Viking Venus has a cuisine to suit every palate, and the quality is such that every meal can be a good one, whether you decide to have a longer dinner or something more casual (this is one ship where we actually prefer the latter -- again, not because the more formal restaurants are lacking. It's just that the casual options are so good and unusual compared to other cruise ships.
All specialty restaurants are included in the fare but you'll want to book ahead to avoid getting shut out during popular dining hours. Since menus change at The Chef's Table every three days, it's particularly important to book ahead if there's a certain cuisine you want (we were unable to eat the Indian menu because we failed to plan ahead).
Wine, beer and soda are included in your fare at lunch and dinner, and you're offered still and sparkling water at all meals. The Silver Spirit package is worth it if you like more of a choice of wine, plus it gets you the premium pairing at The Chef's Table.
The Restaurant. The main dining room on Viking Venus has diverse menus with something for everyone, including people who would like to try cuisine based on the countries they just visited. The servers are happy to make recommendations and if you have the Silver Spirits package, wine choices. Take at least one day to have a proper breakfast here, where options include salmon benedict. At dinner, the Destination menu choices are always an interesting bet (The Restaurant is not open at lunch).
World Cafe. The buffet on Viking Venus is one of our favorite at sea, not just in how it looks, but in the variety of what you get. It's simply a joy to sit at the back, where the space can completely open into the Aquavit Terrace and the ship's infinity pool. Open for all three meals, we find the World Cafe at its best at night. Beyond the sushi, don't miss the noodle and dumpling bar at the back grill.
The Chef's Table. One of two specialty restaurants on Viking Venus, The Chef's Table has a rotating list of themed five-course tasting menus, developed on cuisines around the world. Usually a menu will be offered for three nights before switching out. Our advice: Look at all the menus before you board and make a reservation for the cuisine that you are most interested in. We didn't do this on our trip, and ended up missing the two menus that we were most interested in. A few other quirks make this our least favorite restaurant onboard. For one, the atmosphere isn't all that special, particularly when you compare it to The Restaurant and Manfredi's. And for another, we were underwhelmed by the wine pairings, which are complimentary for those who have the Silver Spirits package (and $25 extra if you don't have it). White Zinfindel on a tasting menu, really?
Manfredi's. Conversely, you don't want to miss out on Viking Venus' second specialty restaurant. Nearly everything is delicious here, and if you have the ability to make multiple reservations, we recommend doing so (just eat light on those days so you can enjoy the full experience). While we love the pasta here -- and you can get it in half portions too -- other favorites include slow-roasted pork chop in porcini mushroom sauce; veal saltimbocca and bistecca Fioentina, dry-rubbed rib eye.
Viking Bar. Blink and you might miss the pastries, cookies and small sandwiches at this small counter in the atrium's Living Room. If you're looking for a morning snack on the go or something to have with your espresso, this is a perfect stop.
Mamsen's. This is another small space, tucked away as a counter in the Explorer's Lounge, and many people might pass by it. Don't. Meant as an homage to Tor Hagen's mother -- Mamsen -- the Norwegian snack bar is home to the line's signature waffles, which are served with berries, sour cream and brown goat cheese. Mamsen's is great for a quick breakfast of pastries, smoked herring and oatmeal in the morning, along with coffee served in cups and china that's the same pattern Hagen grew up with. During lunch and in the afternoon, you can get yummy Nordic open-faced sandwiches, as well as cakes. At night, there's hot pea soup and cold cuts.
Pool Grill. Your home for lunchtime burgers, hot sandwiches and fries, as well as more offbeat offerings such as the Nordic hot dog, a hot dog topped with shrimp salad. There's a salad bar here too.
Wintergarden Conservatory. This is why you go on cruises -- to treat yourself in the afternoon with a traditional tea, in the pretty Nordic-inspired Wintergarden. It's the full deal, with three-tiers of sweets and finger sandwiches -- but wait! Save room for the scones that come around in a basket; your server will place it attractively on top of your teapot.
The Kitchen Table ($$$). More of a shore excursion/immersive culinary experience than a restaurant, the Kitchen Table is the only extra fee dining that you'll find onboard Viking Venus. Essentially, it has two parts -- in the morning, you go out to a local market with the chef as they taste and buy their way through. Then at night, you meet for dinner at The Kitchen Table space where you "help" prepare the meal -- although in reality, you are tasting and drinking everything in sight.
Unfortunately, The Kitchen Table has not taken place on Viking Venus yet, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Room Service. It's a joy to have 24-hour complimentary room service, particularly on an itinerary where you're taking multiple shore excursions in a day. Breakfast is available via a hang tag put out on your door the night before; just be warned that the coffee isn't nearly as good as what you can find elsewhere on the ship. The rest of the menu includes everything you'd want -- burgers and sandwiches, salmon, chicken breast, pasta, desserts, even a strip steak.
For morning wake up. We loved the complimentary housemade pastries and specialty coffee drinks at the Viking Bar, on the first floor near the Living Room.
For a post-excursion lunch. The Pool Grill, with a salad bar and a wide variety of burgers, sandwiches and hot dogs, satisfies those post-walk munchies. The fries are perfect.
For an afternoon treat. We often find ourselves thinking of the Wintergarden tea and the scones (or maybe just the clotted cream and jam that come with it).
For another afternoon treat (You're on vacation, you can have more than one). It might sound weird, but do yourself a favor and order the Mamsen waffles with berries and Norwegian brown cheese at least once during your sailing.
For a nice dinner out. Manfredi's is a must. Come hungry, as portions are large and you'll want to save room for tiramisu.
For a casual evening. Sushi, sashimi, shrimp, crab legs and dan dan noodles at the World Cafe is all you need if you're not too hungry; add a gorgeous sunset and it might be your most memorable meal.