As part of its goal to help sustain the places it explores, Lindblad designs its menus around local, seasonal ingredients. The company works with local food alliances to stock the galley throughout the trip. Foods farmed in ways that harm other marine life, like shrimp, or those that are over-fished, like Chilean sea bass, are taboo. In an attempt to avoid waste, the staff put out a signup sheet at breakfast, where you can make your entree selection for that night's dinner; while you're always free to change your mind, this helps the galley staff to get a rough idea of how much food to prepare.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the dining room on the Main Deck. Open seating at round and rectangular tables for six and eight helps foster an easy rapport between passengers and naturalists. Passengers may reserve a table if they wish. White linen tablecloths at dinner add a touch of formality to the otherwise casual ship. A series of picture windows turns this restaurant into a kind of adjunct observation area, where passengers can feast their eyes on dolphins or humpback whales in Alaska or the arid, golden landscape of eastern Washington during a Columbia and Snake rivers sailing.
Meals onboard are fresh and overall tasty, with plenty of vegetarian options on a daily basis (without special request). The galley aims to use fresh and local ingredients whenever possible.
The breakfast buffet from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. features hot dishes -- such as bacon, sausage, cheese crepes, French toast, pancakes and scrambled eggs -- that vary daily. Fresh fruits and juices, hot and cold cereals, yogurt, and muffins are regular fare. Up early? There's a Continental breakfast of fruit and muffins at 6:30 each morning in the lounge.
Lunch is either buffet- or family-style and served at 12:30 p.m. The most popular lunch during our cruise was a salad buffet – organic mixed greens, pasta salad, bean salad, chicken salad croissants and a fruit salad – that was served on the Bridge Deck. But for the most part, lunch is served in the dining room with a soup du jour and hot and cold options at a buffet station. Desserts at lunch included cookies, brownies and an ice cream sundae bar that garnered rave reviews.
Dinner, served at about 7 p.m., begins with salad or soup. The three entree choices are typically fish, such as Alaskan halibut or white king salmon; meat, including roast rib-eye or organic duck breast; and a vegetarian option like risotto, pasta puttanesca or eggplant roulade. Chicken Caesar salad, flat iron steak and chicken breast are always available as alternatives. Can't decide between the entrees? Order a couple of half portions, and sample more than one. Desserts like profiteroles with ice cream and chocolate bread pudding are well worth the calories. One thing the ship also does right is portions: not too small, not too big.
On most voyages, the crew create a memorable dinner at least once per cruise, whether it's a feast of crabs, fresh from the fishing village of Petersburg, visited earlier that day or a barbecue on the shores of a stunning beach in an eco-reserve in Costa Rica as the sun sets over the sea.
The kitchen is happy to accommodate special food requests. One member of our party couldn't eat tomatoes, so when we saw pizza on the menu for lunch one day, we asked at breakfast if a white pizza could be provided instead. The galley staff whipped up a couple of delicious pesto veggie slices.
Hors d'oeuvres are served at the 6 p.m. cocktail hour in the lounge. Snacking on steamed clams, smoked salmon and spinach artichoke dip quickly became part of our daily ritual.
There's no room service, but during the day there are usually some light munchies, such as pretzels or crackers, set out in the lounge. The crew will also accommodate someone who is seasick with an in-room delivery of broth and crackers.
The bar in the lounge is open between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and again between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. If you get a hankering for a beer outside of those hours, you can help yourself to a bottle from the fridge; just write your name and cabin number on the clipboard nearby (it's on the honor system). The bar serves beer (about $5), mixed drinks ($6 to $9) and wine ($7 to $9 per glass). The wine list can vary by itinerary, but focuses on the wines of Washington and Oregon. Two wines are featured each evening to complement the dinner entrees.
Passengers help themselves to soda, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, apple cider and water. Craft beers are also part of the offering. Notably, wine and beer are complimentary during happy hour and dinner on the Columbia and Snake rivers sailings. That is not the case on any other itinerary.