The food aboard National Geographic Explorer rates high in its creativity, variety, preparation and presentation. On most expedition ships, passengers simply eat. While aboard Explorer, however, they dine well and in very pleasant surroundings. The four dining venues offer open-seating for all meals, so passengers have a chance to meet new people, establish their social groups and break bread with the naturalist staff.
The formal main restaurant is in its original Midnatsol location, with forward- and side-facing windows and medium-tone faux-wood paneling. Tables range in size from two-tops to eight-tops. Adjacent to the restaurant, the Bistro is a smaller more informal (placemats rather than tablecloths) extension of the main dining room, featuring bar service, side windows and tables for two and four. All three meals are served in both locations, with breakfast (buffet) dining hours running from 7 to 8:30 a.m. or 7:30 to 9 a.m., depending on the day's schedule. Lunch (buffet) is served at noon, and dinner (sit-down) starts at 7:30 p.m. Most passengers head to lunch and dinner very soon after the doors open. Additionally, a light lunch is served in the Observation Lounge under the long glass dome. The selection there includes a hot soup, two entrees, salad fixings and dessert.
Nearly every night, the officers or the members of the naturalist staff host -- by invitation -- two tables of eight in the forward-facing Chart Room, located just above the restaurant and offering the same menu. On expeditions of two weeks or more, every passenger has the chance to dine there once.
Breakfast choices (in the main restaurant and the Bistro) include the usual American items, plus eggs to order and European-style items, such as marinated herring, cheese and cold meats. Lunch offers both hot and cold buffet choices. Dinner, from an American and Continental menu, gives three choices of appetizers, four entrees (always a meat, fish and vegetarian dish) and three or four desserts. The ship is supplied by container from base ports, but where available, fresh ingredients are picked up along the way. The beef is American, and the fish is frozen, except in rare instances where fresh fish or shellfish is available. Two memorable entrees included sliced duck in its own juice and grilled cod. Threatened species, including shrimp, are not served on Lindblad ships. The wine list is fairly priced, with bottles starting at about $25; a separate list of notable wines ranges upward to $55.
The maitre d' and serving staff are Filipino, and some have been with the company for years. Service is prompt and friendly.
Special diets are catered to with advance notice. Afternoon tea with cookies and pastries is served in the Bistro daily, and room service is available only if you're unwell or by special request.