Considering this is not a five-star luxury cruise line famed for its gourmet cuisine, our expectations were exceeded in the restaurant. All of the food on Emerald Liberte is free and flavorsome with no repetition over a week. In an exclusive get for the ship, Top Chef France finalist Fabien Morreale comes onboard once per sailing to create a special dinner showcasing the region's fresh produce and his impeccable presentation. Morreale, who runs two restaurants near Marseilles, also trains Emerald Liberte's chefs. Chateaubriand, lamb confit, duck cooked two ways, chicken liver pate, an assortment of terrines, cheeses and vegetables provide a lovely local flavor. It's not in-your-face French; it's just enough to reflect where you are.
Breakfast and lunch are buffet style, with waiters bringing tea, coffee and water. Dinner is a la carte, served by waiters. There are options for lighter fare, early risers and afternoon tea, but sometimes no food is available so be sure to make it to the designated meal times. There is no room service on the ship. Once per cruise, weather permitting, a barbecue lunch is held on the open-air Sun Deck. Passengers with special dietary requests should advise their travel agent or the cruise line six weeks prior to departure as well as the cruise director once onboard. Chefs will do their best to accommodate dietary needs but there is no guarantee due to the ship's limited facilities. A friendly maitre d' assists passengers but seating is open and reservations are not required.
Reflections Restaurant (Deck 2): The vast majority of dining takes place in this cheerful space with lots of natural light beaming in through windows that span the length of the large room. Tables are set up for two, four, six and eight people. A buffet forms the centerpiece, where breakfast and lunch are presented for self-service. The wide variety and quality of hot dishes is very good.
At the cooking station at breakfast a chef cooks fried eggs and omelets on demand; at lunch he carves the meat of the day, from beef to boar. Every day sees a different terrine (seafood, vegetarian, chicken and so on), a local cheese selection, two soups of the day and fresh salads such as pasta, tuna nicoise or Greek. Complimentary wine (always delicious), beer (Bitburger Premium), soft drinks, tea and coffee are also included during lunch and dinner.
For dinners, the four courses comprise an appetizer (such as a local salad, terrine or salmon tartare), soup (fish bisque and fennel cream were our two favorites), main course (duck, chicken, pork, veal, fish or vegetarian), and dessert (crepes, cakes, tarts, fruit salad, ice cream and cheeses). Emerald's classics, available any day, include poached salmon with steamed vegetables, rump steak and fries, grilled chicken breast and Caesar salad. You can order more than one of each course but the portions are more than adequate to keep most appetites satisfied. As previously mentioned, the service by the wait staff is second to none.
Horizon Lounge (Deck 3): Continental breakfast for early risers (6:30 a.m.), salads and pastas for lunch (12:30 to 2 p.m.) and afternoon tea with cakes and sandwiches (4 p.m.) are offered in the main lounge for passengers who prefer a quieter, lighter meal.