My 7 Favorite Meals on Viking’s New Expedition Ship
Wondering what the food will be like on a Viking cruise? Let me say that you have nothing to fear. I recently sailed aboard the new Viking Octantis on the Great Lakes Explorer route from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and thoroughly enjoyed my dining experiences.
Viking offers many choices ranging from buffets to restaurant-style meals. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are included at no additional cost.
The World Café offers an extensive international menu and serves a buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Mamsen’s offers traditional Norwegian cuisine for breakfast as well as light lunches and afternoon snacks. Two stand-alone restaurants, Manfredi’s and The Restaurant, both require reservations and offer continental menus. Did I mention that room service is available 24 hours a day?
With so many choices of restaurants offering the best of local and international cuisine, I wanted to share a few of my favorites. Some I must have had more than once!
I was a Viking guest on this Great Lakes sail. All opinions are mine.
1. Waffles And Split Pea Soup At Mamsen
There was something comforting about the warm surroundings of Mamsen’s, a small grocery store named after “Mamsen” Ragnhild Hagen, the mother of Viking President Torstein Hagen. Photographs and handwritten recipes evoke family tradition and the pleasures of Norwegian culture. Raised on the traditional Hungarian cuisine prepared by my mother and still keeping her recipes handwritten on scraps of paper and using her bone china, I had an emotional attachment from the moment I walked in.
Our first stop of several days when we returned from shore excursions was at Mamsen’s for Scandinavian open sandwiches, the signature waffle with cream and fruit, split pea soup and the suksessterte (“success pie”). The waffles were presented beautifully on Mamsen’s vintage plates and were served warm and fluffy, just the way I like my waffles and rich. The savory split pea soup was the best comfort food any time of the day. Don’t miss these home-style gems!
2. Bistecca Alla Fiorentina Chez Manfredi
Manfredi’s, arguably one of the best Italian restaurants at sea, was by far my favorite place to dine. They offer authentic northern Italian and Tuscan specialties well presented, including Osso bucco, pasta with lobster and scallops, chicken Parmigiano and excellent bistecca alla Fiorentina. We preferred a table for two by the window to enjoy the sunset while we dined.
It was difficult to choose an appetizer between the hardy zuppa di fagioli bianchi alla Toscanaa white bean soup with a crispy pancetta crouton and truffle oil, the Caprese salad prepared with buffalo mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes, and the fresh gnocchi with potato and crema with tartufoHand rolled potato gnocchi with black truffle sauce.
I could have made a meal with just chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil, freshly baked focaccia, garlic twists, crispy bread sticks and other freshly baked breads .
The signature bistecca alla Fiorentina, a house specialty, thick rib eye coated in garlic oil and rubbed with porcini mushrooms, kosher salt, brown sugar and red pepper flakes was my favorite. Order it medium rare as my server suggested. When ordering the zuppa, I asked for it to be served piping hot, and indeed it was (I also enjoyed the appetizing scallops and lobster served over hot al dente pasta with a broth of lobster with butter).
3. Seafood and sake at the sushi bar
I couldn’t resist stopping at the sushi bar. It opens around cocktail hour for an assortment of sashimi, nigiri and rolls. We also feasted on fresh tasting king crab legs, prawns, seafood salad with octopus and tasty crayfish. Each day we enjoyed sake with our assortment of sushi before heading to Manfredi’s or the restaurant for dinner.
4. World Café Anchovy Caesar Salad
Passengers who prefer casual dining head to the World Café for breakfast, lunch and even dinner. There is something for everyone with daily specials to complement the already extensive buffet. The Caesar salad stacked with anchovies and Parmigiano cheese shavings with chicken or shrimp was my favorite lunch. I ate outside on the Aquavit terrace on the aft deck most of the time, sipping a French rosé. A few steps from the buffet, it was convenient to come back for my dessert and fresh bread. In the end, the Caesar salad was the winner!
5. The President’s Poached Salmon Roe at the Restaurant
With linen tablecloths and a more formal appearance, the restaurant offered a nice retreat from the buffet. Reservations are required and can be booked before and during the cruise. Even without a reservation, I would recommend giving your name to the host in case of cancellation. Around 8:30 p.m., the crowd thinned out and tables became available.
The menu had choices that were always available. Plus, every night there were new appetizers, main courses and desserts. I liked the mushroom ravioli with a rich cream sauce appetizer, the president’s poached salmon roe served with fingerling potatoes and a cold cucumber salad as a main course. It was a nice change from some of the heavier Italian meals the previous nights. Salmon is served in different ways, hot and cold, at all meals. I preferred the restaurant’s salmon dish to all the others.
6. Bread, sweets and desserts galore
Every time I go on a cruise, I say I’m not going to eat bread or sweets! Usually I park that thought and plan to work out at the gym or take a few thousand extra steps. About the Vikings Octantis, the smell of freshly baked bread, focaccia, rolls, croissants, sticky pecan rolls, cinnamon rolls, cookies, cupcakes, pies, muffins and cakes was alluring. It would take a lot of willpower to browse through all those pastries several times a day without tasting anything. The warm whole grain bread with a crispy crust and a firm interior was my favorite.
7. World Café Custom Ice Cream and Ice Cream
One of my simple pleasures since childhood has been ice cream, so I regularly frequented the ice cream and gelato station at the World Café to study the new flavors every day. After choosing my flavor, I carefully decorated my cone with crushed Oreo cookies, colored sprinkles, marshmallows, nuts, chocolate crumbs, and other edible add-ons. Each was a work of art!
At night an ice cream mixing station like you would find at Cold Stone Dairy, opened where one of the pastry chefs mixed our ice cream with sauces and all kinds of toppings on an ice cream plate, to create an amazing treat . A cruise aboard the Viking Octantis Now is not the time to count calories!
Viking’s exceptional food and service
Food on board the Viking Octantis more than satisfies our palettes for both sweet and savory flavors, and we couldn’t have asked for more variety. There were even local menu items from the Great Lakes like trout and berries.
Under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Satheesh Devan, the food was prepared and presented to tempt us at every meal. The servers were very attentive, recommending wine pairings and specialty dishes. After our fun days of sightseeing, submarining, kayaking and hiking, we enjoyed being greeted by our first names for our beautifully relaxing lunches and dinners.
For more information on Viking Cruises, see these articles: