Although veteran ocean cruisers, we'd never tried river cruising until August 2017, when we sailed with Emerald Waterways on the Douro in Portugal. Reader, we loved it! Measured against our vague criteria of Ambience (the ship and its ... Read More
Although veteran ocean cruisers, we'd never tried river cruising until August 2017, when we sailed with Emerald Waterways on the Douro in Portugal. Reader, we loved it! Measured against our vague criteria of Ambience (the ship and its facilities, the river, its scenery and towns), Service (the crew's friendliness, helpfulness and professionalism) and Food (quality, variety, flavour, novelty), everything was absolutely excellent.
Especially the food: great news, since it's a major focus of every holiday we take. Portugese chef Nuno Gomes was an absolute star, turning out delightful delicacies, dish after dish. Not only talented, but also enthusiastic and proud of what he created, Nuno was to be seen running the egg station each morning at breakfast, and at lunch explaining the regional dishes which he'd that day prepared. He was a highly-competent professional, and he absolutely made our holiday.
And so we returned to Emerald in October 2018, this time on the Rhône in France (from Lyon to Arles). Well, the Ambience was again excellent, and so indeed was the Service (everyone from Captain Dario on down was lovely); we've nothing negative to say about either. Which brings us to the Food.
The Food was, well, OK. It wasn't poor, it wasn't unpleasant, the ingredients were excellent... it just wasn't as well-prepared as we'd hoped for. Chef Teodor (much younger than Nuno) seemed to be just going though the motions; there was no passion in his food. Favours were indistinct or muddy, corners were cut (eg 'glazed carrots' were plain boiled, fruit wasn't fully peeled) and, boy, were potatoes over-used! Every soup was potato soup; the 'fresh carrot' soup had added hints of carrot, the 'fresh fennel' soup had only added aniseeds, and the 'fresh cauliflower' soup had been shown a photograph of a cauliflower. Even a 'Quiche Lorraine' (classically eggs, cream and bacon, plus optional cheese) was padded with potato; sheesh! And if you're dishing up a succession of bland wispy gelatine-set savoury mousses, please don't try to dignify them as 'parfaits', or 'pates', or 'terrines'. So, meal after meal, we were left thinking: with a little more care and imagination, that could have been so much nicer. (The star of every lunch and dinner was waiter/sommelier Sasa, whose insightful comments on the wines he was serving were very much appreciated.)
In summary, the cruise was a bit disappointing -- for us -- only because of the cookery. On the other hand, most of the other passengers seemed perfectly happy, so maybe you shouldn't pay too much attention to these remarks... unless food means as much to you as it does to us. Read Less