By Louise Goldsbury
Cruise Critic Senior Editor
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

The ship's main dining room, previously called The Restaurant, was transformed in 2012 into the AmphorA Restaurant -- named after a Greek vase (used in ancient times to carry wine) that has been onboard since the ship's christening. Still located on Deck 3, the restaurant has been completely redesigned, as has the menu. The venue is accented with warm wood finishes and has luxurious and comfy booths, with many tables for two and four passengers.

An all-open-seating dinner is served there nightly between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Each night, the menu includes at least one meat entree (steak, lamb, veal), fresh fish, poultry and a vegetarian option. In fact, vegetarian selections in all categories (appetizers, salads, etc.) are highlighted daily in a special area of the menu and are always plentiful -- not just piles of whatever side dishes were left over from creating the other entrees, but unique creations like Vegetable Wellington, layered roasted vegetables baked in puff pastry and served with shallot cream sauce, and a steamed bok choy wedge. Dietary restrictions are also well addressed; we met a woman with severe gluten and additive allergies, who told us the head chef met with her, one-on-one, every day, to go over a special menu his team created just for her.

Overall, we were most impressed with the fish dishes. Many cruise lines serve only frozen fish, but Windstar brings local catch onboard whenever it can.

Servers are attentive but not overbearing -- the same pleasant trend we saw in the Pool Bar and elsewhere onboard. In AmphorA, plates were delivered and taken away with the kind of ease that allows you to continue conversations with your tablemates, and special requests, from simple to nit-picky, were never a problem. (For example, a new acquaintance wanted a Riedel wine glass, which are available primarily in the Lounge; the waiter fetched one.) Meals were never rushed. If we arrived at the dining area 10 minutes before closing, we got the same attentive service that we received shortly after opening. Waiters tend to remember your preferences and anticipate your requests by bringing you your favorite beverages and condiments before you order them.

Breakfast and lunch are served on Deck 4 in the Veranda, an airy dining space with some floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the outer deck and the sea; during the refurbishment, the outdoor portion of the Veranda was expanded to create room for more alfresco dining. Breakfast is served from about 7 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. each morning, but the times can vary slightly, depending on tour departures, so check the daily program. A buffet bar includes pastries, tasty fresh smoothies (different flavors every day -- don't miss the honey and melon), fresh fruit, and cheeses and meats. There's an omelet station; warmed buffet trays containing sausage, bacon and hash browns; and a communal toaster next to piles of bagels, bread and English muffins. You can also order waiter-service breakfast items from a printed menu that includes eggs that are made to order, French toast, pancakes and eggs Benedict. Staffmembers are available to pour coffee and carry and clear plates.

If you prefer a lighter breakfast, a spread of pastries, juices, coffee and tea is available by the Pool Bar every morning from 6 a.m. until about 12 p.m. (Snacks are also served every day in this same spot from 3:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. -- generally some finger sandwiches, fresh-cut fruit, coffee and sweets; don't miss the layer bars with dark chocolate chips and coconut.) Appetizers are served most evenings in the lounge from 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.

Passengers have two options for lunch, which is served only in the Veranda. One is to order a waiter-service entree off a set menu. (Items change daily, but there are also some always-available items, such as grilled salmon and hamburgers.) Most folks opted for option two, the buffet, which centered on a different cuisine (Italian, Mexican, etc.) each day. Some of the best meals we had onboard were lunches in the Veranda.

Another memorable experience was at Candles, the ship's alternative dining option; tables are set for alfresco dining outside the Veranda in the evenings between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The menu includes grilled meats (like filet mignon), rack of lamb, fish (fresh mahi mahi) and salads. There's no charge to eat there; reservations are available until 6 p.m. same day. Candles is a wonderful way to watch the sunset as you dine.

There is always a special poolside BBQ one night of the cruise, during which all other dining facilities are closed down (except for room service). The BBQ was a highlight of the trip. Tables were set and dressed with colorful cloths and faux candles. A buffet of salads, breads, shrimp cocktail, cheeses and pate prefaced rice and beans, grilled steak and chicken, roasted pork and lobster tails, plus regional dishes. The anchor of the dessert buffet was a bananas Foster station with amply poured rum and Grand Marnier as a topping or "floater."

Room service is available 24 hours a day. During lunch or dinner hours, you can order off the daily menu from the Veranda or the AmphorA Restaurant. Continental breakfast -- coffee, tea, juices, pastries -- is available between 6 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. You can call in your order or leave a hanging card on your doorknob the night before. Orders are delivered quickly, and the food is hot and impressive.

The 24-hour menu, available anytime, has soup, a fruit plate, tortilla chips, club sandwich, cheese tray and smoked salmon bagels, along with assorted desserts. Nice touch: You can order a basket of freshly popped popcorn to go with your in-room flicks. You can also have food delivered poolside if you prefer to eat outside of your cabin for a snack in between meal times.

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