All meals take place in the Patagonia dining room aft on Deck 2, where there are tables for four, six and eight. You are assigned a table on the first day and are expected to stick to it for all meals. The crew try to match up language groups so if you don't like your table, it could be awkward to change.
The dining room is light and pleasant, with picture windows along both sides and a buffet section at one end with two identical buffets, which keeps queuing to a minimum.
Breakfast and lunch are buffet service and dinner is a served, four-course meal, with a choice of main courses. Breakfast is served from 8 to 9 a.m. most days, although if you're landing at Cape Horn, you are ashore before breakfast, so it's at 8.30 a.m. Typically, breakfast includes scrambled or boiled eggs, bacon, cold cuts, pastries, fruit, yogurt, cereal and juices from a machine. Local jam, made from calafate berries, is available, and tiny pots of dulce de lechefavored by South Americans. Eggs to order are available, although this isn't advertised; you have to ask the waiter, and our waiter, although charming, spoke no English. If you want espresso or cappuccino, you have to fetch it from a machine in the Darwin Lounge four decks up, so we tended to head that way after breakfast.
Lunch is timed according to the day's excursions and comprises six different salads and a selection of cold cuts and cheeses, four or five hot dishes ranging from lasagna to seafood casserole and, often, a roast. There is always one hot vegetarian dish. Each lunch has a loose theme: Italian; Asian, with a sushi bar, stir-fried vegetables and spicy beef; and Chilean, with empanadas, local lamb and a fine ceviche. The dessert buffet is extraordinary -- delicate tiramisu, fluffy lemon mousses, creme caramel, rich chocolate brownies and, most days, something dramatic like a meringue gateau. Wines from Chile and Argentina are offered with lunch and dinner, and we found the waiters obliging if you asked for something else, like a chardonnay instead of sauvignon blanc or vice versa.
Dinner orders are taken at breakfast. Dinner is waiter-served and is usually a cold, plated starter such as octopus carpaccio or smoked salmon; a soup; a choice of three mains; and dessert. If you don't like what's on offer, you can request something different, for example, vegetarian, although there's no "always available" menu for those who like their comfort food. The fare is mainly Chilean, with some international influences but expect a lot of ceviche (which was always excellent), salmon, Chilean-grown quinoa, tomato and avocado salads and beef. Presentation is elegant and everything tastes deliciously fresh.
There's a small self-service area in the Sky Lounge on Deck 4 (open from 6 a.m.) offering tea, coffee, hot chocolate, macaroons, cookies and pastries. Snacks are put out in the Darwin Lounge at cocktail hour, usually Pringles, olives and nuts, and there's a self-service fridge here, too, containing soft drinks and local beers.
There is no room service.
Ventus Australis Ship Stats
- Crew: 64
- Launched: 2018
- Decks: 5
- Passengers: 210
- Registry: Chile