Viking Prestige Dining
There's one restaurant onboard Viking Prestige, and it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Generally, cuisine is well prepared (and sometimes exceptional), but there isn't a lot of variety. Vegetarian menus are offered, but otherwise the food is fairly heavy and meat-oriented.
Breakfast, which is typically available from 7 to 9:30 a.m., is a buffet meal (save for a chef who will cook omelets upon request). The selection is fairly basic, and there's little variety; every day it was the same options, including steam-tray-warmed scrambled eggs, pancakes and French toast, plus the usual accompaniments (American bacon, sausage, hash brown patties). There was also oatmeal with fixings like fresh and dried fruits, a small platter of cold meats, fish and cheese, and a variety of cereal options, including Meusli.
Early and late risers can partake in a light -- and by "light," we mean "poor" -- selection of sugared pastries and orange juice in the Aquavit lounge.
Lunch in the dining room is slightly more regimented, with passengers being asked to arrive at a set time, depending on the itinerary. It's usually offered from noon to 1:30 p.m. There's a buffet offering sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts, and you can also order off a limited menu, which includes hot entrees and a "slider of the day." (The ship's chef had a liberal interpretation of the concept, which, for most of us, means a small burger; in this case, choices ranged from pastrami to a chicken Caesar wrap.)
On some days, a limited buffet, usually themed to suit the local cuisine of a port of call, is available in the Aquavit lounge; this offering is more casual and low-key, and passengers can arrive at any time within stated hours. Don't miss the delicious iced-tea concoctions made with seasonal fruits.
The most special repasts of all take place on days when Viking Prestige is cruising at lunchtime; an Austrian-oriented buffet (with local sausages and cold salads) on the sun deck, complete with complimentary beer and festive decor, was fun and delicious.
Dinner, which usually begins promptly at 7 p.m., is the most convivial meal. Viking serves complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks at this time, though unlike other lines, it doesn't vary the vino much. (It was the same white and red throughout the duration of our cruise.)
A note: If you're traveling with friends and would like to share a table, you must make sure to get to the dining room early and snag one; no tables are reserved.
Meals start with an amuse bouche -- one night, a simple presentation of fresh mussels was superb -- and moves on to hors d'ouevres, such as marinated artichoke with cream cheese salad or mushroom risotto. There's always a soup, usually one with Hungarian, Austrian or German roots in a nod to the Danube itinerary, followed by a choice of main courses (fish and meat options). Dessert also offers a choice; there's always a fruit offering and a rather sparse cheese plate in addition to sweets.
At the gala farewell dinner, it came as a surprise when waitstaff paraded around the dining room with baked Alaska. (We thought that seafaring tradition was limited to big ships.) It turned out to be the best baked Alaska ever -- surprisingly light (loved the mint filling).
Another surprise: When we first looked at the dinner menus, the options seemed awfully heavy, but that was deceptive. Portions were perfectly sized. There was also an "always available" menu that offered grilled chicken, salmon and sirloin, and a delicious Caesar salad, complete with anchovies.
Beyond the complimentary wine (which, frankly, got tired after the first three nights), we found that Gabor, the Hungarian maitre d', loved to recommend the alternatives that were available for an extra charge. We put ourselves in his hands each evening and tried various varietals, from riesling and sancerre to local reds that were memorable, listening to the stories about where they were made. It made the meals special for us.
For night owls, the kitchen prepares hors d'oeuvres that are passed around the lounge.
One of the best features onboard is a wall of self-service coffee machines, and you can also get delicious cappuccino and hot chocolate. There's a water and ice machine, as well.
Speaking of beverages, Viking is one of the rare river cruise lines to offer beverage packages. Cost varies, depending on cruise length. On our seven-night cruise, the charge for wine, beer, cappuccino and cocktails (brands determined by the hotel ops) was $235. (A nonalcoholic drinks package is offered at $125.) Is it worth it? Considering that wine, beer and soda is included at dinner, that you're off the ship most days touring and that the bar seemed woefully understaffed at times, it was no value.
There is no in-cabin food service.