Adequate meals provide the fuel to keep hiking, snorkeling and patiently waiting for the haggard, stumbling, flightless cormorant to plunge heat-seeking missile-like into the Pacific after an eel. All but one or two meals are served in the ship's indoor dining room, which accommodates all 48 passengers at once.
The evening meal, always at 7:30 or 7:45 p.m., is the lone offering not served buffet-style. Four-course dinners feature one appetizer (shrimp, couscous, smoked turkey slices), one soup (cream of vegetable, Ecuardorian quinoa), a choice of entree (a fish, a foul and a vegetarian option) and dessert (fruit or something cake-ish). The occasional cruise-like flourish like Beef Wellington may rear its head, but don't be fooled: the quality isn't what you'd find on an upper-premium mass-market line (say a Holland America or Celebrity). However, most passengers we talked to weren't bothered by the asi asi food.
Vegetarians are certainly accommodated, but don't be surprised to see a few re-treads of meat-free appetizers (a plate of cold veggies) and soups (vegetable soup). Passengers who don't see something they like on the menu should chat with the cruise director.
Given the social nature of boat life, dining is a communal affair. All tables are either four- or six-tops, so expect to mix and mingle at meals. Should groups request it, tables can be reserved.
Breakfast is served buffet-style in the restaurant at 7:30 a.m. (with rare exception). Cold options include cereals (granola, flakes, choco-flakes), breads, yogurt, tropical fruits and juices (mix the guava or orange with some coconut water, sometimes on offer). A few basic Ecuadorian-style comfort foods, like fried plantains, compete with pancakes, greasy bacon and link sausage. A popular cooked-to-order omelet station is set up daily.
Lunch options include plenty of light salads (bean salad, coleslaw, radish salad, pasta salad), a few hot dishes (chicken with mushrooms, baked fish) and the obligatory soup (usually a cream soup). A cook in chef's hat carves suckling pig, baked fish and turkey. Roughly once per sailing, the second meal is served at the covered top-ship restaurant, with glass panels providing protection from too vigorous breezes or sideways garua spritzes. (Garua is the misty rain that typically accompanies the cool season, July to December.)
In between meals, passengers returning from morning and afternoon excursions are greeted with the ritualistic snack-and-juice offering -- "iguana" nuggets (chicken tenders), deep-fried pigs in blankets, mini-empanadas, pieces of fruit paired with sugary guava, orange or tree tomato juice. The daily finger-food and shot-of-sweet-juice offerings are one of the simple pleasures onboard.
A coffee machine is situated in the library, alongside a few glass containers with a rotating (and fast-disappearing) lineup of tea biscuits, cookies or crackers. The push-button concoctions, which include hot water for tea, hot chocolate, coffee, too milky cappuccinos and espressos, are available 24 hours a day.
While every effort is made to keep you fed, the non-reptilian eaters (low-blood-sugar types or those who like to snack between meals), should bring some of their own salty and sweet stuff -- especially if you're one of the few passengers who doesn't collapse into bed immediately after dinner. Snorkeling in chilly water (70 degrees or less during cooler months) can deplete your energy, and the aforementioned jars by the coffee machine may not suffice. Passengers stopping in Puerto Ayora, the Galapagos' largest inhabited city, might consider restocking there.
Metropolitan Touring La Pinta Ship Stats
- Crew: 24
- Launched: 1982/2008
- Decks: 3
- Passengers: 48
- Registry: Ecuador