indian food, don't miss the chance to eat at these restaurants, as the meals you'll have might be some of the best examples of Indian cuisine you've ever tasted; it's worth the splurge.
The Lounge (Deck 4): An early-riser breakfast of crustless sandwiches and pastries is served in the lounge, beginning at 6 a.m. These offerings repeat at 9:30 a.m. for late risers. The lounge is also the location for daily tea at 4 p.m., where a lovely array of sandwiches and cakes are served, as well as small snacks during cocktail hour. Cookies are always available at the bar's coffee and tea station, and there is also a basket of potato chips that passengers can grab at any time.
Room Service (if applicable): Ganges Voyager II does not have official room service. If you come down with a stomach bug, however, or simply want something less taxing on your system, the chef will send up a tray of vegetable broth, white rice and boiled apples.
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