Variety Voyager Dining

Editor Rating
Very Good
Gayle Keck

Meals are served in the Horizons dining room, which has enough interior capacity to seat all passengers. There also is covered outside seating for 50 passengers.

The dining room color scheme employs light neutrals with mauve tablecloths. There's open seating, with tables that can seat two, four, six and eight. Chairs are light wood with upholstered seats and backs. Large picture windows surround the dining room and are fitted with Roman-style shades.

The outside dining area is fitted with tables for two or six. Chairs are a contemporary rattan design, with blue- and white-striped seat cushions.

We found the service to be excellent, friendly and efficient. On several occasions, the chef visited with passengers at dinner and, at our encouragement, cooked special dishes from his Indian heritage, which were a hit with passengers.

A buffet-style breakfast is typically served from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., with earlier start times depending on shore activities.

The buffet includes an egg station and three buffet tables, one with hot foods. Hot items vary slightly from day to day, but tend to include bacon, broiled tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, hash browns, sausage, pancakes, toast and oatmeal.

Cold items include smoked salmon, cold cuts, fresh sliced or julienned vegetables, fruit salad, pear and peach compotes, yogurt, an assortment of sliced fresh and local fruits (pineapple, watermelon, oranges, bananas, passion fruit, papaya and other exotics on our Central America cruise, for example). There are also cheeses, nuts, dried fruits and cereals. A pastry chef prepares morning pastries, such as croissants (regular and chocolate), fruit turnovers and muffins.

Lunch also is buffet style, and times vary according to the ship's schedule. The buffet usually opens between noon and 1 p.m. and ends between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., with service lasting an hour. On one day during our cruise, lunch was a beach barbecue ashore.

The hot buffet typically includes two to three meat items, such as roast lamb, veal stew, roast pork or sausage; fish, such as roasted tuna or red snapper; a vegetarian item like quiche; potatoes and rice; and a vegetable casserole, along with various cooked vegetables (roasted fresh artichoke hearts, for example). In addition to the buffet, there is often a cooked-to-order pasta option.

Cold items include several mixed salads (pasta salads and roasted vegetable salad, for example), salad ingredients (lettuce, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, olives), sliced fresh local fruits, cheeses (usually a double-cream like Brie, a bleu, and a hard cheese like Manchego), nuts and dried fruits.

A different plated dessert is offered at each lunch, ranging from layered parfaits to tarts.

Passengers gather for seated dinner with table service, which usually begins at 7:30 p.m. The atmosphere is casual, aside from the farewell dinner, when both officers and passengers dress up a bit (formal uniforms for the officers, heels and jewelry for some of the women, jackets on some of the men). Dining room staff are attentive and quickly get to know the passengers' quirks -- who appreciates extra-large portions, who can't eat bell peppers, who wants a second glass of wine.

Dinner includes an appetizer, soup, main course, cheese course, and dessert or fruit. The menu is fixed, aside from the main course, where there are two meat or fish choices and one vegetarian choice.

On each table, relish platters have three offerings every night, which might include items like tapenade, sundried tomato spread, flavored butters, olives or pickled anchovies.

Appetizers are creative and on our cruise ranged from ceviche and a surprisingly delicious pineapple tartar with feta cheese to calamari with sweet chili sauce. Soups were usually light and flavorful, typically a pureed vegetable style, such as carrot, cauliflower or asparagus. For the farewell dinner, a superb lobster bisque was accented with salmon roe.

Main courses on our cruise included offerings like grilled veal loin or salmon with broccoli and risotto; grilled beef medallions or whitefish skewers, served with Moroccan-style rice and eggplant chutney; and beef filet or baked chicken with asparagus and crispy cross-cut potatoes. Vegetarian mains typically included the same side dishes, with the addition of other vegetables like grilled zucchini. By special request, the chef one night created a delicious chicken tikka masala, complete with spicy mango pickle on the side.

There was one dessert each night, in addition to cheese and fruit options. These ranged from warm chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis to an almond tart with strawberry mousse and apple strudel with custard sauce.

Decent red and white wine (one choice each, French label) is available by the glass for 5 euros. The modest wine list is focused on European wines.

Coffee and tea are always available in the main lounge, along with delicious, freshly baked cookies, banana or spice bread, and fresh fruit. There is also an espresso machine for coffee drinks at the bar.

Room service is not generally available, however a representative of the line says they will serve passengers in their cabins "if they are sick, tired or need any special care."

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