Cruise Part 3 – Restaurants, Lounges, Food and Drink

20150318_184821One of the stand-out components for me on a cruise is the food. We all expect great food on board and this cruise was no exception. Basically the food was superb and plentiful. In fact, you could eat and drink almost continuously from waking up in the morning to going to sleep late at night… and it was clear from what we saw that many people did just that!

Included in the price of all cabins was all on-board meals along with ice water. That is breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night supper club (if you still had room!).

All alcoholic and soft drinks were at additional cost. It is a bit of a cliche that you are a captive customer on a cruise ship and so it is not unusual for drinks to be very expensive and this often true particularly on cruise ships from the USA but on Fred Olsen alcoholic drinks and wine are really no more pricey than typical UK pub prices… pint of beer or lager £3.30, double spirits £5, cocktails from £4 etc.

Tea and coffee in the Icini Room also free 6.30am – 1am but premium coffee (latte, cappuccino, hot chocolate etc) were at sensible high street coffee shop prices available in the Cafe Venus 7.30am – midnight.

Normal meal times were: breakfast 8-10am, lunch 12-2pm and dinner either 6.15pm or 8.30pm, supper club was 11pm-midnight. Morning coffee 10.45-11.15am, afternoon tea 3.45-4.30pm.

Room service was also available but only snack type meals and drinks. Here is the room service menu. (Click to enlarge)…

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Room service was always very quick to deliver.

Restaurants

img_5080img_5081Although there are 4 main restaurants – Heligan, Tintagel, Four Seasons and The Secret Garden – really it was just two. The first three are really one restaurant split into 3 separate rooms with the same menus and a shared buffet. The Secret Garden though is separate and has its own buffet however the menus were mostly the same. The first 3 have a more formal feel and used for allocated seating for dinner. All 4 are available for breakfast and lunch (open seating). The Secret Garden also has afternoon tea and morning coffee with cakes etc.

On nights that required formal dress the Secret Garden was available for those that didn’t want to dress up and it was smart casual in the evenings throughout the cruise.

There are other options on the ship for eating but only in good and warmer weather so as this was a winter cruise those alfresco options were closed.

Seating Arrangements

IMG_1598The seating arrangements for meals were open seating (you choose where to sit) for breakfast and lunch and for some evening meals when tours meant that fixed seating was not possible. However, for most of the evening meals seating was allocated and fixed for the entire cruise. There were two dinner times… 6.15pm and 8.30pm. Once you were allocated a time and table that was then fixed for all fixed-seating dinner meals for the cruise. This is fine if you get on with others on your table! You could request a particular time or a table for two when you booked but there is no guarantee they will be able to accommodate your request.

IMG_1601As a result of the open seating arrangements it meant that breakfast and lunch felt a bit frantic. Most people wanted a table for two and so the few that existed went first. Then people were constantly coming and going throughout with waiters darting around serving. This made breakfast and lunch meals feel quite stressful and felt rushed as waiters tried to serve as quickly as possible to get everyone through. It was a little like being on a conveyor belt at times! We soon realised that if we got there when the restaurant first opened it was much easier. There were other benefits to getting there early and more on that when talking about sanitation and hand washing.

Buffet vs A la Carte

Breakfast was mainly a buffet although some standard items such as omelettes were available to order. Again, lunch was mainly buffet but there was always a few choices from the menu. With both breakfast and lunch, if you wanted the best choice, then you would choose the buffet.

Choice of dishes was pretty good and we always found options we liked. Food was generally unlimited and you could go back to the buffet several times if you wished.

We generally used the buffet at breakfast and ordered from the menu for lunch. Here are some views of the lunch buffet:

 

Had Washing and Anti-bacterial Gel

One thing that is very much in evidence on Boudicca, and I assume on the other ships in the Fred Olsen fleet, is that all the crew is very aware of hygiene. Announcements are made daily reminding us all that regular hand washing for 20 seconds is the best way to keep bugs from spreading and everywhere you go on the ship there are gel dispensers. In fact, as you board the ship it is pretty much compulsory to use the gel as it is on entering the restaurants. There are also dispensers on the entrance to every lounge too.

This is all excellent news but the biggest threat to on board well-being is not bacteria… it is viruses, particularly the Noroviruses. The gels do little to kill these and the only defense is handwashing.

I mention this here, in the restaurant section, because on a ship, by far the best way to spread viruses and other infections is through the buffet. Everyone handles the serving utensils and so it is really easy to spread an infection to all and sundry through the buffet. I would like to see ALL buffets removed from cruise ships and them be replaced by staff-served food. This change alone would be a huge step forward and may help to prevent the regular outbreaks of Norovirus seen on cruise ships.

As I say, hygiene on Fred Olsen ships seems very high and we saw no evidence of infections on board but I urge all cruise ship operators to seriously consider removing buffets.

Breakfast in Bed!

If you didn’t want to venture from your room for breakfast then you could order a continental style breakfast to be delivered to your cabin. Just hang the order on your door handle the night before and hey presto! We did this a few times and it worked quite well. It also meant that we didn’t over-eat at breakfast leaving room for something at lunch.

Sweet Dreams Service

IMG_1428As we had a suite we also had a couple of little extras that were nice – a fruit bowl that was replenished daily and a canape service each evening. They were nice but nothing to get excited about.

All-Inclusive Drinks

Fred Olsen offers an inclusive drinks package. For most cruises this is just £10 per night/per person and at that price it wouldn’t take most people long to make it worthwhile. However, for some “special” cruises that price increases to £29 per night. This was one of those “special” cruises because of the eclipse. You have to go some to drink £29 per night every night of the cruise especially as every occupant of a cabin must take the all-inclusive option or none at all.

We are not heavy drinkers and so we did not take this option but at £10 per night then it might have been worth it.

Not all drinks are included though… premium brands are not included but they are reduced to half price.

I am not sure I like the idea of all-inclusive drinks on a cruise. It is bound to increase the likelihood of excessive consumption leading to unruly behaviour and on a ship there are no easy way to avoid those that are behaving in that way. On this cruise everyone behaved impeccably but with the £10 all-inclusive option this may not be the case in my opinion. I am sure everyone will have their own opinion on this issue.

Lounges

IMG_5017There were plenty of lounges and public spaces to curl up with a book or to sit with your favourite tipple watching the seascape. The ship was nearly full and yet we never felt that the lounges were over-occupied.

There was always a friendly bar waiter to get you a drink and although they are always friendly and never pushy we did start to get fed up with them constantly asking us if we wanted a drink. A small point though as without exception the staff were friendly and helpful.

There is an open policy on the ship so if you get a drink in one bar you can take it with you if you move or return to your cabin. We even ordered a bottle of wine at dinner and left with it to finish it off at the show. It is all very relaxed.

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