Dining onboard AmaViola is fantastic, from breakfast through late-night snacks and everything in between. Variety is excellent considering the size of the ship, and on-the-fly requests are happily accommodated. All meals take place in the ship's Main Restaurant, Main Lounge and Bar or The Chef's Table. Soft drinks, beer and wine are complimentary at lunch and dinner, and they are generously poured. Wines often reflect the region to which the ship is visiting.
Worth noting because it's exceptional: Dietary restrictions are easily accommodated. Menu and buffet items are clearly labeled, indicating things like vegetarian, gluten-free and healthy items, for example. Even allergens are identified with letter codes, used on every menu and label onboard. It might be the best labeling system we've seen on a cruise -- river or ocean. Passengers who have specific restrictions should note it when booking and follow up with the maitre d' again when they board AmaViola to make sure the chef knows. On our sailing, passengers with severe allergies were happy with how easy the process was. One passenger, who could not eat salt, was provided a special menu at breakfast each morning so she could choose her meals for the rest of the day. The chef prepared her meal separate from everyone else's so she could enjoy the dining experience without the sodium.
Main Restaurant (Cello Deck): Virtually all of the meals on AmaViola take place in the Main Restaurant, which has set dining times for lunch and dinner but open seating, with tables for four to eight passengers. Breakfast includes an extensive buffet with items such as fruit, bacon, sausage, muesli, yogurt, lox and cheese, as well as a whole table devoted to bread and pastries. A chef stands ready to take omelet and fried egg orders. (You can get egg white or traditional omelets made with real eggs, rather than powdered or liquid versions.) If you can't find what you want on the buffet, you can order from a menu that offers the same things every day: oatmeal, eggs Benedict, poached eggs and a steak and egg meal. Waiters serve tea and coffee, as well as a vitamin shot of the day -- essentially, a shot glass filled with a smoothie or vitamin-rich cucumber, for example.
Lunch also features a menu and buffet combination, with a small do-it-yourself salad bar. Items on the buffet change slightly every day, but you'll always find a couple of prepared salads as well as cheese and cold cuts. From the menu, you can order a soup or sometimes a main course (on other days, the main course might be found on the buffet, prepared fresh by a chef). You usually can choose from from a more American option as well as a dish traditionally served in the port you're visiting that day. For example, in Vienna, you might be offered Wiener schnitzel; in Budapest, you could order goulash. Several items are offered everyday, including sandwiches and salads. We also loved options like made-to-order pho (with a tofu vegetarian option) and curry with shrimp and freshly baked naan. Desserts, too, include local favorites, like a Linzer cake in Linz or a Sacher tort in Vienna. Ridiculously creamy and smooth ice cream is served every day, and the variety and toppings change often.
For dinner, there is no buffet option. Instead, passengers order a four-course meal from the menu, which changes every night. As with lunch, items at dinner include both American meals as well as regional specialties. Appetizers in Budapest might include goose liver pate, while your soup might be Hungarian dumpling and sausage. Freshly baked bread is served in nifty canvas bags, which keep rolls warm using hot stones. Portions are perfectly small, so you can enjoy each course without feeling stuffed at the end.
The Chef's Table (Violin Deck): The Chef's Table is located at the very back of the ship on the Violin Deck. The space seats 24 diners and features floor-to-ceiling windows and an open kitchen, so passengers can watch as the chef prepares the meal. One table accommodates eight passengers, while four seat four each. The tasting menu matches wines with set courses. The maitre d' explains each course and pairing before diners get started. Because courses are set, passengers with specific tastes or dietary requirements should notify the restaurant ahead of time; on our cruise, a passenger who didn't like seafood told the maitre d', and his dishes were appropriately adjusted. The experience, which runs about three hours, is very good, and dishes are made fresh. They include a variety of options, such as beef short ribs or trout, fresh watermelon salad and turnip soup. All courses are explained as they are delivered, and service is excellent. Each passenger on AmaViola is allowed one meal at The Chef's Table per seven-day cruise; passengers on two-week sailings will dine there twice, and they'll have two different menus. Make reservations when you first board so you get your preferred times and days. Note that it's a long meal, so you might miss the evening's entertainment or activities such as the Captain's Dinner.
Main Lounge and Bar Coffee Station (Piano Deck): The Main Lounge and Bar serves an early and late breakfast -- beginning about an hour before breakfast opens in the Main Restaurant and ending about an hour after breakfast there ends. You won't get eggs and sausage, but you'll find a variety of fruit, muesli and pastries and bread. At lunchtime, you can find a pared-down version of what is being served in the Main Restaurant -- sandwiches and salad, for example. You can find cookies there 24 hours a day -- with gluten-free options -- and late-night snacks are served occasionally, with items like soup or sausages.
This is also the location of the coffee and tea station. Make your own coffee, latte, cappuccino, espresso, hot chocolate or tea, with fixings like sugar, milk, cream and honey. We love the to-go cups, tucked so neatly in a corner that you might miss them. Grab a coffee and a pastry or cookie before hitting the road on an early morning.
Room Service: Room service is only available to suite passengers or those who are ill.