Oceania Sirena Cruise: Dining options and excellent wait staff

ABOARD THE OCEANIA SIRENA – For my first lunch aboard Sirena, I was escorted to a window seat overlooking the panoramic Pacific. When I told maître d’ Susan Lingao that I thought I had the best seat in the Grand Dining Room, something surprising happened.

Every time I entered the dining room after that, I was lead to that same special table. Even when the dining room was full and window seats were at a premium, I had that delightful view.

The Grand Dining Room is elegant with windows on three sides.

That doesn’t always happen to a solo diner. Just shows you the care and attention that Sirena staff gives to passengers. The dining room is open seating and open dining times so it is not as though that table is reserved for me. It is that Susan has a great memory and aims to make passengers happy.

After only one dinner, my server Yasa remembers that I don’t drink coffee or wine and that I like Sirena’s crunchy skinny bread sticks. Yasa will bring me a basket of breadsticks instead of the rolls that I don’t eat.

The Grand Dining Room also offers an extra that is unusual and helpful. When George from Los Angeles at the table next to mine realized he had forgotten his reading glasses and started to get up to return to his stateroom to get them, Yasa stopped him. In a jiffy, Yasa returned with a large wooden box filled with different strength reading glasses. George chose the pair he needed to read the menu and then handed them back to Yasa. Great idea.

A beautiful place setting for one in the Grand Dining Room.

But even excellent service wouldn’t be enough to make up for substandard food. Luckily, Sirena has delicious cuisine to match its outstanding service.

This time, I’ll share what the Grand Dining Room and Terrace Cafe buffet are like. Another time I’ll write about the two specialty restaurants – Red Ginger and Tuscan Steak.                                             

Terrace Café is popular informal dining

Some passengers have told me that they plan to eat almost all their meals in the upper deck Terrace Café. It is informal and quick. Diners can choose where they want to eat and go through the large buffet line where servers place food on their plates.

Waiter Yasa shows a case of reading glasses that passengers can use in the dining room when they forget to bring their own.

Diners don’t help themselves at the buffet. I like that. They tell the server what they want and the server puts it on plates. My grocery store at home has a wonderful buffet where shoppers can scoop salads, pastas and other goodies into plastic containers to buy and take home. After seeing shoppers reach into a tray of olives or pickles or cherry tomatoes to pick up one and eat it and seeing disheveled shoppers drag their dirty coat sleeves through the food, I quickly lost my appetite for that buffet. A shame people are so unsanitary and rude.

Diners at Serena’s Terrace Café can eat inside or outside at shaded teak tables on the terrace. The Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It offers a huge variety of freshly prepared dishes. For breakfast one morning, I ordered eggs benedict which was cooked as I ate my fruit. Egg dishes are not made ahead of time and left to warm and dry out under a heat lamp. They are cooked when ordered.

Terrace Café lunches offer roasted and rotisserie meats, soups, pastas, salads, desserts and much more. A pizzeria oven is kept busy. The wait staff brings drinks when diners are seated. Remember, Sirena offers complimentary soft drinks, specialty coffees and bottled water around the clock so you don’t have to keep signing a $3 tab for a glass of Coke.

For dinner, the Terrace Café wait staff dresses more formally and the cuisine takes on a more sophisticated flair. Lobster tails, chops and fresh fish are prepared to order. Freshly made hand-cut sushi and sashimi are a favorite.

Just steps from the swimming pool is Waves Grill with casual dining featuring all-American favorites like gourmet burgers, tangy barbecue and truffle fries. A nearby ice cream stand offers no-charge gelato, creamy cones, hot fudge sundaes and thick hand-dipped milkshakes.

A caviar appetizer looks like a meal in the Grand Dining Room.

Opulent Grand Dining Room

Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner (from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.), the Grand Dining Room is large and open with window views on three sides. Each evening in our Cruise Currents newsletter placed on our bed at turndown, we receive a copy of the next day’s menu for the Grand Dining Room and for Jacques Bistro. That’s a nice touch to give us a head start on what we might want to order.

The lengthy menus include Canyon Ranch Healthy Living Choices like roasted veal rack loin with marsala sauce and jasmine rice. Listed alongside those dishes are the calories, fat grams and fiber grams for each serving.

A gourmet tasting menu created by the chef recommends an appetizer, soup, main course and dessert along with wine pairings. The main menu that I usually order from offers appetizers soups, garden salads, main courses, Jacques Pepin signature dishes and side dishes that are always available.

Jacques Bistro even has its own table setting.

On the “always” list are steamed vegetables, baked potatoes, Franck’s mashed potatoes (made with a family recipe from Oceania corporate chef Franck Garanger) and pasta.

For dinner, tonight, I had French style encrusted pate with smoked ham and pheasant for appetizer; Marseillaise fish soup with emmental cheese, rouille sauce and garlic croutons; baby green salad with red delicious apples, toasted almonds and pancetta; grilled Norwegian salmon on beluga lentils with Loire Valley Beurre Blanc for entrée; and crème Brule for dessert.

As you can tell, Oceania’s culinary director Jacques Pepin is an excellent French chef. For lunch, the Grand Dining Room transforms into a French bistro named Jacques Bistro. Even the dinnerware is different, imprinted with the name of Jacques Bistro. French torch songs play in the background.

For lunch today at Jacques Bistro, I had escargots, salad nicoise, cream of mushroom soup and shrimp, scallops, monkfish mussels and calamari in puff pastry with lobster bisque. That was lunch, for goodness sakes, and it was delicious. Oh, plus ginger cake and ice cream for dessert.

Along with my wonderful lunch experience, I got to enjoy that same perfect dining room table. I made a short video to share the South Pacific scene as well as the lovely Jacques Bistro table setting. Most memorable.

Photos and video by Jackie Sheckler Finch

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