The dining room is located on the Main Deck where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. Five long tables, for up to 10 people, allow passengers to dine communally on an open-seating basis. The captain and crew sometimes sit with passengers at dinner.
Decor is bright and comfortable with white walls, white cloth folding blinds on the windows, and a polished wood floor. Rows of picture windows on each side of the room provide water views from every chair.
Meal times depend on the activities of the day; times are listed in the daily program and announced ship-wide through the PA when ready to begin. Breakfast, normally served around 6:30 am or 7:30 a.m., features a self-serve buffet of cereals, fruit, yoghurt, bakery items, toast, tea, coffee and juice, as well as a cooked-to-order hot meal (such as omelette, pancakes or poached eggs and spinach), which changes daily.
A one-course lunch is served between noon and 1:30 p.m. If you don't like the meal on offer, which is advised in the daily program the night before, passengers can inform the crew in the morning to receive an alternative dish. The chefs can also cater for any dietary requirements or allergies if notified in advance. Dishes include Thai beef salad (which we had on two consecutive days for some reason), steak sandwich with beer-battered chips, and a tart of beetroot, onion, zucchini and goat's cheese. Portion sizes have increased in recent years to satisfy the appetites of those who have been active since dawn, but smaller portions can also be requested if it's too much for the middle of the day or before snorkelling or diving.
In the evening, canapes are placed on the bar counter an hour before dinner -- usually around 6 p.m. Passengers sit down for a two-course dinner between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Again, only one meal choice is offered, unless you request an alternative in advance. Expect seafood, chicken, pork, lamb or beef with a side salad and vegetables. While cruising in the Kimberley, one of the signature dishes for both lunch and dinner is barramundi, a fish revered by Australians. On any given day, it may have been caught by the chef or one of your fellow passengers on a fishing excursion.
In keeping with the company's focus on environmental awareness, all cuisine on True North is sustainable and organic, with a focus on locally sourced fresh ingredients. Overall, we found the quality of the cuisine to be impressive, particularly given the size of the galley, but it would be nice to have more choice.
The chefs draw influence from a variety of cuisines; this equates to not only a different culinary experience every day, but also on every cruise. Hometown favourites might include mangrove jack and finger-mark bream, yellow-fin tuna and Margaret River black pig. Other culinary delights include more than 20 different varieties of artisan Kimberley honey, mangoes from Broome and oil-infused bread. On other itineraries, there are fewer opportunities to source fresh fish so the menu is more meat-heavy.
True North hosts special culinary events too, depending on your cruise. A firm favourite among passengers is a "heli-picnic" which combines a scenic helicopter flight to the top of a Kimberley waterfall and a quintessential Aussie barbecue featuring freshly caught reef fish, local shrimp, squid, pearl meat, lamb chops and beef sausages. However, this does come with a price tag of several hundred dollars per person, which includes the return helicopter flight.
Another popular off-ship excursion is "Fish With the Chef" affording cruisers the chance to land the catch of the day and watch a demonstration of the processes involved in getting the food from the sea to your plate. As part of the open-door policy, passengers are invited to pop into the galley to watch the staff roll pasta or discuss how they fillet barramundi.
In destinations with beaches, such as West Papua, beach picnics are held several times a week. Crew will bring over beer, wine and snacks and set up the shore with deck chairs, towels, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. On our last evening, an impromptu singalong took place at sunset with crew and passengers, which was a lovely send-off. Another potential event is a "raft-up" where the tenders are tied together, with one boat in middle to serve as the bar.
There's no room service, but self-service tea- and coffee-making facilities and biscuits are available 24/7 on the outdoor section of the Upper Deck aft. You can also ask the crew to make you a specialty coffee at the bar for no extra charge. A dispenser of filtered water is kept on the bar; the tap water is also safe to drink due to the desalination system onboard the ship.