By Gina Kramer
Cruise Critic Editor
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

Dining is always open seating, a much-appreciated policy among Wind Star passengers. You pick your tablemates and eat when you want during dining hours.

The line also does an exceptional job at working with passengers on food allergies. Every morning, the staff shares the menu with anyone who has a dietary restriction, so they can mark what they'd like and the chef can aim to prepare a version of the dish that accommodates their needs. For any special dining requests, it's always best to alert the cruise line at the time of booking.

AmphorA (Deck 3): Wind Star's chic main restaurant is open for dinner only, every night, and reservations are not required. The decor is warmed by rich wood tones, Murano glass chandeliers, fresh white linens with folded napkins, Riedel stemware, gleaming cutlery, golden charger plates and flowers on every table in silver vases.

There are many two-person tables for couples who prefer to dine alone and not join the larger four- and six-tops. (There are also larger tables that can be rearranged for big groups.) After the first night or so, the host will remember which table you prefer and aim to seat you there every evening, unless you ask for location variety. In the same way, waiters learn your likes (sparkling water, sauce on the side) and dislikes (no cream, no bread), pacing the meal to your cadence and never rushing the flow, even if you arrive 15 minutes before the dining room closes.

Wind Star's executive chef aims to please and surprises with a daily amuse-bouche. AmphorA's changing daily menu features at least one meat (steak, pork, lamb), fish, poultry and vegetarian entree. Wind Star notates all vegetarian options menu-wide.

The menu is divided into starters (with soups and salads) such as an asparagus and Brie tart, caramelized apple salad and roasted poblano pepper corn soup; main courses that include spice-crusted New York strip, herb-roasted chicken and truffle risotto; and desserts, with rotating sweets like vanilla and pear panna cotta and always available ice cream and assorted cheeses.

Thanks to a partnership with the James Beard Foundation, the menu also highlights signature dishes developed by award-winning chefs. Feature items include starters such as a tomato tart in semolina cheddar crust (Annie Pettry of Decca restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky) and main courses like a grilled filet of branzino with potato confit (Amy Brandwein of Washington, D.C.). Dishes are accompanied by mini-bios of the chefs.

While we enjoyed all the regular-menu items, for the most part, the James Beard Foundation dishes were hit or miss. We were underwhelmed by the tomato tart, which had a bland flavor; on the flip side, we were blown away by the perfectly cooked diver scallops and branzino.  

Classic dishes like salmon, sirloin steak and chicken breast are always on offer, and all dishes can be paired with sides ranging from mashed or baked potato and cauliflower to truffle Parmesan fries and Cajun sweet potato fries.

Every night, chef-recommended wines (a red and a white) are noted on the menu; there also is a separate wine list for those who wish to choose their own. All wine and alcoholic beverages cost extra.

The Wind Star kitchen also makes mouthwatering chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, which quickly became a hit on our cruise. Even though they're not listed on the dinner menu for dessert, if the craving strikes, ask anyway; the "above and beyond" staff will be able to accommodate.

Veranda (Deck 4): This casual, indoor-outdoor dining venue on Deck 4, midship, serves a full buffet-style breakfast and lunch. At both meals, an a la carte menu is available for hot items brought to your table for no extra charge.

Veranda's floor-to-ceiling windows allow a lot of natural light; its wicker chairs are reminiscent of seafaring furniture of yesteryear. Wooden tables for two and four people are placed on the open-air deck outside Veranda, so you can enjoy breakfast or lunch outdoors on warm, sun-sparkled days.

At breakfast, a refrigerated buffet island in the center of the room is stocked with smoked salmon, sliced cheeses, cold cuts, fruit, yogurt, smoothies and milk. A second buffet along the back wall offers hot and cold cereal, breakfast meats, eggs, hash browns and cooked veggies. A variety of breads is presented in baskets, next to a self-serve toaster and spreads, while a separate rectangular table brims with pastries.

If you'd like made-to-order hot breakfast, choose your ingredients at the omelet-making station, or order items like pancakes, waffles and smoked salmon Benedict off the menu. Pancake options rotate daily -- with flavors like lemon ricotta, blueberry and roasted apple -- and are a must for any pancake lover. The omelets and a la carte dishes, as well as hot drinks and juice, will be brought to you by a waiter. The unlimited fresh-squeezed orange juice is a morning highlight.

At lunch, the two buffet stations are stocked with several salads -- traditional Caesar, mozzarella and tomato, Greek, seafood -- soups (often both hot and cold types), sliced cold meats, sandwiches and hamburgers, an array of cheeses and sliced fruit. A daily changing a la carte menu is available, featuring such dishes as grilled lemon fish, sauteed chicken in a mushroom sauce, turkey with dressing and Reuben sandwiches. A pasta-making station is especially well liked, with different noodles, sauces and toppings every day.

Yacht Club (Deck 3): For early risers, a continental breakfast -- coffee, tea, fresh fruit, yogurt, rolls, pastries -- is available at the Yacht Club coffee bar. The bar also serves finger sandwiches, fruit snacks and cookies, along with continuously flowing coffee, from lunchtime until late afternoon.

Deck Barbecue (Deck 4): Once per itinerary, an outdoor barbecue commences by the pool area in lieu of regular dinner in AmphorA, which is closed. Amid festive decorations, the culinary extravaganza includes roasted whole suckling pig, jumbo shrimp, chicken, steak, lobster tails, cheeses, pates, salads and plentiful desserts. The spicy calamari salad was a favorite in our group. Following dinner, passengers can enjoy dancing on the pool deck to DJ music. Despite it starting to rain after dinner, on our cruise, the dance party still had a great turnout.

Candles (Deck 4): For an alfresco dining experience, book a table at Candles, a pop-up romantic restaurant with linen-topped tables positioned near the pool on most evenings, weather permitting. Watch the sunset and stars twinkle as you savor outstanding dishes from a set menu, which includes tuna tartare, beet and goat cheese salad, filet mignon, rack of lamb, grilled fish of the day, chocolate flourless cake and creme caramel.

There is no extra charge, but you must make a reservation with reception; dining space is limited to 30 passengers per day. Each couple is guaranteed at least one night at Candles; a second night can be reserved, based on availability.

Room Service: Room service is available 24 hours a day at no extra cost. During breakfast hours, a continental menu is available; make your selections on a menu card, and hang it on your cabin's doorknob at night for delivery the next morning. During lunch hours, you can phone room service to order directly off the Veranda menu and during dinner hours from the AmphorA menu. There is also a late-night snack menu.

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