Roald Amundsen has three restaurants, each designed to have its own personality and each reflecting an aspect of Norwegian expedition heritage. Aune is the main dining room. Fredheim is a casual alternative, while Lindstrøm is for suite passengers, with others able to book dinner if there's space, for €25 a head.
Food overall is excellent, imaginative and elegantly presented, with impressive variety on the buffet, genuine classy fare in Lindstrøm and fun, light-hearted options in Fredheim, from spring rolls with dips to booze-laced milkshakes. Service from the mainly Filipino crew is cheerful and friendly, if a little rushed on occasion in Aune.
Wine is available by the glass or bottle and is reasonably priced at €29 for a bottle of house red or white.
There are a few "secrets" that strangely, are only communicated on a need-to-know basis. For example, an always-available menu of comfort food and a wonderful vegan menu, different every day, are on offer in Aune, if you ask. Dine in Fredheim and you can request items from the menu in Aune, next door, if the fast-food burgers and spring rolls on the menu don't appeal.
There's no room service menu, as such (the accommodation decks don't have pantries, which would be necessary to offer a full menu) but you can take a burger from Fredheim to your cabin if you want to, in a bag, and ask for soup and crackers to be delivered if you're feeling seasick.
Special diets can be catered for but you do need to specify your needs in advance -- and go to the meeting with the chef on the first day, where you'll probably learn about the vegan menu, rather than waiting till the end of the voyage, like we did.
One complaint we heard is that there's no snacking food available between meals, which some people enjoy, although you're hardly going to go hungry on Roald Amundsen. Cookies are available at the bars on the pool deck and in the Explorer Lounge, by the tea and coffee facilities, but there's no fruit bowl, for example, and we did see people stockpiling at the breakfast buffet.
Meals in Lindstrøm are taken in two sittings, at 6pm and 8pm, while Fredheim is open seating.
Aune Restaurant (Deck 6)
Meals: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Dinner (D)
Aune is the light, cheery main dining room, seating 240 and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's named after an old ship chandler in Tromsø that, 100 years ago, used to kit out expedition ships headed north to Svalbard. Decorative objects lining the shelves – vintage cookbooks, for example – are recreations of items sold in the chandlery. The room is flooded with light, stretching along the starboard side of the ship and right across the stern, so tables at the back have windows on two sides. Most tables seat two or four, with a few sixes and one big one that takes eight.
There are two sittings for dinner (6 pm and 8 pm) and you are assigned a sitting and a table number. But depending on landings times on expedition voyages, your designated landing time ashore may conflict with your dinner. As such, there's some flexibility, as you may have to eat in the other sitting. Some people don't stick to their assigned tables, but generally, it's not a problem to get a seat. We didn't wait in line once during a 16-night cruise.
Meals here are buffet style for breakfast and lunch and a la carte from a small menu for dinner, except when the ship is in full expedition mode (for example, in Antarctica, with passengers ashore all day in shifts). On those days, dinner is also buffet style with no a la carte service.
Breakfast is an enormous spread. There are hot dishes -- scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, hash browns -- and daily specialties like eggs benedict. Another counter offers cold cuts and seafood, while another still has an array of fruit and cheese. Small pots of yoghurt, or a bigger bowl with a berry compote, are on offer, as well as oatmeal, cereals and a big section of baked goods. Omelettes and eggs to order are brought by waiters on request.
Tea and coffee are poured by waiters or self-service at machines. Juices come from a dispenser, and aren't bad, although not freshly squeezed. Better coffee is available in the Explorer Lounge, where there's a proper espresso machine, for a charge.
Lunch is a roast of the day -- often a whole piglet, or a huge leg of lamb, or a turkey -- and three or four other hot dishes; there's always one vegetarian option There's a daily pasta, always excellent, and a vast display of seafood, from mussels to crab legs and mounds of smoked salmon. A separate counter offers cold meats and pates.
The salad selection is relatively small and doesn't really change, although there's enough to assemble a decent salad bowl, with plenty of toppings of nuts and seeds and a choice of three dressings. There's also a soup of the day and a choice of three desserts. Four or five different cheeses are always featured, including Brunost, the caramel-flavored, brown Norwegian whey cheese, an acquired taste.
As much as possible is sourced locally, with a view to stepping this up as reliable suppliers are found; on our Antarctica voyage, most of the fish and seafood came from Chile, as did the lamb. Some of the hot dishes are served in single-serving pots, a deliberate but elegant way of reducing waste, as everybody tends to overeat at a buffet.
Dinners on a la carte nights include one soup, one appetizer and a choice of three mains and three desserts. You have to ask quickly if you want a vegetarian or vegan alternative, as the soups and starters tend to come very fast. We asked our waiter to slow down one night, which he did, obligingly.
There's an always-available menu that's not published, so here it is: salmon, sirloin steak, grilled chicken breast, pasta with basil-tomato sauce and an "impossible" (vegan) burger, all served with baked potatoes or fries and garden vegetables.
Fredheim (Deck 6)
Meals: B, L, D
Fredheim is named after the hut of a famous trapper on Svalbard. On board, it's a casual dining concept, included in the price. Colourful rugs, wooden furniture, soft chairs in shades of orange, mustard, blue and olive, old skis mounted on the wall and an open kitchen create a relaxed, living room feel. Tables seat two or four, as well as one long one that seats 12 and is used for communal dinners with members of the expedition team. There's no need to book in here, although if you want to join an expedition team dinner, you need to add your name at the expedition reception desk.
The early risers' breakfast in here is continental only, with pastries, cold cuts, yoghurts and fruit. For the rest of the day, the restaurant offers street food -- burgers, quesadillas, spring rolls, dumplings, waffles and milkshakes, which can be laced with alcohol for an additional charge. The menu changes every five days -- and on nights when there's an a la carte menu in Aune, next door, you can ask to order off that menu.
We had mixed feelings about the food. The spring rolls are delicious, with a mixture of fillings, while the milkshakes are exceptional. Burgers and hot dogs are decent, but the vegetarian burger was stodgy and had no taste.
The dinners with members of the expedition team take place at 6 p.m. most nights and are great fun; the team have extraordinary stories to tell and it's a good way to meet fellow cruisers. The menu for these occasions is different; a typical meal might include a big salad, roast potatoes, green beans and roast beef. Vegetarians can order the veggie dish of the day from Aune.
Lindstrøm (Deck 9)
Meals: B (suite guests only); D (suite guests included and €25 for everybody else)
The Lindstrom restaurant is the ship's fine dining space, reserved for occupants of suites or anyone else happy to pay €25 a head. Tip: If you want to dine here -- and it really is worth it -- book early as there are few spaces unless you're in a suite. The restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner and is named after Adolf Lindstrøm, the personal chef for Roald Amundsen.
The chef's namesake is a beautiful space, in shades of pale gold, silver, cream and orange, with dark wood walls, subdued lighting and a water mist "fire". There are tables for two, four and six. The restaurant has space for 60 diners and does two sittings every night. From summer 2020 onwards, there's a plan to open Lindstrøm for lunch, too.
The menu rotates every four days. At present, the influence is fine dining with a Norwegian touch. There are two starters, a soup, four mains and three desserts, as well as an exquisite amuse-bouche and a plate of petits fours to finish -- delicate macarons and nutty chocolate when we ate there. Starters include smoked shrimps, served in a little pot billowing with the smoke, or beetroot-cured salmon, followed by and a pea soup packed with flavor and the crunch of macadamia nuts. Mains might include rack of lamb with char-grilled cabbage, or seared duck breast with carrots and crispy garlic. The homemade ice creams and sorbets are exceptional and there's a decent array of cheeses on the cheeseboard.
Breakfast is similar to the offering in Aune, just more refined, with a continental buffet and hot dishes served at the table.
Room service is available from noon to 9.30 p.m. for anyone staying in Arctic Superior cabin grades and suites. There's a service charge for each delivery, although food is delivered free to suite guests. There is no room service menu as such but you can, for example, order a burger from Fredheim and take it back to your cabin. Comfort food can be delivered to anybody who is seasick, for example, soup and crackers.
There's no room service breakfast menu.