Three meals a day are served in the air-conditioned dining room, which has windows looking out to the water on three sides and comfortable chairs with cushions. There's open seating, and tables can be arranged for two, four, six or more passengers. On our trip, a group of six friends had a circular table, and the rest were tables with four settings, with the option of pushing two together to make a grouping of eight. There's camaraderie with the kitchen staff because passengers see the chef, the sous chef and the assistants working away through a glass wall. At the beginning of meals, the waiters bring unopened, whole fruits and vegetables -- for instance, a particular type of Peruvian squash or potato -- for diners to see, smell and taste, so they will understand the flavors and ingredients of each dish when it arrives.
At lunch -- usually at noon or 1 p.m. -- and dinner -- usually between 6 and 7 p.m. depending on the timing of expeditions -- the atmosphere is festive. Table decorations are always a surprise: colorful animals crafted by local villagers and decorative sprays of seeds and plants enliven the center. Near the end of the trip we visited the market at the village of Porto Miguel and were able to buy some of the molded animals, dolls and insects we saw in the dining room.
Breakfast is usually served between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m., but the time varies due to the return of the early morning expeditions. The meal is served buffet style, except that waiters bring coffee and tea to the tables. The kitchen sets out platters on a table in the middle of the room, and along the shelf in front of the glass-enclosed kitchen are breads, many plates of fresh fruit, regional meats and fish, milk and cereals. All foods are labeled in Spanish and English.
Dining on Delfin II is akin to taking an introductory course in Peruvian cuisine, which includes a wide variety of meat, fish, salads and rice dishes, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar used for flavoring rather than spices. All dishes are made from scratch with fresh ingredients. At lunch and dinner, main dishes are centered around a particular meat or fish and surrounded by vegetables. Rice and salad dishes often contain a number of finely chopped vegetables and fruits rather than lettuce. Sauces, made from local fruits and vegetables, pick up on natural sweetness. Desserts almost always have a fruit component, and are lighter than their American or European versions. Ice cream is made of native fruits, which also appear as separate garnishes or in appetizers. The menu for each meal is standard, and includes a wide array of dishes. Before the trip, passengers are asked to describe any food preferences and dietary restrictions, and the staff consults with them on tasty alternatives before each meal.
All food is included in the tour price, though wine and alcoholic drinks are extra. The mostly South American wines, white or red, start at $40 a bottle. Pisco sours, the national cocktail, cost between $6 and $7, depending on the exchange rate. Local Peruvian beer is complimentary at the bar.
Our one meal off the boat, when we went out for an early breakfast to view a variety of monkeys in a cove, was quite elaborate with fancy sandwiches, native juices, coffee and cakes, all served quite graciously by crewmembers as we sat in the skiff and enjoyed the show up in the trees.