Dining, particularly at dinner, is a bright spot every day onboard Ortelius. It's served in two dining rooms where passengers are seated at tables for four or six. At dinner, two entree choices plus a vegetarian and gluten-free option are presented with flair and a light touch. Menu items are often fish or meat lightly sauced; green beans are steamed just crisp and an artfully arranged first course salad is always tasty. We always wanted more.
House wines, included with lunch and dinner, are Argentinian sauvignon blancs and malbecs. Desserts add a final flourish with panna cotta, tiramisu or crepe suzette with ice cream. Everyone leaves the table happy. That is, if everyone can leave the table. A major drawback in the dining room is how packed it is. Chairbacks from one table press against the chairbacks of another. If the person seated against the wall wants to get up, everyone at both tables must rise to let him out.
Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style but lunch begins with a tasty soup such as carrot ginger or tomato cream served at the table. Passengers then drift to the lunch buffet, perhaps a pasta station or chicken fricassee.
Breakfast, also buffet-style, is a mixed bag with sub-par coffee and on some mornings a steam tray of poached eggs, which Americans might find undercooked. There are always staples to get you by -- Canadian bacon, freshly baked pastries, sliced fresh fruit including watermelon, plus a fruit bowl of apples, bananas and oranges.
Dinners are served quickly and efficiently. On rocky sea days, lunches are plated and served to tables. Servers are masterful at spotting and rescuing plate-carrying passengers who are reeling unsteadily with the sea swells.
Seasick passengers are served fruit, tea or toast in their cabins.
Meals are announced via the PA system and times vary depending on the day's activities. At 4 o'clock each day a "sweet," such as a gooey lemon cake, is always served in the lounge.
A variety of wines from Argentina, Chile, South Africa, France and Spain are available for purchase. Beers for purchase include Heineken, Palm and Bitburger.