All meals, aside from the speciality dining menu, are included in the fare. The vessel has one main dining room, located forward on the middle Strauss Deck, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. An early-riser continental breakfast, along with a light lunch option, afternoon tea and late-night snack, is served in the Panorama Lounge, on the upper Mozart Deck. Aside from breakfast, meals are served at one sitting and there is complimentary tea and coffee with lunch and dinner, plus wine with the evening meal.
The majority of river cruise lines operate an open seating basis at mealtimes, with passengers choosing where, and with whom, they want to eat. Amadeus bucks the trend by allocating tables at the beginning of the cruise for the duration of the sailing, and passengers will find themselves seated with diners from the same cabin deck and cabin category who speak the same language. Groups of friends traveling together on the same booking will always be seated together, and passengers can request in advance if they want to be alone at a table for two. The plus side of the arrangement can be seen from the logistical side of things, as it prevents passengers from wandering around the dining room looking for a table while the waiters are busy trying to get the meal orders out. It also enables passengers to build up a rapport with the wait staff, usually the same two, who will serve them for the whole cruise and quickly get to know any likes and dislikes. Conversely, part of the enjoyment of a river cruise is getting to know different people, and much of this is done by sharing tables at mealtimes and being able to circulate; so while some people will get on like the proverbial house on fire, there will invariably be some who will not like this arrangement. In a worst case scenario, passengers can ask to be moved to a different table, but clearly this might cause some embarrassment for all concerned.
The cuisine is outstanding, and the choice of food at all meals is varied, of excellent quality and beautifully presented -- dinners, in particular, easily match those served at high-end restaurants. The ship even has a dedicated onboard baker, so breads and pastries are fresh and delicious. Menus include regional specialties, familiar favorites and an always available option of simpler fare. We found the service to be extremely efficient and attentive, and nothing was too much trouble if we wanted to try different desserts to share or swap the mixed breads for wholemeal only. There are always vegetarian options for all meals, and special diets can be catered for. However, it is best to request the latter at the time of booking and then contact the restaurant manager onboard.
Dining Room (Deck 2): The main dining room on the Strauss Deck is an attractive, airy space that is stylishly decorated in creamy tones with a contemporary pattern, resembling giraffe print, on the room divider and around the central buffet area. Tables -- mostly seating four and six, with some two-tops and one table for eight -- are well placed throughout the space, and not too close to each other. They are always beautifully presented with white tablecloths and folded napkins, and have wood-backed, cream upholstered chairs. There are panoramic windows on both sides of the restaurant, offering extensive views of the passing scenery.
Buffet breakfast is generally served from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. (sometimes earlier depending on excursions). Options include cereal, fruit, yogurt, cold cuts, cheese, bacon, boiled eggs, sausages, hash browns, baked beans, scrambled eggs and more -- one day there was even a whole poached salmon. Cooked-to-order items, available each day and served at the table, are blueberry pancakes, oatmeal, fried eggs and a choice of omelets. Tea and coffee is served to the table, or passengers can help themselves to tea.
Lunch is served at a set time between noon and 1 p.m., depending on the excursion schedule. It is a mix of buffet items and dishes that can be ordered from the menu. Each day the buffet has a hot sandwich, such as BLT with a cocktail dip, tuna melt or pizza, and salads might include Asian chicken, spicy roast beef or asparagus wrapped in ham, alongside other salad ingredients. There are always two soups, such as green pea and sliced sausage, Italian vegetable, cream of forest mushroom or vegetable bouillon with tortellini. Menu items might be pork loin steak in barbecue sauce, fish and chips, beef goulash, pan-fried fillet of Rhine river perch, sweet and sour turkey or vegetarian strudel. Always available main courses include hamburgers or cheeseburgers served with fires and coleslaw. Desserts are also served to the table and might typically include cappuccino cream, ice cup tutti frutti, caramel crunch or assorted ice creams. Complimentary water is served throughout lunch, with tea or coffee to follow, and passengers can order wine, beer and other drinks, which are charged to their onboard account.
Dinner is served promptly at a set time each night, usually at 7 p.m. and the food is superb. Menus always consist of five courses, although passengers can, of course, skip courses or order two appetizers is they want a lighter meal.
