Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the airy dining saloon, which has benefited from the upgrade with new timber dining tables and padded timber chairs. South Seas Island touches include tapa-covered pillars (tapa is a Fijian cloth with many uses including mats and clothing), hand-woven placemats and tropical floral center pieces. A few nautical ornaments complement the look.
The majority of onboard meals are buffets, apart from the Captain's Dinner, which is a la carte. There are two of these dinners during a seven-night sailing and one each on the three- and four-night cruises.
Other special meals are served ashore during island visits. At the seafood barbecue, passengers dine on freshly caught fish, crab and mussels. For the lovo, you engage in a feast of meats and vegetables cooked in an underground oven. This meal experience is similar to the Hawaiian luau.
The restaurant offers open seating, with tables for two, four and six. Tables often are pushed together to accommodate groups of 10 and 12 diners, which suits the camaraderie of the cruise.
The chefs excel at preparing fresh seafood dishes as well as Fijian specialties. These include kokoda -- also known as coconut ceviche -- fresh raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juice with onions, tomatoes and fresh coconut cream; palusami, meat wrapped in taro leaves and cooked in sweet coconut cream; and miti, a fish sauce made with lemon juice, coconut cream, chili and onion.
The breakfast buffet, served from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., includes hot dishes such as bacon, sausage, pancakes and spaghetti on toast -- the latter being popular with New Zealanders. Cruisers help themselves to coffee, tea, ice water and juice. We especially enjoyed the egg station for made-to-order omelettes and the daily fresh fruit platter with ripe pineapple, papaya and watermelon.
A buffet lunch served from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. features dishes like beef stroganoff, penne pasta, seafood pasta, cold chicken, burgers, marlin ravioli, eggplant and salads. Our most memorable midday meal was a beach barbecue of chicken and fresh fish.
Dinner is served from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dishes at the captain's dinners might include lobster bisque, fish, salad, chicken breast and a variety of classic and local desserts. Buffet dinners offer a wide choice of dishes, and there are always a couple of themed buffets, including a curry night and another where South Pacific fare is served. The buffet table is likely to be laden with lamb curry, spicy chicken, mussels, oysters, prawns, pan fried fish in Cajun spices, baked potatoes and pumpkin. Coconut tart and apple pie a la mode are among the most popular desserts.
Our favorite dinner was the traditional Fijian feast (lovo), served on the beach under the stars. Earlier in the day, the crew went ashore to heat up stones for the earthen, underground oven. They later placed a variety of food into the pit, including chicken, leg of lamb, leg of pork, a reef fish, yam and taro all wrapped in banana leaves. They covered the food with palm fronds and sand to keep the heat intact. After two hours, the food was tender, smoky flavored and delicious.
The bar serves beer for about F$8 to F$10 (about $4.40 to $5.50) wines by the glass from around F$12 ($6.50) and cocktails around F$22 ($12). The appealing wine list focuses on labels from Australia and New Zealand. By-the-bottle prices range start around F$40 ($22).
For vegetarians and passengers wanting healthy fare, fresh fruits and yogurt are available each morning at breakfast, as well as fresh fish and seafood, pasta and vegetables like cassava (tapioca root), kumara (sweet potato) and eggplant on most lunch and dinner buffets.
Each day, a member of the crew walks up and down the halls announcing "Morning tea is ready!" At another nice ritual -- at 6:30 each evening -- passengers gather in the lounge bar for cocktails and snacks like chili prawn on cucumber rings, curry puffs, vegetarian spring rolls with sweet chili sauce and calamari with tartar sauce. The bartender's more unusual concoctions include a Reef Walk (Midori, white rum, pawpaw, lemon and orange juice) and Yasawa Sunset (dark rum, Kahlua, cream, orange juice and grenadine).