All meals are served in the dining room on the Upper Deck, surrounded by plenty of windows so passengers can look out over passing glaciers and mountains. The simply decorated space is furnished with a mix of round and rectangular tables that seat two to eight people. With no assigned tables, passengers mingle freely.
Breakfast is served buffet-style at 7:30 or 8 a.m., depending on the day's activities. Options include yogurt, various cereals and breads, cold cuts, lox, fruit, potatoes, sausage and bacon. There's an omelet station as well, along with a selection of juice (apple, orange, grapefruit, cranberry, tomato) and water. Waitstaff circulate among the tables offering coffee and tea. Be sure to check the menu when you walk in -- there's a dish of the day that can be special-ordered from the waitstaff, such as blueberry pancakes or French toast. On our sailing, only low-fat and whole milk were put out on the buffet, but dairy-free diets (as well as most other dietary restrictions other than kosher) can be accommodated with advance notice.
Lunch is a buffet as well, usually served at 12:30 p.m. The central food station features hot items that change each day, ranging from pork stir-fry to German meatballs. There are always vegetarian and pasta dishes, and servers come to each table with bowls of soup. You can also order the sandwich of the day from your server (again, check the menu when you enter the dining room).
* May require additional fees
Another food station along the wall is lined with salad fixings, as well as a prepared salad of the day (such as shrimp, apple and walnut). Beside these healthier options are the day's dessert selections -- sherry trifle, Black Forest cake -- and a wooden cutting block covered with various cheeses.
Water, iced tea, coffee and hot tea are served at the table; any other drinks must be ordered from the bar menu and charged to your cabin.
A sit-down, three-course dinner starts at 7:30 p.m. each evening. You can choose from three appetizers (including at least one soup) and four main dishes, which might include roasted turkey breast, Thai red vegetable curry and pork tenderloin. Be sure to save space for dessert -- creme brulee, chocolate mousse and apricot cake might be among the choices. There's usually a selection of ice cream, sorbet and a fruit/cheese plate as well. For those watching calories, fat or salt, a green salad and a plain chicken breast entree are always available.
All mealtimes are subject to change to accommodate wildlife sightings, early landings or special activities.
On our Svalbard sailing there was one special barbecue held on deck while the ship was anchored in front of a glacier in a serene, icy fjord. The buffet table was laden with burgers, chicken, ribs, hot dogs, corn, vegetarian curry and various salads, along with cheesecake, pecan pie and bread pudding with custard for dessert. A similar feast is also offered on Antarctica sailings (weather permitting).
There's no room service, but munchies are available at select times outside the three main meals. Early risers will find pastries, coffee and tea in the main lounge about 45 minutes before breakfast. Following the afternoon excursion, you can retire to the lounge to sample a spread of finger sandwiches, cookies and pastries. Before you've even digested those, a round of hors d'oeuvres appears about an hour before dinner to munch during the evening recap. Freshly made cookies are available in the lounge around the clock.
While there were few truly gourmet dishes, the food overall was hearty and satisfying -- ideal comfort food for passengers coming in from active excursions in cold weather. (We particularly appreciated the steaming cups of broth or tea that were waiting for incoming passengers nearly each time we returned to the ship.) There was more variety on the menu than you might expect on a small ship, with the possible exception of healthy options; to those of us having salad each day, most of the offerings were starting to look pretty familiar by the end of the week. The afternoon snacks and hors d'oeuvres, while tasty, also tended to be on the less healthy side.