On Vela, you receive four meals a day -- breakfast, lunch, dinner and a hearty snack served daily at 5 p.m. The food is made fresh, is often Caribbean inspired and incorporates local fruits (such as papaya, mango and passion fruit), vegetables (such as callaloo) and fish, which is often caught right off the boat. Menus are posted on a whiteboard daily and passengers are also encouraged, if they want, to eat a meal on shore (a nice treat on the French West Indies itinerary). There's usually only one entree available, but if you don't like it, you can ask the chef for an alternative.
Vela has four six-person booths in its salon to seat everyone for a meal. That being said, the room can get stuffy in the humid Caribbean and the staff tries to make lunch, dinner and snacks al fresco, when possible. This is accomplished by bringing out large tables that seat eight or nine, with deck chairs on the main deck; if it looks like rain, a tarp is put up. It's a simple yet attractive setup, once overhead Christmas-style lights are strung and battery-operated candles for the table are added. The ship does not typically sail during mealtime to avoid movement.
Early risers can grab coffee and pastries after 6 a.m. Waiters serve breakfast at 8 a.m. A typical breakfast could be a turkey and cheese omelet, hash browns, yogurt, cereal, toast and a muffin. Lunch is served at noon, outside, and is often buffet-style with pasta salad, green salad and sandwiches.
The 5 p.m. Happy Hour is highly anticipated (as many people have spent the afternoon swimming, snorkeling or sunning). Pitchers of cocktails -- known as Vela coladas -- are served and the snacks are hearty: think mini pizzas, plantain chips with dip, vegetables and dip as well as pates. Once per cruise, Vela has a "wine and cheese" gathering; this is particularly enjoyable when the boat is in the French West Indies, as the quality of both go up.
Dinner is served at 7 p.m. It's a waiter-served, three-course affair with a soup or salad, an entree such as beef Burgundy served with mashed yams and steamed vegetables, or shrimp creole, and a dessert such as apple crumble or chocolate cake. Portions are hearty and seconds are offered.
The Vela cruise fare includes soft drinks and beer all day, wine at dinner and cocktails during Happy Hour. Passengers are encouraged to bring their own spirits, and use the ship's mixers; no corkage fee is charged if you bring your own wine. The soft drinks and beer are in a cooler that people can get at any time.
A popcorn machine in the salon is available for late-night noshing. In addition, the line allows you to bring on your own food and snacks without penalty. There are no refrigerators in the cabins.
Vegetarian and gluten-free passengers can be accommodated, but you should let the company know when you book and remind the chef when you arrive. On our sailing, vegetarian passengers were served dishes such as grilled tofu, roasted vegetables and pasta. Because the galley is small, the ship cannot accommodate vegan, kosher or allergenic diets. There is no room service.