One of the main attractions of a cruise, whether it be a river cruise or an ocean cruise, is the food; yes, the destinations are exciting and I always look forward to seeing my excursions itinerary, but, when I’m back on-board after a day’s heavy walking, or participating in some local sports, it’s a joy to go back to my stateroom, shower and dress for dinner! And, it’s not just dinner that I look forward too, there’s breakfast, lunch and even afternoon tea, if you can squeeze it in, to enjoy.
Whilst on my recent West Indies Explorer cruise, sailing in the Viking Sea, I had the pleasure and opportunity to explore not just the Caribbean Islands of the West Indies, but also to indulge in a wide variety of tasty food on-board this beautifully elegant and chic ship. And, there really is something for everyone, from The World Café where breakfast, lunch and dinner can be taken, self-service buffet style, to The Chef’s Table, which offers an utterly sublime tasting menu with paired wines; Viking really does offer dining for all tastes.
My favourite restaurant was Manfredi’s, an Italian style restaurant with a fabulous selection of pasta, antipasti, fish & seafood and their signature ribeye steak in a rub of porcini mushroom powder with chilies, brown sugar and salt, which by the way, was utterly sublime! They also offer special of the day, and one night I was treated to a veritable seafood feast of scallops, lobster, fish and mussels. Manfredi’s is one of Viking Sea’s “alternative” dining areas, which unlike other cruises I have been on, incurs NO EXTRA charge, you just need to book beforehand.
The other favourite restaurant of mine, (I think they were all favourites actually!) was The Chef’s Table; there you can enjoy a tasting menu which is paired with wines, and which offers different themed menus on alternative nights. The night I dined there, I was blown away by a diverse variety of tastes, textures and flavours on their Silk and Spice Route tasting menu. From the intriguing amuse bouche, which was a carrot and cardamom cream with star anise and orange foam, to the main of beef tenderloin with four warm spices (smoked paprika, cumin, coriander and cinnamon) the meal was beautifully presented and the flavours just danced on my tongue in a very tantalising manner!
Another favourite eatery, (I think you can see a pattern emerging here!)was Mamsen’s Deli in the Explorer’s Lounge, where you could grab an authentic Norwegian waffle with all the trimmings for breakfast, as well as some amazing Scandi style open sandwiches and cakes there for lunch, all included and at no extra cost, oh yes, and let’s not forget the stunning Wintergarden on the Pool deck too, which offers an afternoon cream tea every day between 3pm and 5pm, again, at no extra charge. For dining on the hoof, The Viking Bar on deck one offers breakfast pastries and sandwiches throughout the day, for a “grab and go” breakfast or snack.
One of the loveliest restaurants for its casual atmospheres, and the fact that you could sit in deck, under the sun or the stars, was The World Café, which as I mentioned before, offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in the style of a self-service buffet style dining area, but with some cooked to order food stations. Here I enjoyed Sushi Thursday one Thursday evening (curiously enough!), whilst sitting outside under the stars, which not only comprised sushi and sashimi, but also offered crab legs, lobster and crayfish too, a real feast for the eyes and the senses for a seafood lover like me. At breakfast time, I was often seduced into having a freshly made waffle with whipped orange butter cream, how divine does that sound, again this was available in The World Café from one of their cooked to order stations.
The Pool Grill and Pool Bar was yet ANOTHER favourite with me, for casual but tasty lunchtime dining, and for afternoon cocktails, I usually gravitated to the Aquavit Terrace next to the hot tub and infinity pool…..so as you can see already, there really is something for everyone’s tastes. And, let’s not forget The Restaurant, the other “included” dining area where reservations aren’t required in addition to The World Café; the menu changes daily and offers a great selection. It’s here that I enjoyed “The Chairman’s Choice”, a gently poached piece of salmon in a buttery chive sauce which is served with pickled cucumbers and steamed baby potatoes.
If it’s a bit of an ordeal to get out of bed one morning, maybe after a particularly taxing night on the dance floor in Torshavn perhaps, then why not do as I did, and order room service…..there’s a choice of freshly baked pastries, fresh fruit or you can choose a platter of smoked salmon with sour cream, capers and red onions served with a hot, toasted bagel…..and a pot of fresh coffee or tea. In fact, you can order room service 24 hours a day, for those midnight snack moments or whilst reading on your veranda on a sea day perhaps. And, if you fancy eating what you have shopped for and prepared, then The Kitchen Table is for you, which offers a cookery class and the chance to eat in a super sleek private dining area.
So, as you can see, the food was exemplary on the Viking Sea, with a choice of casual or more formal dining, although I must stress that Viking Cruises are steering away from the formal aspect of cruise dining, making it more accessible for all, with that elegantly casual and relaxation frame of mind coming into play again. You can dress up if you wish, and many people did on the cruise I was on, but the choice is YOURS, and there’s no formal dining itinerary, which puts many people off, and means that you choose how your dress, which is how it should be, as it IS your holiday after all.
I thoroughly enjoyed my cruise with Viking around the West Indies, and as well as the restorative sunshine and all of that sparkling, blue Caribbean sea, and all of those amazing ports of call we stopped at with exciting and interesting excursions, the lure was definitely the diverse, innovative and freshly baked and cooked food on board, which never bored me and was always available whatever the time of the day or night.
Written by Karen Burns-Booth.
Karen’s blog: https://www.lavenderandlovage.com/