River Beatrice Dining
River Beatrice' cuisine focuses on continental European dishes with some fun-themed meals that take advantage of dishes of the Danube region (like sausages in Passau and wiener schnitzel in Vienna).
River Beatrice's primary venue, called "The Restaurant," is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Decorated in stark whites that reminded me of the main dining venues on both Seabourn Odyssey and Celebrity Solstice, it is airy and ethereal. There are numerous round tables for large groups and plenty of four and six tops, as well. What's in scant supply is seating for two, though if the ship isn't full, there's plenty of room to spread out. As is common on many European ships, The Restaurant has a permanent buffet area that's primarily used at breakfast and lunch (though it was also in action one night for an unusually casual dinner, designed to accommodate passengers with plans to attend an evening symphonic concert in Vienna).
At breakfast, typically served from 7 to 9 a.m., the buffet offers the same fare all week. Various stations serve up cheeses and cold meats, breads and pastries, fruit, yogurt, Muesli and other cereals, and hot dishes like scrambled eggs, sausage, English bacon, rosti potatoes and baked beans. An omelette station accommodates a'la minute requests. A juice bar features the usual suspects (grapefruit, apple, tomato) though one of the few culinary disappointments onboard River Beatrice was the orange juice from a can. On a ship of this caliber the orange juice should be freshly made.
In addition to the buffet options, passengers can choose to order the breakfast specialty (fruit-stuffed beignet or eggs Benedict, for instance) or eggs cooked-to-preference. Waiters serve coffee and tea.
A continental breakfast for early and late risers brackets breakfast hours; a spread of breads, cheeses, meats and pastries, along with juices and coffee, is laid out in the Captain's Club from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and then again from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Lunch in The Restaurant, which is usually served from 12:30 to 2 p.m. (unless port excursions require a time change), revolves around the buffet. The focus primarily is on cold fare -- salads, cheeses and meats -- with a handful of hot dishes (a roast and potatoes, for instance). You can also order dishes off a limited menu; these are prepared a'la minute. I loved the special themes that were offered (a favorite was the Bavaria-influenced menu). And one day, when we were actually cruising at lunchtime, restaurant staffers set up a small buffet of salads, meats and cheeses on the beautiful top-of-ship outdoor deck.
Waiters offer drinks service in both venues.
Tea (and pastries) is served mid-afternoon (usually around 3:30 p.m., depending on the day's tour schedule) in the lounge.
Dinner each night is elegant without being fussy. As with all other meals in The Restaurant, it's an open-seating affair that begins at 7 – 7:30 p.m. after the ritual cocktail hour in the lounge one deck above. While most passengers did file into dinner at about that time each night, The Restaurant served until 9 p.m. to give guests more flexibility.
The meals are delightfully choreographed and made not only of regional recipes but also from local foodstuffs. Each features four courses, beginning with an appetizer such as “Vienna Backhendl salad” (greens with pumpkin seed oil, chicken and radish) or pan-fried taleggio cheese with cranberries, and moving on to soups, like the Waldvierthler potato cheese soup.
Entrees, which focus on traditional regional dishes or generally European choices, include pan-fried trout with a Veltliner sauce and potato dumplings in the style of Austria's Wachau valley (its premier wine-growing area). A favorite of mine -- which could have been served like the overly fried cliché that I grew up on in America -- was the wiener schnitzel. I had this, a thin-sliced escalope of veal that's fried lightly and served with parsley potatoes, at several other restaurants on my trip; the chefs on River Beatrice made the most delicious version.
Vegetarian choices are highlighted on menus and at dinner there's always one dedicated entrée. Among those on my trip were Austrian krautwickel (onions and mushrooms in a stuffed cabbage ball) and Austrian potato goulash.
For simpler tastes, steak or chicken breast is offered each night.
Desserts tended to be the weakest link of the otherwise exceptional dining experience onboard River Beatrice, featuring an odd combination of tastes (the orange sorbet did not necessarily need an accompaniment of yogurt fruit salad and brittle) or pineapple meringue in orange sauce.
Riverboats traditionally only have one dining venue so it was a pleasant surprise to experience River Beatrice's alternative restaurant, open on only a few nights during the weeklong cruise. The Captain's Club lounge, located aft, is transformed from a library and game room to a romantic dining venue. Its tables are covered with white linen cloths, candles are lit, and ambient music plays gently in the intimate space. It's limited to 25 diners and though reservations are required, there's no extra fee.
The ambience, especially at sunset as the lounge is bordered on three sides by floor-to-ceiling windows, is marvelous. The quality of the dining is less so -- clearly chefs are challenged by the fact that there's no kitchen here and so food must be brought from the restaurant, on the opposite end of the riverboat. Still, it was such a marvelous experience I dined there twice!
At dinner, complimentary wines are chosen to reflect the region and to balance the menu (each night we tried a different red and white). A nice touch is that for those who don't care for wine, beer and sodas are also provided for no extra charge.
Room service is rarely available on riverboats. On River Beatrice, passengers occupying its suites are able to order from a limited menu. Beverages -- such as coffee, water and tea -- are available 24 hours from a small open kitchen located on Deck 3.