Meals on Grace are thoughtfully prepared, with a good mix of regional and familiar dishes. We found the quality to be generally high; there were a few misses (and some "deconstructed" dishes that had us scratching our head), and you'll want to keep the salt and pepper shakers nearby. Overall, however, even picky eaters should find something they like.
Tauck takes food preferences seriously, and passengers are encouraged to meet separately with the chef on the first day of the cruise to outline their issues. In addition, menus label dishes for a variety of allergens, including gluten, shellfish, eggs, fish, peanuts, soy, dairy, nuts, sulphites and more. Vegetarian items and "traveling lite" dishes are also marked.
It sounds like a small thing, but the open seating plan, a limited room service snack menu and the presence of a casual "grill"-style restaurant available all day really made a difference from other river cruises we've been on. You really feel that you can eat when you wish, and at the quantity that you prefer. In addition, the directors encouraged passengers to try local restaurants ashore with money given out at many port visits, and many in the well-traveled group did; this was a welcome sight.
Compass Rose (Ruby Deck): Grace's main restaurant is used for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and if the itinerary calls for it, brunch). It's open seating and you can wander down anytime when it's open. The space is attractive, with tables for four, six and larger; the staff will also move seats around when necessary and also reserve tables for larger parties.
Breakfast is generally served between 7 and 9 a.m., although this can depend on the day's tours. It's a buffet, with an omelet station as well as made-to-order items such as pancakes, French toast and eggs Benedict always available. While the menu doesn't change daily, options are plentiful enough that you can try something different every day. Cold items include yogurts, cereals, toppings such as nuts and seeds, fruit, tomatoes and cucumber, muesli, meats and cheeses and a variety of breads. Hot items include scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage, baked beans and grilled vegetables.
Lunch runs from noon to 2, although it can switch to brunch, depending on the day's schedule. It's also a buffet, with hot and cold items. A typical meal will include a soup such as cream of chicken; hot items with a regional specialty such as rinderrouladen (a beef roulade with mustard gravy), pan-fried sea perch and pasta primavera; a sandwich of the day; a full salad bar and a dessert such as lemon meringue pie with blackberry sauce.
Dinner in the Compass Rose is a four-course meal consisting of appetizer, soup or salad, entree and dessert. It's open seating, usually between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., depending on the day's schedule. There's usually a choice of two appetizers such as a green salad with pumpkin seed vinaigrette with apple and a quail egg or vitello tonnato (veal in tuna sauce). Soups are delicious and could be caramelized red onion or roasted eggplant veloute. Four entrees typically include one vegetarian and one vegan. For example, one night's menu on our cruise included a duo of filet mignon and braised short rib in a tomato red wine compote served with savory cabbage and crisp mash; a seared filet of white fish in a lemon sauce over tagliatelle and fennel; pumpkin spinach lasagna with honey and tomatoes; and a vegan pasta fusilli with zucchini salad and nuts. Desserts include at least one regional cake such as Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte, a cheese plate, a fruit plate, a choice of ice cream and sorbet.
Always available choices include Caesar salad, steak or tenderloin, chicken breast, fillet of Norwegian salmon, steak fries or baked potato.
All drinks, including spirits, wine, beer, soft drinks and bottled water, are available for free at all meals. The ship's sommelier explains the daily wines that he's chosen, usually with a regional focus, at the day's Discovery Briefing during cocktail hour. The ship also has higher-end wines that the sommelier will pair with your meal, but you have to ask. An example from our sailing: a 2004 Burgundy that was an excellent choice for our veal in chanterelle mushroom sauce.
Arthur's (Diamond Deck, aft): Named for the founder of the company, Arthur Tauck, the dining spot on the ship's aft has become one of our favorite alternative restaurants on the rivers. It's essentially a grill, where you can have made-to-order salads, sandwiches, burgers, pastas and even a steak, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. On a river cruise that has long shore excursions, being able to have a simple dinner or snack instead of a four-course meal is much appreciated. It gets busy at lunch as the cruise wears on.
Seating in Arthur's is both inside and out, with tables for four as well as larger groups. The two-tops are mostly outside, but there's usually so few people there for dinner that it's a good place if you just want to eat with your traveling companion.
In the morning, Arthur's hosts a small continental breakfast with yogurt, pastries, juices, cereal and a few meats and cheeses. There's an espresso machine there, as well, that's available round the clock, along with several types of cookies.
Room Service: The ship's "Bite to Eat" menu is limited but is available complimentary between 10 a.m. and midnight and can be delivered not only to your cabin, but to the lounges and the Sun Deck. Items include a cheese plate, a sausage plate, a fruit plate, ice cream and hot pretzels. Drinks can also be included with your order.