Astoria Cruise: Dining delights abound on Sea of Cortez cruise

Would I prefer Atlantic salmon with dill mousseline served with Zatar wild rice pilaf and sautéed spinach? Or maybe surf and turf with filet mignon with gorgonzola butter and grilled half lobster tail accompanied by Duchess potato, braised fennel and cabernet sauvignon sauce?

But wait. There are two other main course choices and a vegetarian menu as well to make my decision even more difficult.

Helping to give diners a visual of the choices on the Astoria is a display of dishes as we enter the dining room. That is a wonderful way to see exactly what each dish will look like. On one night, I had pretty much decided to order the pan fried swordfish when I perused the menu posted outside the dining room. Then I saw the display with the spaghetti with smoked ham and sage in cream sauce. Couldn’t resist. And it was marvelous.

The Astoria has two dining spots – the Olissipo Restaurant and the Lotus Grill Buffet. The Astoria’s main dining spot, the Olissipo Restaurant serves breakfast from 7:30 to 9 a.m., lunch from noon to 1:30 pm., and dinner from 6 to 9 p.m.

Astoria dining room original portholes from 1948 as Stockholm, credit Jackie Sheckler Finch

The Olissipo dining room is quite attractive and stretches across the width of the ship. Those beautiful rows of portholes in the Olissipo are original features from when the Astoria was originally launched in 1948 as the Stockholm.

Another remnant of the Astoria’s long and storied life is the china on which we are dining. It bears the name of the Acores, which was one of the ship’s pervious names. After all, the magnificent 72-year-old ship has lived at least 11 lives and had nine owners. The ship is now taking its “Farewell Season” with Cruise & Maritime Voyages, which announced in January that the Astoria’s final CMV journey will be in October.

Astoria’s dishes are from former name the ship once had, credit Jackie Sheckler Finch

             Comfortable open seating

For our cruise, dining room tables are set with linens. The semi-circular padded chairs with arm rests are comfortable and the recessed ceiling lights provide enough brightness without being overdone. The Astoria does have some beautiful Murano chandeliers and light fixtures.

Each night, our five-course dinner menus are presented in bound papers. The menus also contain notations for which dishes contain nuts (N), milk (MK), eggs (E) and other possible allergens. House wine and beer are complimentary for lunch and dinners. Service is always prompt and restaurant manager Ney Bolanos seems to be everywhere making sure that no details are overlooked. Seats are not assigned so it is pleasant to sit with different people at different meals.

For more casual dining, the Lotus Grill Buffet serves breakfast, lunch and dinner at about the same time as the Olissipo Restaurant. At 3:30 p.m., tea is served in the Lotus with cakes and sandwiches. At about 11 p.m., savories are served in the lounges. After such full days and interesting shore excursions, I have not made it to a single tea or last-night savory. I’m usually in my cabin by 11 p.m.

The Astoria also has an extra-charge steakhouse. I’m not dining there but other passengers have said it is quite good. Coffee and tea are available around the clock in the Lotus. Complimentary room service also is available.

Cruise ships almost always have good food. That is one thing passengers count on. Some ships are better at it than others but I have never lost weight on a cruise.

Crab appetizer, beautiful presentation, credit Jackie Sheckler Finch

However, the Astoria has a big plus that I’ve not seen on any other cruise ship – olive oil. Sure, many ships serve olive oil in their dining spots. But the olive oil on the Astoria is made for the ship and it is delicious. I’ve noticed that my fellow passengers start reaching for that olive oil and fresh bread almost as soon as we sit down for a meal. I have to be careful or I will eat so much of it that I won’t be hungry when my real meal arrives.

The Astoria olive oil has a neat personal story. How do I know that? I sat next to a passenger at my dinner table last night whose family just happens to make the olive oil. I have also seen on the scheduled events that our Astoria chef will be offering a cooking class using the olive oil. So I am saving all of that for a separate story. Hope you will want to read it and maybe try the olive oil recipe at your home.

Astoria salad bar nicely arranged, credit Jackie Sheckler Finch

Cover photo: Astoria dining room still has the original portholes from when the 1948 ship was the Stockholm, credit Jackie Sheckler Finch

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Editor’s Notes:

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