This was my first ever river cruise after 37 ocean cruises. I enjoyed it, but expected a premium experience for the price paid, and it fell short in a few areas. My week in a solo cabin on the Countess (a $3,000 total fare) was $600 more than a week on my favorite ship ever, the Queen Mary 2, where both the food and the service were really outstanding. The food on the Countess was very good, but the dining room service at the open seating breakfast and lunch was disorganized and disappointing.
The breakfast menu had several options to order, as well as a buffet (with food dished out by crew). At lunch, just a few items could be ordered, plus the buffet. The servers were friendly, but seemed inexperienced and short-staffed. I asked one for Earl Grey tea at breakfast and had to track her down 15 minutes later when she never came back. She said sorry, I couldn’t find that kind of tea. She should have returned and offered me an alternative. There were some long waits to have an order taken, if you were seated at a sharing table where others had already ordered. Some servers talked and joked with each other at a distance across the room. The atmosphere was more like eating in a Denny’s than on a nice cruise. At lunch one day six of us senior ladies stood at the host stand for more than ten minutes before someone came to seat us. There should be a dining room manager on duty at that stand at every meal, who watches what is going on and fixes problems immediately. It seemed like the managers were needed to work behind the buffet line rather than to supervise the servers. After a few days I gave up on the dining room for breakfast and lunch, and ate at the River Grill, with a buffet that was served to you. It was less chaotic and so much better. Room service was good, although there was an hour wait.
Service in the dining room at our table for seven at the early seating dinner was very good, with the same two servers each evening. The beef entrees were really outstanding, and lobster tail was always available. Many of us ordered one on the side. It was delicious.