Again, the dinner menu is a combination of local specialties and international dishes. Appetizers might include Black Forest ham with honeydew melon balls, marinated beef carpaccio, pink roasted duck breast or oak leaf lettuce with walnuts and a mint dressing, followed by cream of potato soup with truffle oil, cream of celery with pine nuts or beef soup with semolina dumplings. Typical main courses are crispy roast pork with sauerkraut and potato dumplings; grilled fillet of salmon with a carrot crust, snow peas and basmati rice; and vegetarian quesadillas with tomato salsa, guacamole and sour cream. To follow, desserts include crepes suzette; caramelized pumpkin seed parfait with blackberry mousse; and tiramisu. There is always a cheese plate, available in addition to or instead of dessert, with a selection of international cheeses.
The gala dinner will feature an amuse-bouche to start, plus an extra sorbet course, and will be rounded off in true ship tradition with a baked Alaska being paraded around the dining room before being served.
Complimentary wines -- often regional -- are served with dinner are consistently good and varied and the attentive wine waiters keep everyone topped up. There is a different choice of red and white wine with each dinner, which might include an Austrian Blauer Zweigelt and German Morio Muskat, or a French merlot and Italian pinot grigio. Passengers can also opt to pay for other wines from a list that includes wine by the glass, from €3.70, to bottles ranging from €16.50 for a Chilean chardonnay to £34.50 for a French Sancerre. Sparkling wine and Champagne range from €4.80 a glass, or €24 for a bottle for house sparkling, to €68 for a bottle of Moet & Chandon.
Panorama Lounge (Deck 3): Early-riser breakfasts are served in the lounge on the Mozart Deck, usually from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., with the early-bird breakfast closing when the main dining room opens for breakfast. It includes tea, coffee and croissants. Each day there is afternoon tea, which is generally around 4 p.m., but again times will be altered to fit in with excursions. Despite lunch often being a relatively recent memory, this is always extremely popular and is served to a musical accompaniment from the onboard pianist. Along with coffee and a selection of teas, there is always a choice of savory items, such as smoked salmon, cheese or salami open rolls, and selection of individual cakes and a sliced cake. On each cruise there are also themed afternoon teas, such as an ice cream party (served on the sun deck in good weather), a waffle party and an apple strudel afternoon tea, immediately following a demonstration by the chef on how to make the Austrian sweet treat. If anyone is still feeling peckish after dinner, snacks are served in the Panorama Bar, at the entrance to the lounge, from10:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. These are typically small hot and cold hors d'oeuvres.
Cafe Vienna (Deck 3): This is a lovely area situated outside the entrance to the Panorama Bar and Lounge on the Mozart Deck. Plush gold and silver couches and chairs with plump cushions are set around a cluster of tables, decorated with fresh flowers, and evocative prints of Viennese music scenes adorn the back wall (it's a shame similar artwork isn't repeated along the corridors to the passenger cabins which are rather plain and only broken up by large, decorative lamps). Passengers can help themselves to delicious homemade cookies, which are freely available throughout the day and evening, and order specialty coffees such as "wiener eiskaffee," made with milk, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, for €4.50, or a "fiaker," an espresso with cognac and whipped cream, for €6.50. Liqueurs are also served in the cafe and are priced between €4 and €4.90.
Amadeus Club (Deck 3): Complimentary tea, coffee and hot chocolate is available 24/7 from a self-serve machine in the ship's aft lounge.
Sun Deck (Deck 4): On sunny days, a portion of the ship's sun deck can be turned into an al fresco dining area, with food served from a retractable bar next to the wheelhouse. On our cruise it was used for cocktails, when we passed the famous Lorelei Rock, and a pre-lunch "fruhschoppen," the name for an Austrian social gathering, serving pretzels and sausages.
Bellevue Restaurant (28 euro). Groups, passengers celebrating special occasions or those who would simply like a change, can book a "Highlight Dinner" as an alternative to dining in the Panorama Restaurant. Served in a specially laid out area forward in the Panorama Lounge, these meals can be reserved at reception for a surcharge of €28 per person.
A typical menu might be an appetizer of croquettes of brown shrimp served on watercress with a balsamic dressing, red lentil soup with cumin and chilli, margarita sorbet, roasted Angus tenderloin on chilli potato mash with pak choi and teriyaki sauce, and crepes suzette. The menu is the same for each week, as generally passengers will only opt for the special dinner once during a seven-night cruise. The meal is accompanied by the same complimentary wines being served in the main restaurant. Alternatively, there are recommended wine pairings for the dinner, available at extra charge, such as a Domaine Le Verger Chablis, for €32 a bottle, and a South African Stellenbosch merlot and cabernet sauvigon, for €31.50 per bottle.
There is no room service.