Dining on Crystal Bach is simply superb. Regardless of meal or venue, dishes are creative, innovative and delicious, with portion sizes designed to allow diners to comfortably indulge in multiple courses without feeling overstuffed. Wines also play a big role in the Crystal dining experience, and Bach has an exceptional menu of included wines. (It also offers incredible premium wine, should you wish to purchase something special.) A knowledgeable onboard sommelier can steer even novices in the right direction. In fact, the entire staff knows the menus well and can confidently make recommendations for undecided diners.
Menus are not necessarily designed with those who have food allergies or dietary restrictions, but waiters and waitresses are trained to understand special needs and can make recommendations and provide detailed information about allergen-related ingredients. Those with restrictions or allergies should make note of them when they book the cruise and remind staff of them once onboard.
The Waterside (Deck 2): The Waterside serves as the ship's version of the main dining room, but there's nothing standard about it. The restaurant space itself has a modern design, with a color palette that leans heavily on shades of gray and bright pops of green. Tables, which feature marble tops, can accommodate two to six passengers. Seating is available on plush heavy chairs or at velvet-covered banquettes. The design is unique in that an open kitchen is located at the restaurant's back (which happens to be the front of the ship). Passengers visit the kitchen, called The Market, during breakfast and lunch, when it becomes part-buffet, part made-to-order restaurant. (Walls separate The Market from the dining room so that noise isn't an issue during meals, but passengers can walk in and out via openings on the port and starboard sides.)
Breakfast is served each morning, though times change depending on where the ship is docked and when shore excursions begin. Buffet items might include fruit, pastries, smoked fish, yogurt or muesli, while hot stations serve up eggs, pancakes, French toast and other goodies. Passengers can order eggs, any style, a la minute. You can't order off a menu at either breakfast or lunch, but waiters are eager to help you with plates, bringing them back to your table so you don't have to worry about spilling. Lunch offers a salad bar each day, though toppings and cold salads vary. Lunch offers a beautiful array of hot dishes, as well. There's always a soup and a carving station, but it's not your everyday offerings. Think Dutch cheese fondue soup, perfectly roasted whole duck or gorgeous lamb lollipops. Sides might include roasted mini-vegetables, sauteed broccoli rabe, whipped mashed potatoes or cumin-spiked quinoa. Vegetarian and vegan options are available, but tend to fall into the pasta and veggie category.
Dinner is the real star, and it feels like a special experience every night. It's a sit-down affair, but seating is open, so passengers can sit anywhere they'd like and dine any time the restaurant is open. It tends to be busiest starting at around 7:30 p.m., as passengers naturally come to the dining room when the pre-dinner entertainment in the Palm Court concludes.
Each evening's menu includes the executive chef's recommendation, with a starter, soup entree and dessert option. Additionally, the menu will have "supplementary dining choices," which include appetizers, salads and pastas. The menu also features a main course, which is a modern take on traditional cuisine for the destination the ship is visiting. (One of our favorites was a Belgium beer-marinated grilled flank steak and bratwurst, which took a traditionally heavy meal and gave it an elegantly light lift.) There's always a "traditional main fare" option as well, for those looking for a simpler choice. This might include grilled filet or broiled salmon, for example. All dishes are delivered looking like works of art and with flavor to match. We had a beef carpaccio we loved so much, we ordered it a second night, even though it wasn't on the menu. In fact, Crystal Bach shines when it comes to this kind of flexibility with its menu. If you give the kitchen notice (in our case, we ordered the carpaccio a night ahead), you can order off the menu. On the night oysters Rockefeller was offered, a dining companion asked for a simple, raw oyster preparation, which was accommodated.
Bistro Bach (Deck 3): During the day, when hunger strikes, Bistro Bach is the best spot to visit for nibbles. Late risers can grab breakfast here after meal service ends in The Waterside, and while you can serve yourself from the continental options spread out on the venue's buffet, you also can order eggs a la minute from the waiters working at the coffee bar. A vast selection of coffee and tea is served here all day, along with creamy hot chocolate. One cool detail: When you order tea, it's served with a small hourglass so you know when it's finished steeping. In the afternoon, Bistro Bach offers cheese, soft pretzels, fruit, cured meats and fish, bread and pastries. You'll also find a small noodle bar, where you can add hot water to prepackaged noodles along with soy sauce for a hot soup.
At dinner, Bistro Bach is a solid, quiet alternative to The Waterside. The menu is the same every night, offering starters such as fondue, beef tartare and marinated vegetables. Mains include roasted jumbo shrimp, herb-marinated beef medallions and pulled-pork sliders, while desserts include seasonal fruit, bananas Foster and ice cream.
The Vintage Room (Deck 3); 80 euros for lunch, 280 euros for dinner: If you're serious about wine, this is an experience not to be missed. Both lunch and dinner are multicourse affairs with wines paired with creative menus. Your sommelier walks you through each wine selection, explaining the history of the vineyards as well as flavor profiles. The wines are exquisite, with options like Opus One, Cristal Champagne and Chateau d'Yquem. But, foodies will be in heaven, too, with courses such as asparagus mousse generously topped with caviar and roasted butternut squash risotto topped with decadent foie gras. Lunch is a scaled-down affair, where you'll get four courses with five wines. Dinner is an event, with eight courses and nine wines. Vintage Room events take place only if there is enough interest from passengers, and they're designed to be intimate.
The Pantry (Deck 2): The pantry is located across from Crystal Bach's reception desk. Here, you'll find a self-service coffee machine along with hot water for tea, soft drinks and bottled water. Grab-and-go pastries and cookies are available 24/7.
Room Service: Room service is available all day. A full breakfast service is available from 7 to 9:30 a.m., and can be ordered via your butler or by filling out a door hanger and leaving it on your knob the night before. A continental breakfast, serving cold selections, is available between 6 and 10 a.m. For lunch and dinner, choose from items such as Caesar salad, club sandwich, burger and vegetable lasagna, along with sweets such as creme brulee and brownies.