All meals take place in The Restaurant on Magellan Deck (Deck 2) or the Outdoor Cafe on Erikson Deck (Deck 5). Every meal is open-seating. The restaurant has tables for two, four, six and eight, while the Outdoor Cafe has fours and sixes. If you want a two-top for dinner, you need to get there early, though most people enjoy mixing with fellow passengers.
The same menu is served in each venue at breakfast time. Lunch is a sit-down, five-course served affair if you choose to eat in the Restaurant and a self-service buffet, often with a deck barbecue, in the Outdoor Cafe.
Breakfast consists of English fry-ups, with all eggs cooked to order, as well as sausages, bacon, fruits, cold cuts and cereals. Most people choose to eat outside on sunny days, and there's competition for tables in the sun (or shade, depending on the temperature), masterminded by a skillful maitre d'.
Lunch comprises a choice of two starters (such as crab salad or oriental noodles), a soup, salad of the day, choice of three main courses (such as Wienerschnitzel with stir-fried vegetables, red snapper, or a vegetarian cauliflower curry), two or three desserts, and a cheese board.
Timings for both breakfast and lunch depend on the arrival and departure of tours; as almost everybody goes on the tours, a very early breakfast on a day when there's a long tour is usual.
Despite the fact that lavish lunches in local restaurants were included in every excursion I did, afternoon tea is a big event. Set up in the bar, it includes ornate cakes, sandwiches and -- the highlight -- hot scones with huge dollops of jam and clotted cream. On one day, crepes suzette was made to order in the Outdoor Cafe. Specialty teas and cookies are available all day in the bar, with boiling water for tea and fresh coffee served from attractive samovars.
Dinner is at 7:30 p.m. every night, although most people drift down at about 8 p.m. The meal comprises a choice of two starters (I tried the palm heart salad and curried chicken samosas), two soups, a salad, three main courses (such as roast turkey, lobster thermidor at the Captain's farewell dinner, and honey-glazed duck in a Grand Marnier sauce) and two desserts, as well as a cheese plate. The food was good and nicely presented. It catered mainly to fairly conservative British tastes, so not too fussy, but with occasional splashes of exoticism -- like wild boar loin.
There isn't any room service, although the very helpful maitre d' said, in special circumstances (such as some of the older, frailer guests having to get up exceptionally early for a tour), snacks could be served in cabins. Bottled water is available free of charge on all tours and in cabins, and it's replaced daily.
Every day, a different drink was served when we got back onboard after a tour, another wonderfully thoughtful touch. Waiters greet passengers in the reception area with cool towels (hot on a day when it snowed) and everything from fresh orange juice to hot, spiced apple cider (again, on the day it snowed).
Drinks are priced in pounds sterling and reflect, or undercut, typical English pub prices. A huge glass of chardonnay cost £3.50, while a gin and tonic (with copious amounts of gin) cost £3.25. The cocktail of the day is only £2.75, while a beer costs £2.75 and a cappuccino £1.75.
Premium wines are available, but a different red and white -- including an Italian pinot grigio, a decent sauvignon blanc and a South African chenin blanc -- is served with dinner every night, so there's no need to run up a huge bar bill on this ship.