Peter Knego is on the maiden cruise of Atlas Ocean Voyages’ World Navigator.
ONBOARD THE WORLD NAVIGATOR — With a capacity for only 196 guests, the World Navigator’s culinary options are naturally more limited than one would find on the average luxury ship three times its size. But as we cruised the Eastern Mediterranean between Greece and Egypt, the food has been plentiful, innovative and almost always delicious.
The main venue, the aft-situated Porto, offers both indoor and al fresco dining, the latter on a large sheltered terrace that overlooks the ship’s wake. Even before taking my first bite, I was taken with the chic custom table settings that are made in Portugal by Vista Allegre. From the chargers and coffee cups with a stylized logo of the ship to the ergonomically friendly flatware, they are as functional as they are eye-catching.
In a backdrop infused with natural light through full length windows, rich wood tones, small potted plants and starched linens, the overall vibe in this space truly is, as much as I dread the overused term, like a European boutique hotel. Large enough to accommodate all guests at once, the open-seating Porto is broken up into intimate sections. Tables can be merged to accommodate families and larger groups.
I normally can go without breakfast on most ships but since discovering the Pastoret brand yogurt, I have made it a daily regimen to catch the tail end of breakfast just to order one or two. And, yes, sometimes, three. If only more premium and luxury cruise lines would realize that Yoplait is not the only probiotic game in town, I’d be championing breakfast at sea.
The pastries presented tableside are worth unraveling the health benefits of the good yogurt. A huge tray brims with croissants and a variety of muffins. The crispy pains au chocolat have also become a part of my new breakfast-friendly daily regimen.
The made-to-order omelets and egg dishes are well done and come with the usual choice of sides like hash browns. There is even a decent vegan sausage option. The summer fruits have been spectacularly fresh and the cheeses, with a boost from regional sourcing, top-notch.
With the staff still settling in to their routine, we’ve learned to allow a little extra time for lunch but in such a comfortable, dynamic setting, lingering hasn’t been a bad thing. All tables are set with Atlas brand olive oil and balsamic vinegar to go with beautiful bread selections that have already undone the benefits of running laps around the ship’s pool.
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Typically, the lunch menu has had one or two salad choices (such as chicken, avocado and bacon or quinoa with semi-dried tomatoes, olives and feta), up to two soups (such as artichoke bisque or broccoli cheese with 5-year aged cheddar and smoked lardons) and one or two appetizers (such as chargrilled leeks or smoked duck with lingonberry) along with a selection of up to four entrees (crispy chicken wings, penne alla puttanesca, grilled arctic char, for example) that can be accompanied by various sides like spicy potato wedges, boiled green beans and primavera couscous. There are also two or three dessert options.
Drinks are inclusive on this ship, which means, of course, that a select choice of red or white wine is presented with lunch and dinner, although guests can opt for alternate vintages, their favorite cocktail, various beers and/or soft drinks.
At dinner, in addition to the starters, which include cold and hot appetizers, soup and salad, there are three or four entrees and dessert choices. Each night has had a different theme, from Arabic (magnificent, with mezzes, tabouleh, a delicious roasted eggplant and much more) to Scandinavian and Peruvian.
Although I’ve been largely delving into the Mediterranean offerings, the vegetable pad thai starter was a refreshing change and the spicy Thai chicken was a revelation.
Since the beginning of the cruise, vegetarian selections have been noted on the menu and in the past day or so, as the maiden-voyage details get sorted, gluten-free and sugar-free choices have also been marked.
While always friendly and efficient, the service in Porto was more on the shy side early in the cruise but with each passing day, the staff has become more engaging and intuitive. They’ve all been great but we’ve become quite attached to Sim, who greets us by name, even with our faces half obscured by Covid masks.
Thus far, the Portuguese-themed Alma menu, which is to be offered in Porto on alternate evenings, has not been available.
7 Aft is an al fresco grill by the pool that seats up to sixteen guests at a time and up to sixty per evening. It offers up a limited chophouse menu featuring Black Angus filet mignon, New York strip steak and lobster thermidor.
Soups include a New England clam chowder and double consomme Celestine. 7 Aft serves a classic Caesar (delicious, although not prepared table side) and iceberg lettuce with smoked bacon. Sides include creamed spinach, sweet carrots, buttermilk whipped potatoes and sizzling hot, dangerously delicious steak fries.
There is an excellent and, due to our port-intensive itinerary, thus far underutilized tea service in the beautiful Dome observation lounge at 4 p.m. The lounge brews loose-leaf tea accompanied with hourglass timers that indicate mild, medium and bold brews. Bagged teas, coffees and liqueurs are also available, of course.
All that, plus fresh baked pastries and cookies courtesy of the ship’s skilled pastry chef, live piano music from the ship’s talented Gino De Luca, and a view, too!
As a prelude to breakfast or for an afternoon pick-me-up, I’ve been frequenting Paula’s Pantry, the Navigator’s specialty coffee, sandwich, pastry and smoothie bar. The small-batch roasted, organic, fair trade-certified Caffe Milano coffee beans pack a potent punch in their cappuccinos. Soy alternatives are available, a nice touch on a ship this size.
There are delightful caramel and whipped-cream topped frappes, fresh-brewed iced Kusmi teas and a selection of green drinks and daily herbal juice concoctions with turmeric and other therapeutic ingredients. As I type, I’m sipping on one made with apple, lemon and some powerfully zesty fresh ginger.
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